Selling a home can be stressful. Uncertainty rules the day. How long will it take to sell? Will buyers like my house as much as I do? Will I get the price that I want (or need)? No one can predict the final outcome of a home sale, but there are a number of things that you can do when you get ready to list that will improve your chances and remove uncertainty.
- Understand your competition – Many sellers operate in a bubble about what their house is really worth, picking a number in their head and maybe getting one or two opinions from real estate agents. Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Setup online home searches in your neighborhood, visit open houses and ask your real estate agent to take you around to other homes for sale. You should particularly pay attention to actual sale prices of homes nearby. Compare each and every home you see. Is it worth more or less than yours? Why?
- Get your home inspected – Without fail, your buyer is going to hire a home inspector to look for defects and maintenance needs. Speaking from experience, it is the results of these inspections that often derail a home sale. If you are willing to spend a few hundred dollars, you can get your own home inspection prior to listing. This will give you a list of repairs to address or at least prepare you for what a buyer is going to bring up. You will have to disclose what you know as a result of your inspection, but it sure beats a list of nasty surprises.
- Get your sewer scoped – Do you live in an older house? You may have concrete or clay sewer lines that have tree root blockage, are crumbling or are near collapse. Even modern plastic pipes can have issues if not assembled properly. Sewer line repairs are expensive, and the well-prepared seller could have inspection results on hand to give to their buyer.
- Decomission oil tanks – Depending on where you live, many older homes were heated by oil at some point in their existence. A buyer doesn’t want a tank full of oil corroding and leaking into their back yard. If you suspect your home had oil heat and can’t come up with records of the tank being decommissioned, hire someone to come out and drain and cap your tank.
- Venture in to your attic – When was the last time you were in the attic? Maybe when you bought the house 10 years ago? Poke your head up there and look for roof leaks, rodent activity and mold growth. (Careful not to fall through the ceiling!)
- Check out your crawlspace – If you haven’t been in your attic in 10 years, you probably have never been in your crawlspace. Crawlspace issues are a big pain in the sale of a home. Get yourself down there and look for puddles of water, rodent activity or insulation that is messed up.
- Clean off your roof/gutters – This is an easy one. Have someone clean debris from your roof & gutters. Make sure all of the downspouts are hooked up and draining away from the house. Do NOT pressure wash the roof. It will damage it. Low pressure cleaning only.
- Hire a pest inspector – Do you live in a rodent-friendly environment? Mice and rats are an unfortunate fact of life for many homes in Western Washington, and most homes will have these unwelcome intruders at some point. Hire a pest inspector to come out and look for them and get them removed before you list the home for sale.
- Pump your septic tank – Our local laws in King County and other nearby counties require sellers to inspect their septic system and pump it if needed prior to sale. You might as well do it ahead of time, since you’ll have to anyway. In our market, your inspection needs to be completed within 6 months of sale, so don’t do it too early.
- Read up on your HOA – If you live in a condominium with an HOA, read up on the latest meeting minutes and HOA issues. If you don’t normally pay attention to the HOA, it sure helps to educate yourself about issues prior to the buyer raising them.
This list is for the diligent, well-prepared home seller. Don’t forget about the first priority though, which is to make your home clean, de-cluttered and showroom-ready for your buyers.