Helpful Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

Dated: March 27 2019

Views: 2206

As a REALTOR, I come across tons of great advice and tips that I often share with my first-time home buyers. That's not really the case when it comes to first-time home sellers. Yes, you can find helpful information on things like decluttering, staging, and ways to broaden curb appeal - all important pre-listing activities. But there isn't much guidance out on what to expect during the selling process itself. And because of this, I often find that first-time home sellers have certain fears and/or false expectations.

Selling a home is no doubt an emotional process, but it doesn't have to be scary or stressful! My goal with this blog post is to equip first-time home sellers with tips on things they need to know or think about regarding the selling process before they list their home. After all, knowledge is power!

To FSBO....or NOT

For Sale by Owner (FSBO) - while sellers might be tempted to go this route in order to save on costs or because they found some great how-to guide online, my advice is DON'T DO IT!! Selling a home is not a D-I-Y endeavor - it's often a person's single largest investment and there are far too many risks involved. Sellers risk leaving money on the table as well as having to pay the price for mistakes, not to mention the risks to their personal safety. There are certain things that are best left to professionals to handle - you wouldn't perform surgery on yourself or file a class action lawsuit on your own, would you?

Understand the Market

Here's where working with an experienced, hyperlocal realtor - who really knows your local market and watches the market trends - is INVALUABLE. Sellers need to gain a solid understanding of what comparable homes are selling for and what the market might realistically bring for their property. Sellers should also understand what they are competing with in terms of resales and new construction (where applicable). 

Know the Costs Involved

It's important to understand the costs involved in selling a home. And it's best to know this before the process begins, and not when an offer is in hand and decisions need to be made quickly. A realtor can explain and go over closing costs in detail. These may include: realtor commissions, title insurance, home warranties, repair credits, loan payoffs, and prorations for taxes and/or HOA dues - all of which will directly impact a sellers final bottom line.

Know What Your Next Move Is

Sellers need to consider the following:

- Do you know where you are going when your home sells?

- Do you need to rent until you can find something or are there available homes to choose from?

- If you are considering new construction, what's the build time for homes you are interested in?

Knowing what next steps might be and the timing involved will help sellers avoid making rash decisions when they receive an offer, and can also help them during negotiations.

Be Prepared to Have Your Home on Display

Selling a home can be a very intrusive process - after all, once a home's listing syndicates across various websites, it's out there for everyone to see 24/7! The first showing actually happens online (that's why professional photography, staging and descriptive marketing are so important). The second showing happens in person. Thanks to the internet, there is more information than ever before that is available to buyers and their agents about a property - from Google Earth (to determine how a home looks from the street or above) to detailed property tax records (what's the appraised value? how much are taxes?). Sellers need to feel comfortable with their home being exposed for all the world to see.

Be Flexible for Showings

Speaking of showings, listing agents typically consult with sellers regarding what the showing procedures will be for the home. Whatever the seller's situation calls for, showing procedures should be agreed upon prior to listing and communicated clearly to buyers' agents once the home has been listed. The reality, however, is that buyers and agents want to come through on their schedule, so showing requests should be accommodated as much as possible - including last-minute showings, which often do arise.

The more difficult sellers make it to show a home, the less likely agents will want to show it (and they'll simply move on). Don't get me wrong - buyers and their agents are usually pretty considerate of the showing process, but there can be situations with no-shows or last-minute cancellations. While it can be VERY frustrating for sellers, it's just one of those things that's unfortunately part of the selling process.

Be Patient

How many showings will it take before an offer is made? Is there a magic number? Honestly, the number can vary widely - in some cases, it can take a few days, or it can take 20, 30, or more. So much depends on how the home is priced and what sets it apart from the competition. If there's a lot of inventory to choose from, it might take more showings to get an offer. Sellers must be patient throughout the process.

Don't Take Things Personally

The minute a seller lists their home, their mindset should shift to thinking of it in terms of a house, and not a home full of memories. Remember, no one is likely to see the home in the same light as the sellers. No matter how much they've done to fix it up, update it, get it ready for sale, or how well it shows, buyers simply view homes through different lenses. What appeals to one person is different than another. Plus, buyers often don't know what they really want in a home until they actually see it!

Sellers shouldn't take feedback personally - some of it will focus on things that can be changed (like price or how the home shows) or things that can't be (location, a home's layout, neighborhood). Buyers shop by comparison - and are often confused and just as nervous as sellers are. In fact, a buyer might initially see a home and eliminate it from consideration only to later revisit and decide that it's the "one". 

Try to Work With an Offer

The saying, "your first offer is often your best offer," often holds true. And with that said, when sellers receive an offer, they should try to work with it as best as they can. Sellers will also want to reply in a timely manner rather than dragging out a response (usually because they are hoping for another offer) as that can also alienate the buyer.

Handle Repairs & Maintenance Pre-Emptively & Always DISCLOSE!

Listing agents may suggest a pre-inspection of the home prior to listing, especially if there is a concern about the foundation, major systems (like HVAC or plumbing), the roof, etc. It is a good idea for sellers to take care of anything that needs attention and maintenance BEFORE going on the market. Remember, the buyer will likely conduct an inspection during the option period - and guess what? Some of those needed repairs/maintenance items are likely to come up, and the buyer will most likely try to negotiate a seller credit for repairs or ask the seller to hire (and pay for) a licensed professional or handyman to complete repairs. Now, if there are things that sellers are aware of, but simply cannot address prior to listing, make sure to disclose those upfront. Disclose, disclose, disclose - not doing so opens sellers up to liability (and potential lawsuits).  

Follow the Golden Rule

"Do unto others, as you would like done unto you." When sellers have sold their home and are in the process of vacating the property, they will need to remove all unwanted items - including trash- before the new owner moves in. Leaving piles of junk/garbage is likely not going to fly with the soon-to-be new owner or their buyer's agent - most buyers do a walk-through a day or two before closing. Don't give the buyer a reason to delay closing because of trash! In addition, sellers should strive to leave the home in clean condition - consider having the home professionally cleaned upon move out. Not only does it show pride of ownership, but it also tends to leave a favorable first impression for the new owners.

By following these tips, first-time sellers will be better equipped to handle the selling process when they list their home on the market and also be a little more comfortable with what to expect.

If you're a potential first-time home seller, I'm here to help! Contact me at 512-230-4419 or at for a free home consultation that includes an organized, step-by-step guide to the listing process.

Here's a link to the article that served as the inspiration for my blog post

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Melissa Van Leeuwen

Though I was born and raised in Panama, I've lived in Texas since 2002 - spending seven years in the DFW area before moving....

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