Orange County , Irvine, Rancho, Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Coto de Caza, Aliso Viejo, Trabuco Canyon, and Portola Hills. Danielle and Jim Corliss helping to find and buy the home of your dreams.
The Selling Process:
If you are thinking of selling your
home, chances are you're caught up in a mass of emotions. You may be looking
forward to moving up to a new home or facing the uncertainty of a major move
across country. You may be reluctant to leave your memories behind or eager to
start new and exciting adventures. Remember, we are here to help
you with any of your needs. Call or e-mail us today!
Getting Your House Ready to Sell
Introduction - Emotion vs. Reason
When conversing with real
estate agents, you will often find that when they talk to you about buying real
estate, they will refer to your purchase as a "home." Yet if you are
selling property, they will often refer to it as a "house." There is
a reason for this. Buying real estate is often an emotional decision, but when
selling real estate you need to remove emotion from the equation.
You need to think of your
house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get
others to see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do
not consciously make this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation
where it takes longer to sell your property.
The first step in getting
your house ready to sell is to "de-personalize" it.
De-personalize the House
The reason you want to
"de-personalize" your house is because you want buyers to view it as their
potential home. When a potential homebuyer sees your family photos
hanging on the wall, it puts your own brand on the home and momentarily
shatters their illusions about owning the house. Therefore, put away most of your family
photos, sports trophies, collectible items, knick-knacks, and souvenirs. Put
them in a box. Rent a storage area for a few months and put the box in the
Do not just put the box in
the attic, basement, garage or a closet. Part of preparing a house for sale is
to remove "clutter," and that is the next step in preparing your
house for sale.
Removing Clutter, Though You May Not Think of it as Clutter
This is the hardest thing
for most people to do because they are emotionally attached to everything in
the house. After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a
way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way
buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on
shelves, counter tops, drawers, closets, garages and attics.
Take a step back and
pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help point out areas of clutter, as long
as you can accept their views without getting defensive. Let your agent help
The kitchen is a good place
to start removing clutter, because it is an easy place to start. First, get
everything off the counters. Everything. Even the toaster. Put the toaster in a
cabinet and take it out when you use it. Find a place where you can store
everything in cabinets and drawers. Of course, you may notice that you do not
have cabinet space to put everything. Clean them out. The dishes, pots and pans
that rarely get used? Put them in a box and put that box in storage, too.
You see, homebuyers will
open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the kitchen. They want to be
sure there is enough room for their "stuff." If your kitchen
cabinets, pantries, and drawers look jammed full, it sends a negative message to
the buyer and does not promote an image of plentiful storage space. The best
way to do that is to have as much "empty space" as possible.
For that reason, if you
have a "junk drawer," get rid of the junk. If you have a rarely used
crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with every cabinet and drawer. Create
If you have a large amount
of foodstuffs crammed into the shelves or pantry, begin using them – especially
canned goods. Canned goods are heavy and you don’t want to be lugging them to a
new house, anyway – or paying a mover to do so. Let what you have on the
shelves determine your menus and use up as much as you can.
Beneath the sink is very
critical, too. Make sure the area beneath the sink is as empty as possible,
removing all extra cleaning supplies. You should scrub the area down as well,
and determine if there are any tell-tale signs of water leaks that may cause a
homebuyer to hesitate in buying your home.
Closets are great for
accumulating clutter, though you may not think of it as clutter. We are talking
about extra clothes and shoes – things you rarely wear but cannot bear to be
without. Do without these items for a couple of months by putting them in a
box, because these items can make your closets look "crammed full." Sometimes
there are shoe boxes full of "stuff" or other accumulated personal
Many people have too much
furniture in certain rooms – not too much for your own personal living needs –
but too much to give the illusion of space that a homebuyer would like to see.
You may want to tour some builders’ models to see how they place furniture in
the model homes. Observe how they place furniture in the models so you get some
ideas on what to remove and what to leave in your house.
Storage Area Clutter
Basements, garages, attics,
and sheds accumulate not only clutter, but junk. These areas should be as empty
as possible so that buyers can imagine what they would do with the space.
Remove anything that is not essential and take it to the storage area or have a
Fixing Up the House Interior
Plumbing and Fixtures
All your sink fixtures
should look shiny and new. If this cannot be accomplished by cleaning, buy new
ones where needed. If you don’t buy something fancy, this can be accomplished
inexpensively and they are fairly easy to install. Make sure all the hot and
cold water knobs are easy to turn and that the faucets do not leak. If they do,
replace the washers. It is not difficult at all.
Check to make sure you have
good water pressure and that there are no stains on any of the porcelain. If
you have a difficult stain to remove, one trick is to hire a cleaning crew to
go through and clean your home on a one-time basis. They seem to be wonderful
at making stains go away.
Ceilings, Walls and Painting
Check all the ceilings for
water stains. Sometimes old leaks leave stains, even after you have repaired
the leak. Of course, if you do have a leak, you will have to get it repaired,
whether it is a plumbing problem or the roof leaks.
You should do the same for
walls, looking for not only stains, but also areas where dirt has accumulated
and you just may not have noticed. Plus, you may have an outdated color scheme.
Painting can be your best
investment when selling your home. It is not a very expensive operation and
often you can do it yourself. Do not choose colors based on your own
preferences, but based on what would appeal to the widest possible number of
buyers. You should almost always choose an off-white color because white helps
your rooms appear bright and spacious.
Carpet and Flooring
Unless your carpet appears
old and worn, or it is definitely an outdated style or color, you probably
should do nothing more than hire a good carpet cleaner. If you do choose to
replace it, do so with something inexpensive in a fairly neutral color.
Repair or replace broken
floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money on anything. Remember, you are not
fixing up the place for yourself. You want to move. Your goal is simply to have
as few negative impressions upon those who may want to purchase your property.
Windows and Doors
Check all of your windows
to make sure they open and close easily. If not, a spray of WD40 often helps.
Make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes. If there are, replace
them before you begin showing your home.
Do the same things with the
doors – make sure they open and close properly, without creaking. If they do, a
shot of WD40 on the hinges usually makes the creak go away. Be sure the
doorknobs turn easily, and that they are cleaned and polished to look sharp. As
buyers go from room to room, someone opens each door and you want to do
everything necessary to create a positive impression.
For those who smoke, you
might want to minimize smoking indoors while trying to sell your home. You
could also purchase an ozone spray that helps to remove odors without creating
a masking odor.
Pets of all kinds create
odors that you may have become used to, but are immediately noticeable to those
with more finely tuned olfactory senses. For those with cats, be sure to empty
kitty litter boxes daily. There are also products that you can sprinkle in a
layer below the kitty litter that helps to control odor. For those with dogs,
keep the dog outdoors as much as possible. You might also try sprinkling carpet
freshener on the carpet on a periodic basis.
Costs of Repairs
Do not do anything
expensive, such as remodeling. If possible, use savings to pay for any repairs
and improvements – do not go charging up credit cards or obtaining new loans. Remember
that part of selling a house is also preparing to buy your next home. You do
not want to do anything that will affect your credit scores or hurt your
ability to qualify for your next mortgage.
Fixing Up Outside the House
Most real estate advice tells
you to work on the outside of the house first, but unless there is a major
project involved, we believe it is best to do it last. There are two main
reasons for this. First, the first steps in preparing the interior of the house
are easier. They also help develop the proper mind set required for selling -
beginning to think of your "home" as a marketable commodity. Second,
the exterior is the most important. A home buyer’s first impression is based on
his or her view of the house from the real estate agent’s car.
So take a walk across the
street and take a good look at your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see
how yours compares.
Is your landscaping at
least average for the neighborhood? If it is not, buy a few bushes and plant
them. Do not put in trees. Mature trees are expensive, and you will not get
back your investment. Also, immature trees do not really add much to the
appearance value of the home.
If you have an area for
flowers, buy mature colorful flowers and plant them. They add a splash of
vibrancy and color, creating a favorable first impression. Do not buy bulbs or
seeds and plant them. They will not mature fast enough to create the desired
effect and you certainly don’t want a patch of brown earth for homebuyers to
Your lawn should be evenly
cut, freshly edged, well watered, and free of brown spots. If there are
problems with your lawn, you should probably take care of them before working
on the inside of your home. This is because certain areas may need re-soding,
and you want to give it a chance to grow so that re-sod areas are not
immediately apparent. Plus, you might want to give fertilizer enough time to be
effective. Always rake up loose leaves and grass cuttings.
The big decision is whether
to paint or not to paint. When you look at your house from across the street,
does it look tired and faded? If so, a paint job may be in order. It is often a
very good investment and really spruces up the appearance of a house, adding
dollars to offers from potential homebuyers.
When choosing a color, it
should not be something garish and unusual, but a color that fits well in your
neighborhood. Of course, the color also depends on the style of your house,
too. For some reason, different shades of beige seem to elicit the best
response in homebuyers, whether it is in the trim or the basic color of the
As for the roof, if you
know your house has an old leaky roof, replace it. If you do not replace a
leaky roof, you are going to have to disclose it and the buyer will want a new
roof, anyway. Otherwise, wait and see what the home inspector says. Why spend
The Back Yard
The back yard should be
tidy. If you have a pool or spa, keep it freshly maintained and constantly
cleaned. For those that have dogs, be sure to constantly keep the area clear of
"debris." If you have swing sets or anything elaborate for your kids,
it probably makes more sense to remove them than to leave them in place. They
take up room, and you want your back yard to appear as spacious as possible,
especially in newer homes where the yards are not as large.
The Front Door & Entryway
The front door should be
especially sharp, since it is the entryway into the house. Polish the door
fixture so it gleams. If the door needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to
get that done.
If you have a cute little
plaque or shingle with your family name on it, remove it. Even if it is just on
the mailbox. You can always put it up again once you move. Get a new plush door
mat, too. This is something else you can take with you once you move.
Make sure the lock works
easily and the key fits properly. When a homebuyer comes to visit your home,
the agent uses the key from the lock box to unlock the door. If there is
trouble working the lock while everyone else stands around twiddling their
thumbs, this sends a negative first impression to prospective homebuyers.
When Your Selling Price is too High, Beware!
Meeting With Real Estate Professionals
So you’ve decided to sell
your home and have a fairly good idea of what you think it is worth. Being a
sensible home seller, you schedule appointments with a few listing agents
who’ve been hanging stuff on your front doorknob for years. Each Real Estate
Professional comes prepared with a "Competitive Market Analysis" on
fancy paper and they each recommend a specific sales price.
Real Estate Professionals may have come up with prices that are lower than you
expected. Although they back up their recommendations with recent sales data of
similar homes, you remain convinced your house is worth more. When you
interview the third agent’s figures, they are much more in line with your own
anticipated value, or maybe even higher. Suddenly, you are a happy and excited
home seller, already counting the money.
Which Real Estate Professional do you choose?
If you’re like many people,
you pick Real Estate Professional number three. This is an agent who seems
willing to listen to your input and work with you. This is an agent that cares
about putting the most money in your pocket. This is an agent that is willing
to start out at your price and if you need to drop the price later, you can do
that easily, right? After all, everyone else does it!
The truth is that you may
have just met an agent engaging in a questionable sales practice called "buying
a listing." He "bought" the listing by suggesting you
might be able to get a higher sales price than the other agents recommended.
Most likely, he is quite doubtful that your home will actually sell at that price.
The intention from the beginning is to eventually talk you into lowering the
Why do agents
"buy" listings? There are basically two reasons. A well-meaning and
hard working agent can feel pressure from a homeowner who has an inflated
perception of his home’s value. On the other hand, there are some agents who
engage in this sales practice routinely.
What Happens Behind the Scenes
Whichever the case, if you
start out with too high a price on your home, you may have just added to your
stress level, and selling a home is stressful enough. There will be a lot of
"behind the scenes" action taking place that you don’t know about.
Contrary to popular
opinion, the listing agent does not usually attempt to sell your home to a
homebuyer. That isn’t very efficient. Listing agents market and promote your
home to the hordes of other local agents who do work with
homebuyers, dramatically increasing your personal sales force. During the first
couple of weeks your home should be a flurry of activity with buyer’s agents
coming to preview your home so they can sell it to their clients, if the price
If you and your agent have
overpriced, fewer agents will preview your home. After all, they are Real
Estate Professionals, and it is their job to know local market conditions and
home values. If your house is dramatically above market, why waste time? Their
time is better spent previewing homes that are priced realistically.
Dropping Your Price...Too Late
Later, when you drop your
price, your house is "old news." You will never be able to recapture
that flurry of initial activity you would have had with a realistic price. Your
house could take longer to sell.
Even if you do successfully
sell at an above market price, your buyer will need a mortgage. The mortgage lender
requires an appraisal. If comparable sales for the last six months and current
market conditions do not support your sales price, the house won’t appraise.
Your deal falls apart. Of course, you can always attempt to renegotiate the
price, but only if the buyer is willing to listen. Your house could go
"back on the market."
Once your home has fallen
out of escrow or sits on the market awhile, it is harder to get a good offer.
Potential buyers will think you might be getting desperate, so they will make
lower offers. By overpricing your home in the beginning, you could actually end
up settling for a lower price than you would have normally received.
Details of a Listing Contract
Obviously the name of the
seller and the property address will be included in the listing contract. There
are many other things that are included, too, and you should be aware of them.
Price and Terms of Sale
When setting the terms of
sale, the main thing you are concerned with is the price. You should have a
basic idea of what your home is worth by keeping track of other sales in the
neighborhood. Plus, you have probably interviewed at least two real estate
agents and they have given you their own ideas. Exercise great care in
determining your asking price, making sure not to set it too high or too low.
In addition to the price,
you will disclose what personal property, if any, goes with the house when you
sell it. Personal property is anything that is not attached or fixed to the
home, such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, and so on.
There may be some item that
is considered "real property" that you do not intend to include in
the sale. Real property is anything that is attached to the home. For example,
you may have a chandelier that has been in your family for generations and you
take it from home to home when you move. Since the chandelier is attached to
the house, it is considered "real property" and a reasonable buyer
would normally expect it to go with the house.
Lockbox - Yes or No?
A lockbox is a basically a
padlock with a cavity inside where a key to your home can be placed. Only
someone with an electronic key or the combination can get into the lockbox and
access the key. Having a lockbox available at your house makes it easy for
other agents to get access to your house.
Without the lockbox, agents
representing buyers would have to set appointments to meet you or your agent at
the house so they could gain access and view the home. This would be
inconvenient. Since almost every other house does have a lockbox available, if
you do not allow one most agents will simply not show your property. You will
miss out on lots of potential buyers.
The listing contract
specifies whether you allow a lockbox or not. It is locked into place, usually
on the front door and cannot be removed. Only other agents can access the key
that is located within the lockbox.
Multiple Listing Service
Your listing contract
should specify whether or not the house will be listed with the local MLS
(multiple listing service). It is definitely in your interest to have the house
listed. This is because your sales force is automatically multiplied by however
many agents are members of the local MLS. If your house is not listed, then you
only have one agent working for you instead of many.
Agency Duties of a Listing Agent
The listing contract will
specify that your agent is acting as a "seller’s agent." This means
that, in the sale of your house, they are working for you and only you.
However, there may be times when your listing agent has a client who wants to buy
your home. For that reason, there is a little "wiggle room" in the
listing contract. If your agent also represents the buyer, the listing contract
should specify that they provide an additional disclosure that details their
duties as a dual agent.
The contract also provides
permission for your listing agent to act as an agent for others on other
transactions. They can continue to list other properties, and represent buyers
looking at other homes.
Resolution of Disputes
There are times when you
and your agent have a disagreement that you cannot resolve by yourselves. Maybe
the agent did a poor job or misrepresented something. Maybe your agent was
really doing their job correctly, but you did not understand. Perhaps the agent
will have a dispute with you.
The listing contract
specifies what methods will be used to settle such disputes. You can choose to
accept binding arbitration, which is usually cheaper than hiring a lawyer and
going to court. Usually, matters that can be dealt with in a small claims court
are excluded from having to go to binding arbitration.
You are not required to
sign or initial the binding arbitration clause. This would leave you free
to hire an attorney and pursue disputes in civil court instead of binding
arbitration. Consult your attorney for advise on this legal matter.
Preliminary Marketing of Your Home
The "For Sale" Sign
It seems fairly obvious
that when you put your house up for sale that your agent will put a "for
sale" sign in the front yard. The sign will identify the agent’s company,
the agent, and have a phone number so prospective buyers can call and get
Signs are great at
generating phone calls, even if very few actually purchase the home they call
about. However, you might be one of the lucky ones. For that reason, you should
determine what happens when someone calls the number on the sign. Does a live
person answer the phone or does the call go to a voicemail or recorder?
You want someone to answer
the phone while the caller is "hot." When buyers call the number on
the sign, the call should go to a live person who can answer questions
immediately. A potential buyer may be on the street outside your home, placing
the call using a cell phone.
Marketing Your Home to Other Agents
The Multiple Listing Service
Even before the sign is up
and the brochures are ready, your agent should list your property with the
local MLS (Multiple Listing Service). The MLS is a database of all the homes
listed by local real estate agents who are members of the service, which is
practically all of the local agents.
Important information about
your property is listed here, from general data such as square footage and
number of rooms, to such details as whether you have central air conditioning
or hard wood flooring. There should also be many photos, and a short verbal
description of what makes your house "special."
Agents search the database
for homes that fit the price range and needs of their clients. They pay special
attention to homes that have been recently placed on the market, which is one
reason you get a lot of attention when your house is first listed. Many agents
will want to preview the home before they show it to their clients.
The main point about having
your house listed in the MLS is that you expand your sales force by the number
of local MLS members. Instead of having just one agent working for you, now you
may have hundreds or more, depending on the size of your community.
The listing agent’s main
job to make sure that the other MLS members know about your house. This is
accomplished through listing your house in the Multiple Listing Service, broker
previews and advertising targeted toward other agents, not homebuyers.
Marketing Your Home to Homebuyers
The Purpose of Advertising in General
Every home seller likes the
idea of their listing agent or the real estate company running ads featuring
their home. Many sellers do not understand that the advertising that agents put
into magazines and newspapers is not to sell homes, but designed to "pick
up" clients by getting the agents name out there in front of buyers. Of
course, agents and companies will run ads, but not for the reasons you expect.
Over 95% of buyers visit
the internet to look at homes. So, it is logical that most of the advertising
that is successful in getting a buyer to visit your home is done on the
internet. Your Corliss Realty agent will create a website that is specifically
targets buyers for your home. He will also implement software to feed search
engines the data on your home. Ultimately, your home will be on hundreds of
websites on the internet.
An open house when your
property is first placed on the market can be very important, but not for the
reasons most homeowners think. Just like with advertising, most visitors to
open houses rarely buy the house they come to look at. They may not even know
the price of your home when they stop by to visit – they probably just followed
an "Open House" sign to your door.
An open house performs a
similar function to the neighborhood announcements – it lets all of your
neighbors know that your house is for sale, and it practically invites them to
come "take a look." Being generally nosy, a lot of your neighbors
will take advantage of the invitation.
And they may tell their
friends about your house, creating more "word of mouth" advertising.
Of course, there are other
reasons for holding open houses, too. Listing agents who "farm" a
particular neighborhood use them as an opportunity to meet with other local
homeowners who will someday be selling their home.
Open houses held after your
home has been on the market awhile do not usually serve a useful purpose in
selling your home. Most of the neighbors already know your house is for sale
and open house visitors rarely buy the homes they visit.
However, if you really want
more open houses, your listing agent may allow other agents to hold it open.
Open houses attract prospective homebuyers and agents hope to convince some of
those homebuyers to become their clients.
Showing the House to Potential Home Buyers
Your house should always be
available for show, even though it may occasionally be inconvenient for you.
Let your listing agent put a lock box in a convenient place, to make it easy
for other agents to show your home to homebuyers. Otherwise, agents will have
to schedule appointments, which is an inconvenience. Most will just skip your
home to show the house of someone else who is more cooperative.
Most agents will call and
give you at least a couple of hours notice before showing your property. If you
refuse to let them show it at that time, they will just skip your house. Even
if they come back another time, it will probably be with different buyers and
you may have just lost a chance to sell your home.
Why You Should Not Be Home
Homebuyers will feel like
intruders if you are home when they visit, and they might not be as receptive
toward viewing your home. Visit the local coffee house, yogurt shop, or take
the kids to the local park. If you absolutely cannot leave, try to remain in an
out of the way area of the house and do not move from room to room. Do not
volunteer any information, but answer any questions the agent may ask.
Lighting, Fragrances, Pet Control and More
When you know someone is
coming by to tour your home, turn on all the indoor and outdoor
lights – even during the day. At night, a lit house gives a "homey"
impression when viewed from the street. During the daytime, turning on the
lights prevents harsh shadows from sunlight and it brightens up any dim areas.
Your house looks more homey and cheerful with the lights on.
Do not use scented sprays
to prepare for visitors. It is too obvious and many people find the smells of
those sprays offensive, not to mention that some may be allergic. If you want
to have a pleasant aroma in your house, have a potpourri pot or something
natural. Or turn on a stove burner for a moment and put a drop of vanilla
extract on it. It will smell like you have been cooking.
If you have pets, make sure
your listing agent puts a notice with your listing in the multiple listing
service. The last thing you want is to have your pet running out the front door
and getting lost. If you know someone is coming, it would be best to try to
take the pets with you while the homebuyers tour your home. If you cannot do
that, It is best to keep dogs in a penned area in the back yard. Try to keep
indoor cats in a specific room when you expect visitors, and put a sign on the
door. Most of the time, an indoor cat will hide when buyers come to view your
property, but they may panic and try to escape.
The Kitchen Trash
Especially if your kitchen
trash can does not have a lid, make sure you empty it every time someone comes
to look at your home – even if your trash can is kept under the kitchen sink.
Remember that you want to send a positive image about every aspect of your
home. Kitchen trash does not send a positive message. You may go through more
plastic bags than usual, but it will be worth it.
Keeping the House Tidy and Neat
Not everyone makes his or
her bed every day, but when selling a home it is recommended that you develop
the habit. Pick up papers, do not leave empty glasses in the family room, keep
everything freshly dusted and vacuumed. Try your best to have it look like a
model home – a home with furniture but nobody really lives there.