Usually, a sale is spurred by a life event — a new baby, job, marriage, divorce, or hip replacement. Maybe there has been a change in financial status, positive or negative. You might dream of moving into a house by the ocean, or of downsizing to something with fewer bedrooms to fill. But when is it time to pull the trigger?
Note of the many reasons to sell, market condition is not mentioned. Not because those conditions don’t matter, it’s always smart to sell in a robust “sellers” market but good timing is more about luck than wisdom.
When it comes to real estate for personal use, life events ultimately drive buy and sell decisions. Of course it’s impossible to avoid such events, and it’s even hard to plan for many, but if you want more control over future real estate decisions the best you can do is be prepared. While it is easy to say, it is not so easy to do. Sometimes we can’t plan ahead because things happen, but you will be better prepared for whatever surprises life has for you if you:
- Keep your finances in order. That is if you find it’s difficult to pay the bills while you are employed and healthy, consider selling or if it’s a second/vacation home, consider renting until your situation changes.
- Keep the property and accompanying documentation in good order.
- Discuss ownership with tax, estate and financial advisors. You may be able to keep your property longer or realize more when you sell if the ownership is transferred to your heirs or a trust.
- This may seem silly, but always have good, high resolution photos taken in summer, when the pool is open and landscape is at its best — just in case you need or want to list when the leaves turn or fall.
Know what you will be selling
Would-be sellers frequently say to me, “We’re thinking of selling, what do we do?” Sometimes, they’ll invite me over to see the house and property and ask what they can and should do to prepare for a sale.
I can’t say this enough, so sorry to repeat this message. Know your property. Be certain all improvements were done to code and with proper permits.
Related documents are readily available from the building departments, have copies. Check your tax assessments. Have the home inspected. Even if you are not prepared to make the necessary repairs you will know what a buyer will find and can reduce the price accordingly.
And as for dolling up for a sale, don’t spend money that won’t come back to you. Its best to clean up, trim and declutter and let the next owners personalize their new home.
Talk to the professionals
When you decide you’re going to sell, the first thing you should do is talk to local brokers. I say “brokers” because you want to get more than one professional opinion, even if you already know the broker you plan to engage. Get another or other opinions on price, and suggestions for improvements. Friends and relatives can be very helpful, but too frequently offer advice that may inadvertently set unrealistic expectations.
It’s perfectly acceptable to consult more than one broker without engaging their services. Ask brokers to give you a listing pitch, to tell you what they will do for you, and to show you the ads they’ve used for similar homes. You want to see how they present properties, how they present themselves, and their track record with homes in your price range and location. Check their own and their agency’s websites.
Once you decide to sell or find you have to sell, depending upon market conditions, it may take more or less time than you wish and expect — but your home will sell.
More about market timing
It is nearly impossible to outsmart the market because by definition market value is what a willing and able buyer will pay. While that price may sometimes be disappointing (and other times exhilarating) the buying or investing power of the proceeds will rise and fall with that same market.