What’s a seller to do?

#340 in a series of true experiences in real estate
October 2000, Hills Newspapers

People who are planning to sell often start by talking to an agent. They want to know what price is possible, what they need to do to get ready, what they must disclose.

Following is a list of statements and questions that sellers may mention. The agent’s response depends on so very many things: the seller’s individual situation, the house, its condition, location, desirability in the current market – just to name a few.

Sellers say things like:

My neighbor’s dogs bark, night and day. We can’t get rid of the mildew in the bedroom. You can see how the retaining wall is leaning.

I’d be willing to replace the furnace but it’s going to be expensive and I’d like to be sure that I’ll get my money back.

I’m thinking that it will take two or three months to sell my house. My neighbor’s house sold for $600,000; I’m sure mine is worth more. I don’t have to sell, you know.

My neighbor built his fence three feet onto my property. The man in front of us refuses to cut his trees, so we don’t have the Bay view we used to have.

We always planned to redo the kitchen but never did. I guess we’ll have to do it now before we sell.

We should wait until spring to sell because that’s the best time of year. It’s better to ask for more money than we expect to get. We should leave room to dicker.

My mother died in this house.

I want to sell as is.

The dogs will have to be in the house while it’s being shown, but they can be locked in the kitchen.

We want to take these light fixtures with us. I’d like to sell the stove, perhaps to the buyer, but I want to sell it separately.

Something in the upstairs bath has leaked into the living room – you can see what’s happened to the plaster – but we never figured out what is going on. We added on the back bedrooms and bath without a city permit.

We’d like to find a buyer now and get our money in hand, then have six months to stay here while we look for our new house.

We never did anything to the kitchen, and it does look bad. But we figure the buyer will want to do it to his own taste.

The basement is always wet. These cracks appeared around the doorways after the last earthquake but not one dish broke. I think the house is really solid.

I’ll have to do the termite work before I sell, but I don’t have the money. Besides, we only have one bathroom and I’m pretty sure that the shower walls will need to be torn out….

If you are planning to sell, are you thinking about some of the things on this list? Maybe you are already fretting. This may be unnecessary and/or too soon.

Before you talk to an agent, before you do anything else, make another list: a statement of your objectives. Include everything you know about your money, timing and the prize you expect to get.

You might write, for instance:

I need another room for my home office and would like better access to the garden. Ideally, I will continue to live in the hills in an older house that does not need basic work.

I’d like to move by March, but it could be sooner. I can afford $1200 more per month than I am paying now.

Now that you have written down what you want to accomplish, show your list to your agent. Ask if your idea is crazy. Does your agent think you can get what you want? How?

Walk your agent through your house. Say/ask what you have been thinking about selling.

Talk about what you will need to do, how quickly, in what order. If you have concerns, say so. Make adjustments as necessary.

A good agent will give you the tools for victory. Together you will make a thoughtful plan. You’ll decide what can be done to make your house ready, what must be disclosed, how you will go about finding the house you want to buy.

He or she will consider and think, do research, will educate you, and will accompany you the whole way. Why else hire an agent?

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