Bringing a house to market #727

#727 in a series of true experiences in real estate

Often we talk first to someone who wants to sell months, or even years, before their house is on the market. They want information about who we are, how we go about our job, what we charge. They want to see if together we “click.”

Plus, they’re interested in what we think of their house, what sorts of improvements they might make, who they could hire to make them, and of course, for what price the house will likely sell.

All of these are important to us, too. We list houses in areas we are familiar with, where we know the housing stock, are acquainted with respected inspectors and workmen, and also the local ordinances that may affect our sales.

It’s certainly more fun to list a house we like a lot, but even better is working with sellers we enjoy and with whom we feel compatible. Selling a house is a big deal, full of attention to zillions of details, everything from what to include in disclosures to whether the screen on the back door should be replaced or removed.

When we and the seller are in agreement, our journey together is likely to be a pleasurable one. And so, far more than whether a house is worth a lot or a little, we invariably choose our listings because we like our sellers and feel sure that we can work well for and with them.

We know that there will be decisions, legal, ethical, aesthetic that we will be making together, and we expect that our sellers will listen and participate, collaborate, ensuring the best process for us all.

The period of time between our first meeting and the marketing of a house may be lengthy for a number of reasons. Sometimes we are asked to the house by an heir of an owner who has died and has the responsibility of settling the estate. Other times the seller plans to move to take a new job or is moving closer to a friend or relative, but a search for a new place hasn’t even started yet.

All of these people have questions. “Redo the kitchen entirely?” they ask. “How about upgrading the electrical service? How much will it cost to get the house ready? Do we know good workmen?”

Getting ready to sell can take a long time, even years. But occasionally we talk to someone who has set aside an hour to sign a listing contract. He wants his house on multiple listing and a sign in his yard tomorrow.

We’ve never done real estate this way. Even if the house and grounds look great, there are other important preparations to be made. Research and thought must go into appropriate pricing, for example.

And we believe that pre-market inspections are vital. It’s just no good telling prospective buyers that the termite report has been ordered but isn’t available yet. And, if we’re to represent the seller and his house well, we must know much about the house. The good and bad of the systems will impact price and will inform a buyer, before making his offer, what exactly he is offering to buy.

It is also extremely worthwhile to take the time to consider, write and place ads, a property flyer, and descriptive comments on multiple listing. These days many buyers shop for houses on the Internet, so photos and a website will be needed.

And disclosures: considered and thorough disclosures do take time. We work with our sellers on the numerous required disclosures. We ask questions, we look closely at the house; we look, too, to the inspections.

We do everything possible to reveal in writing to interested buyers and their agents what is right and what is wrong with a property. Because once our listing is sold, we want it to stay sold, with nary a claim of misrepresentation or avoidable disappointment, let alone a lawsuit, afterwards.

Marketing a house before inspections have been made, before disclosure packages are ready for buyers to read, before the house is clean and tidy, before the house is advertised to the , would be, in our opinion, an inexcusable disservice to our clients.

Probably 3 weeks is the fastest we’ve ever gotten a house on the market, and 6 weeks is far more typical. If the floors are being refinished and painting done, if new carpet is being laid or appliances replaced, it’s likely to be longer.

In fact, it is amazing how long getting ready can take. We’ve had people who have lived in their houses for 50 years tell us that they’d be all moved and ready to sell in a matter of weeks, then found it took 3 months of constant, full-time attention.

This isn’t surprising, really. Think about a single closet in your house, the linen closet or coat closet, for instance. How long would you estimate it would take you to completely empty the contents, sort through it, box and move every single item, or to discard or pass each along to someone else? Now consider your garage or basement.

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