The signs of spring are everywhere. Flowers are blooming, baseball’s starting up again and cars are covered in a fine, yellow dust. But the surest sign of the season may be the eruption of “For Sale” signs in front lawns.
One of the prime reasons people want to move this time of year is to be settled in a new home and neighborhood before the kids start a new school.
“Things always pick up this time of year,” said Maren Brisson-Kuester, chairman of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association. “Besides the issue of wanting to be settled before school, the holidays are over. Everything’s blooming. It’s getting warmer. Life is moving again.”
But given the Charlotte region’s perennial mild temperatures, homeowners can generally list their homes with good results any time of year.
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The combination of spring’s arrival during the tightest market Brisson-Kuester has seen in 13 years in the business means it’s an especially good time to put a “For Sale” sign in your (well-manicured) yard.
If you’re feeling ready, then make sure your home and lawn are, too. “Do not list your home if it’s not list-ready,” advises Susie Verrill, an agent with Allen Tate’s Matthews/Mint Hill office. “Even in a tight market, it will sit.”
And when it sits, would-be buyers wonder what’s wrong with it.
And what of the chicken-and-egg dilemma as it applies to residential real estate? Do you sell your home first and then start looking? Or look, make an offer and get a house under contract and then list your home? Both Verrill and Brisson-Kuester say: It depends.
If you’re in the small segment of the population that can afford to carry two mortgages, then you have the luxury of looking first and then selling. If you’re like most people, the safer bet is to put your home on the market, find a buyer and then begin your search.
A Realtor can recommend cost-effective improvements to help you sell, Verrill said. Without the guidance of someone who knows the market, you may wind up overspending on improvements. “Our goal is to get you out – without breaking the bank,” she said.
Her pointers include giving your interiors a fresh coat of neutral paint, decluttering, organizing closets, trimming trees and shrubs and possibly putting in new light fixtures and countertops. And as you’re hiding your personal photos and knickknacks, know that it’s OK to store some of it in your garage. “The stuff has to go somewhere,” Verrill said.
If you have peeling paint, you’ll definitely want to remedy that. FHA and VA loans stipulate there can be no peeling paint.
Consider getting a pre-inspection. You don’t want to be surprised when your buyer’s inspection report comes back.
Call an expert
Also, consider listing your home with a pro. The DIY mentality often doesn’t work when it comes to selling your own house.
First, there’s the business of negotiating the offer. The longer you’ve lived in your home, the more attached to it you’ve likely grown. And if someone offers you a price that’s lower than you think it’s worth, well – that person is practically insulting your kid.
People have a hard time parting with things they’re emotionally attached to.
But there’s even more evidence you shouldn’t act as your own agent. “You may not know if you’ve gotten a good or a bad offer,” Verrill said. “You can’t be there all the time to show your house. And there’s a lot to know about the FHA (Fair Housing Act).”
Like what? “You can’t just not sell to someone,” Verrill said. “If someone makes you a full offer, you have to accept. You could get sued otherwise.”
Even in a market where homes are going under contract the day they go on the market, it pays to have an agent. Brisson-Kuester said it’s a Realtor’s job to get you the best price from the most qualified buyer.
With a little know-how and preparation, that “For Sale” in your yard may soon have a “Sold” sticker over it.
And for a motivated seller, that’s the very best sign of spring.
How to pick a Realtor
When contracting with a Realtor to sell your house, it pays to follow these tips from Allen Tate’s Susie Verrill.
▪ Look for an agent you communicate well with. Does the agent return your calls or emails in a timely fashion? If not, keep looking.
▪ Interview two or three agents. Ask: How well do you know my area? How long have you been in business? What’s my house worth, and why? Verrill says not to shun an agent who’s new to the business. But do ask what kind of support that agent has.
▪ Does the agent communicate with you in a way that works for you? Some clients prefer communicating by phone. Some text, and others email. Verrill will use whichever method her client prefers.
▪ And the most important factor: Work with someone you trust.
And if you’re looking to buy a home, heed the advice of Maren Brisson-Kuester, chairman of the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association and an agent at CottinghamChalk Hayes: “Be prepared to make an offer right away. If you see something you love and decide to wait a few days, chances are it will not still be on the market.” This is the tightest housing market (and that includes condos) she’s seen since pre-crash days.