With rising interest rates and new financial legislation, economists agree that the world of real estate is currently a seller’s market. However, in the highly competitive environment of Los Angeles luxury real estate, knowing where to start can be difficult. With help from our qualified top real estate agents and experts, we’ve designed Neue Focus’s 2017 Home Seller’s Checklist to guide you through the process of selling a home.
Above All: Stay Honest With Yourself & Remain Objective
If there’s one key piece of advice for selling your home, it’s to always stay honest with yourself and your agent during the entire process. Look at your home objectively through a buyer’s eyes: What could you improve its appearance? What decor could you add or remove that would appeal to a large pool of buyers? Being honest with your agent is also vital to selling your home. When selecting an agent, do you feel as if you can talk freely with him or her? Is there something about the transaction that’s unclear to you? If there are any uncertainties during the process of selling your home, always be vocal with your agent and explain your concerns. At Neue Focus, our Seller’s Checklist is designed to elucidate the process of selling your home successfully and getting the most out of L.A.’s luxury real estate market.
1. Find an Agent You’re Comfortable With
Finding an agent you trust is perhaps the most important part of the real estate process. After all, your agent is your concierge to the world of Los Angeles luxury real estate and is vital to executing a sale. Because of the intimate role your agent plays in the real estate process, it is essential that you feel comfortable with your agent on both a professional and personal level.
Professional Comfort: When choosing an agent, you need to feel confident that he or she can handle the transaction successfully. Aside from inquiring whether the agent has experience outbidding or closing multimillion dollar deals, here are some surefire ways to confirm the strength of an agent’s record.
- Ask to see an activity list. An activity list is a record of all the buyers and sellers, neighborhoods, and price points an agent has represented over the course of his or her career. When reading an agent’s activity list, it’s important to see if they have worked in your neighborhood and price range, and whether they have a solid history of successful sales.
- How old are your agent’s comparable sales? Also known as “comps,” reviewing your agent’s comparable sales is important to determining their current market performance. Due to the rapidly changing market of Los Angeles luxury real estate, you’ll want to see comps from your neighborhood that are no more than two to three months old.
Personal Comfort: Being comfortable with your agent on a personal level is also vital to a successful sale. When interacting with your agent, you should feel as if you can ask your agent anything about the real estate process. The following are a few points to be aware of when assessing your comfort-level with your agent.
- Does your agent answer all of your questions so that you’re comfortable with the process of selling?
- Does the agent seem too aggressive in a way that makes you feel uneasy?
- Do you feel like you can talk to your agent about any reservations you may have during the transaction?
2 . Research Your Home’s Market Value
Researching your home value and staying on top of your local market is a must for sellers. Flyers in the mail are helpful in figuring out broad trends in local markets, but they’re not always the most accurate. The best line of action is to consult your agent and discuss your neighborhood’s Comparative Market Analysis or CMA. After your agent assesses your home, he or she will create a CMA report of recent comparable sales and market trends in your area. From the CMA, you and your agent will be able to create a unique marketing strategy tailored to buyers in your market.
3 . Have Your Property Inspected
Home inspections are essential to protecting the asking price of your home. During this process, an inspector will examine the physical condition of your home and assess what repairs should be made. General inspections can range anywhere from $200 to $400, but may be more depending on the size of the home. Although some realtors may advise against spending any money on inspections (since buyers always have their own inspectors towards the end of escrow), having your property examined before it goes on the market is a sure way to save time and money on your sale. By making repairs before the property is listed, instead of waiting for the buyer to spot flaws and and make requests, the closing process will be significantly shorter. Additionally, repairing issues you find during inspection may help keep your asking price higher since the property will be in top shape.
4 . Honestly Assess Your Home’s Physical Condition
When preparing your home to enter the market, it’s important to view your home objectively through buyers’ eyes. For example, painting the hot pink walk-in closet a more neutral color, or replacing your retro 1950’s style refrigerator with a more recent model will help buyers easily envision themselves in the space. Changes or repairs to your home can fall into either one of two categories: cosmetic or structural.
- Cosmetic Repairs: These are repairs that can be fixed for minimal to low cost as opposed to major renovations that require serious construction. Painting a room, repairing torn windows, refinishing wooden floors, and replacing old light fixtures are all examples of small, DIY cosmetic repairs that can give your home an instant facelift. Minor plumbing repairs, like replacing sink faucets, may require the help of a professional. Additionally, repainting walls neutral colors can also help your home appeal to a wider range of buyers.
- Structural Repairs: These repairs are more involved and almost always require the help of a professional. Replacing major appliances, a room addition, or removing an interior wall are more costly, but they have the most impact. In some cases, structural repairs are also changes that need to be addressed as a matter of safety. In this case, repairing a roof, filling foundation cracks, or removing lead paint are serious repairs that must be made.
5 . Build your Vendor List
Building a list of vendors is another essential step in preparing your home for sale. When building your contacts, it’s important to speak to general fix-it contractors, painters, landscapers, and stagers. If you’re having difficulty getting started, ask your agent for a list of referrals of vendors they’ve successfully used in the past. If a vendor’s quote seems too high, don’t be afraid to contact their competition. Getting bids and negotiating maintenance costs are time consuming, so this step should be done as soon as the home is inspected.
6 . Get all your Key Documents Together
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to find the documents to your home at the last minute. To remedy this, start gathering these papers as early as possible. The documents you will need in any transaction include:
- Title: The document that shows your legal ownership over the home.
Survey: A map and description of the property showing lot size, right-of-way, and easements. Although surveys are usually included with every real estate transaction, it’s common for them to get lost, especially if the home is older. If this is the case, another copy may be stored in your city’s planning department.
- Mortgage: Also known as the “Deed of Trust,” this document shows the transfer of title from the borrower to a third party (trustee) as security for the lender. When the loan is fully paid, the trustee transfers the title back to the borrower.
- Insurance: Homeowners Insurance document spells out what is financially protected about your home and possessions in the event of an accident or property damage.
In addition to organizing these documents, your agent can help you order a preliminary title report from a title company. Once you have this report, you and your agent will be able to spot any issues with the title.
Sellers should also confirm the boundaries of their home and order any applicable City Reports, which may be required to be ordered upon transfer of ownership. For example, the city of L.A. requires that a Los Angeles City Report 9A be ordered for every property upon transfer of ownership, and typically this document requires considerable lead time. Therefore, it’s wise to order this from the city as soon as you list your home for sale. This way, when you receive an offer, you will not be waiting on this legally required document to officially close escrow.
7 . Declutter your Space
When preparing the appearance of your home for market, decluttering your space is an absolute must. In every room, ask yourself whether every chair, vase, painting, or bookcase needs to be there. If not, pack up your extra items and put them in storage. Closets and bookshelves should also not be filled to capacity. A common staging trick is to empty half of all your closets, cupboards, and bookshelves to create the impression that your home has plenty of storage space.
Removing personal memorabilia from your space is another important step to decluttering. When buyers walk through your home, you want them to imagine themselves in the space. However, buyers won’t be able to do this if they’re surrounded by diplomas, trophies, photos, or any other personal items. Until you enter into a contract with a buyer, it’s best to keep these items in storage.
8 . Price your Home Wisely
The price of your home depends largely on market factors and urgency to sell. Some common market factors that directly impact real estate prices include the Fed’s decision to raise interest rates, financial legislation such as the Dodd Frank Act, and mortgage rates. In terms of urgency, sellers that aren’t concerned about selling quickly often price their homes higher. However, owners that need the funds or need to move sooner are more inclined to price their homes lower to encourage buyers. Depending on your home’s CMA, you and your agent should be able to determine the best possible price for your property.
9 . Set a Deadline
Setting a deadline early on helps you to prioritize what you need to do in terms of bidding, repairs, and paperwork. Sit down with your agent and work backwards from your expected sale date, and decide when to schedule important appointments like inspections and repairs. Even if you don’t meet this deadline, it’s important to have one in place so that your agent knows how to organize and time the marketing of your home.
10 . Trust your Agent
Although this may go without saying, trusting your agent is vital to a successful sale. Since you’ve gone through the interview process with your agent and assessed his or her qualifications, it’s time to let your agent take over the details. If you’re unclear or uncomfortable about any step in the process, never hesitate to speak to your agent with your concerns, as they are your concierge to the world of real estate. Knowledgeable agents with years of experience will be able to answer all of your questions while guiding you through the process with ease.