The biggest fear for many home sellers is having their house sit on the market.
And rightfully so.
As a seller, when this happens, you lose almost all leverage. Buyers start to think that you’re desperate and will entertain low-ball offers.
This is the worst scenario to be in.
You don’t just lose time.
You can literally leave tens of thousands of dollars on the table and pile on a bunch of stress.
My goal is to help you avoid this disaster.
I’m going to share seven tips that will skyrocket your chances of selling fast and for top dollar.
One of these tips will help prevent the buyer from backing out of your sale.
Let’s jump in.
Tip #1 Remove your emotional attachment
Not the home selling tip you were expecting?
Well, this one is very important.
In fact, this can be the main reason your home might sit on the market.
There are two scenarios where this usually comes into play.
First, when you start preparing your house to sell, you might be tempted to base decisions on your personal preference.
Don’t do it.
Because your taste in something might not appeal to the largest audience. When you sell your home, the goal is to appeal to as many buyers as possible who are in your target market.
When you start basing decisions on personal preference, you increase the chances of not attracting as many buyers.
I’ll touch on more of this in a minute.
Second, and this one is more common, when you negotiate with the buyer, keep one very important thing in mind: This is a business transaction.
Don’t let your ego put you at risk of leaving money on the table. And don’t get too greedy.
Let me give you two quick examples.
Let’s say your home has been on the market a bit longer than expected. Maybe the average home in your area goes pending within ~21 days.
You get an offer on day 29. It’s a bit under the asking price and contingent.
It’s not what you were expecting, but it’s not the worst offer.
After discussing with your realtor, you decide to send a counteroffer to the buyer at the asking price.
You’re hoping they accept it, but you’ll be satisfied meeting the buyer halfway.
They send you back a counteroffer at the same price and terms as their original offer.
It’s decision time.
Do you let your emotions get in the way because the buyer didn’t budge?
You’ve been on the market for 29 days and this is the only offer you’ve received. What are the chances of getting something better (or the same)?
Maybe you don’t accept their offer, but you need to weigh the pros and cons. Some sellers don’t. And it ends up costing them much more than they thought.
On the flip side, let’s say you’re in a really hot market.
You get three offers within 10 days. All above the asking price.
One of them is a bit more than the other two.
You’re thinking that if three buyers all gave you offers above your asking price, you might be able to squeeze a bit more out of them.
You very well might be able to. But there’s a risk.
When you send a counteroffer (or multi-counter in this situation), you put the ball back in the buyer’s court and risk letting them walk away.
So, it’s decision time again.
Do you accept one of these offers or try to get a bit more because you know the buyers really like your house?
Some sellers like to gamble, but it can backfire.
Your goal is to sell your house quickly and make the most possible money. You increase your chances of doing this when you don’t let your emotions play into your decision making.
This is one reason why choosing the right real estate agent is key. They’ll be able to guide you through scenarios like these so that you can make an informed decision.
Tip #2 Hire the right realtor, early
Want an easier home sale?
This is one of the best tips for selling your home that I can give you.
Hire the right real estate agent sooner than you think you should.
Many sellers wait.
Either because they don’t want to go through the hassle of finding an agent, or because they’re not aware that the right realtor can be a tremendous benefit earlier in the process.
They end up adding a bunch of stress that could have been prevented.
The right realtor will save you a boatload of time, headaches, and money.
Notice how I mentioned the “right” realtor?
That’s because it’s more important than “top.”
Of course, you want to hire a top realtor. But don’t just hire them because they do a lot of business or have many years of experience.
You want to make sure you hire someone who is going to have your back.
How do you do this?
Ask the right questions when you interview them.
You want to make sure you work with someone who is going to put your interests before a commission check.
Asking the right questions can help you do this.
We recently turned down a top realtor in Silicon Valley who wanted to join our platform. This agent does a lot of business and is in the top 1% nationwide.
We turned them down because we don’t believe a specific approach they take to selling a house puts the seller’s best interest before theirs.
And you should do the same.
If you don’t get the right vibe or the right answers, then don’t hire them.
Even if you already know them, don’t skip the interview.
And especially don’t give them the idea that you’re going to hire them no matter what.
This is a mistake that a lot of home sellers make.
They contact a realtor they have previously worked with or someone they know, and they sign the contract without having an in-depth conversation.
When you do this, you reduce the chances of that agent giving you 110%.
At a minimum, you want to hear their game plan for selling your house fast and for the highest price.
“Keep them on their toes,” as they say.
It will be well worth it. And your sale will be easier.
They can make it much easier if you hire them early.
If you’re like most home sellers, you’re spending a lot of time researching everything you can about selling your home.
You’re thinking about what needs to be done and when.
This is good.
But not everything you’ll come across can be applied to you and your home.
For example, this post tells you that water stains are a huge red flag and need to be fixed before selling.
If you’re reading that and you have a water stain, you’re going to freak out and might spend a bunch of time and money fixing it.
Not all water stains need to be fixed. In fact, many of them are old and don’t require any attention (but do need to be disclosed).
This is just a small example, but here’s the point…
The reason why hiring the right real estate agent early is one of the top tips for selling your home is because they can help you avoid making mistakes like this.
And they can help you in many other ways.
The best ones will give you a game plan from the get-go, have all of the contacts you’ll need, and offer to help as little or as much as you want.
I guess what I’m trying to tell you is, hiring the right real estate agent early can make your sale a lot easier.
When should you contact a realtor to sell your house?
Probably as soon as you know that you’re selling, or three to four months before you plan on listing your home, whichever is shorter.
Tip #3 Read your agreement
It’s imperative that you know what you’re agreeing to before signing an agreement with a realtor.
Most of them will go over this with you during your initial consultation.
I’m going to share two tips so that you’re aware of two tactics that you might come across.
The time period the contract is valid for is negotiable.
In the contract that is used for California, the time period is stated on page one.
A quick sidenote: The language used in real estate contracts can differ depending on which state you’re in.
They all include the “important” items, but the way they are written can differ.
I’ll be using the California contract for examples, so if you’re in a different state, you might see something slightly different.
This is an example of what it looks like in California.
The start date is when your agent can officially start helping you.
The end date is when the contract expires.
When discussing the timeframe, you’ll want to consider these three things:
- The time from when you want your agent to start helping you to when you plan to put the home on the market
- Estimated time from going on market to accepting an offer
- Estimated time from accepting an offer to closing
The average timeframe is usually between three and six months.
If you sign your agreement relatively close to the time when you expect your home to be listed, be aware of agents who are pushing for six months or more.
Unless you’re in a market where the average home takes three to four months to sell, a six-month timeframe is excessive.
Some real estate agents will push for (or include without even discussing it) much longer timeframes than they should need.
This is actually one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Here’s how it usually works…
The agent will overpromise on the estimated selling price. You’ll get excited because they’re overly confident when discussing an inflated value that sounds too good to be true.
The contract is for ~6 months, but you don’t care because they said they can sell your house much higher than you thought.
After the house has been on the market for an extended period of time, they advise you to drop the price.
And that’s what you do.
The house eventually sells at a much lower number than you were expecting.
But…your realtor still got paid a commission.
In many of these cases, the realtor knows there’s almost no chance of the house selling at the price they initially discussed. They used this tactic to get the contract signed.
The realtors who do this are usually the ones that have zero confidence in their ability to properly market your home, so they overpromise to secure your business.
The best realtors will clearly outline your timeframe and why they think they can sell your house at or above their recommended asking price.
I would make sure of two things when it comes to the time period in your contract:
- Your realtor discusses it with you
- It aligns with their timeline of how long they think it might take to sell your house
When you sell, you’ll pay the commission to both your real estate agent as well as the buyer’s agent.
Well, technically you’re paying the commission to both agents’ brokerages.
But, nevertheless, the seller pays the total commission.
Depending on your area, the total commission is usually around 5-6%. But this can be different depending on the type of agent you hire and the services they provide.
Now, here’s the tip you need to know about the commission.
Make sure you understand how much is getting paid to your brokerage and how much is being offered to the buyer’s brokerage.
Because some real estate agents will try to slip this past you.
You will technically pay the entire commission to your brokerage, and your brokerage offers a certain percentage to the buyer’s brokerage.
Here’s an example:
In most cases, the total commission is split 50/50.
But some realtors will put a higher percentage for their brokerage without telling you.
This can hurt you because if you’re paying a lower-than-average commission to the buyer’s realtor, then they may be less motivated to show your home compared to your neighbor’s.
The key tip?
Make sure you understand how much is being paid to each brokerage before signing the agreement.
Tip #4 Get inspections
Many home sellers panic when it comes to getting inspections.
Or worse, they don’t get them at all.
Here’s the first inspection tip I have for you when selling your home:
Get them done.
They’ll be one of the best investments you make.
Let me explain by using an analogy I always use when it comes to selling a house and getting inspections.
Let’s say you’re in the market for a used car. You come across one you like very much, but the owner has no paperwork, no receipts, and no Carfax.
You don’t know what’s “under the hood.”
Are you going to make your best offer? Probably not, right?
Well, when you don’t get inspections before selling your house, buyers won’t give you their best offer.
Or they might not even submit an offer at all. If they do, it’s almost a guarantee that their offer will include an inspection contingency.
You might be thinking, “Doesn’t the buyer do their own inspections?”
They can, and many of them do.
But when you have them done upfront, it does two things:
- Gives the buyer more confidence in submitting their best offer
- Reduces the chances of the sale falling through
Let’s say you decide not to have inspections done before selling.
You accept an offer, and the buyer has an inspection contingency.
They have their property inspection done, and the report comes back with numerous items. Nothing major, but items that need to be fixed and will cost money.
Many times, the buyer will think they have leverage over you because you were unaware of these.
So, they ask you to pay for the work.
And they throw out an excessively high number.
Not only did they submit an offer that probably wasn’t their best, but they’re now asking you to pay for everything.
You and your agent think they are being unreasonable, so you go back and forth on the dollar amount.
You can’t come to an agreement or the buyer gets turned off, so they back out of the sale.
Now let’s say you decided to have the inspections done before putting your home on the market.
The buyer is now well aware of what’s “under the hood” and is more confident about their offer.
Could they still include an inspection contingency? Yep, and many buyers do.
But here’s the difference.
As long as there isn’t a major discrepancy between your home inspection and theirs, the chances of them asking for repairs are dramatically reduced because they were aware of your report before making their offer.
So by getting inspections done before selling your home, the buyer probably submitted a better offer and will be less inclined to ask you to make repairs.
Here’s the next inspection tip when selling your home.
You don’t need to take care of every single item called out in the report.
And there will most likely be numerous items mentioned.
This is typical.
Inspectors do this not just because it’s in everybody’s best interest, but also for liability reasons.
You might see things like these mentioned in your report.
These items are what most people would consider “minor”.
The buyer and their agent are expecting to see some items called out by the inspector.
Fixing these before putting your home on the market is optional, but it’s almost always a good idea.
If you’re working with the right agent, they’ll be able to advise you on what’s worth fixing and what’s not.
Which brings me to the next inspection tip for selling your home.
Don’t waste time fixing things before the inspection. Wait for your agent to advise you.
Many sellers stress and think they need to go through the house, fixing everything.
Now, if there are simple things that can be fixed or items you know will be called out by the inspector, then go ahead and fix them.
But you don’t need to waste a bunch of time preparing for a home selling inspection.
You can do this instead.
Fix the items in the home inspection report that are worth fixing and then have your agent list the items you fixed in a Word document and include it in your disclosure package.
Here’s an example of what this might look like.
The buyer will request your disclosures and inspections when they’re thinking about submitting an offer.
Including a document that shows them which items you took care of will give them more confidence and help make your home stand out from others they might be considering.
Two other inspections that might benefit you include termite and roof inspections.
A termite inspection is common in most areas and for most properties.
A roof inspection is usually recommended for all single-family residences, but not for condos and townhomes as the HOA is almost always responsible for the roof.
The most important thing about having inspections completed is that the buyers have them upfront so they can feel more confident about making their best offer.
Here’s a summary of the best home selling inspection tips:
- Get them done before listing your home
- Minimize your time spent fixing things before the inspector comes out
- Ask your agent which items are worth fixing
- Have your agent include a document in your disclosure package that shows which items you’ve taken care of
Tip #5 Optimize your home’s appearance
This is one of my favorite tips.
Mainly because many home sellers struggle when getting their house ready to sell.
Or they get bad advice.
Knowing what to do (and what not to do) will help you sell your house fast and for top dollar.
How do you do this?
Let me explain.
Remember the first home selling tip we discussed about keeping your emotional attachment out of the sale?
Well, now look at it from the buyer’s perspective.
Buying a home is an emotional decision. And in this case, emotion can be your best friend.
Your goal (and your agent’s job) is to maximize the emotion a buyer feels when they see your home.
You do this by optimizing the appearance.
But this doesn’t mean you need a new kitchen or bathroom.
Will making a bunch of upgrades make your home look better?
But not all of them will pay off.
In many cases, it’s the inexpensive things that will bring the biggest bang for your buck.
Here are a few examples:
Is your lawn not as green as you’d like?
You don’t need new sod. Spray paint your grass instead.
Do your kitchen or bathroom cabinets not have knobs or handles?
Add them. They make a huge difference.
Can you add mulch to your landscaping?
Do it. It will have a positive impact on how buyers view your exterior.
Appeal to more buyers
The larger the audience you can appeal to, the sooner you’ll get that offer you’re hoping for.
This means as you start to prep, keep your personal preferences to the side.
The key to doing this is to think neutral.
Will pictures of you and your family help potential buyers envision themselves living there?
Probably not, right?
Is your chair in front of the TV that you’ve been sitting in for the past 14 years something that most buyers would sit in?
Most likely not.
Adamant on keeping any dark-colored walls?
Most buyers will immediately factor in the time and money they have to spend repainting.
Whether you’ve lived in your home for three years or 30 years, you have to keep in mind that this won’t be your home any longer.
Remember, this is a business transaction.
Here’s a tip that can help with this.
Walk across the street and stand there for a good minute looking at your home.
Now pretend this isn’t your house. Pretend you’re a buyer.
How does your exterior look?
Walk inside and go room by room. Look for the little things that you might not normally pay attention to. Because this is what buyers will notice.
They’re going to be looking at your house with a fresh set of eyes. You want to minimize any concern they might have about how well you’ve taken care of the property.
And this doesn’t mean you need brand new quartz countertops or engineered hardwood flooring.
For example, let’s say you have marks on your wall (which is common). A new paint job isn’t needed, but you decide to skip the touch-up.
Now pretend you’re the buyer.
You’re viewing these marks and you’re thinking, “What else have the sellers not taken care of ?”
You want to minimize these types of questions.
Optimizing your home’s appearance is key to selling quickly and for the best price.
But you don’t need to waste a bunch of time and money doing it.
Get advice from an expert.
The best agents can walk through your house in seven to 10 minutes and tell you exactly what should be done.
Not all of them have the expertise (or willingness to help) and contacts to help you prep quickly, but the best ones do.
The ones who are willing to put in the extra effort can engineer a game plan and do all of the heavy lifting so you don’t have to. And they can get it done much quicker than you think and with much less effort from you.
Here’s the key tip to take away from this:
Optimizing your home’s appearance is crucial to selling quickly and for the best price. But with the right help, it will be much quicker and easier than you think.
Tip #6 Set the best asking price
There’s a good chance that when your buyer first finds out about your property, they’ll already know what similar homes in your area have been selling for.
Most buyers search online and have been searching in specific areas before getting their offer accepted.
Three things will stick out to them when they see your listing online:
- Property description
- Asking price
Miss the mark on any of these and the amount of interest in your home will significantly drop.
Especially if you set the asking price too high.
But you don’t want to set it too low either. You could leave money on the table, even in a hot market.
And keep this tip in mind: The asking price should be incorporated into the marketing plan for your home.
The goal is to generate more interest and use it to help justify why your house is worth more than your neighbor’s.
Put yourself in the shoes of potential buyers. We know that they’re most likely familiar with your area and the recently sold homes that are similar to yours.
We also know that the asking price is going to be one of the first things they see.
Let’s play out a scenario where you set the asking price higher than what the most recently sold homes have sold for (after factoring in the differences).
If you were the buyer, would you be intrigued? Probably not.
What if you priced it a bit below what those homes sold for?
You’re going to hit the “favorite” button on whichever real estate search site you’re on. And that’s what you want your potential buyers to do.
But let’s get one thing out of the way: The asking price for your home does not mean the selling price.
Many sellers get hung up on this and think a buyer won’t pay more than what they’re asking. They will if you have the right agent.
And here’s another thing: Just because you set the asking price at a certain number does not mean you need to accept an offer at that number. You’re not obligated to accept any offer, even if it’s much higher than your asking price.
Now I’m not saying you should price your home below the sale price of recently sold homes. All I’m saying is be open to the idea.
When you do this, you’ll pique the curiosity of more buyers, which can increase demand. Then, it’s your agent’s job to “sell it” and negotiate the highest price.
The top agents are masters at this. It’s a skill set that many don’t have.
When negotiating, you have to know what to say, but more importantly, when to say it. And the best selling agents know exactly how to do this.
So remember this tip when selling your home: Setting the best asking price will allow your agent to have more conversations with the agents of potential buyers, which maximizes your opportunity of selling for more than your neighbor.
Tip #7 Vet the buyer
Want to reduce your chances of having the buyer back out of your sale?
Then keep this tip in your back pocket: Make sure your real estate agent vets the buyer.
The best ones do.
They’ll ask that any offer submitted includes these four things:
- Offer contract
- Pre-approval letter
- Proof of the buyer’s funds
- Signed disclosures
When an offer does come in, the first thing they’ll do is go through the offer contract and summarize the highlights (price, terms, contingencies, etc).
Then, they’ll go through the signed disclosures and/or acknowledgment of your inspections.
Next, they’ll look at the buyer’s funds. These include all liquid assets, stocks, 401k, etc.
The goal here is to verify that the buyer has enough funds for the down payment, their closing costs, and the required reserves (most loans require that the buyer have an additional 6-12 months worth of mortgage, taxes, and insurance after the loan closes).
Here’s another tip: If you think your house might not appraise at the purchase price (e.g. you received a great offer you weren’t expecting), then make sure your agent ensures that the buyer has enough funds to cover the potential difference of what they would need to pay.
After looking at the buyer’s funds, the next step is to call the loan officer. The agents who do this are trying to get as much information about the buyer as they can.
Loan officers can only disclose so much, but the goal is to verify that the buyer is good with the 3 C’s of mortgages: credit, capacity, and collateral.
Credit = credit score
Capacity = debt-to-income ratio
Collateral = down payment + additional funds
The last step of this process is to bundle all of this information into a simple summary for you.
Vetting the buyer like this does two things:
- Gives you more information so that you can make a more informed decision when deciding if you should accept, counter, or decline the offer
- Reduces the chances of the sale falling through
Of course, a sale can fall through for any reason, but when the buyer is properly vetted, the chances of that happening are greatly reduced.
This approach is more common in certain parts of the country than it is in others, so asking your agent about this upfront is a good idea.
Selling a house can be stressful.
Applying these tips can help you sell your house fast, for more money, and make your sale easier.
Keep these close by as you embark on your home selling journey and boost your chances of doing just that.