A minefield 
of a market

Experts offer tips on selling a house

A Realtor shows a client a home in Crystal Lake in 2009.
A Realtor shows a client a home in Crystal Lake in 2009.

Choosing the right person to help you sell your home is one of the most important steps of selling your home. Therefore, choose wisely.

It is recommended to, at a minimum, speak with two or three real estate brokers from different agencies. Ask prospective brokers the same list of questions in order to compare their answers, and find out what specifically they would do to sell your house.

Above all, choose a broker that you feel comfortable with and like.

“I would say selecting a Realtor, choose someone you’re comfortable with and has [your] best business interest in mind, and someone that has a marketing plan that fits [your] type of home that they have,” Re/Max Plaza Realtor Kim Keefe said.

A real-estate agent is a home seller’s guide through the process. Perhaps the most important part of the process: pricing.

“There is nobody to look at a home if it’s not priced properly,” Keefe said.

By the time you meet with an agent, he or she will have done research and will know what price that comparable homes in the market are selling and closing for.

In today’s market, this can mean a significant loss, but a good Realtor will know the tricks to maximizing your experience.

The first step in selling a home is preparing it for a sale. It’s not a bad idea to have your home inspected by a home inspector before being listed. Eventually, buyers will conduct their own inspection, but it’s a good idea to know what they are going to find by getting there first.

It also helps to price the home realistically and make repairs ahead of time so defects won’t become a problem later.

A key for preparing the home for marketing is to get it photo-ready.

“How a home looks in a photo is everything,” Keefe said. “What buyers are doing right now is using photos to rule out a property, not to rule them in.”

And don’t forget the outside. Never underestimate the power of curb appeal, or the first impression of the home from the outside. Buyers often are taking a drive past a listing and can rule it out before even stepping foot inside.

“If sellers want to spend any money on the home, the curb appeal is huge,” Keefe said.

Keeping the grass cut and the lawn tidy helps make a great first impression.

Other projects include painting or washing the exterior of the house, including window casings, shutters and doors, and washing the windows inside and out.

Keep the front door area clean, Keefe warns. When a real-estate agent shows your home, they typically spend a few minutes unlocking the lock box while buyers are scrutinizing everything.

On the inside, touching up minor defects could go a long way. Put a fresh coat of paint on the most used areas of the home to clean and brighten it up. Washing the walls, floors, bathroom tiles and carpeting also helps.

Get rid of clutter. Clean out closets, the garage, the basement and the attic, using self-storage if necessary. Replacing air filters also will help keep the dust down.

Get rid of any bad smells in the home. It is recommended to pay attention to pet or cigarette odors. Scented potpourri or candles can help with that, or pop a batch of frozen cinnamon rolls or homemade bread into the oven for a great aroma.

Once the inside and outside are in tip-top shape, photos are taken and the home is marketed, the real work for the real-estate agent begins.

They often will follow up on leads, talk with other agents, and revisit their marketing plan for as long as the home is on the market.

“I think that once you finally get that great phone call that there is an offer waiting ... the next toughest part is the negotiation,” Keefe said.

What’s toughest isn’t necessarily price, but most often is the terms of the contract.

Next, a seller can expect a home inspection to take place, followed by the appraisal process ordered by the lender. Then it’s off to the title company to move forward with the closing documents.

“I would advise [sellers] to seek a trusted Realtor professional,” Keefe said. “And then to continue with good communication and asking questions every step of the way so they’re comfortable with the process.”

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