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The Best Thing We Did to Sell Our House

Dear Sandy,

We wanted to share our story with you because we were so amazed at how we sold our house so quickly. My mother-in-law passed away recently and my husband and I, together with his brother and his wife inherited her house. It was not a particularly remarkable house, a small "tract" house, but in a neighborhood which had appreciated in value over the years. Deciding we did not want to go into a partnership together and keep the house, we decided to sell. The house was somewhat run down, so we made several improvements, such as fixing up the bathrooms, the kitchen, the yard, installed new flooring, repainting the inside, everything we could think of to give the house a fresh and clean look. We hired a contractor who promised to get the work done in 4 week's time, which he did, and the house was now the best looking on the block! We also had a house inspection done, including a termite report, which we could show to prospective buyers. This was the one of the best things we could have done to sell the house. Our $50,000 remodeling investment increased the selling value of the house by $110,000.

The second best thing we did was to "price the house to sell." We looked at other houses for sale in the neighborhood, and instructed our broker to price our house below the price of the other houses for sale. We held an Open House on a Sunday, and by Sunday night we had a contract in hand. We are sure it was the combination of the two: the right price and the new, clean, improvements we made that sold the house so quickly. In addition, the Buyers agreed to a 20 day escrow, as they were already pre-approved from a lender.

Paul and Janet Simmons
Seattle, Washington

Dear Paul and Janet,

You were wise and fortunate at the same time. Pricing a house correctly can be a tricky matter, as some owners rely solely on appraisals or "statistical" values found on the internet or in public records, and don't go out on the street and actually look at other houses in the area to see what they are selling for and what they offer which their house does not. "Know your competition" is probably one of the best words of advice for any Seller. Whether you are selling a small item or a large house, making your product better than anyone else's, selling it for a better price, or giving more value for the money, is always a winning combination.

How Can I Sell My House Quickly in Today's Real Estate Market?

Dear Sandy,
I have been reading about the downturn in the real estate market, and the difficulty sellers are having to find buyers who are willing to pay the asking price of a home. I am having trouble as well. I did all the cosmetic things I could think of, repainting any "tired" looking areas, putting in fresh plants and up-dating the landscaping, fixing problem areas in the bathrooms, even installing a new front door and repaving the walkway to the house. None of these things have worked, and I have no offers. Do you have any additional suggestions to help me sell my house?
Marianna Silk
Cardiff-sur-Mer, California

Dear Marianna,
You are correct in that today's real estate climate has changed significantly from six months to a year ago. In many areas of the country, there seems to be a glut of homes for sale, and fewer buyers willing to buy them. A year ago you might have had a line of Buyers waiting to make an offer on your house, while today you might have plenty of "lookers", but no one willing to make you a reasonable offer. This may be due to higher mortgage interest rates, or to national economic factors, over building, or simply due to the usual cyclical nature of real estate, when tends to have spikes and cooling off periods.

There are several things, "creative options". you can do to help sell your home quickly. You can offer to pay certain closing costs which the Buyer would normally pay, such as title insurance fees, or the cost of a survey, or a title company's closing fee. You can offer to pay the Buyer's first month's mortgage payment for them or offer to "pay down" the interest rate on their loan. You might offer to pay the Buyer's moving fees, or a year subscription to a newspaper of their choice. Offer a local merchant gift card, or a home warranty contract for one year. You could agree to pay for the inspection report. Be creative. If potential Buyers will have to commute to a job, offer to pay for a gas card, with a dollar limit.  You could suggest paying for a year's worth of free cable television. While these expenses may run from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, they may save you money in the long run. Not having to reduce your asking price significantly, and selling your house quickly, will equate to a bigger savings to you.

Additionally, you might put together a list of local services, things your community offers which makes it unique and desirable. If you know of any planned improvements for your area, be sure to point those out. If Buyers have children, point out any advantages of your local school system, or special schools which may also operate in the area.  Find out what the Buyers interests are, and point out how those interests can be enjoyed in your area. If obtaining traditional financing is an issue for the potential Buyers, you may offer to carry back a loan on the property, based on a short-term note, if your financial situation allows.  Be flexible and realize that you might have to give up some concessions to get the deal done.

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