In today's blog, I'm going to give you the steps to take to get your home ready to sell.
1. Call a Licensed Realtor
Texas Realtors are licensed by the state, which means they have undergone training, testing, and intensive background checks. Only licensed realtors are able to legally list and market your home.
It can be tempting to pocket that commission, especially if money is tight, but using a realtor can be the best decision you make. The commission is usually split between two realtors, your listing agent and the one representing the buyer. A realtor can help you understand the process and relieve some of the stress.
A realtor will negotiate to not only get you the best possible price for your property, but also all of the issues that arise during the contract phase of the process. Many FSBO’s (For sale by owners) often suffer because the potential buyer either out negotiated them, or they were totally unaware of the process and ended up with had unexpected expenses from the lender. The realtor is trained and experienced in negotiating and will make you aware of potential expenses throughout the process.
Realtors show your home, not you. You won’t have to worry about meeting and letting strangers in your home. Good realtors will vet potential buyers to make sure they are responsible people who are not looking to hurt or damage anything. Your listing agent will not be the only realtor showing your home. Once listed, any licensed realtor can show your home to their clients, which greatly broadens the visibility of your home.
There are many online companies or agencies offering to sell your home for 1% or a discounted commission, however many have other fees that usually are much higher than commission and they aren’t necessarily fighting to get you the best price. Often, with some of these companies, you still have to do most of the work. Your local realtor can help you understand these organizations, and if your home is in bad shape, or you need a really quick sale, these companies may be your best option. A good realtor may even help you find one of these companies for you. Most realtors hope to gain repeat business. So even if they don’t get a commission on your home at that time, they may on a future home you buy or sell.
Always put your realtor on notice well before you’re ready to list. This allows time for the background work to be done, needed touch ups or repairs, or just an overall understanding of exactly what happens when your home is on the market.
Time is money!
It’s also helpful to have the realtor do a walkthrough to help you prioritize any areas that might need some of your attention (and money.)
And finally, a realtor can give you the best perspective on the condition of the market. They will be able to give you an idea of whether it is feasible to expect a quick sale in the current market.
2. Sell your stuff!
You will need to clear out your house to do any repairs, painting, and staging, so you might as well sell off a bunch of your extra stuff at a moving sale.
Not only will this help in making your house as attractive to potential buyers as possible, it will also give you some extra cash! This will give you money to put into any necessary repairs or improvements.
3. Pre-pack & Declutter Decluttering and pre-packing your home costs NOTHING and it is one of the most important parts of preparing your home for the market.
Whatever belongings that you don’t sell at your garage sale, either box them up for charity, recycle, box them up for storage, or throw them away. Don’t put them back in the house!!
Then take that momentum and start pre-packing the rest of your house. You’re going to be moving this stuff anyway…you might as well box it up so that potential buyers aren’t distracted by it.
Pre-pack everything but the ESSENTIALS. In this way, you are taking the steps early so you aren’t rushed later when you do get a contract!
Quick side note: Yes…packing can cost nothing. Check out your local liquor store, classified pages on Facebook. Just make sure you mark every box clearly, so you don’t have to dig through to see what is in there.
If you can’t afford a storage unit during this process, just stack the boxes neatly in the garage, being careful to keep your attic, crawlspaces, furnace and fuse box accessible for the inspector. If you don’t have a garage or shed, you can also stash boxes under beds or in closets!
4. Start Cleaning Again, this is another HUGE part of selling your home quickly. Eyes naturally wander toward the dirty, so you want to limit the distractions that will keep potential buyers from appreciating your home’s assets.
You should start the cleaning process as you empty things out and pre-pack, but you’ll want to do the main cleaning right before you list your home.
Many people notice the following first when house hunting:
· Ceiling fans
· Light switches
· Doors, walls, and baseboards
· TVs and appliances
· Furnace intake vents
· Cabinets, especially around the knobs and handles
· Stovetops (go ahead and clean the oven too)
· Windows and window screens
· Blinds and curtains
· Carpet and rugs
· Toilet rings and tub stains
Other than the cost of your cleaning supplies, this step is completely free as well.
You will be surprised just how much a dirty toilet and a foul smell will deter buyers. Clean and keep it clean…even if you can’t smell anything foul, others can and will.
Keep in mind that you are ‘nose blind’ as the commercial says. Every home has a smell or smells. Bad smells will turn off potential buyers even if they like the home. Buyers will walk out of a great home, if they are hit with a foul smell.
Pet smells are there if you have inside pets. Some products will attempt to cover the smell, but the smell will still be there. To prevent this, make sure to wash the pet beds, food bowls, kitty litter box, anywhere else the pets gather, regularly. Once a week is recommended, but more is desirable.
If you cook a meal that leaves a smell, clean up, and get food scraps out of the home as quickly as possible. Use an air spray that removes odors and possibly air out the home or kitchen.
Make sure the bathroom smells as clean as possible. Bathroom smells will literally run buyers out of your house. Just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean it doesn’t stink…so do what you can to make it smell pleasant and inviting.
Pets You may have the sweetest, best pets in the world. But your realtor will ask you to secure your animals during showings. Buyers do not like to have pets barking constantly or bothering them as they go throughout the house. They also want to see EVERY room in the home, so putting them in one room is not a good solution. Your realtor will help you with this problem. Many people are allergic to cats. A good listing agent will probably disclose if there are cats in the home and some buyers will not go see your home, especially if you have multiple cats. Some sellers have asked friends or family to keep their cats until after they more and then do a deep clean before listing. This opens the home up to more buyers.
5. Make Repairs This is the part that can be scary, but it’s really important to make any necessary repairs BEFORE you list your home.
Why not just wait to see if anything comes up during the inspection?
Once your home goes under contract, the buyers will have an inspection done by a state licensed inspector. The inspector is being paid by them to find EVERYTHING that is wrong or potentially wrong with your home.
Well….if repairs are deemed necessary after inspection, two things can happen. Either the buyer will ask you to reduce your price to cover the cost of the repairs or the buyer will request they be fixed by a licensed professional (even if it’s a simple DIY task). Then copies of the paid invoice, showing the work has been done must be provided to the buyers. This is standard practice.
DO NOT do DIY work that you’re not qualified to do in order to hide necessary repairs. The inspector will find it and require the work be re-done properly by a professional.
If you do the repairs before the listing, you can take your time and find the right professional at the right price and you will not be under the time crunch of a sale agreement and inspection timeline.
Here are common things that come up on an inspection and can often be taken care of on your own, or by a professional at a reasonable price:
· Gutter issues (make sure the gutters are clean and don’t leak.)
· HVAC service
· Small plumbing leaks
· Dirty chimney
· Sticky windows and sliding doors (clean the tracks and spray with silicone so they glide easily)
· GFCI Outlets…if you have an older home, please hire an electrician to ensure you have these in kitchens and bathrooms. They are a requirement for many loans.
· Broken outlet covers
· Damage or trash on the roof
· Chipped or peeling paint or wallpaper
· Loose door knobs and cabinet pulls
· Broken window/door screens
· Evidence of old leaks. (You must disclose prior leaks that have been repaired in the seller disclosure statement, but they seem less of an issue to potential buyers if the evidence is gone.)
This is just a quick list of small, common things that inspectors find. You can go ahead and gamble with not making repairs, hoping that your buyers don’t nitpick after the inspection. BUT…you might not even get to the inspection.
If potential buyers see a bunch of these small issues when going through your house, they will wonder what bigger repairs lurk below the surface and move on to the next house. These issues may also inspire them to low-ball you on an offer.
A clean and well-kept home sells for more money and more quickly!
You could always list the home at a firm “as-is” price and refuse to do any repairs, but you will probably find that your home sits on the market for longer than you would like or you will receive low-ball offers.
When possible, Update your home. It can be hard listing your home when you KNOW that things are outdated. But if your house is clean and well-kept, the right buyer will look beyond outdated fixtures and flooring.
This is when it pays to have a realtor. They will walk through your home and, if there is any room in your budget at ALL, they can outline how best to spend your money. The outdated things that are bothering you might not even faze your realtor. They know what buyers are looking for!
If you have a limited budget, there is really nothing you can do in the updating department that will significantly increase the value of your home. You are mainly just trying to update enough to get people in the door!
Here are some budget-friendly updates that we have opted to take care of prior to listing our homes:
Baseboards People notice and care if they see baseboards that are damaged, missing, or not properly installed. If your baseboards are really beat up, make sure to give them some attention. Even if they are mostly hidden, buyers will move curtains and even look behind furniture to see if there is any damage or even possible leaks on outside walls. Baseboards tell the story of a home.
Light Fixtures If you have broken or outdated light fixtures (interior OR exterior), consider switching them out if you can find a budget-friendly option.
Also, make sure you have bulbs in every receptacle in the lights. A fixture over a dining table with multiple light receptacles and only 1 bulb gives the impression you don’t care about your home.
Front Porch/Front Walkway If your potential buyers will be entering through the front door, always remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression. A porch filled with clutter, dirt, or broken furniture and trash, as well as a dirty or beat up front door, turns buyers off before they even walk into your home.
Clean it up, use some touch up paint on the door or paint the whole thing. It takes less than a quart of paint to give your front door a huge face lift! Pick an on-trend color that will look awesome in your photos and help your listing stand out.
Clean the windows in the door if you have them, and make sure the knobs work well. Agents can get really frustrated when they have a key that sticks or a handle that is hard to turn. Remember realtors are your friends, they can help a buyer ‘want’ your home, or encourage them in another direction. They know their buyers and have developed a relationship with them, so you want them to like your home as much as the buyers.
House Numbers If you have ugly or hidden house numbers, consider swapping them out. There are tons of frugal options. I would NOT suggest doing this if you don’t have touch-up paint for your house, though. Many people today have their first introduction to your home on the internet. They see the photos and most do a ‘drive by.’ Even if the agent’s sign is out front, they may not be sure which home is yours. House numbers help them figure it out easily.
Outlets and Light Switches Having fresh white outlets and light switches is a small thing that makes a HUGE difference! If you have crusty yellowed light switches and outlets in your house, consider swapping them out because it costs next to nothing. (If you don’t think you can do this safely, PLEASE consult a professional or a knowledgeble friend/family member.)
If you have novelty or very taste-specific light switch covers, you’ll definitely want to switch those out. Even though we all know it would take five minutes and about a dollar for the buyer to switch out a novelty light switch cover, it still gets added to the potential homebuyer’s mental tally of what they want/need to fix. They ‘see’ the switches because they are ‘looking for them to check out the lighting in homes.
When you only have a few minutes to impress buyers during a showing, you want to keep the mental tally of problems they see short!
Paint Paint is one of those things that no one wants to do because it is such a hassle.
Including potential buyers.
If you have rooms painted in bold or bright colors, consider painting them a more neutral color. When people see the bright colors, their first thought is all of the work and cost involved in painting the room. This is always added to the mental tally they keep in their head and as they go through your home.
Light colored or white woodwork sells! If your house has that outdated, wood-tone builders grade trim with doors to match, you might consider painting it if your budget and timeframe allow.
Paint really isn’t too expensive, especially if you are painting everything one color and you can buy in bulk.
Window Coverings Replace heavy, dark curtains with something more light and flowy. Curtains do not have to be expensive!
Replace broken mini-blinds, or consider upgrading to white faux wood blinds if your budget allows.
If your curtain rods are wonky or at a weird height, go ahead and fix them! There are tons of guides online for the most visually-appealing heights for curtains.
When you do though, make sure your windows are clean. If you have light and airy sheers, and filthy windows it is a huge turnoff. Clean the sills and any grime around the windows.
Staging a home can be a challenge but it will make a difference. Staging does not mean that it must be nicely decorated with updated or trendy items. It just means to make the home look as clean and decluttered as possible. This makes the home more attractive to buyers.
When staging, keep in mind that LESS IS SO MUCH MORE! Even if everything you own is outdated, fewer items in the room give a feeling of openness and cleanliness. It also makes the room appear larger. Definitely stash away any overly-personal items and pictures if at all possible.
If your home is REALLY outdated, having overly trendy home furnishings or décor might just draw even more attention to old carpet or countertops. The discrepancy between the eras can be visually distracting to potential buyers.
Remember-Less is more and remember, Pinterest and the internet in general, is full of ideas and tips for staging.
8. Outside Landscaping
Curb appeal is a real thing. It matters. Even if your front yard is a complete wasteland of dry weeds, mow it down and start watering it! See if you can get it greened up a bit for pictures.
Landscaping is basically free if you roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. Pull weeds, ask friends and family for flower starts from their gardens, tidy up shrubs and trees, git rid of old furniture or junk sitting around! Trendy yard art from 20 years ago is a turnoff.
If you have room in the budget, I think you’ll find that your money can go a long way when it comes to landscaping! Watch for sales on mulch and annuals. You might even find that you can afford to have a professional landscaper come and whip things into shape for you!
Again, you only have 1 chance to make a first impression.
Outside Areas If you have a large yard, or even acreage, the cleaner and better manicured, the more chance of getting a good price for your property.
When a buyer does the ‘drive by’ and they see junk piled, old abandoned cars, or just a lot of trash. They may never ask to see that property. The house may be perfect for them and may be in immaculate shape, but the outside appearance leads them to believe that the inside of the home looks the same on the inside as it does outside.
If you have free-range animals, ensure that your buyers do not have to walk through their range area to get into the home. Buyers don’t like having to step over chicken or guinea droppings to get to the front door. Make sure the front yard is neat, clean, and trimmed, with a clean walkway from the parking area to the door.
Out Buildings Property with large lots or acreage often have other buildings. Ensure there is a clear path from the home to the buildings. Buyers don’t expect a shop or storage building to be perfect, or a barn to be immaculate. However, it adds value to your property if it is. If there is electricity, water or other utilities to the outbuildings, ensure they are in working order. The inspector will inspect those as well as the home and you may be required to repair them before sale.
Well & Septic Systems Rural properties with well and septic systems will be inspected, so ensure they are in working order.
If someone ‘rigged’ anything on your well, it could be very costly to fix. Get it fixed prior to listing the property. Buyers will notice. Also, the inspector will notice and it will require a professional to fix it prior to the sale.
Before listing your property, have your septic system pumped if it hasn’t been pumped in many years. Systems that haven’t been pumped will cause strong odors and even sewer gases in the home.
With aerobic septic systems, If you are planning to move out before listing your property and it will be empty during the showings, make sure you pump your system and add water back into it before you move out. The Inspector will need water in the tanks in order to inspect the sprinkler heads. Make sure your septic sprinkler heads are in working order and all of the caps on the system are in good shape.
8. Listing your Home
When you and your home are ready to sell, your realtor will go over all of the paperwork and process with you. While your realtor will list the property, they may or may not be the one showing the property. When a property is listed on MLS, it goes out into the world via internet sales sites such as Realtor.com, Zillow, HAR, etc. Buyers often call realtors they know and ask about the home. Those realtors will be the ones bringing buyers. This can be a little scary to sellers, but keep in mind that a Texas Realtor is licensed in order to operate. They have been fingerprinted, had a background check and have to have continuing education classes. They are responsible people and with few exceptions, you can trust them to protect your home during a showing. The buyers often have already been vetted by the realtor to make sure they can afford your home. Also, the realtors must accompany the buyers to each showing. All of these processes are in place to protect you as a seller. The realtor will go over the procedures for scheduling the showings and help you understand the timelines. The agent will also need pictures taken. They will schedule a time for this to take place and you will need to make sure your home is picture ready. The first thing people see on the internet, are the photos. This is what sells your home to potential buyers, before they even see the location. Pricing it Right! Your realtor is an expert, and unless you are in the industry, you probably are not. You may think that you know what homes like yours are worth because you watch it on the internet, however most of the time people believe their home to be worth more than what the market will bring. Remember-your home is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Your realtor will pull ‘comps.’ This means they identify homes comparable to yours and come up with a range. If you start at the high point, you may have to wait a little longer to get an offer, but if you start mid-range, you will probably have a lot of showings and activity. If you need to sell fast, then price it low. But let your realtor help guide you and listen to their expertise. Pricing your home higher than the market will bear because you think it is worth it, will only lead to frustration, few showings and eventually you may sell it lower than you wanted because of negotiations. Keep in mind that most buyers have to get a loan, which means there will be an appraisal. Regardless of what you think your home is worth, the appraiser sets the value. If the appraiser says it is worth less than what the contract states, then the buyer can cancel the contract or you will have to come down to the appraised price. Only rarely can the buyer will make up the difference, because most do not have the extra cash to do so. Finally, when setting the price, go onto an internet home sale site and look for homes in the price range your home will be in. Look at those homes and see what most of them look like. Get your emotions out of it and be objective. That is what the buyers will see and they will compare every home. If they look at these photos and think your home is overpriced, often they will not even put it on the list to look at. Few go to look at a home thinking they will negotiate it down. 9. Ready, Set, Show In order to lessen the stress of preparing for showings, get into the habit of picking up your home every morning first thing. Even if you aren’t planning to leave the house. This prevents the madness of cleaning when you get a call to show in an hour.
Showing is stressful, just accept it. Most of the time, you will have little notice, you will probably have to leave your house, secure your pets, and you may be in the middle of cooking dinner.
You can request a different time for the showing, but if the buyers are driving from a distance, or have a weird work schedule they may not be able to accommodate. Sellers who decline showings or often request different times, get known for that and agents won’t even try to show their homes. Your home may be absolutely PERFECT for buyers, but if the showing time isn’t convenient for them, then they won’t come see it.
It can also be tempting to let your house slide back from “picture perfect condition” after a few showings, but keep it up! If you keep your house in that same impeccable shape for EVERY showing, you’ll stand a much better chance of getting an offer.
10. Final Thoughts
There are three things that affect your home sale:
Only 2 of these things do you have control over.
You can’t do anything about the location. However, location plays a big role in pricing and sale. A small home in poor condition, in the best neighborhood will sell for more than that same home in perfect condition in the worst neighborhood. What people see when they are driving to your home helps them decide if they even want to live there or not.
If you have little or no activity, lower the price. Have an aggressive plan with your realtor, adjusting the price to keep activity going. Without activity, your home will not sell. Just because you think someone, somewhere will want it, doesn’t mean they will pay the price.
The quickest and easiest way to sell your home for a decent price is the condition. Keep it in good condition throughout the showings and even until the day you close. The appraiser needs to see the home in ‘show ready’ condition and the appraisal is usually done very late in the process.
Last but not least, your realtor is your advocate. They will throw a lot of information at you and you will forget most of it. So don’t be afraid to ask questions, even multiple times, they understand.
They are also on your side throughout the process. At the end of the process, they truly want to make sure your interests have been protected and you have the best possible experience. They want repeat business, so they work hard to keep you happy.
If you do get frustrated or upset, talk it out with them. There could be some misunderstandings or miscommunications. Those are usually at the root of differences that arise between realtors and clients. They understand how much stress you are under and will try to help you through that.
Now let’s sell your home!
Process of Buying a Home
This is my final blog on Property Taxes and this topic specifically addresses protesting your property taxes.
As I mentioned in previous blogs, you can find much of the information you need on the www.Wise-CAD.com. Wise County Appraisal District website. If you do not live in Wise County, your appraisal district may have much the same information.
First, go to the site and in the Green Banner you will see the word ”Forms.” Click on the word and it will take you to the page with all the various forms available. Scroll down to the section titled: ARB Protest. ARB stands for the Appraisal Review Board, which is the group that oversees the appraisal process and all protests.
Underneath, there is a document titled “Taxpayer Rights and Remedies” in both English and Spanish. I suggest you print it off and read it thoroughly. Highlight the areas you need to know. This will save you later on, should you decide to file a protest.
You can save a lot of time and headache if your read this document first, and at the bottom of the page, there is a video section on presenting your case to the appraisal review board. Take time to watch the video entirely before you even begin the process. Many of the questions that arise, are answered in these 2 items, again saving you valuable time and effort.
It is important also to know your rights when it comes to this process. The state comptrollers office MUST help advise you on how to file a protest if you need it. The process can seem daunting, but they can help you understand and walk you through it. However, be sure to do your homework first so you can speak to the process intelligently.
The Taxpayer Rights and Remedies document also reminds us that the ARB can only address the appraised value and items related to the value, not the actual taxing rates or other issues of that sort.
Dates are key, so make note. When you receive your notice of appraised value, you only have a limited amount of time to file the protest. There is a protest form provided with the Notice, as well and the due date is often at the top of that form.
By law, the state says it is due within 30 days of the date it was MAILED, not the date you received it. Be sure to watch for it in your mail and if you think you may need to begin the protest process, do so quickly or you will miss out for that tax year.
This same document has great information to help you get started, such as:
How to protest the values
What can be protested
How to resolve concerns informally
What steps to take to prepare for the formal hearing
What to do if you do not agree with the decision
I mentioned previously in my first blog, our experience with this process. We were in the process of building our home ourselves and I protested the value. The appraisal district provided an appraised value based on the entire home being completed. I sent pictures of the interior and they gave us a percentage of completion. The next couple of years they increased that percentage until the final year they came to the property and saw it was complete and valued it at 100% complete. You may also need to protest that same issue if you are in the process of building your home.
The main protest is the appraised value given the property by the CAD.
There is a strange dichotomy that we as realtors see a lot. We all want to sell our property for the highest amount of money we can get, but no one wants to pay taxes on that amount. So how does the appraisal district determine your value?
The state requires that every CAD value the properties within their boundaries every 3 years. There are different methods that can be used based on the density of the area, however often it is basic market value. In years past it has been much less, between 20-40% less than market, however, the districts are now required by the state to use ‘market’ value.
For complete information on that process, you can go to the Menu section of the Wise-CAD on the bottom left of the and you will see a section called “Understanding the Property Tax System”. This link takes you to a page full of links with all kinds of great information. Take time to look over this page to see if there are any other links that could help you.
But if you are only interested in the appraisal process, scroll down to ‘Appraisal’ Section, and underneath that is a link to ‘Valuing Property.’ This link takes you to the Comptrollers page that explains how they determine value and the various processes that are used.
If you want to specifically protest the value, you can either do the homework yourself or contact me or another realtor. Many of us are willing to help you get the basic data together. Again, watch the video on the bottom of the website entitled “How to Present your Case at the Appraisal Review Board Hearing For Homeowners.”
To gather the data a realtor does a CMA, or comparative market analysis, which is a list of sold properties that match yours. We look at the age, the square foot, the location, and amenities and try to find homes that have sold recently which are similar to yours. This gives us an average of price per square foot. Then we multiply that times the square foot of your home, to get the value. It can be a simple process, however, can take a lot of time to find homes that match yours if you are not in an actively selling subdivision.
The key is that the homes you are comparing to are sold. Only realtors can see how much a home sold for, that information is not provided on any of the internet sites. The internet sites show the listing price, which is rarely the same as the amount a property sold for. Realtors we can find the homes that match and look at the date they sold. Many realtors do not charge for this service, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
The date the home sold is important because the market fluctuates. A home that sold 2 years ago is not equal value because the market has fluctuated. We try to use homes that have sold in 3 to 6 months prior to the date we are gathering the data. This eliminates any market issues that can arise.
Many people often find out however, that their property is appraised appropriately and going through the protest process is going to end up being a headache and waste of time. So be honest with yourself about your property and save yourself a lot of heartburn.
Also, do not try to manipulate the process and use comparison properties that are dissimilar to yours. The appraisal district employees investigate and may drive to your property and possibly the comparison property. Using a 1952 frame home that is 2 blocks away as a comp, when your home is a 2001 brick home, does not work effectively and will just muddy the process.
If you are ‘building’ your home or have had damage done, reach out to the appraisal district to find remedies that may help without going through the formal protest process.
Taking time to understand all the various options available for you can save you a lot of money, so do your homework and save yourself a lot of time and energy.