Getting Ready For A Home Sale This Year

While the recent stock market rout will undoubtedly make prospective home buyers feel a little bit poorer, lower gas prices and cheaper interest rates may have the complete opposite effect. Regardless of what happens to the economy, the chances are that those who are planning to buy a home this year will finally purchase one (assuming they can find one that suits their individual needs). If you happen to be selling a property in 2019, the conditions might be a little different this year than in past years. This article will discuss that and some potential home selling tips to help you get top dollar if you decide to list.

1It Will Still Be A Seller’s Market

Similar to how the talk of the low mortgage rates went away, which kind of finally did, only to return, people have been told year after year that the seller’s market is coming to an end. Sure, it will do at some point, but the expectation is another solid year for home sellers, perhaps with some leveling of the playing field. The difference this year might be fewer bidding wars and a little normalization in terms of what home buyers are willing to spend.

In other words, expect fewer offers and perhaps more days on the market before an offer arrives. The same goes for the number of offers that go above asking. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t list at a desirable price and still get bids above that level. It’s just that the natural expectation for all that to materialize should be a bit more muted.

2Make Your Home Appealing To Buyers

Along those same lines, if you are selling a home, you'll want to ensure that it is well-maintained and on point, design-wise. The types of homes you see sitting on the market these days are consistently not updated and often not priced to take that into account. If there are doilies everywhere and silly curtains on all the windows, younger buyers (namely, millennials) may not be able to look beyond that.

If these properties only got a fresh coat of paint and underwent some minor tweaks, perhaps a little modern staging, too, they could command the price being requested. Even the addition of a Nest thermostat and other smart home gadgets can get otherwise disinterested buyers excited. The same goes for little touches like new wall outlet plates, faucets, knobs, and different finishes that can make old fixtures look new. It's cheap but effective. Of course, it will all depend on your unique property and individual housing market.

Properties in the first-time buyer category will likely remain hot. This is regardless of whether they’re updated or not because there will always be more eligible buyers in that category. More expensive homes may sit longer unless the seller (and agent) really take the time to determine what a prospective buyer is looking for in their area and caters to that.

3Make The Most From Photos And Staging

Real estate is very emotional; while economists talk numbers, home buyers and sellers lead with their hearts. One of the most important things you can get right (or very wrong) is photographs. Ultimately, unless you or your real estate agent is a photographer by trade or takes photography as a serious hobby, you’ll need to hire a pro. The good news is that it should be a small price to pay for a significant return. After all, buyers can now peruse listings online or via their smartphone, and pictures pretty much take the lead.

An appealing cover shot will stand out in the crowd. A professional photo taken with the right camera, right lighting, and right angle/composition can work wonders. Conversely, a poorly-lit photo that's crooked or out of focus (and complete with a timestamp) could sink your listing even if the house itself is great.

One actionable tip is to make your best photo the featured one, even if it's the kitchen. It doesn't need to be the front of the house. It could be a sitting room or family room, too. Really, use whatever pops the most because some prospective buyers may not bother clicking through to see the rest if they don't like the first.

The same goes for home staging, which can make an enormous impact. It's all about perception. Two identical houses can look completely foreign, thanks to staging alone or a simple decluttering or even cleaning! Because the real estate market might be more lukewarm than hot these days in some parts of the country, the seemingly small details matter more than ever.

4Skip The Discount iBuyers

Because it remains a good time to sell, there’s no sense in using a discount iBuyer. These are companies that can sell your home in a week or less. If the housing market is strong, why resort to a veritable fire sale?

Sure, it might take a little longer to sell via traditional means, but it can be well worth your time and energy to do so. You shouldn't feel desperate in today's climate; though, there are always going to be situations that might warrant a quick home sale. If you can, going the conventional route should be the way to sell a home in 2019.

5Consider Discount Real Estate Brokerage

On the other hand, it might be worth looking into a discount real estate brokerage, those that charge less than the standard 2.5-3% listing fee. There are many discount brokerage, including some that charge a flat fee or nothing at all, with the latter requiring that you use them on your next real estate transaction. This is always a controversial topic because full-service real estate agents will argue that they provide more for minimal cost that is often recouped via a higher sales price.

In other words, a full-service agent may sell your home for more money, and their higher commission is essentially absorbed. But whether that happens isn't guaranteed. Just know what you're getting, and if you do decide to do it semi-alone, you've got to understand what you're doing and know your property and real estate market well.

6Try Pricing Well Under The Key Threshold

This should go without saying, but you constantly see homes listed above certain tiers. For example, should you list at $405,000 or $399,000? While it's perhaps debatable, you’ll probably get more eyeballs on your listing if you put it below $400,000. This is partially due to how filters work on popular home listing websites and partly to do with how the human mind works. The final price could be well above $405,000, even if you list a lot lower.

Also, note that buyers are keenly aware of things like Zestimates and Redfin Estimates, whether they're accurate or not. So listing below these numbers might also boost buyer appeal. Just be sure you get enough interest to sell it above list if you desire that higher sales price. You could argue that listing low is risky, but the same can be said about listing high and then having to reduce the price after the fact.

7Discuss Strategies With Your Agent

If and when you decide to list, vet your real estate agent and ask them what the game plan is. A year or two ago, it may have been a no-brainer to list and get top dollar, but things are beginning to even out and perhaps tip to the buyers' favor in some markets at certain price points. So you'll want to know the exact approach the real estate agent plans on taking to get your property sold quickly (if you want it sold fast) and for an optimal price.

Are they going to list low and hope it becomes a "hot home" on Redfin or hold their ground at a higher price point and be patient? You should discuss all these particulars early on before you list and have regrets. Getting the details right matters more as the real estate market normalizes.

8Become A Well-Informed Home Seller

It's one thing to work with a good real estate agent and another to be an informed home seller. Do your own research on your local market to see how home prices will fare in 2019. Take a look at your city and metro, too, along with national home price projections. Get a feel for the market temperature so you can set a realistic listing price with your agent.

Don’t just take their word for it. There are plenty of websites that offer free home price projections, along with state Realtor groups, NAR, and private companies. Pay attention to the news, but keep an eye on comparable sales in your neighborhood also.

Check with a top brokerage to see what sold nearby your property recently. Check out how long it was listed, what it sold for versus the list price, and how it compares to your home. You might even gain some valuable insights into what your home lacks that can be easily remedied before throwing it on the market. If a nearby home sale did particularly well, determine how you can emulate it.

9Make Your Listing Exclusive

This approach can work out beautifully. For example, your real estate agent can hold a single open house - just one. Expect your property to be packed that day. It would feel like a circus and will create more buzz. If you're a prospective buyer and if you see other potential buyers inside the very home you're thinking about bidding on, emotions will run high, and the fear of missing out will run even higher.

But keep in mind that it can be a successful strategy if the property is in a desirable area and meticulously updated. In reality, your property can’t be all that amazing or unique, but your agent can still create a feeling of exclusivity. The same effect can be delivered by deferring any showings to a particular date and time, with only qualified buyers who are represented by agents allowed to view the property. The goal is overlapping buyer traffic and, hopefully, multiple offers all in the same small window, which could result in a bidding war.

10List Your Home At The Right Time

Another important consideration is timing. You’ve got another 350 days or so to list properties in 2019. Not all days are created equal! Conventional wisdom says to list a home in spring if you want to fetch the highest sales price for your home; additionally, the day of the week can also matter. However, this can and will vary based on your market and property type.

Some real estate websites provide a handy feature for sellers on the owner's view of their website. Once logged in, you can scroll down to "Best Time to List" to find out when they think you should sell based on their data crunching. It will tell you which month, historically, has been best based on seasonal patterns of similar properties. Of course, if you're also buying a home at the same time, you'll have to factor that in, too, as the best time to buy a home might be in late summer.

11Be Ready To Make Adjustments

While your home may go under contract at a great price, don't be surprised if you have to make some concessions when all is said and done. Perhaps sellers could get away with unloading properties "as is" back in the day. However, that might not fly in 2019.

Once inspections are conducted, the buyer might request repairs. And those repairs could be sizable if you haven't maintained your property over the years. This will often be an issue for those who didn't touch their property for 30 years and are now looking to sell at new all-time high prices. You can conduct your own inspections before listing if you want to know where your property stands and also to tidy things up before you sell.

12Be Prepared To Buy Your Next Home

A common yet tricky move at the moment is selling and buying a property concurrently. It can be especially difficult, thanks to the lack of inventory that continues to plague the market. And because mortgage lenders aren't as liberal as they once were, getting a home loan or floating two at the same time can be a deal-breaker.

One thing several people do recently is to sell before buying a replacement. This makes their property a little hotter because there are fewer contingencies or negotiating chips available for the buyer. But it also means finding a new house quickly, assuming their temporary digs aren’t ideal. Another alternative is to ask for a rent-back from the buyer where they allow you to stay for a month or two until you find a new home to purchase. Of course, selling contingent on finding a replacement isn’t out of the question if the property/market is hot enough, but most will try to avoid it.

The property aside, make sure you’re pre-approved for a mortgage and ready to go on the financing front. You should have a good idea of what the sales proceeds will look like and how much you’ll be able to afford on the next purchase. Begin looking at homes immediately as if your property has already been sold.

In summary, 2019 will be another good year for home sellers, though, perhaps not as good as in recent years. But when you look at how strong the housing market has seen since bottoming out, it still says a lot. Home prices are projected to rise yet again, while mortgage rates may fall or remain at their new low levels, removing any financial headwinds that surfaced in 2018. There has been plenty of pessimism and talks of slowing in recent months, but expectedly, 2019 will usher in another strong housing market. Sure, it's not a guarantee that your home will sell for top dollar, but if you do your homework, focus on the seemingly small details, and take the time to do things right, it should pay off.

Lance Vasquez

Lance Vasquez is a resident of McKinney, Texas, where he was born and raised. Lance has seen firsthand the results of making successful transactions in real estate and strives to educate others on how to do the same.