14 Tips for Santa Cruz Mountains Home Sellers

Here’s a list of things you the seller can control, to help your Santa Cruz property sell faster and for more money.  A little extra investment of time and energy will make your property more interesting to more buyers…and more interested buyers often gets you a higher sales price!

  • Clean!   Nothing sells a well-priced home like sparkling cleanliness.  The return on this effort is the highest of nearly anything you can control.  When a house or yard is dirty/unkempt, it implies a lack of caring & maintenance.   This, consciously or unconsciously, reduces its’ value in buyers’ minds.
  • Curb Appeal: Listen to your agent’s advice & take the time to spruce up your home before listing it.   A home with a broken front fence or weeds in the yard implies deferred maintenance.  Some buyers won’t even want to get out of their agent’s car to honor an appointment if the exterior is thrashed.   Those buyers who still go inside may have already mentally lowered their offer.
  • Paint!   Ask your agent, but typically fresh, neutral colors enhance a home.   If the buyer can visualize themselves moving in quickly, the price they offer could be higher.
  • Declutter.   This one is hard: after all, it’s been your home all these years.    But once you put it on the market, try to think of it as a commodity: a house.    You want buyers to see themselves in the house.   Preferably, don’t let them get distracted by your collections, family photos, etc.   Store any large furniture or items that makes moving around the house or garage difficult.   Free up as much space as you can bear to – living space is what people are buying, not your stuff.   (There are some exceptions, like estate sales & vacation homes.) The whole point is you’re going to move out, so you might as well start packing things up now.
  • Inspections – if you can afford to pay for inspections, that information sweeps a lot of the risks right out of buyers’ minds.   In the mountains, the septic functionality is key!   Better yet – if you can get a lot of things fixed before listing, buyers will feel like you’re genuine, serious and have cared for the property. Most buyers are very concerned about the condition of the house – remove that concern and you’re ahead of the game.   Also – you really can loose a buyer if something terrible is discovered during their escrow, and then the whole process has to start over.
  • Price.   Part of your agent’s job is to get you as much money as possible.  We’d love love LOVE it if your house was somehow magically worth 20% more than comparable properties.  But it’s not.  It’s worth what a buyer is willing to pay, and, what their lender is willing to lend.  Buyers are super savvy now!  Even if they don’t have a computer, their agent will show them similar homes’ values, accounting for neighborhood, upgrades, views, etc.  Sellers might be tempted to choose a higher list price “to test the market.”  What often happens is buyers will look at the house but figure the sellers are too unrealistic to accept a reasonable offer.  Worse, sometimes agents will show the house just to demonstrate the value of a different house that’s priced right.   We’ve seen this happen over and over – homes will sit on the market 2,3,4 or even 6 months until sellers finally agree to reprice the home appropriately.    By that time the seller has already lost valuable time and enthusiasm has waned for buyers who now wonder what’s wrong with the property.
  • Internet: In the first few days, check up on how your listing looks on the MLS & internet – that’s where buyers will be looking.    Don’t be passive – you deserve good photos and a reasonably appealing description of your home – no matter what!    An upper end home came on the market last year – it sat on the MLS without ANY photos during the first critical 2 weeks of marketing time when buyers are most intrigued.   Anyone on an automated e-mail alert system saw only this photo.    Better to wait, than to go public without any photos.    That seller ended up taking their house off the market. There’s a property listed right now – for a month now the MLS description has read: Harming Hideaway.    I don’t know what that agent is thinking, but the seller surely hasn’t looked.
  • Smells: If buyers can smell it – agents can’t sell it!   Yes that’s an oversimplification, but pet and cooking odors often make people walk out the door => fewer interested buyers.    You might have become accustomed to the odors, but they can affect new people like a brick wall.
  • Pets – many of us love them, but none of us wants to see (or worse step in) your pets’ poop – I’m so serious – this is the ultimate turn-off!   I previewed a property last week with droppings in the yard – guess what?   I avoided the yard and can’t really vouch for what it’s like to be there.   Clean up before you leave the house – every day – no exceptions. If you’ve got carpets, you’ll probably need to get them professionally cleaned.    Large or aggressive pets need to be contained – talk to your agent about strategies.    A scary dog can leave a negative impression, which limits or colors people’s perception of the property.
  • Questionable questions – refer them back to your agent -that’s what we’re paid to handle for you. You don’t have to tell nosy neighbors/buyers/agents why you’re selling, especially if it even hints of any distress!
  • Showing times – try to be flexible.   Most buyers work on weekdays, so weekends and evenings are the only time they can look.  I’m not saying you should open your door to people who don’t have an appointment!  But if you consistently put agents off, they’re free to find another house for their buyers, and your house could end up sitting on the market longer.    There’s a house that’s been on the market 7 months now – likely part of that is due to having only 3 possible showing times per week!
  • Go Away!   Consider taking a walk or running errands during showings.   Many buyers get inhibited when owners are home, & might not take the time to appreciate all your home’s benefits.    Sometimes sellers overcompensate for their nervousness by chatting too much and possibly giving away confidential information – leave most of the talking to your professional agent.
  • Tenants: If you’ve got ’em, we’ve all got to respect their rights – typically 24 hours notice to show plus leases to honor. This can make it harder to sell, as some might pass over the property if they have other options.   On the other hand, if you offer the tenants incentives, many will try to cooperate.  Some might even get flexible about showing times!   (Usually money helps – talk to your agent).    If you have the tenants from hell, you might seriously consider if you can afford to be without them. Bad tenants can make everyone’s life miserable, delay the sale, and cost you more money in the long run than having the property vacant, clean, and easy to show.
  • Documents: Have your agent order copies of your preliminary title report
    and get your loan payoff amount together.   Gather warrantys and receipts for repair work.    Trust documents might need to be dug up as well. No sense risking having a paperwork issue crop up and cause delays later when it could be dealt with up front.

For more advice about selling your Santa Cruz mountains home, feel free to call or e-mail MC Dwyer at (831) 419-9759, or MCDwyer@Century21.com

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Copyright 2014

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