Surviving the Sale of Your Home

Real estate agents have a phrase: "List to last." Sellers should adopt another phrase: "Last through the listing." Some real estate agents don't want to scare prospective listing clients away by telling them that selling a house can be tough, emotionally charged work. Consider this article a bit of tough love for home-sellers...your agent may be too polite to share this news with you, but it's news you can use.

People sell houses for a variety of reasons, not all of them positive. Unemployment, a death in the family, job relocation: These are just a few of the not-so-good reasons a person might need to sell. And even if you are planning to move up to a better house, there's something unnerving about selling the roof that has sheltered you and your family to the highest bidder. A sign goes up in the front lawn, and all of a sudden, your home is a commodity. Complete strangers are scuffing the hardwoods, hating the curtains and peering in your bedroom closets. Here are some steps you can take to avoid becoming an absolute lunatic while your house is on the market.

Hire the right agent
Find a real estate agent you can stand. You will be entering a short term contractual relationship with whoever lists your house—consider this person a hire, and hire someone you get along with. Ask them how they plan on marketing your house—what publications do they buy ads in? Will they print brochures? 
Do they put listings on the Internet? What type of outdoor signage will they put up? An agent who's asking full commission should do more marketing than merely putting your home in the local Multiple Listing Service. It's a good idea to get clear on what kind of sales effort you can expect before signing on the dotted line.

Get the most from open houses
There's one form of marketing that sellers tend to overrate: Open houses. This weekend ritual is more useful for introducing agents to prospective buyers than it is for selling a home. An open house might generate some interest, but realize that a lot of people hit the open house circuit to check out décor, get ideas for remodels, and to dream.

There is one type of open house that is highly useful—an agent's open, where local real estate agents are invited to tour your home. These are the open houses most likely to generate a buyer, and less likely to generate stress. Expect the agent you sign with to do a couple of agent's opens: one where they bring the agents who work in their office on a tour of your home, and another when they bring local agents from other offices through. A final note on allowing strangers access to your house: Do put small valuables, jewelry and the like away in a safe deposit box before putting your house on the market.

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