Get answers to your real estate FAQ before you begin the process of selling your home. Mark Mahaffey and Associates Real Estate's professionals want to help you be a wise home seller.
Of course. As real estate brokers/agents, we have encountered potential clients who think selling their property themselves (aka a FSBO or For Sale By Owner) is a good way to save paying a commission. And, like many REALTORS, we have quoted the well-worn standard industry reply that most of the time a FSBO will take longer to sell and the amount of money the seller puts into his/her pocket will be less than if they had used a broker. In addition to lost time and no financial gain, the seller ends up doing everything themselves and taking on the risk of doing something incorrectly.
However, we haven't always had a specific study to be able to support that statement even though we have been able to see the effects in the marketplace. So, we were happy to find the following article to share with you, especially if you or someone you know is thinking about selling a house.
The article is a bit academic in nature, so your eyes may begin to glaze over quickly, but that is exactly why we are posting it...so you can see that it is not just a puff piece with no research to back it up. If it's too much, skip down to the Conclusion section beginning on page 7.
Next, share this with your friends/family/co-workers that need to sell their house. Then, give them our contact information so we can get their house marketed to the largest potential audience and sold for the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time.
You could. There are a range of options available to you when selling a house. The question is, what do YOU feel comfortable doing. Compare it to your automobile. If you have an issue with your car, you could try to do the work yourself. Or, if you are not a mechanic by trade, you could choose to have the neighborhood “shade-tree” mechanic work on your car in his/her spare time. Or, you could avoid the risk and simply hire a professional from the start.
Each of those choices has a cost associated with it. If you do it yourself, you give up a lot of personal time, and if you are like most of us, you end up frustrated and have to take your car to the shop to fix the original problem and all of the problems you caused by trying to do it yourself! The result from using the discount mechanic (like the discount brokerage) may not be immediately noticeable. It seems like a good deal and a way to save money, but after a period of time, you realize that things just aren’t running the way they should and once again, you end up going to a professional to take care of problems that are created by trying to take a short-cut.
In the end, the money you thought you were going to save never really materialized, and with the false-starts, you probably spent more than if you had simply gone to the professional in the first place. Selling a house is very much the same.
No! Our job is not to tell you what you what you must do. Part of our job is to provide facts to you so that you can make an informed decision. Everybody wants to keep the most money possible in their pocket, and as our client, we want that for you too. However, we have to bear in mind that how much your house is worth and the price at which a home sells is determined by the pool of buyers in the market that want to purchase a home.
As a group, these buyers “vote” with their dollars. If your house presents an enticing enough value compared to all of the other houses for sale, yours will sell sooner rather than later. On the other hand, as much as we all love our homes and have poured our blood, sweat and tears into them over the years, be sure to put yourself into the buyer’s position. No matter what you have done to your property, if every other home in your neighborhood has sold within a particular price range, would you, as a buyer, pay thousands of dollars more than something you can get a few doors down for less? Not likely, right?
No! And it might surprise you to hear us say that includes our own website. Online valuation tools provide an interesting source of material for a conversation. That’s all they are good for. It has been noted that these online home value estimators can be off by easily 20% or more! That means they could be 20% high or 20% low...in other words, a range of 40% which is a huge! So, don’t necessarily get discouraged if your home estimate seems low. Likewise, don’t get overly excited when you see a high price. Once again, refer to the previous question on pricing and remember that a house is only going to sell for the price someone is willing to pay for it, and not the price a website states.
We understand that scheduling is a challenge. Ideally, you would sell a house and buy your next home on the same day. Your moving truck would already be loaded and sitting outside the closing attorney’s office, and as soon as you grabbed your new keys, you would be off to your new home! But...let’s be realistic. If you don’t already own a home, your schedule can be pretty flexible. When your new home is ready, you move in at your leisure.
However, if you must sell a house that you already own it is challenging to get the timing to work out perfectly. That being said, it becomes a case of which comes first, the chicken or the egg? You could make yourself crazy trying to find a home to purchase before selling, then trying to market your existing home, only to find out that the home you thought you were going to buy is no longer available. The answer is to simply make the decision that you want to move and begin the process of selling and buying simultaneously. One or the other might occur first, and there is no telling which that will be. You might have to work out some logistics, but if moving is important to you, the best time to get started is right now!
The MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is THE source for all listings that you find on the web. Most likely, you are familiar with the big names that are online - like Zillow or Trulia. It seems like you see them advertising on television constantly. What is important to note is that ALL of these websites initially get the vast majority of their information from the REALTOR MLS which gets its information from real estate agents and their brokers.
At Mark Mahaffey and Associates Real Estate, we make a monthly investment for our clients by belonging to both of the two major MLSs in our area. Initially, that may seem redundant, but our objective is to get maximum exposure for our sellers. And, not every agent is a member of both MLSs, so in order to reach both groups of agents, we have made an extra effort by joining both.
This is important, because the online websites do not sell your house! The majority of home buyers make a purchase through a real estate agent. So, as a seller, you are not just marketing to home buyers, rather, you are marketing to the agents that represent them, and in our area, those agents are looking in one of the two MLSs that we belong to.
Rest assured, though, that you are not missing out on any opportunities. Once we have entered your listing it will then be picked up by the dozens of online sources where buyers browse...and then promptly shown to their agent if their agent hasn’t already found it on the MLS!
In most cases, yes, but professional photography also has its place. To keep our costs reasonable, we would not use a professional to take pictures of an empty half acre lot for example. That can easily be covered by an Agent with a digital camera.
Like the professional photographer question, this depends on the property. Are there features that should be highlighted from the air? Will an aerial shot enhance the marketability of the home or hurt it! If your home is situated on an expansive piece of land with majestic mountain or lake views or horses running through a pasture then the answer is probably yes!
On the other hand, if an aerial shot is more likely to reveal a rusty water tower in the distance or a neighbor that has a truck up on blocks in his backyard only a couple of doors away, you might want to rethink the drone video! The point is to not simply have something done because it is the latest craze but rather to do it when it is to your benefit.
This is more likely to be beneficial than a drone video since it walks a potential buyer through your home virtually. Once again, we do this when it makes sense. In more cases than the drone video, a traditional video does make sense.
The MLS listing is an important first step. However, something that makes our company very different from most brokerages is that our website is specifically built to attract and retain buyers. As our database gets larger and larger, we have more and more buyers that are looking for homes like yours. In addition, we don’t just sit around and wait for a buyer to show up who sees our listing. We also target market directly around your property. Why? Because statistically, someone who buys a home in any given location, already knows someone who lives nearby! These are just a few items that we utilize to market your home. In fact, we have an extensive 9-point plan that we have constructed that gives us an advantage over other agents and brokers.
Commissions vary, and each brokerage sets their own commissions. However, 6% is a very common rate simply because brokers have found that anything less does not allow them to provide the service that clients demand and still be able to stay in business after covering costs. Although it may sound odd, a case can be made for paying a HIGHER commission than everyone else selling a house. For example, you might want to really grab the attention of other agents using the logic that your home might be given priority when being shown if it offers a larger incentive. The same thought can be applied to offering a bonus to the buyer’s agent that brings a buyer that closes by a specified date.
The duration needs to make sense such that market factors are taken into consideration. For example, if you list your home when most people are generally settled for the school year, it might take longer to sell it. Think about it from the buyer’s perspective. A homebuyer with children in school is not likely to want to uproot the kids to buy a home in the middle of the school year. That means we will expend more effort over a longer period of time to help you get your home sold, so a short listing period doesn’t make sense. You will want that period to cross several seasons to take advantage of the most opportunities to sell. (See the next question.)
Yes! If for some reason you aren’t happy, we will cancel the listing agreement! The purpose of the agreement is for us to establish a relationship between us such that we are able to represent you legally per Georgia law. And, as long as we are doing our job, you will agree to continue to work with us. To be fair, we only ask that if you ever feel like you are not getting the service you think you should, you bring that to our attention and allow us to have the opportunity to correct the situation. Our goal is to do such a great job that you are excited to give us a 5 star review after your house is sold!
Yes and yes! We recommend that SELLERS utilize the services of a building inspector to make a preliminary inspection of the house. This information will tell you what is likely to come up in an inspection once a buyer has made an offer, and it allows you to take corrective action in advance. Doing so saves time, because chances are, the buyer is going to ask the seller to make those corrections anyway. Realistically, the seller should do so, because they have been living in the home and should perform required maintenance anyway. Also, inspectors typically look for similar items, so hoping that a buyer will hire one that is lenient or will overlook an issue is not likely.
We work with a company that offers a reduced rate to our sellers for an abbreviated inspection that covers the major inspection areas and gives our sellers a head-start on necessary repairs. Plus, having a pre-inspection is attractive to buyers who feel more comfortable making an offer on a home they feel is a solid investment. So, a seller that is proactive in this way is more likely to receive an offer and sell before the competition!
You know all of those items on your to-do list that have accumulated and you have been putting off for years? Now is the time! We are not saying you should spend tens of thousands of dollars, but bear in mind that buyers are looking for every reason they can to ELIMINATE your house from consideration. It may not seem right, but people will overlook many wonderful features the minute something out of place catches their eye. And, if a buyer misses it, you can be sure the inspector will catch it. Loose or missing railings, leaks in the roof, dripping faucets, running toilets, ungrounded receptacles, rotting trim, missing smoke detectors, damaged moisture barrier in the crawl space.... There can be a large number of items that have been neglected over the years and need attention, but by taking care of them in advance, they don’t have to be overwhelming or cost a fortune. Once again, this is a good reason to get a pre-inspection, the results from which can be used as your checklist to a faster sale and more money in your pocket. That may seem counter-intuitive, but a buyer is more likely to pay a higher price for a house that has been well maintained. And, that house will sell faster which means that the seller no longer pays the overhead associated with the property such as taxes, insurance, maintenance, mortgage, etc.
Once you have taken care of necessary functional repairs, determining how far you should go in updating your home depends on its current condition. Be careful about getting caught up in the hype that you see on television. Even a home that is “stuck in the 50’s (60’s, 70’s),” etc. can sell without much modification when priced properly. And, you never know what a buyer will want to do with a property, so you are taking a risk when you start making major modifications. If everything is in good working order, the next step might be to consider neutralizing the paint colors throughout the house. Those rooms that were customized to your family member’s tastes or your favorite sports team’s colors need to be addressed. Going beyond repairs and fresh paint starts to put you into the remodeling business in the hopes of getting a profit on your effort (or at least breaking even in order to sell the house), and that may not be necessary. We can discuss options with you on a case by case basis and make recommendations when we work together.
Clean, clean and clean! Time and time again, we have seen buyers who will bypass a home simply because it is not clean. It doesn’t seem to make sense. Logically, the layout of the home, the location, the amenities, etc. should outweigh whether or not the floor is mopped, but people just don’t like to be “grossed out.” We have seen buyers walk away from a house that would have been perfect for them for no other reason than the kitchen or bathrooms weren’t clean.
In addition, if you haven’t done it recently, be sure to service the HVAC, septic and/or well (if applicable), pressure wash the driveway, walkways and house, and have the chimney cleaned. And, be sure to save all of the receipts! A buyer will probably ask for those to verify that the work was done.
Remember, you don’t have to do any of the things we recommend, but the more you take care of in advance, the more likely you will get a higher price and a faster sale.
You’ve probably heard that location is the biggest influence. However, for any location, there is a price at which a property will sell, so we have to say price is #1. This might be a “which came first” question, because they are so closely related. Right behind that is cleanliness as discussed above. Believe it or not, that is even more important to many people than amenities. Finally, would be the condition of the home in regards to repairs also mentioned above.
In our state, Georgia, a seller is required by law to disclose defects that he/she knows about that might otherwise be hidden. For example, if you know that there is water intrusion in the basement when it rains heavily, you are required to divulge this. Another example would be the existence of lead-based paint in the home. These facts could influence the decision of the buyer and must be made known in advance. We provide a form approved by the Georgia Association of REALTORS that makes it easier for you to meet your obligation to make disclosures. Please note that a seller is still required to disclose those issues even when the home is being sold “AS-IS.” As a seller, it is actually to your advantage to disclose as much as you possibly can. It is far less costly to disclose all issues and have a buyer make an informed decision with all of the facts than to face an extremely expensive (and probably a losing) court battle later because you did not properly inform the buyer.
The first thing a buyer should do when thinking about purchasing a home is to have a conversation with a lender about what they can afford. A pre-qualification is the lender’s opinion of what they would be willing to lend based on the information provided by the buyer. Bear in mind that the buyer could be mistaken about pertinent facts. A pre-approval means that a lender has completed the application process and actually approved a borrower for a loan. From the perspective of a seller, a pre-approved buyer is more desirable than one that has only been prequalified.
While you don’t have to, we highly suggest that you make this a stipulation. The first step any buyer should make is to speak with a lender, so providing proof of being at least prequalified for a loan should be pretty easy for a buyer to do. If a buyer hasn’t even bothered to take this necessary first step, how serious can they be when they view your home? As a seller, you want to ensure that you are not wasting your time or effort showing your house to people what can't complete the transaction in the first place.
As with any negotiable item, this is an option for you as a seller. However, you always have to look at the positives and negatives to your requirements. If a buyer already has a relationship with a lender, that relationship might give the buyer a better chance of actually completing the transaction. On the other hand, if the lender the buyer is using has a reputation for not completing a significant number of deals, you might find it advantageous in the long run to insist that they utilize a more reliable lender. This is a choice that you will have to make based on how strongly you feel about each offer that is presented to you. In general, we would prefer to see offers presented that DO use a local lender. It can be argued that a local lender has a larger stake in making sure that a transaction is completed successfully. Their reputation, and therefore future business, depends on getting things done to everyone’s satisfaction. A big monster mega bank or national mortgage company often does not have the same concerns and therefore, may not do as good of a job.
When a buyers make an offer on a home, they will specify a period of time within which they may conduct a variety of inspections to determine if there are any significant defects with the property that would cause them to reconsider purchasing the home. The buyers are said to be making a diligent effort to protect themselves. Initially, the period of time is negotiable, but that time becomes fixed once the agreement is signed. A range of 10-15 days is common for a traditional home purchase, but it is not unheard of to have a significantly longer period for complicated purchases involving large or unique properties that require the advice of specialists. In our area, the due diligence period is really what is known as an “Option.” The buyer has the option, but not the obligation to purchase the home. If they decide to not follow through with the purchase, they may cancel the agreement and have their earnest money refunded to them (or they can instruct their agent to keep it in a trust account to be used for a future purchase on another home), as long as they cancel within the due diligence period.
A termite letter is really a statement of condition by a licensed Georgia pest control operator with regard to wood destroying organisms. The expectation is that damage from termites will not be found, and the letter is confirmation that an inspection has taken place, and this has been found to be the case. A termite letter is often requested by a buyer as a condition of an offer.
Yes, our company has been involved with multiple sales including many renovation projects, so we are able to make recommendations for reliable contractors that will do a quality job.
Yes. To be blunt, the smell of smoke in a home is an almost immediate deal-killer for people who do not smoke. All a buyer thinks about is how to get rid of the smell, and it is not easy, as it permeates everything...the HVAC system, carpets, drapes even the walls themselves. And, it is not simply a personal preference. Many people have allergies that are an actual health issue, and they cannot be in an environment that has been exposed to smoking. If there are people that smoke in your house, you will want to ask them to stop smoking inside immediately (and completely). But, don’t stop there. Make sure that any evidence of smoking is discarded. You don’t want cigarette butts sitting in a can outside, because that will make a buyer question whether or not smoking is taking place in the house too. You are not trying to deceive a buyer, but you want to maintain the house environment in a smoke-free condition from now on. Additionally, you will want to not only clean the house thoroughly, as was mentioned elsewhere, but you will need to super deep clean everything in the house. Unfortunately, this might involve hiring a restoration company to help you. The best solution is to never smoke in the house at all in order to preserve the resale value of the home.
Yes, a pet in the house makes showings more difficult for a couple of reasons. First, showings are more difficult to arrange if every time a buyer wants to see a home, someone has to run home to secure the pet. It is inconvenient for both the seller and the buyer. You are presenting a product for sale to the public, and buyers for anything want convenience. If you make it difficult to see your house, they might just choose to move on to the next available property. Second is the issue of smell. You might be used to it, but there IS a smell associated with having pets, and that smell can be quite offensive. Interestingly enough, other pet owners can be the biggest critics, because it is a smell they aren’t familiar with, even though they have their own pets at home! Consider having your pet stay with family elsewhere for the time that you have your house on the market.
The short answer is experience and education. An agent is simply someone that has passed the real estate exam and is typically employed as a salesperson at a real estate company and works for a broker.
Yes. Many agents treat real estate as something they do for fun in their spare time...in other words, a hobby. We work in the business on a daily basis, sometimes 7 days per week. That constant experience is extremely valuable to our clients, and we are happy that our clients see the value in working with a full-time professional and prefer to avoid the risk associated with trusting a big transaction to someone who only works on the side as a sales agent.
Absolutely! Many of our clients start out by looking at one of the online websites that list properties for sale, and they find us there. We are considered a Premier Agent on Zillow, and our client feedback reflects that designation. To ensure the legitimacy of our reviews, we ask our clients to submit reviews to Zillow where they are verified prior to being posted, so you can be assured that when you see a 5-Star rating, it is a true reflection of the service we provide.
We are suspicious when a statistic is quoted claiming that a home was sold at a certain percentage of list price. That doesn’t tell us anything about the details of the transaction. Were closing costs built-in? What was the original list price, and was it too low (or too high) to begin with? Is it an active market or is it slowing down? There are many more questions we could ask, but you understand the point. Take a look at what Mark Twain and former British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli had to say about statistics to further illustrate the point when you have a chance to look it up.
Very similar to the question above, it depends. What is quick? It is all relative. Location, price, and condition of the home all play a part. You will hear some agents brag about how fast they sold something. Let’s consider that situation. You have probably also heard of the promotions that radio stations sometimes advertise in conjunction with a gas station where the station offers gas for 50 cents or $1.00 per gallon on a particular day. What happens? Of course, demand is through the roof, people are lined up for blocks, and the station sells out of a week’s worth of gas in a matter of hours! So, of course you can treat the sale of your house the same way, and at a low enough price, you could sell your house in a few hours too. But, is that something to brag about? Probably not. That just means that the house was priced below what it could have gotten if it had been properly priced. We are not advocating over pricing your house either. There is a price at which we can minimize your time on market but also maximize the sales price. So, when someone quotes a particular statistic, consider whether that is truly to your advantage.
Yes, and it is how we are able to provide exceptional service to you, our client. Most people realize that everyone has their own strengths. Agents who claim to provide better service because they “do it all” for you end up doing everything less efficiently and effectively. That only makes sense, because someone who is great at paperwork probably isn’t going to be great proactively marketing your home by doing over-the-phone marketing calls. That’s why we employ staff to do staff work, marketing people to do marketing work, etc. Rather than feeling like they aren’t getting personal attention, our sellers feel like they have an entire team on their side.
All of us are constrained by time and resources. We have done our best to make suggestions that will help you achieve your goal of selling your property as efficiently and effectively as possible, but how many of these ideas you utilize is up to you. The more you can do, the better. The most important thing is to make as much effort as you possibly can so that you can increase your chances by putting yourself above the other sellers that are your competition.
If you have more questions that haven't been answered with our real estate FAQs, please give us a call at 706.543.3008 and we'll do our best to give you a professional answer to your question. To learn more about selling your home, visit our Selling page.