Okay, you’ve given your house a mini makeover, and you’ve taken years off its appearance. So now that it looks its very best, it’s time to let people know your house is for sale. While a sign on the lawn and an ad in the newspaper are important, they are not enough to create the broad awareness and excitement regarding the unique attributes of your home to a larger pool of prospective buyers. It’s time to consult a professional marketer-your real estate agent. He or she knows what motivates current buyers and the financial incentives that can move them to action. Besides, your real estate agent has the resources to link your home with a network of professionals that matches buyers and sellers every day. Here’s how everything works.
There are many ways that your agent can bring prospective buyers to your house. In addition to advertising on the internet, or in the real estate section of the newspaper, your agent may include your house in home magazines that are distributed free in stores, such as supermarkets. Often they’ll include a picture of your house to show off its style to buyers. Radio and specialized publications like college or business newspapers also offer a creative avenue for marketing a house. Ask your agent about special advertising programs he or she might feel would be helpful.
A more targeted form of advertising that your real estate agent will employ is the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Using this service is crucial for a sale because most buyers work with agents – and agents use the MLS to match the right property to the right buyer.
You should know that real estate agents, even those who work for different agencies, interact with each other every day. Listing agents are always trying to drum up buyers, and agents who are assisting buyers are always looking for new properties to show them. This kind of networking is invaluable because it advertises your house across the country, too.
Creating a buyer “event” like an open house can stir interest in your property. Your real estate agent will schedule an advertised time when prospective buyers can come and take a look. Weekends are traditionally the best time for an open house because people have more time to browse, but sometimes an agent may suggest scheduling one on a weekday evening, particularly if this time of day puts your house at its best advantage. Never underestimate the romance of a roaring fire on a cool night, or the drama of a sensational skyline view at dusk.
Your real estate agent may also suggest a “broker” open house, called a “caravan,” that is not directed to the public. This way other agents can preview the property, taking copious mental notes that will hopefully match one of their buyers with your house.
In either case, your agent may suggest holding an open house in your absence. Visitors feel more relaxed and can be more frank about their feelings when they know they can’t offend anyone. You can take a few small precautions that make you more comfortable with the situation, too, by removing valuable items like jewelry. Store them at a friend’s or in a safe deposit box. Then let your real estate agent handle all the details.
Buyers will require an inspection as a contingency in their contract (see “Is the House Physically Fit?” page 24), but your real estate agent may encourage you to invest in a seller’s inspection – before putting the property on the market. You can build the cost into the selling price. The investment you make in an inspection will win a prospective buyer’s confidence in any claims you make about the condition of the house.
Let’s say that all your efforts to motivate a buyer have paid off, and you are ready to shake hands, but there’s one obstacle: your buyer lacks a down payment. Your agent can help you figure out if your old loan is assumable by the buyer. If this is a buyer whom you would like to buy your home because he or she sees the same special qualities in it you do, you might suggest supplying the down payment as a loan. This is known as a second mortgage. Your only decisions are whether the buyer can afford the additional note, and whether you mind receiving a portion of the sale in monthly installments.
One last incentive is called the buy-down. This is a way of bringing down the interest rate on a mortgage to make the monthly payments lower. It works like this: A buyer can afford the monthly payments on a mortgage with an interest rate up to 3 percent, but the current rate of interest is 5 percent. The seller then makes up the difference in money with a lump sum fund, which is repaid later by the buyer; that is used to pay the lending bank every month for the first years in the life of the mortgage. After that, the buyer is expected to make the full payment. This investment by the seller will mean that he or she does not have to come down in price.
But remember to talk with your real estate agent about the ins and outs along the way.