Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

by Andrea Murad

  • New Home Home Keys (FBN)

It’s not easy being a home seller in this market. It’s even harder for  first-time sellers.

Selling a home is one of the biggest financial transactions most people ever  do in their lives. And the current real estate market, still plagued with a  record number of foreclosures and short sales, can be a challenge for  anyone.

“This is a unique market,” says Walter Molony, senior public affairs  specialist at the National  Association of Realtors (NAR).  “The real estate market is cyclical in nature, but we’ve never had an  amplification like we’ve seen in this market. The boom and bust cycle is taking  much longer to recover from, although we’re beyond the midway point in the  recovery.”

For first-time home sellers looking to clinch a sale, experts offer the  following advice to help compete with other homeowners and seal the deal.

Make sure your property is in good working order. “Hire a home  inspector before you list your property so that you know what needs to be  fixed,” advises Sintia Petrosian-Gusmao, real estate agent at Long and  Foster.

Problems with plumbing or any electrical issues, for example, can impact a  home’s price and appeal. Knowing that a house does not need any major repairs  makes the property more appealing to buyers. Repairing any electrical and  plumbing problems can increase a house’s value by $1,505, according to real  estate blog “If your property is substandard, you won’t get  competitive offers,” Molony says.

Use an agent vs. do it yourself. Selling a home without an agent can  be tempting so as not to lose commission from the sale, but experts say  first-time sellers risk under valuing their homes.

About 10% of homes sold during the 12-month period ending June 2011 were  for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) transactions, according to the NAR. Most FSBO homes  were private sales that weren’t advertised on the open market, says Molony.  “FSBOs are competing against a lot of inventory of foreclosures and short sales  at discounted prices.”

“Homes that are listed for sale by owner tend to be overpriced and under  marketed,” says Petrosian-Gusmao. “Unless a homeowner is in the industry, they  won’t know what a buyer is looking for and will undersell their home by  20%.”

Sellers using an agent can pay less commission in some circumstances. “There  are different levels of services available with an agent, and commission rates  are negotiable depending on the level of service,” says Molony. Experts agree  that with the number of short sales and foreclosures in the market, sellers need  help to make sure their property stands out. Real estate agents have networks  that can help market a home and attract potential buyers.

Choose the right agent. “Most people choose agents based on referrals  and the agent’s trustworthiness and reputation in the market,” says Molony.  “Make sure that the agent knows your neighborhood. If all the ‘For Sale’ signs  in your neighborhood have the same name, that agent will know your  neighborhood.”

How an agent markets properties is also important. “Hire someone with tech  savvy for their own business and the properties they’re listing,” says Jessica  Edwards, real estate consumer specialist at Coldwell Banker. Today, agents list  properties using social media websites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as  marketing mailers and newspaper advertisements.

Experts recommend asking potential candidates about their experience, the  number of sales they had in the past year, the average number of days on the  market to sell a house, and their average number of days to sell their own  listings. “It’s OK to ask a real estate agent information about the market,”  says Edwards. “It’s great that someone has a lot of listings, but ask how many  of those are selling. You want someone who’s honest and truthful with you to get  your house sold.”

A personal relationship with an agent can make a difference. “If there isn’t  a rapport, then you’re better off interviewing someone else,” says Molony. “You  need to feel comfortable about the person representing your interest.”

Be competitive with your price. “The market decides the price and no  one else,” says Petrosian- Gusmao. Experts recommend pricing a home  competitively to maximize the benefit of home improvements and shorten the  length of time a home is on the market.

According to a Coldwell Banker survey, about 51% of agents reported that  sellers are more willing to price their homes competitively than they were a  year ago.

Create an effective marketing plan. “An agent should be stressing to  you the importance of photos of your property,” says Edwards. According to  Coldwell Banker, 61% of men and 62% of women know within the first visit if a  home is right for them.

“The first impression a buyer has of your home is huge, and buyers have that  first impression while looking at your house online,” she adds. According to a  Coldwell Banker survey, 92% of buyers start their search online.

“Hire a professional photographer to take pictures once the house is clean  and staged,” says Petrosian-Gusmao. The pictures can be used in a color brochure  with other information about the house. For online house hunters, “set up a  virtual tour with a professional photographer that’s posted on every single real  estate website,” she adds.

Clean and declutter your house. “Buyers can be picky, and, if you have  a home that doesn’t have that great first impression, they’ll go elsewhere,”  says interior designer Jill Vegas. “In some markets, a lot of real estate agents  won’t take a listing unless the home’s been staged.”

Buyers need to be able to visualize living in a home. “People don’t want to  buy into a lifestyle where it’s messy, cluttered, or chaotic,” says Vegas . “They want to buy into a lifestyle that’s  better—clean, organized, sophisticated, and neat—regardless of whether that’s  their actual lifestyle.”

Experts recommend cleaning and decluttering a house prior to any showings.  “Buyers will be looking in cabinets and closets,” says Vegas. “Get rid of  anything you haven’t used in the past year. Clutter eats the equity. Wipe down  every single shelf and cabinet, and remove two-thirds of everything in your  closets. If someone can’t imagine living there, a buyer will look at another  house.”

She suggests arranging furniture to make a space look larger and, if  possible, buy new furniture to replace tired or run down pieces. Cleaning and  decluttering can have a $1,990 benefit on the sales price, according to

Experts suggest boxing up personal affects like family photos to make the  home look like an empty settlement. “Take away family portraits and pictures so  the house looks more appealing to the buyer,” says Petrosian-Gusmao. “Don’t take  any kind of criticism personally because the house has to appeal to a general  audience.”

“If you have very dark or bold-colored rooms, paint them a neutral color so  it’s softer to the eye and makes the room look larger,” recommends  Petrosian-Gusmao. Painting the interior of the house can cost $1,012 and  increase the sales price by $2,112, according to

The outside is just as important as the inside of a house in the home-selling  process. “Don’t forget about your yard and curb appeal because that sets the  buyer’s tone before they step inside the house,” says Edwards. As buyers usually  wait for their agent to open the front door, “stand at the front door and  pretend you are the buyer,” Edwards says. “If there’s something that stands out  that needs to be fixed, then fix it.”

Make your house accessible to agents and buyers. “Put a lockbox on the  house and give specific showing instructions to make your house as accessible as  possible to buyers,” says Petrosian-Gusmao. She recommends having pets in cages  or out of the way when people view the home.

Once an offer is made, “you need to come to an agreement on terms and  negotiate,” says Petrosian-Gusmao. Sellers and buyers negotiate price, repairs,  and the physical condition of the property. “The market is picking up momentum  but it’s a very slow and steady process.”


About Your Guy for That

Your Guy for That, Dustin Drabot is an East Point resident and local real estate professional. Dustin began the “Your Guy for That” team in 2010 with Keller Williams Realty and brought the team to Intown Focus in July 2012. Dustin and the entire Your Guy for That team are excitd to merge the resources expected from a national firm with the personal relationships found at a local boutique level. Prior to forming the Your Guy for That team Dustin worked with a foreclosure specialist, new-home specialist and also negotiated commercial leases and oversaw day-to-day operation of a LEED-Platinum certified office building. Dustin is a member of the Atlanta Board of REALTORS®, Georgia Association of REALTORS® and National Association of REALTORS®. Dustin currently serves as Chairperson for the East Point Main Street Architectural Overlay Board, Treasurer of the Colonial Hills Neighborhood Association, Member of the McPherson Implementing Local Redevelopment Authority Community Outreach Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the East Point Business Builder Luncheon sponsored by the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. Intown Focus Realty guarantees that the Buyer is 100% satisfied with the Property. If within 6 months Buyer is not fully satisfied with the Property Intown Focus Realty will sell it for free. All you have to do is pay a co-op commission and modest MLS fee. Some restrictions apply.

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