People have been known to sell their homes themselves for a variety of reasons: they want to save on commission fees, want to meet the future owner of their house personally, they want to personalize the selling and negotiating process, and don’t want to be # 2 or # 10 on a real estate agent’s list.

If you’ve never sold a house before or don’t know anything about real estate, you can still make a good sale by following certain guidelines. It would be a pity if your asking price was too unrealistic; that is, either you’re outpricing yourself by demanding a high sale amount or you’re giving your house away for a song.

Fact # 1: in any geographical area, there’s always what realtors call a “buyers’ pool.” These are buyers with different profiles and intentions so by knowing about them you can be in an advantageous bargaining position. In this pool, there are buyers who are looking for a house they will live in, buyers who are looking to invest, cash buyers and mortgage buyers. If you know what type of buyer you’re dealing with, you can price your house appropriately.

Fact # 2: to sell your house successfully, always look at your house through a buyer’s eyes. This means, seeing things about your house that you’ve never noticed before, but which buyers notice immediately. One trick, according to a real estate agent, is to look at your house from across the street and scrutinize it. What do you see now that you haven’t seen before?

Taking these two facts into account, here are some tips that we’d like to share with you. You might find them handy when you make the final decision to sell.

Selling Your House Yourself: Valuable Tips

1. Start outside (the outside is what home buyers see first)

Take a look at what might be a sore eye: overflowing garbage cans, wood scraps, junk yard stuff. A tidy exterior speaks volumes of the owners. Does the clutter outside the house mean that the inside will reveal more clutter? What about the roof? Is it in good condition; if not, when was the last time it was replaced? Is the garden attractive and inviting or are there bushes and trees that need trimming? Is the lawn brown and depressed, or is it alive and green? Are the outside lights working? Is the paint falling off?

2. Go inside the house

Again, we’ll repeat the issue of clutter. If your house has hardly any space to walk around and there’s too much furniture, knick knacks and unnecessary items lying about, it is difficult for buyers to visualize how their own furniture will look in your house. By not removing clutter, you’re not allowing them to “mentally move in.”

Repair doors that squeak, faucets that leak and windows with cracked or broken glass. Don’t forget floor slabs that have come loose. If the paint’s peeling off, fix that one too!

3. Environmental concerns

Be prepared when potential buyers ask you about radon, asbestos, lead and energy-efficiency appliances or devices. Be sure to look at a list of asbestos containing materials and other dangerous chemicals so you can identify them on the spot. There’s a heightened sense of the environment right now, and your house will be competing with newly-built homes that bear the mark of energy efficiency. You may want to have your house inspected by a certified inspector for any radon, asbestos or lead content. When you show a healthy inspection report, you stand a better chance of selling your house.

4. No one’s buying

Inexperienced sellers make the mistake of not pulling down their ad after a certain period of time. They think that if they leave the ad long enough, a buyer will show up eventually. Be careful. If your house is still in the market after a year while other houses in your neighboring are being sold within a reasonable period of time, then take a step back. You ought to take the ad out and place it again at another time. When buyers see that your house has not sold yet, they begin to question why (“maybe it’s haunted”) or they could offer a much lower price if they sense you’re desperate.

5. Prepare for Open House

Receiving buyers and answering the same questions over and over again can be tedious. What you can do is prepare a fact sheet about your house: year it was built, if you’re the first owner, how many times the plumbing and roofing have been replaced, what kind of neighborhood it is, how many schools there are, supermarkets, libraries, hospitals and senior citizens’ facilities. Buyers appreciate it when you anticipate their questions. Attach your latest inspection report as well. Some buyers may be seriously considering buying your house because of its proximity to a school or a hospital.

When buyers arrive, ask them if they’d like a guided tour or they’d like to inspect your house on their own. They may be too embarrased to look under sinks or open closets if you’re around. Give them the option to go on their own, but give them a fact sheet anyway.

6. Knowledge of municipality’s zoning laws

Make sure you know what’s going on in your city. If there’s a planned zoning change that could considerably “up” the value of your house, then you’ll be better prepared to ask for a price that’s fair and can even generate a nice little profit. If you sell your house and then a zoning change occurs bringing down the value of your house, the buyers who you sold your house to could file a lawsuit alleging that you should have warned them about the zoning changes.

7. Sharpen those negotiation skills

Speak to realtors or read up on negotiating skills. The basics are: seller always starts high while the buyer will always start low. This way seller and buyer have plenty of room to negotiate. Be flexible so that you don’t turn away a serious buyer; by the same token, know when to stop negotiating. That’s why we have offers and counter offers in real estate. Both seller and buyer want value for their money.

8. Pets Away! Cooking Odors Ayoy!

Don’t nurture the mistaken notion that people love pets like you do. In fact, there are buyers who specifically say that if there’s a pet in the house, the first thing that worries them is invisible pet dander or pet hairs strewn about. We personally have a preference for pet-free homes, so there…

And make sure you eliminate all unpleasant odors from the house, especially if you cook with exotic ingredients that have strange smells.

9. Timing and Reason

It’s common sense not to sell your house when the market is down, unless of course you’re desperate for cash. Also, don’t sell your house for the wrong reasons. If you love your house but want to sell it because you’ve recently been divorced and staying in it stings you with painful memories, wait it out. Time heals all wounds, but a house sold is gone forever.

10. Documentation and all things legal

Protect yourself by requesting that a buyer who is about to buy your house put funds into escrow, or have a third party set this up. You wouldn’t want to be unpleasantly surprised to end up with a house that you took off the market because the buyer said he was “approved for a mortgage loan.” Always ask for proof of the buyer’s financial condition. Do not give him the keys to your house or transfer ownership until you’ve got the money in the bank and all papers are in order.

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