Getting a Home Ready to Sell
Listening to the advice of an experienced Realtor
By Ray Linville
Are you planning to sell your home soon? Does the idea of placing a house on the market make you anxious?
My wife and I have owned our home in the Sandhills for 20 years. When we moved here, we downsized to a three-bedroom house. Recently we have started a “conversation” about how to prepare for another downsizing, and the topic of selling the house is keeping at least one of us awake at night. To calm down, I reached out to LIN HUTAFF for advice.
As the broker and owner of LIN HUTAFF’S PINEHURST REALTY GROUP, she is in a perfect position to help home sellers. Into her office I went with my list of questions, which started with this one:
Is there a best time of the year to sell in the Sandhills?
I always thought that spring was the best time to list a house, and I was right … when my wife and I bought our house in 1999. According to Lin, “Back then most sales occurred predominantly in the spring and fall,” the peak seasons when golfers and tourists were visiting.
But she adds, “We now have consistent sales throughout the year, and the sales cycle reflects the changing demographics. Spring and fall are no longer the peak seasons for buyers. The highest selling months are now in the summer, although one of my biggest months was last December.”
Because I’m concerned with how long a house might stay on the market, I had to ask this question:
How long should a seller expect a house to be on the market before it sells?
“The average days on market are impacted by many factors — age, condition, updates, location, etc.” Lin explains, “Above all, a home has to be priced right. When priced right, there is a better chance for a quick sale.”
“Prices have not rebounded since the height of the market in 2007. Although we are selling more homes now than in 2007, the big hurdle is the value. The prices have not gone back up. But the absorption rate (the number of sales in a month divided by the number of homes for sale) is very promising. It is down to nearly four months. With fewer homes on the market, we should see prices increasing.”
I would like for the buyers of our house to be a congenial couple ready for retirement. My next surprise was when Lin answered this question:
Will potential buyers be ready for retirement like my wife and I were in 1999?
“The new buyers are younger, and they belong to a different generation,” Lin says. “Many are heavily influenced by HGTV. Yesterday I was in a house with a buyer. It had colors from 1992. Although the kitchen had been updated, every place in the house looked dated to this buyer.
“One typical misconception by a seller is thinking that buyers may not like renovations because they will want to pick out their own colors and styles. But we realtors see every day what buyers are looking for: Neutral colors or extremely light grays show that a house has been updated. Don’t wait for the buyer to make updates.
“On a larger scale, today’s buyers are most interested in bathrooms and kitchens. If you can renovate, start with bathrooms and the kitchen. I’m right now listing my own home, which was built in 2005. In the process, I’m gutting and totally renovating both bathrooms.”
Hmmm, the expression on my face led Lin to read my mind and answer this question that I was thinking:
Are there any simple fixes or changes to a house that a seller should consider?
“Prioritize what you can do to make your house look up-to-date,” Lin advises. “I help sellers maximize their budgets to get their homes selected.” In order of merit, consider these five changes:
Declutter. “This is my quote,” she says: “‘Clear all the horizontals.’ Less is more. Have the house look like a model home at a new contractor’s site. For example, pull a chair out of the living room.”
Apply fresh paint in current colors. “It’s a mistake to present a house with out-of-style colors,” Lin advises.
Replace carpeting and consider a hardwood look. “Most buyers can’t envision how the houses would look with new flooring. It’s a beauty contest when you want to sell a house, and you want to win,” she says.
Add stainless steel appliances. “Appraisals are helped by stainless steel appliances. You’ll gain an increase in value over a home without them,” she explains.
Put in granite, granite, granite — in bathrooms and the kitchen. “Granite is not a pricey as some people think,” she adds.
With answers from a professional realtor to my initial questions, I feel much better. Of course, now I have more questions.