Steps to Buying a Home
When I represent you as a seller, I have your best interest at heart.
Whether you are selling a condominium, a single family home, a multifamily home, a duplex, an investment property, you will get:
my network of professionals to get your property ready for sale, from decluttering, cleaning, rearranging, storage, and staging
discounts on staging if such service is appropriate upon discussion
my excellent marketing, from photography, videography, social media, to print/digital advertisement, lawn signs, postcards, makes sure your home is being presented in the most professional way for sale to the realtors and home buyers
my precise pricing suggestion to procure offers
my great negotiation skills with buyers
my honest advice about choosing offers by examining their terms and quality of buyers
and my skills in navigating hurdles in transactions, such as inspection surprises and survey surprises
get my full attention (yes, me, not teammates, not an admin, not anyone else but me) regarding listing exposure, open house and showing coordination, buyers' and realtors' feedbacks,
I believe in knowledge and experience. New Jersey real estate is complicated in terms of its diversity of home types, age of the homes, rules and regulations. Hire a full-service realtor to maximize your property's exposure to potential buyers, to attract offers, to ensure rules and regulations are being followed. I go above and beyond for every seller. To read reviews about us from past clients visit Google, Yelp, and Zillow.
- Find a Realtor
Many homeowners usually visit Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, or Realtor.com to find out how much their home is worth. That's totally understandable! But keep in mind:
The accuracy of these home estimates vary drastically state by state, county by county, town by town, and house buy house. A computer algorithm cannot possibly go into the house and appraise the recent remodeling you've done, the precise layout of your home, the design work you've put in, the expansion you added to your house. See my blog How Accurate is Zillow in Estimating Home Values in NJ for details. Overall, Zestimate in particular, is not that smart about assessing home values in NJ.
Information online may not be accurate. Accurate Multiple Listing System (MLS) syndication to online websites is not necessarily accurate, neither is the tax record. A property that has been sold 9 months ago can still be shown active online. Using uncomprehensive data to assess the value of your property increase the risk of mispricing.
Professional assessors usually have access to MLS and sort sold listings in your specific neighborhood by dates. It is difficult to sort by date when you are looking at the sold listings in the area.
What values a realtor can bring to your selling experience:
Advice on getting your home ready for sale. An experienced realtors have seen many homes. They know what attract buyers eyes and what create concerns. Be sure to listen into the advice to avoid problems down the road. For example, depending on the situation, I would advice clients whether to take on staging service, storage service, repainting etc. to make sure the home is attractive.
Pricing advice. Many sellers have a bottom line price they'd like to sell. A good realtor should be able to tell if the expectation is realistic or not in the current market by performing a comprehensive Comparative Market Analysis (CMA). If a property is priced too high, the time elapses trying to attract an offer from a qualified buyer can be costly. The risk of the property not being appraised at the sale price can be high.
Comprehensive marketing exposure. A good realtor should be equipped with the knowledge of online and print marketing. How they advertise your property is crucial because that directly determines how many buyers your property is being exposed to. The more buyers/realtors are exposed to your property, the higher the chance you'll attract an offer.
Offer sifting. There are many elements coming into an offer. A realtor can help you choose the one that is most suitable and promising for the transaction. Negotiation will be involved and the realtor can bring her skills and experience to help.
Interview a realtor:
Initial phone screening. Reach out to a local realtor in your area. Check out their reviews and have a call with them to briefly discuss her experience and service. Be prepared for a realtor to ask a few questions about your home, such as mortgage owed and repairs needed for the home.
Meet up in person. If you are comfortable with the initial conversation, schedule a face-to-face appointment with the realtor at your home. The purpose of the meeting is to further discuss listing details, such as the current market, the pricing and the marketing strategy. If they appear not familiar with the market, move on. Ask how much they charge and what kind of service they provide. Be honest with the realtor what your true concern is. If you need to sell your home for a certain amount of money or in a certain time frame, tell them. Only when Realtors have a complete picture can they came up with the best strategy to fit your situation. Lastly, trust your gut.
Sign the paperwork. When you picked a realtor, expect to sign a listing agreement. The agreement typically specifies the listing exclusivity, duration, and certain required disclosures authorizing the realtor represent you. Make sure to fill out a Seller's Disclosure to give all parties the best understanding of the property.
If you have any questions, reach me at 814-321-3957 or sharleen(at)BuySellLoveNJ(dot)com.
2. Conduct an Independent Home Inspection
I believe especially for single family homeowners, an independent inspection before your listing go live is extremely helpful. Fix any obvious leaks of you water heater, your A/C unit, your bathroom can avoid surprises during the transaction. Also, it gives buyers comfort to see how much you care about the home. Some buyers may even waive conducting their own inspection if they read your report. It is $400-700 well spent. If you’d like to do a pre-market inspection, let me know and I will arrange for it. If you want, I can even be present for the inspection so you don’t have to take any additional time off work.
3. Declutter, Clean, Repair Time
How you present your home matters.
As your family grows, it is very understandable your home is running out of space. Donate toys you haven't used for a long time; sell your furniture on Facebook to make space; hand down any clothing of yours or your kids' to friends and families; throw away expired shampoos, worn-out pots and pans. You only have one goal - showing potential buyers how spacious your place is, not how much stuff your place can hold.
Your kitchen counter should have only 2-3 items. Put fruit bowls, bouquets, decorative books, and diffusers on your counter instead of dish drying rack.
An inviting home letting buyers feel it could be their home is important. Take non-generic, non-decorative items from your wall, such as family pictures, sport jerseys, and souvenirs that seem out of the place. If you are a doctor, please put away human body models!
If you have done a pre-market inspection already as recommended earlier, we should have a list of items that need to be fixed. It's better to fix them now before the same issues come up in Buyer's inspection report, which can scare them off or give them more leverage to ask for closing credits. I have a network of affordable contractors, electricians, handymen, painters. I'm more than happy to make those appointments or even be at your home to oversee their work. In general, I recommend:
Touch-up paint, or a fresh coat of paint
If hardwood floor shows significant wear and tear, re-sand it and re-finish it
New caulking around shower, tub and baseboard molding
Service your HVAC and clean both your AC unit and furnace
Repair any damaged, broken, or missing roof shingles
Repair broken hardware on cabinets and windows
Make sure all light bulbs are functional
If you have a chimney, have it swept
Have a deep cleaning of your home - cabinets, fridge, washer and dryer, carpet. Buyers often visit multiple homes at once. Leaving a good impression will increase the change of your home being sold faster than others. All staging and repairs should be done before cleaning happens. This is the last step before your home hits the market.
4. Professional Photography
I'll schedule the photography session for you and let you know a few days beforehand. The appointment itself will take between 1-2 hours for condos and 2-4 hours for single family homes. I'll usually be there to make sure the photographer captures the most attractive selling point of the home. There is no cost to you. I pay them out of pocket.
On Seller's side, please make sure
Only keep 1-2 things on your kitchen counter, vanity counter, and study desk
Put away kids' toys, pet beds/bowls/toys, dishes away. Refer to step 3. Declutter, Clean, Repair Time
Make your beds. No idea how to make it pretty? Check out Pinterest.
Keep your furniture well-arranged
Turn on all lights
During the photography session, we will likely move a lot of things in your home. I'll do my best to put things back where they were, but don't be surprised if you find out a few things are out of place.
I also photograph amenities in the building, so make sure to leave a key fob, if necessary, to access those amenities.
Turnaround time is usually 24 hours, after which we will post your listing on MLS and your property is officially on the market!
5. I'll Pre-market Your Home
Advertising can be in many formats. Below are some strategies I'll use, but we can further discuss which ones make the most sense in your situation.
Advertise your home to top realtors that have done business in the area. This is a great way to expose your home to a network of realtors who potentially are working with interested buyers.
Conduct a Broker Open
Schedule an Open House the first weekend the home hits the market
Create and print professionally designed brochures and flyers
Install For Sale sign in front of your home
Put a lockbox on your property for showings
Questions? Call me at 814-321-3957 or email me at sharleen(at)BuySellLoveNJ(dot)com
6. Pick an Attorney
Just as buyers, sellers shall hire their own attorneys to review the contract, which is drafted by Buyer's agent in the first place. Attorneys make sure:
the contract is in compliance with the guidelines of HUD (Department of Housing and Urban Development).
negotiate and establish terms of the contract
A real estate attorney serving Hudson and Bergen counties in NJ typically charge between $1,200-1,500.
Once you pick an attorney, let me know. This should be done BEFORE a contract comes in. That way we can go straight into attorney review once we have an executed contract. It's all about putting together a great team which consists of your Realtor (us) and your attorney.
Once your listing is live on MLS, showings can be requested immediately with a 12-24 hours lead time. We can discuss what the most convenient time to show. But remember, the more open the schedule is, the more showings are scheduled, the more likely we can procure an offer.
When a request is submitted, you will get a text message or email where you can reply to confirm it, deny it, or propose a different time.
Attention: Showings typically takes around 15 minutes. Please get your home ready 15 minutes beforehand and be out of your home earlier. Sometimes buyers can be running late, so plan to be away from your home for 45 minutes to an hour for each showing. Homeowners being at home or in the hallway is NOT HELPFUL. It creates an awkward environment where buyers feel constrained to speak freely about the home with their realtors. Please make sure do not cook or have lunch right before the showing. Open all lights, windows, shades, and arrange the home just as the photography day. First impression matters!
Here are a list of things to keep in mind for every showing.
Have your home look just like it did for the photographs (ie. clean, all dishes put away, floors free of dog hair, etc)
Put all toilet seat lids down
Open all curtains/blinds
Turn on all lights before you leave for a showing
Hide any valuables such as jewelry, prescription meds, etc or, better yet, take them with you
Hide all bills with your name on them as we don’t want potential buyers to know who you are
Turn off alarm systems and lock all doors
The buyer’s Realtor will use the lockbox key to enter/exit if we’re not accompanying them and is supposed to turn off all lights and lock the door when she/he leaves
Take pets with you unless they are friendly and mellow around strangers
When the showing is done, I'll send out an email collecting feedbacks. Some realtors are better at giving feedbacks than other. I'll summarize and provide you the feedback periodically. Don't get offended by certain comments or feedbacks. Ultimately, you just need that ONE buyer who falls in love with your home and is buying it.
Questions? Call me at 814-321-3957 or email me at sharleen(at)BuySellLoveNJ(dot)com
8. The First Week Your Home is On the Market
The first week of your listing is crucial, as that's the time when most viewing and showing traffic is attracted.
Number of Showings:
Our goal is to have between 5-10 showings, depending on the time of the year, the current market, and the type of your home, i.e. ultra-luxury homes will have less showings than an average-priced home. If this doesn't happen, then we need to come up with a different strategy. See more in detail below. In the subsequent weeks, having 3-4 showings is the goal.
We'll keep an eye on the amount of clicks on MLS by realtors and clients. We'll also pay attention to viewership on public websites such as Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin. If there is enough exposure/viewership, but not much showings or buyers saving your listing, we may need to why people are not interested. For buyers, the main deal breakers are: location, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, whether the property has parking, whether the property has central AC, whether the property has in-unit laundry, and price. If there is only street paring near your place, can we explore any parking spot we can rent from? If there is no in-unit laundry, can we add in-unit laundry to make it more attractive?
What Happens if the Metrics on My Home are Less Than the Above Desired Stats?
First, don't get discouraged. It is more about the average days on the market in your area when you start to feel discouraged. The process takes time and eventually we will find the right buyer for your home. Second, keep your home clean and tidy and approve as many showing requests as possible when they do come in. Third, we need to take a hard look at what we can do to improve the chances of your property selling.
There are four important elements in selling a home: location, condition, marketing/photography, and finally and most importantly, the price.
We can't change the location.
For the condition of the property, ask yourself if there is anything you can do to improve the condition/staging of the home to make it more attractive to potential buyers?
How do the photos look? Anything we can improve in the description of your home in the MLS?
If the above three items are as good as they can be, then we have to change the price. Buyers tend to search in $25K increments, so to hit the next biggest group of buyers, we need to be below the next 25k threshold. If your home is listed at $685k, we should drop the price to $675k to try and hit the next buyer group. $2,000-$3, 000 price cut won't be enough. As the search algorithm probably won't recognize insignificant price improvement, thus will not send notification to interested buyers looking in the area.
Fourth, can we add a monetary incentive such as closing cost credit if the home is closed by a certain date? Sometimes, these tricks work.
Questions? Call me at 814-321-3957 or email me at sharleen(at)BuySellLoveNJ(dot)com
9. Yay! There is an Offer. What Should I Do?
Part of my job is to carefully examine the offer and make suggestions to counter. We should carefully look into the following details together:
Offer Price: That's the first thing we look at. Is it meeting your expectation? Is the offer at market price? If not, we should consider a counter offer. If yes, then we should look at other terms
Down Payment: Depending on they types of loans buyers get, they can put 0% down payment and up. Typically, qualified buyers put 20%. In a competitive seller's market, sellers can negotiate for a higher down payment. The more down payment, the more likely the loan can be approved.
Initial Deposit: Typical amount is 5-10%. If a buyer is putting less than that, it could mean the buyer is going through a special loan program such as VA or FHA loans. Or it is possible the buyer is not in a great shape financially. Ideally, we like to see at minimum 5% initial deposit in the seller's attorney's escrow account.
Type of Loans: Most buyers go through conventional loans secured by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In certain circumstances, buyers may choose to go through VA or FHA loans, putting in less down payment.
Closing Date: Closing date is usually within 60 days after attorney review, more typically 30-40 days. 60 days will be the longest because that's how long the rate lock period is. If sellers need more time to find a home to move into, both parties can enter into a separate lease-back agreement per attorney's recommendation.
Items Included in Sale: Typically, all fixtures (fixated to the wall) and major appliances are included in the sale; all personal items and decorations are not included. If you wish to exclude some items, such as washer and dryer, a radon mitigation system, an expensive chandelier, or curtains, make sure to the contract explicitly spell them out.
Contingencies: There are typically three contingencies in the contract - inspection contingency, mortgage contingency, and appraisal contingency. Only these contingencies are met that both parties can get to the closing table.
Other Riders and Addendum:
10. We Cannot Come to An Agreement with the Buyer
That happens. Understandably, it is disappointing, but the best thing we can do is to move on quickly and attract the next buyer.
11. We Accepted an Offer. Next Steps?
In New Jersey, after both buyers and sellers sign the contract, both parties have 3 days to enter into attorney review. That's why I recommend to pick an attorney beforehand. Once attorney review starts, it could take in a matter of 3 days to an extensive period to conclude the review.
12. Receive the Initial Deposit from the Buyer
After attorney review is concluded, buyers are typically obligated to deliver the deposit by mail or in person to the seller's attorney's office. The Seller's attorney will then deposit the agree-upon amount to the escrow account. Such initial deposit will be counted towards to Buyer's final closing costs.
13. Inspection Day
I hope by now, you should have confidence in your home's condition, if you have done the pre-market inspection and repaired problems found in the previous steps.
Buyers have rights to conduct general inspection, radon inspection, mold inspection, private well inspection, sewage inspection, and oil take sweep etc. There is a timeframe to complete them, though, which is typically within14 days after the conclusion of the attorney review. They'll schedule the appointment and their realtor will coordinate with us. The inspection typically takes around 3-4 hours for single family homes, or 1-2 hours for a condominium. Sellers should not be present during inspection.
Upon receiving the inspection report, buyers can ask sellers to address all of them, some of them, or none of them. Buyers also have the right to walk away if major issues are found and they are not comfortable with the deal anymore.
Otherwise, if we’re able to come to an agreement, the attorneys will write it up and sign it. Any agreed upon repairs need to be completed prior to the final walk through which usually occurs the day before closing and receipts need to be provided to the buyer showing the required work was completed and paid for in full prior to the walk through.
14. Appraisal Day
The bank buyers working with order the appraisal to make sure the purchase price is in line with the market. It usually happens during weekday business hours, and takes about 30 minutes. Neither buyers or sellers need to be there. The appraisal report will be issued to the lender within 5-7 business days.
If the property is appraised above or at the purchase price, the lender will continue the loan approval process. If not, then we have a problem. The lender will only give the loan based on appraised value, meaning buyers need to put down more money for closing. Buyers very often are not willing or cannot do that, and will come back to sellers to negotiate the purchase price down. If there is no agreement reached, buyers can walk away from the deal and the initial deposit can be returned.
15. Mortgage Commitment Day
If we've met the inspection and appraisal contingency, we are half-way done. Now we are just waiting for buyer's lender to give out the final approval for their mortgage. Once it is fully approved, a final commitment letter will be issued and shared with all parties. Ideally, the commitment date should be a week before the intended closing date.
16. Schedule the Closing Date
Once everything is cleared to close, the closing agent will reach out to all parties to schedule a closing. Sellers are not required to present at the closing, as long as you either have given your attorney Power of Attorney to sign documents, or have signed all documents before closing.
17. Hire Movers and Start Packing
Congratulations! You are almost at the end of the process. It's time to schedule movers to come at least 1 day before the closing date.
Remember we talked about items included in the sale earlier? Make sure you leave whatever agreed upon in the house and took everything else with you.
18. Hire a Cleaning Person after You Move Out
While your home is only required to be left in broom clean condition, it’s common courtesy to either clean the home yourself AFTER you’ve moved all of your stuff out or have a cleaning company come and clean it. This needs to be done after your stuff is all out, but before closing occurs. Ideally, it’s best if you’re moved out AND the cleaning occurs before the walk through. The walk through usually occurs the night before closing or the morning of closing.
If you need cleaning lady recommendation in NJ Hudson Bergen counties areas, please let me know!
19. Arrange Key Transfer
After you move out of the house, keys ideally should be handed down to your realtor, so he/she can coordinate the final walk-through and transfer of keys once the transaction is closed.
20. Final Walk-through
Buyers will conduct a final walk-through within 24 hours of closing. They can do it a day before closing, or on the closing date right before closing happens. Your home should be in the same condition as the day of inspection. It takes about 15 minutes.
Here’s what the final walk through is:
A second chance for the buyer to make sure all of the appliances are still working
An opportunity to make sure you didn’t damage anything while moving out
A time to make sure the property is clean
When we explain to the buyer what day the trash is picked up, where the parking is, etc.
Here is what the final walk through IS NOT:
It’s not a time to have the buyer’s parents, friends, etc. come look at the property or for contractors give them estimates, etc. All of that can wait until the next day once they’ve officially bought the property.
It’s not a time for the buyer to begin moving boxes or other items in to the property. That has to wait until after closing.
It’s not when the buyer receives the keys. Instead, at the end of the walk through we will give the buyer’s Realtor the keys and garage door opener and the buyer’s Realtor will give those items to the buyer at the end of closing.
21. Receiving Money on Closing Date
After buyers signed all documents, their loan has been issued, and their closing check is received, your attorney will notify you with a detailed bread down of the closing costs. That will include fees incurred, mortgage on your home to be paid down, and the final proceeds to be collected by you. You can either request your attorney to leave you a check, or wire the money directly.
And that is it! We appreciate your trust in me and congratulations on a new chapter of your life!
22. Cancel or Transfer Your Utilities
Don't cut off your utilities earlier than the closing date, as you are required to keep them on for the final walk-through.
After the closing, you can call the utility company to disconnect or transfer the service to your new home.
23. Cancel or Transfer Your Homeowner's Insurance
Be sure to let your home owner’s insurance company know that you’re moving and either cancel the service or transfer it to your new home. This transfer should take place the day of closing.
24. Review Me and Keep In Touch
I appreciate your trust in me selling your home and I really do. Please take a few minutes to review me on Google, Zillow, and Yelp to share your experience, as I rely on referrals so let the community know how I did!
In case you are moving to a complete area, I'm sure the NJ Gold Coast will miss you!