Sellers: Things to keep in mind after your home is on the market
Most sellers understand what is required to get a house sold and to get the keys handed over to someone new. But every once in a while, a seller will do something that endangers their sale. Selling a house takes a lot of work and attention. That work does not stop once there is a real estate sign on your front lawn. So if you put your house on the market, please follow these tips to help you get to the closing table smoothly.
When you are selling your home, please make sure to:
Keep the fuel tank full.
At a minimum, don’t let the fuel tank run out of oil or gas. Winter can often bring temperatures below freezing for weeks at a time. During those cold spells, if the fuel runs out, the heat shuts off and the house freezes. Not only does the house feel cold, but all the liquid in the plumbing will freeze. When liquid freezes, it expands and often times this will result in a cracked pipe. Then when the temperature rises the unfrozen water will happily escape from the broken pipe(s), ruining whatever is underneath. Once I worked with a seller who let his oil run out while the house was vacant. Multiple pipes froze and subsequently broke. The fire department had to break a window to get in when they received a call of gushing water. In addition to broken glass, sheet rock was ruined, flooring was wet, the house had to come off the market. A lot of money was required to fix all the pipes, re-sheetrock, repaint and install a new window. Do not let your tank run out of fuel.
Pay your mortgage.
Some sellers may think that they can stop paying their mortgage once their house is on the market. After all, they’re selling the house and they can just pay off the mortgage at closing, right? Oh, my, the potential problems that can exist with this move! No, no, no you cannot stop paying your mortgage.
First, it can take a long time to sell houses during certain buying cycles. In some areas, even after the contract is signed, there could be months of waiting for the buyer mortgage and attorney processes to complete. In the interim, if you stop paying your mortgage, the bank that holds your mortgage could file lis pendens (pre-foreclosure). If the issue goes on long enough they could also file foreclosure documents. They could assign an asset management company who might show up at the house unannounced and put locks on doors. You could wind up paying a lot more in attorney fees and penalties when you eventually do close, and you could wind up with less money when all is done. And of course your credit may be impacted. Every once in a while, there is a buyer that considers stopping their mortgage payments. Don’t do it! Continue to pay the mortgage!
Notify your real estate agent of any major changes in your life.
Why? It’s your life, right? Well, when you are in contract with a listing agent to sell your home, you are a team. The team mission is to sell the house as quickly as possible, and at the best price. If anything happens in your life that can impact the sale in any way, it’s important that you share that information with your agent. For example, if you decide to move out of the house, tell your agent. Continuing to answer phone calls and showing requests will make the agent think you’re still in the home. Not until she goes to the house to show it and finds some major repair problem will she know you left. If you leave, someone still needs to be at the house on a regular basis to maintain the property. They need to fill the fuel and plow any snow. In addition, they need to shovel walks and the like. Don’t just move out or make any other changes in stealth mode.
If buyers can’t get in to see your home, they won’t buy it. And if the goal is to truly get the home sold, sellers must be as flexible as possible with showings. The house has to remain show ready at all times. If you get a call that someone wants to see it at a reasonable time, you should say yes. If you say you will only allow showings between 4-5pm on work days and between 11-3 on Saturdays, it will be very difficult to show the house. And it will be even more difficult if you reject requests for showings even when they are in the timeframes you originally said would work. Often buyers only have a few specific times when they are available to house shop. Or they are coming from far away and again, can only come on a specific day. Saying, “if they are really interested, they will just reschedule” makes it sound like you don’t really want to sell the house. If you make it easy for buyers to see your home, it’ll sell a lot quicker. Allow showings at all reasonable times.
As a follow-up to the previous item, you also must leave the house during showings. Buyers cannot envision themselves in the house if you are lurking around each corner, or listening to every word they say. In fact, buyers often won’t talk if you’re there. They will rush through, leave the house and not remember anything because they were too uncomfortable. No buyer wants to upset you by saying the magenta paint color you spent a year trying to find was “horrid.” They also don’t want you to hear that wallpaper you cherish was hideous. Believe me, it’s better for you if you leave.
I was at a showing once where one of the sellers stood right outside the back door glaring into the house with his arms crossed. The buyers sped through there and raced out and didn’t even see that the house was a good fit for them. At another showing, the seller followed the buyers around and told them all the reasons they should not buy the house. Another time, the sellers sat still, unmoving, not speaking, and listening to every single breath the buyers made. The buyers hightailed it out of there. Another seller shared his entire financial and life situation. Had the buyers wanted the house, they would have had a huge edge in the negotiations. I have a lot more examples, but the point should be clear. With very few exceptions, any time a seller stays to “help,” the risk of issues increases. So sellers, please leave during showings.
Maintain your home
Putting your home on the market for sale is the worst time to stop taking care of it. Until a buyer makes an offer that you accept, gets through the inspection, aces the bank appraisal, and completes the final walkthrough, the house has got to receive your attention. It needs all the normal maintenance such as lawn mowing, tree pruning, gutter repair, and the like. Also, if anything happens that is unusual, such as a tree being knocked down in a storm, the owner needs to fix it. Letting the house go will only result in you receiving less money than you would have if you continued the effort to keep the house in good working order. Maintain your home!
So to most of the sellers who do follow their real estate agent’s advice, THANK YOU! You know to keep your house maintained, pay the mortgage, ensure there is heat and allow showings. You are a huge reason your house will sell successfully. For the few sellers who want to try to let the house go in some way, please take my words to heart. Following these tips will ensure your home sale goes well.