By Jon Miller, Realtor®
Sell First or Buy First?
There’s a lot to balance when buying and selling a home at the same time. And, there are plenty of things to take into consideration. The most important piece of the puzzle will be to find out if you’ll need to sell your current home in order to get a mortgage for your new home. Many homeowners won’t qualify for their new loan until their current home is sold. This often means that the sale of the current home and the purchase of the new home have to happen on the same day.
Many who are looking for a new home and currently own a home begin the process by searching for their next home before listing the current home for sale. This approach often leads to weeks or months of searching for the right home only to find out that they’re not ready to make a serious offer when that perfect home goes on the market. Few sellers will consider an offer that’s contingent on the sale of a home that isn’t on the market yet. They simply don’t know if that home will sell and, if it doesn’t, the sellers will have taken their home off the market and missed other opportunities to sell.
By Jon Miller, Realtor®
There’s a limited window to get your home listed and sold before the holidays so you’ll need to focus on the highest priorities to prepare your home before listing it for sale.
Home buyers are looking for homes that are bright, open, and move-in ready. Spending some time getting your home into the condition that buyers are looking for will help your home get more interest from buyers and help it to sell more quickly. While every home is different, the list below will be a good place to start for just about any home.
Quick Ways to Prepare Your Home for a Fall Sale
1. Reduce, Remove, and Organize
Home buyers want space to grow into. If you’re outgrowing your home and it’s filled with stuff then they will be concerned about outgrowing the space, as well. As much as possible, get rid of anything that you won’t be taking with you when you move. That includes extra furniture, old clothing, outgrown kid’s toys, unused kitchen appliances and items in the cupboads, and the treadmill that’s become a clothes hanger.
Donate, sell, or throw away as much as you can now. Anything that’s left that is rarely used or out of season should be packed up. The rest should be well-organized and easy to put away before showings. By reducing, removing, and organizing, you’ll make your home feel more spacious . . . a home that your buyers can grow into.
As part of the process, de-personalize your home by packing up your photos and knick-knacks, especially if you have a lot of them. These things do make your home feel like home to you, but not to buyers who are looking for their home. A few photos and personal touches can be fine, but too many will be distracting. They want to see the house itself and picture it as theirs. Plus, the reflection off of photo frames can be bad for your listing photos.
When the topic of paying their buyer’s closing costs comes up, most sellers say “No way!” Following that, they usually say something along the lines of ‘If they can’t afford to pay their closing costs then they shouldn’t be buying the house.’ That may be true, but it may not be relevant to the sale of your home. Sometimes, buyers need the seller to pay closing costs and if you only have one offer, paying toward a buyer’s closing costs may be the only option available.
How Common is a Seller’s Assist?
In certain areas and price points, it may be very common that sellers pay toward the buyers closing costs. This happens a lot in neighborhoods with a lot of first time home buyers. It’s also common in slower real estate markets where buyers may be few and far between. If you’re selling a hot property in a strong seller’s market where multiple offers are the norm, buyers need to make their offers as attractive as possible so they tend to limit requests for you to pay their closing costs as much as they possibly can.
A Tool for Negotiating Inspections
Another reason that you may decide that it’s the right move to pay toward a buyer’s closing costs is to deal with inspection issues monetarily rather than going through the hassle of arranging for work to be completed and having it done while the home is still yours. From a seller’s perspective, it’s far better to have the buyers fix issues with their contractors and on their timeline. Most home sales have a reasonably short timeline between the buyer’s inspections and settlement. Arranging for work to be done in that short window before closing can be very difficult.
How Much will it Cost?
The amount that a seller may pay toward a buyer’s closing costs will vary by transaction, but it’s good to have a sense of how common it is in your neighborhood. Your agent can show you recent sales of nearby homes like yours and how much sellers paid toward buyer’s closing costs.
If most of the recent home sales included seller’s assist then it’s a good bet that yours could, too. If not, then that will be a good thing to keep in mind as your negotiating with a buyer who includes money toward closing costs in their offer.
There will be limits on how much a seller can pay toward a buyer’s closing costs. Most conventional loans allow up to 3% of the sales price. The PHFA loan is conventional loan offered here in PA that allows up to 6% of the purchase price to be paid toward closing costs. FHA and VA loans will allow up to 6% of the sales price. All will top out at the maximum percentage or the amount of the closing costs, whichever is less.
For every $100,000 offered, that could mean as much as $6,000 can be paid toward the buyer’s closing costs, essentially making a $100,000 offer a $94,000 offer. If you pursue this offer, you may be able to negotiate the amount down to something that will work.
Closing Costs and Appraisals
It may be an option to add the seller assist on top of the asking price. If the asking price is $100,000 and a buyer needs $6,000 to buy the house, you may agree to sell it for $106,000. Sometimes, this is an option. But, be very cautious when going down this road. The lender will require that the home will have to appraise for $106,000 in order to get the loan.
The appraiser may wonder why the home is sold for more than the asking price. It’s one thing if there were multiple offers on the home and there are comparable sales to justify the price. It’s very different if the house has been sitting on the market unsold for 4 months.
The best thing to do is to agree in advance on how to proceed if the home doesn’t appraise at the agreed upon price. The buyer will want to reduce the selling price and keep the agreed upon seller assist. As a seller, you’ll want to reduce the seller’s assist so that you’ll net as much as possible.
My Advice: Budget, Just in Case
It’s not easy to decide whether or not you’ll agree to a seller’s assist before you put your home on the market. You don’t know how long it’s going to take to get it sold and you don’t how many offers you’ll receive and whether or not there will be requests for money toward closing costs. The two best pieces of advice that I can provide are 1) keep an open mind and work with the offers that come in and 2) budget for paying toward the buyer’s closing costs. It will be far better to have planned for this expense and go into the sale of your home expecting that it may be a possibility.
More Information about Seller’s Assists
For more information, check out the resources below . . .
If you’re going to list your home for sale, you’ll probably wonder whether or not an open house is necessary. Some sellers love them, others don’t. Some agents love them, and others don’t (there’s a lot of disagreement on this topic among agents). Statistically, fewer than 10% of homes sell from an open house. I’d argue that it’s closer to 1% are the direct result of an open house.
Open Houses Target Lookers, Not Buyers
There’s a long buying cycle when purchasing a home. In almost every case, that cycle begins with searching online for homes. At some point, as future home buyers get closer to buying, they will take the next step and visit open houses. This is a good opportunity to visit homes and tour neighborhoods without having to talk with a lender about loan options and pre-approval and without having to commit to working with an agent. These future home buyers are usually 6 months to a year away from buying a home.
Buyers who are actively looking and ready to make an offer are almost always working with a real estate agent. Their agent can schedule a private showing at any time. When one of these buyers loves your home and has to see it, they have their agent schedule a showing. If they’re ready to buy but aren’t working with an agent yet, they won’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with any agent who will show them your house. Buyers who are ready now make appointments. If there will be an open house they may attend that instead, but if there isn’t an open house scheduled and they need to see your home, they will arrange a showing.
Open Houses are usually advertised with signs. Personally, I like to have 6-10 out, depending on the specifics of the neighborhood. Having a lot of signs draws a lot of attention. When guests come to an open house I ask them if they found the house online or if they just happened to see the signs. When guests came in only because they saw they sign, it’s out of curiosity rather than to see the specific house. Rarely will they know the price or if the size, features, and amenities are what they’re looking for. They’re curious and/or killing time.
One of the main reasons that real estate agents host open houses is that the lookers will probably become buyers at some point so it’s a great way to meet new clients.
Open Houses Won’t Help Sell a Home that isn’t Selling
Many sellers like to have open houses because it’s an opportunity to promote the house. When a house isn’t selling, sellers tend to ask for an open house to be held or ask for regular open houses to be held. This rarely, if ever, leads to getting the home sold.
There are diminishing returns as more open houses are held. Open houses see the most traffic in the first week. After that, fewer and fewer people will visit. A second open house will usually bring in about 20-30% of the visitors that came in during the first open house. If there were 10 groups the first week, there will likely be 2-3 groups the next week.
It’s easy to make the leap that “exposure” is the problem, but active buyers are looking online and getting alerts of listings from their real estate agent and 2-3 home search sites like Zillow and Realtor.com. As long as the home is available through those channels, it’s not likely that it’s a secret that the home is for sale.
Will Open Houses Sell Your Home?
My philosophy is that you don’t need to have an open house to sell your home, but an open house can help. Some sellers prefer not to prepare their home and leave for the afternoon just in case a ready buyer walks in. Others don’t like strangers having open access to their home (it is an open house, so it’s open to all). If a seller prefers not to have an open house, I’m ok with that. Many sellers choose not to have open houses.
When the home is suited to an open house (some are better suited than others) and the seller does want to have an open house, they can be beneficial. The best strategy that I’ve found is to list the home mid-week and hold an open house on the first Sunday for 2-3 hours. Serious buyers will see that there’s an open house and they will call their agent right away to make an appointment and get in before the open house. Many serious buyers will want to get an offer in before the open house or come back during the open house for a second look.
If the home hasn’t sold before the open house and there’s a lot of traffic, potential buyers will see that and they will know that they have to make an offer quickly, before someone else does, and they will have to make a strong offer since it’s clear that others are interested.
But, what if nobody shows up and no appointments are scheduled before the open house? This is another reason that I like to hold an open house on the first weekend . . . Instant market feedback. If only a few people, or no one at all, shows up at your open house then something’s wrong (as long as there’s activity in the market). If the home has professional photos, exposure on the online channels, and is easily accessible to potential buyers online it usually means that the price it too high. If this is the case, the seller will know within days instead of weeks and can adjust accordingly.