12 Tips for Selling Your Home

If you are looking for a Mortgage Advisor to help you through the financing process, please give us a call at (520) 744-2292 or email Sue at sue@pcMortgageAdvisor.com.

Sue Pullen
Licensed Mortgage Professional #206048
Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp.
5401 N. Oracle Rd., #101
Tucson, AZ  85704
BK #0904162

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To buy or sell in 2012, what with end of the world coming and all? Minus any ancient Mayan wisdom on real estate theories, let's just hope the real cataclysmic event in the real estate market has already passed, even if the rubble from the bubble remains.

A persistent surplus of households with loans higher than their value will continue to restrain prices and create some major problems for sellers in 2012, a year that's shaping up to be another buyer's market. In fact, recent studies indicate that more than 20% of all residential properties with a mortgage are still underwater, hinting that even more foreclosures are on their way.

Thankfully, even the most conservative forecasts are predicting growth in home sales in 2012. More than 33% of home resales were made to first-time buyers in 2011 – which is another good sign!

While the buyers are having their fun, we can’t forget about the sellers! So here are 12 tips for 2012, aimed mostly at the folks that need the most help -- home sellers.

#1 Price it right from the very beginning!
The traditional strategy of home sellers crossing their arms and holding out for a better offer will be brushed off by most homebuyers. Consider that of the homes that took four months or more to sell in the past year, almost half of their owners accepted less than 90 percent of the asking price, according to the National Association of Realtors. For a gauge, have your real estate agent (Lucy and Tony Ray, of course) produce the latest set of comps including short sales and foreclosures as well as a recent summary of sales prices compared to original list prices. But be wary that such information doesn't reflect the homes that failed to sell.

#2 Put your best footage forward
Prep, paint, stage, scrub, improve, repeat. Easy improvements can make a big difference, like caulking, plastering, planting flowers, adding potted plants, making the windows spotless, pressure washing the oil-stained driveway, edging the walks, trimming the bushes and trees, and mending the fences. None of these is excessively labor or cost-intensive, but when combined, they scream "buy me!"

#3 Be flexible
We're not saying bend over backward to accommodate home buyers. Bend forward and sideways, too. Be ready to negotiate and offer extras such as closing costs, paid property taxes, remodeling work (or cash for the repairs), appliances, paid condo association/homeowner association dues, a few months of mortgage payments or even seller financing.

Home sellers who have been on the sidelines and who advised their agents to ignore lowball offers don't have that luxury now. Tell your agent (*ahem* Lucy and Tony Ray) to listen intently to prospective homebuyers' reservations about the home and try to make changes accordingly and immediately.

#4 Get over your techno-fears
Hire a listing agent steeped in mobile platforms (like us!). Sellers and buyers are routinely using Facebook and other social media to sell and search, not to mention dozens of other online selling sites. Some owners are even making YouTube videos to showcase their homes, making it easier and faster to link to potential buyers to sellers. There's also a ton of smartphone apps popping up to review real estate listings and refine searches.

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#5 Don't fall prey
Con artists are targeting distressed homeowners with "deals" that can sound totally legitimate. Some offer loan modifications for an upfront fee, and others offer fee-based "help" in navigating government housing assistance programs, sometimes even claiming that they are attorneys.

There are also con-artist "investors" that try to force desperate owners to sign away their homes with quitclaim deeds in return for a typically empty promise to remain there indefinitely. Others are telling former owners they can get their foreclosed homes back for a lump sum.

Be forewarned: Never sign blank documents or documents with blank lines.
If you're unsure of an offer, have an attorney or other trusted adviser look it over. Keep in mind that a law barring firms -- except attorneys -- from charging upfront fees for mortgage relief or mortgage modification took effect in 2011. It's called the Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule.

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#6 Finance 101
You need to understand that it's harder to qualify for loans these days. Credit records are under greater scrutiny, and lenders are often demanding a 20 percent down payment and some pricing flexibility from the sellers, especially if the lender's appraisal doesn't reach the asking price.

You should consider cash offers, even if they're not the highest offers. Reject too-low offers from homebuyers gently and with encouragement, telling them they're oh-so-close. You don't want to give away the farm, but you don't want to give it back to the bank either. These days, meeting halfway usually means meeting buyers on their side.

#7 Be your own spokesperson
Agents once advised home sellers to retreat from view during showings, afraid they might disclose something unsavory or otherwise mess up the deal. That's changed. If you can control your ego and emotions and come off as an honest, flexible seller, you can serve as your best spokesperson. Be ready to answer prospective buyers' questions about the neighborhood and the school district.  But be careful about making verbal promises!

#8 Flight to quality
Worried about durability? Buyers who place a heavier focus on brick or concrete-and-steel housing may find they're longer lasting, safer and quieter.

Are you concerned about retaining value? Buy near a prestigious hospital, university, large government employer or newly revived central business district. These entities typically aren't going away, and the demand for good housing around them won't either.

#9 Expand your buying universe
There's still an overabundance of well-priced inventory out on the market, which means you don’t have to immediately narrow your search to the first house you like. That's especially the case with short sale homes, which can be a stuggle to close in a timely manner. There are some for-sale gems that need only a little polishing.

Shop around. Don't dismiss foreclosures and other bank properties, pre-foreclosures, auction homes, for-sale-by-owner or lease-to-own homes. Pick at least three favorites and work from there.

#10 'Site unseen' equals shortsightedness
Are you confused by the home valuation you did on your home on the website of a large, seemingly reputable real estate organization? Puzzled how that valuation can be 25 percent or more above or below a firsthand appraisal you've had done? Well, value estimates on these sites can vary widely, sometimes by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even the companies themselves admit it. There are way too many variables in the valuation game to give too much weight to blind, algorithm-based estimates that are calculated by the computer. Nothing beats a firsthand, personal, professional appraisal.

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#11 Expand your buyer's due diligence
Besides the financial details, contracts, disclosures and protections you typically tend to as you prep to buy a home, add these to the list:
•    Hire a title company to check the house for liens and tax arrearages.
•    Hire you own inspector. Don't use the seller's!
•    Have the inspector check for unpermitted work such as illegal room additions and garage conversions.
•    Evaluate the overall energy efficiency of the home with an energy audit.
•    Make sure property lines are accurate. If there's any question, hire a land surveyor to research the original deed and stake out the property lines and your neighbors' property lines to avoid future conflicts.

#12 Make a quality-of-life due-diligence checklist
•    Go to the National Sex Offender Public Website at Nsopw.gov to search for neighborhood predators.
•    Spend some time around the neighborhood and chat with the neighbors. Figure out if there are noisy neighbors, signs of gang activity, nocturnal barking dogs, frequent loud parties and/or suspicious nighttime visits. Are there lots of rental homes? Is the block a cut-through point during rush hour? Does the school bus go past the block? Is the homeowners association restrictive?
•    Determine what types of buildings can be constructed on vacant lots close to the neighborhood. This helps avoid unpleasant future surprises like a mini-mall behind your backyard. Is there constant noise from a nearby highway or busy street? Are there odors from nearby industrial plants?