Tips to Sell your House for Top $$$

Currently our area-Dallas and Fort Worth Texas is in a sellers market. This means homes are selling 0-90 days on the market. It is important to note that it does not mean your home will sell no matter what. The homebuying process is an emotional one: not only is it sad to leave your home you have lived in, but showing and selling that home to complete strangers can be stressfull. The longer your house is on the market the more strangers you have to let snoop around your home and the less likely you are to get the top price. To make this process smooth and sell your house as quickly as possible at the top market price follow these steps.

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  1. Minimization is Key. See what I did there? I did not call your beloved sports memorabilia collection or 1,000 framed photos of your dog clutter. Because I understand it is not clutter to you, but you want the future buyers to see how big the living room, kitchen cabinets, and closets are. That means move as much stuff out as possible.
  2. De-personalize. This means remove any family photos, diplomas, or other information that makes a buyer think of you living in this house instead of them living in their future home. I am sure your personal photos are beautiful, but you want the buyer focused on your house and not on where you went to college. You also want them to picture themselves in their new home and not think about who currently lives there.
  3. Repair that leaky faucet. We all know those items on your home that you have just lived with over the years. The leaky faucet, the sqeaky steps, the door that wont shut. It may not bother you, but to your future buyer that is one more thing to fix (aka costs!) which means less money they want to offer you for your house.
  4. Repaint. There is nothing like a clean canvas on walls to help a buyer imagine their decorations in their new home. This requires you to take all items off the wall, patch any holes or cracks, and repaint the whole house. We recommend painting something neutral like a soft grey so it does not distract the buyer from your beautiful house.
  5. Get professional Photos. Once you have fixed all of the items you wanted to fix, cleaned, repainted, and minimalized, get professional photos done. Our brokerage requires us to take professional photos for all of our listings, but not all do. You want great photos because in this world the first look of your home is online of the photos. Buyers will nix a home without even seeing it from photos alone so you want to make sure they portray your home as best as possible!

Finally, trust your agent. Sometimes it can be hard to hear that you need to spend money to make repairs on a house you are trying to sell. But trust them. There is a good chance that you will have to come down on the price or pay more of the closing costs to help the buyer with the cost of the repairs. That is assuming they make an offer on your home because major issues could scare them away from the begining.

Lessons Learned as Realtors

Preston and I are both millenials and our generation seems to be doing the home buying process differently than our baby boomer parents. We are more willing to rent to be in the right location vs buying the house in the suburbs. We have less cash for a down payment due to fun things like student loans. And due to popular TV shows and networks (cough HGTV couch) we all seem to want this great investment that we can “fix up” on our own.

Lucky for you, Preston and I are both licensed realtors in the state of Texas. We learned so much during our first year of real estate and realized we have so many lessons learned that we wish we could tell ourselves 3-5 years ago. Since purchasing a home is most likely one of the biggest investments of your life, we want to make sure you do not learn any of these lessons the hard way.

Lesson one: Why didn’t we buy that house years ago?!?

We live in Fort Worth and there are a couple of neighborhoods, primarily Fairmount and Ryan Place that have tripled in value over the past 10 years. I showed a couple a listing this week for a home that sold in 2010 (only 7 years ago!) for $150,000. An investor purchased it and completed fixed it up, brining this 1907 home back to life. They then sold it in 2015 for $350,000. Did your jaw just drop?! That is a 5 year gain of $200,000! Of course the investor most likely put some money into the house, but with that property value increase I am pretty sure they walked away with some cash in their pocket…the home is now re-listed for sale after a couple purchased it and added more improvements (garage, outdoor kitchen, fencing, lighting upgrades, etc) and are now trying to sell it for just under $550,000. Needless to say, we are kicking ourselves for not buying property in this area asap. We still plan to buy in this area because there are so many fixer upper potential homes that we believe make it a good investment even today. We just might cry when we pay over $300,000 for a home knowing we could have gotten it for under $200,000 just a couple of years ago…I wish I know that boarded up house in 2010 would now be selling for half a million dollars!

Now, you cannot always guess that a neighborhood that was once filled with several foreclosed homes would become the new neighborhood everyone wants to live in, but if you are looking for a fixer upper, those are the neighborhoods to look at. It would be worth it to rent the house out for a couple of years before you put a major investment into it to see where the market is trending.

Lesson two: BUY A HOUSE.

Due to living in different cities for a couple of years before we got married, we are late to the home buying game. Preston moved into my downtown apartment and we have stayed here until we buy our house…because yes, we are still looking. We will talk more about making compromises on homes, but it is easier said than done. I joke that Preston is the pickiest buyer I have worked with. We both know we need to buy a house sooner than later, but our deal breakers are different. I primarily want a home in a good neighborhood with good bones and two bathrooms (I believe it saves marriages!). Preston on the other hand wants a historic home in a specific neighborhood (but not a shotgun house), wrap around front porch, 3+ bedrooms for a home office, etc. So our personal house hunt goes on.

After not only seeing how much equity our friends have made from increasing property values alone, we are so sick of just paying rent. If you add up our monthly rent for the past two years, we would have a VERY nice down payment. Obviously not all investments are fool proof, but people typically do well in real estate. The industry also recommends having a house for ~ 5 years in order to recoup closing costs from buying, when you then list your house. That will also give you enough time to determine if the property value is increasing.

Lesson 3: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

As noted above, real estate is typically a great investment, but we recommend you follow our main advice: location, location, location. Check out the location of the house you are looking to buy. If it is close to something that you know you did not like (yes admit it) you might have an issue with future buyers when you look to resell it. This can be a power plant, highway, train tracks (hard to avoid in Fort Worth), etc.

Sometimes we have to coach buyers that if you are not building a brand new home, chances of having a perfect home that meets all of your needs is tough. No pre-owned home is going to be perfect. BUT also note, that a “perfect” home in a bad location is going to be tough to resell.

Disclaimer: there is always a catch 22 to location because you do not always know that a forgotten neighborhood is going to be revived making prices sky rocket. Just ask yourself if there was something you do not have control of (a major highway or creek that always floods) and if you believe it will be an issue to future buyers down the road. If you say yes, then this may not be the best investment. Note that if you plan to live in that house as your forever house, then it may not be as big of an issue, but if you are looking to make a quicker investment we always recommend checking out the neighborhood well.