Some people like resolutions, others hate them. And according to one recent survey, as many as 80% of people who set them fail at them.
But I’ve found that many people — maybe even most people — love a challenge. Getting your home sold is one of those experiences that ranks as a complex business challenge and a series of emotional, logistical, and financial challenges all rolled into one.
If you plan to sell your home in 2014, you might be inventorying your action items or drafting your action plan as we speak. (If not, you should be — here, we’ll give you a kick-start.)
Beyond the basic tasks and actions involved in pricing, preparing, marketing, and selling your home, there are a number of umbrella approaches and perspectives you can choose to take — or not — each of which can make or break your deal and make or break the angst or awe with which you experience the year ahead. If you’re not the resolution-setting type, or you are and you’re open to new approaches, consider challenging yourself to start and finish your home-selling process with these next-level resolutions:
1. Resolve to do your own due diligence, cutting no corners. Here’s the thing no one tells you about selling your home: It’s exhausting. You have to:
spend hours interviewing agents;
review all the neighborhood sales and try to figure out where your home fits among them;
nitpick everything that’s wrong about your home;
figure out what you can afford to fix and what makes sense not to;
source contractors or gear up to DIY;
have a bunch of little projects — and maybe a few big ones done;
deal with staging and decor projects;
then clean your home to within an inch of its life every single day, in some markets, sometimes for weeks or months on end.
And that’s all before you get offers.
Knowing that other sellers also find this list daunting helps. You are definitely not alone. But the sheer scale of this list causes some sellers to take shortcuts at some or all points along the path. They don’t meet with more than one agent, or they don’t check references and end up with an agent they less than love. They don’t pay attention to the detailed questions the disclosure forms ask them and end up omitting some crucial detail that comes back to bite them later, in the form of a lawsuit. They fail to tidy up before showings, and buyers report back that the place smelled funny or was so cluttered during the viewings that they were too distracted to seriously “try on” the home in their mind’s eye.
Make it your resolution not to be that shortcut-taking seller. Decide upfront that if you’re going to do this, you’re going to do it right and pass your home on to the next buyers with pride. That might seem silly, but I can assure you that the sellers I’ve known who took exactly that stance almost always received the reward of a fast sale at top dollar. Buyers can sense the pride you take in your home and your disclosures. It’s a good look.
2. Resolve to keep your eye on the prize — and the priorities. What is your mission for moving? What is the vision you’re trying to create? When you decided you wanted to sell, you were in some state that motivated you to make a change — your home had grown too small, too large, too costly, too old, too new, too fancy or not luxurious enough for your life, or the location no longer worked for you. But that’s only one side of the vision equation. On the other end, there’s an “after” picture: some state you want to be in. Maybe it’s another neighborhood or a new and improved set of amenities or a totally different look of a home. Maybe it’s a totally different school district, city or state, or a chic condo when your last home was a sprawling ranch house.
Whatever it is, get very clear on the “before” and “after” of your vision for this life change you’re trying to create by selling your home, and resolve to stay that way until escrow has closed. Focusing on your vision will force you to focus on your priorities. In turn, that will help you resist the urge to overprice your home, underprepare it, or bicker with the buyer over silly small issues and amounts. It becomes much easier to let things that would normally irritate you roll right off your back when you realize that doing so will serve your own personal priorities of getting your home sold quickly for a great price, so that you can move on to the next exciting stage of your life.
3. Resolve to think things through from the other side of the table. By definition, a first-time buyer has never been in the seller’s shoes. But as the seller, chances are good that you have been in the buyer’s position before. It is to your strong advantage to hearken back to those days when you were desperately seeking a home of your own. That perspective shift is the closest you’ll be able to get to momentarily detaching emotionally; you can walk through your home, view its marketing, and even think about how it is priced from the perspective of the very buyers you want to attract.
Remind yourself of how you felt when it seemed as though you’d never wade through all the mortgage paperwork, when you felt as if the lender wanted to know your mother’s shoe size, when you were frustrated with what you saw on the market in your price range, or when you couldn’t access the information or get into the property you wanted to, at a time that was convenient for you. Don’t let your home be the listing that causes these frustrations for your target buyers. Instead, from the time you start looking at comps to price your home to the time you start reviewing offers and buyers’ requests for repairs, try to think things through from your perspective and then put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.
Even if you don’t slash the price or give them everything they ask for, chances are good that you’ll end up creating more win-win situations if you take the other side’s wants and needs into account.
4. Resolve to keep your head out of the sand. The truth hurts, the saying goes. I think that’s misleading in the context of selling your home and in life. You see, sometimes the truth does hurt, the way a shot of penicillin or getting a tooth filled hurts. But even when it does hurt a bit, the truth never harms you. On the contrary, avoiding the truth about what your home is worth or the truth of buyers’ and agents’ feedback about it is akin to avoiding a shot if you need it, or avoiding the dentist if you have a cavity. It causes something much worse than hurt: real harm.
Confronting the truth that the comparable homes in your neighborhood are selling for lower than you’d hoped to get might hurt, but once the sting is gone, that knowledge empowers you to make an appropriate pricing decision, stage your home to the nines, or even decide to stay put for a while longer.
Facing the truth that your home needs a lot of repairs and upgrades compared with the nearby open houses you’ve toured might hurt. But after the hurt, you’re in the power position, with the knowledge of what to do to your home or to its price to get a leg up on the competition.
Acknowledging the truth that you have borrowed so much against your home that you won’t be netting as much cash on the sale as you’d hoped to definitely hurts. But after the pain passes, you have the power to make wise decisions about how much to put down on your next home and to avoid overleveraging it the second time around.
In all of these cases, avoiding the truth poses the potential for real harm: the harm that you’ll overprice your home, underinvest in its preparation for the market, or commit the same financial errors with your next home. Make it your resolution to keep your eyes wide open, head above the sand, and to boldly face the truth throughout the course of your home’s sale, no matter what might happen.