Time to cash in on your piece of SLO County real estate? This housing market may have made your house worth its weight in gold, but converting it into cash isn’t exactly straightforward.
So here’s how to sell your Central Coast home in 8 Steps:
1. Prep the Home For Sale.
The first question you need to answer is how quickly do you want to sell your house? Is it urgent? That’s totally fine—homes sell in all kinds of conditions—but you might be discounting its value if it comes with some projects for the new owner.
If you’ve got a little time on your hands, and some repairs or updates are in order, take advantage of that time.
Priority one is repair any big issues before doing updates. Homebuyers will be more excited about a dated home with a new roof than they will be about a house with brand new flooring and a shot roof.
You might want to consider having a pre-listing inspection by one of SLO County’s wonderful home inspectors to get a picture of any looming issues, so you can head them off before the buyer discovers them and tries to renegotiate.
Additionally, some SLO County cities have “point-of-sale requirements”—for example, San Luis Obispo has a sewer lateral inspection requirement, and Arroyo Grande has a plumbing retrofit requirement. Take care of those now so they don’t muck up your escrow once you secure a buyer.
After big repairs, are any updates due?
Still rocking 70s tile or carpet in the bathroom? New flooring makes a big difference. Obviously a cheap alternative would be something like vinyl plank flooring, but consider engineered hardwood or real hardwood. The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Research Group’s data suggests that hardwood floors have the greatest ROI at 106%.
Premium quality isn’t necessary. Just don’t go really cheap—it shows. Between distracting homebuyers by outdated surfaces or really cheap new surfaces, I’d go with the former.
Invest more in the kitchen and bathrooms. You don’t have to go luxury, but those are the rooms that people notice the most and have the biggest impact.
Beyond that, how’s your landscaping and curb appeal? People like lush, inviting yards with some hardscape or nice decking and a few trees. In some parts of the country, landscaping is at the bottom of the list. Here in San Luis Obispo County, where we have 315 days per year of sunshine to enjoy, you better believe buyers are evaluating your outdoor area.
So put some money into a nice outdoor space. It is a worthy investment. All my buyers go gaga over a nice yard with some grass (there are drought tolerant lawns), a patio area for the barbecue and fire-pit, and a few trees. Trust me; you’ll see a return on it.
Now that she’s ready to go… The next step is:
2. Photos and Marketing Prep
Please, please, please. Don’t allow your agent to put photos they’ve taken of your million-dollar home with their ’05 point-and-shoot camera all over the internet for everyone to see. I see it time and time again: they shut all the curtains, forget to put the toilet seat down, and do close-ups of your rosebushes. No. Hire a professional. It makes a difference.
A little pre-staging is in order too. Depending on the situation, you may want to rent a few pieces from a staging company for a space. In lots of cases though, buying a few tasteful pillows, a throw blanket and clearing the clutter will do the trick.
And yes, clear the clutter! Minimize, minimize, minimize. You don’t want to distract the eye with all your stuff, but you do want to showcase how a space could be set-up and used.
Marketing today is mostly digital, but if you’re going to be having a couple open houses, you might want to create a nice full-color flyer for buyers to hold onto and take home.
Some people are all about drone photos or videos. If your home is a luxury property, or on a big piece of land with epic views, then of course go for some drone footage. But it’s not necessary for every home.
3. Set A Strategic Price.
List price and home value are two different things. The goal in setting a list price is to create a situation where the market will help you realize the maximum sales price potential of your home.
This is where an understanding of the market is really important. As a rule of thumb, don’t overprice your house. You’re not doing yourself a favor by looking for one buyer who might be willing to reach towards your inflated-price tag. Pricing under market value may seem scary, but it’s a tried and true path to getting top dollar in our seller’s market.
More offers on your home creates frenzy and maximizes sales price, while also giving you more control over the terms of the sale.
4. Launch time!
Load that sucker onto the MLS (multiple listing service). This is where 99.9% of listings are input in order to be syndicated to all the consumer real estate websites (Zillow, Realtor.com, Redfin, etc.).
Oh, and launch well:
Make sure the first image ignites interest. First impressions are important. I like to make sure my listings’ photos tell a story and are sequenced to guide viewers through a tour of the home.
You want to create interest, but leave them wanting more.
I personally like to do an email blast to all our local agents and brokers to make sure they don’t have to go looking for my new listings. It’s in their inbox on the morning of the list date.
It’s all about visibility and a good, strong introduction to the market.
Assuming you’ve priced it right, you should be getting showing requests and should have a busy first weekend. Especially in our current crazy-strong seller’s market, I think it’s wise to leave town for the weekend to allow for wide-open availability in the showing schedule—otherwise expect to be kicked out of your house a lot during that time.
5. Negotiate offers.
Generally if you don't have any offers on your home within the first two weeks, you may need to rethink your list price (though, at the time of writing, it’s more like five days).
Assuming you priced it right, you should see some offers rolling in within a week or two. How many will depend on a variety of factors—market conditions, desirability of area, how you priced it, etc.
If you're in a seller’s market (and at an attractive list price), you probably have leverage to negotiate whatever offers are in hand to boost the price and clean up some terms or in your favor. Longer or shorter escrow, trimmed buyer contingency periods, requesting a rent-back, etc.
Once you’ve negotiated the offer and it’s signed by both parties, you’re in contract! Time to get that puppy over to your escrow provider and open escrow.
6. Deliver disclosures.
Your buyer is going to be busy setting up inspections, taking care of vesting instructions and, if getting a loan, working towards full loan approval.
They’re going to be running around more than you, but you have a responsibility for delivering several disclosures to the buyers. In California, we've got a number of forms which help you complete your obligation to disclose. In addition, typically any reports you have in your possession on the property should be disclosed to the buyer as well.
7. Keep Updated on the Buyer’s Progress.
As I mentioned, the buyers are going to be having inspections, ordering an appraisal and working on getting to full loan approval. It behooves you to keep up to speed on all of that.
As the homeowner you’re entitled to a copy of any reports which are done on your home, so don’t forget to ask for those.
Usually after the inspections comes the time when the buyers may try to renegotiate. The big challenge will be to just keep a cool head—this is where having a real estate agent is particularly handy.
Your agent is less emotionally invested and can help guide you through this potentially stressful moment in the sale. Try to stay reasonable, keep your eye on the finish line and lean on your agent if this situation comes up.
Well, if you and your buyer have made it through all the hoops of inspections, appraisal and loan approval, you’re probably just about to the finish line.
Only thing left to do is:
8. Sign the documents with your escrow provider and cash in!