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5 Real Estate Tips for First-Time Home Sellers

house-for-sale-signUpdated by Craig Berry

Spring has sprung and summer is almost here. "For sale" signs have been popping up in yards across the country.

Between the busy home buying season, with the added incentive of declining mortgage rates, homebuyers are out looking for a great deal.

Until recently, home sellers pretty much had their pick thanks to bidding wars. Not only have homes been selling quickly and even with multiple offers, many offers were coming in over asking price.

Those hot selling days have started to cool, though. According to the S&P Dow Jones Indices, the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index rose 4.3 percent in January. That's down two percentage points from January 2018 and is the slowest year-over-year gain since April, 2015.

To combat these trends, first-time home sellers need to be more strategic about how they list their home for sale.

5 home selling tips

First-time home sellers aren't real estate newbies. Even so, it's not like buying a home teaches you everything you need to know about selling one.

Even if you've sold many homes, novice sellers still face challenges and decisions that are unique to the sales process.

If you're ready to sell, but anxious about the unfamiliar experience, here are five tips to sell your home fast:

1.Price your home competitively

When listing your home for sale, cast a wide net for potential buyers. Pricing your home properly from the beginning is imperative.

Some sellers can let their emotions dictate their selling price instead of relying on their real estate agent's expert opinion and market data -- and that can be a big mistake.

According to studies, nearly 60% of homes nationwide sell at or above listing price when they accept an offer in the first week. In the second week, however, that drops seven percent and continues to trend downward as the weeks go on.

Be sure to research comparable sales, also known as "comps". Your real estate agent should be an expert in home values in your area and can be a great help with this. It's important that the comps you use are a similar size and condition as yours. They should also be near the same age and in close proximity to your home.

2.Time your home sale properly

Whether you're in hot seller's market or it's a buyer's market, an important strategy that shouldn't be overlooked is when to list your home for sale.

Research shows that sellers typically get the highest prices and sell their homes more quickly when they list in early April, according to Realtor.com. Homes listed in that week logged an average of 14 more views and have 5 percent less competition from other sellers.

Even more appealing for sellers: Homes listed the first week of April see 6 percent higher prices -- a gain of $17,000 more for a typical home.

It's important to note, however, just because you missed that early April window it doesn't mean you can't sell your home quickly. According to Danielle Hale, chief economist with Realtor.com, while many parts of the country see homebuyers out in full force in the spring, some markets have later peak listing times.

3.Stage your house to sell

Consider staging your home to boost its selling power and appeal.

This is another area where your agent can help. Most real estate professionals can offer great advice on preparing your home for sale.

Home sellers should try to find the balance between being cluttered vs. being empty and not lived in.

You may be surprised to find out that most homes show better with roughly half of the furniture removed. However, if a homebuyer walks into your home and wonders if anyone lives in the house, that's not likely to leave them with a great first impression.

4.Complete certain home repairs before listing

Don't wait until the home inspection to start making certain repairs.

If you know you have a water heater that's about to go, a running toilet, leaky faucet, or other issues that are likely to turn a buyer off, or more importantly, be flagged by a home inspector -- fix them before listing your house for sale.

On the other hand, buyers often ask sellers to repair "everything" in a home inspector's report, says Jean Bourne-Pirovic, a Realtor at Long & Foster Realtors in Silver Spring, Maryland. As a seller, however, you'll want to be more circumspect, since those repairs take a bite out of your profit.

You do have an obligation to make certain repairs, Bourne-Pirovic explains, so it's important to know what those items are. Typically, repairs that are required by law or involve safety or health hazards are "must-dos." But you needn't say yes to every repair. Cosmetic fixes in particular might be a "no."

5.Vet potential homebuyers

For buyers, financing is all about home loan approval, and buyers who are short on cash might be especially keen to get a low- or no-down payment loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or guaranteed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), respectively.

For sellers, though, financing is all about the buyer's ability to close and in that context, you might view a loan program that requires a healthy down payment as a better sign.

"As a buyer, you think you've submitted a really good contract, which is basically a lowball (offer) with the minimum down and minimum deposit," Bourne-Pirovic says. "When you're selling, things that are attractive are a higher deposit and a conventional loan, instead of FHA or VA."

The bottom line when selling your home

Perhaps you've considered selling your house because you need additional space, you want to downsize, or are relocating for any number of reasons. Whatever your motivation, it's important to be prepared for the sales process -- even more so if you want to sell your house fast.

Selling your home can be both emotional and stressful, especially for a first-time home seller. If you follow these five tips, you can set yourself ahead of the competition by convincing buyers that your home is the one for them.

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