The Things No One Tells You About Selling Your House

Buying a home is a momentous time in one’s life and, accordingly, congratulatory pats on the back abound — as does unsolicited advice. Everyone has insight about everything from how to pick the perfect house to saving money on home repairs. 

However, there’s not nearly as much fanfare when it comes time to sell your house. In fact, where information was so readily given when you were buying your home, you’ll likely find you have to hunt down advice when you decide to sell. And we’re not just talking about the standard stuff like staging. Rather, here are a few lesser known tidbits that could come in handy.

Yes, you could have to pay taxes on the sale

There’s good news, and there’s bad news. Let’s rip off the Band-Aid and get the bad out of the way, shall we? It’s entirely possible you will have to pay taxes on the sale of your home. The good news, though, is that this only applies if you make a gain of more than $250,000 (for a single person, or $500,000 for a joint return). Of course, there are a few caveats: you must have used the home as your primary residence for two of the last five years, and you can only exclude the gain of the sale of a home once in a two-year period.  It’s important to talk with your accountant or trusted financial adviser about these potential costs. 

Real estate agents aren’t interested in your Zestimate

It’s easy to get excited when you log into Zillow, punch in your address, and see a sizable “Zestimate” value of your home pop up. You may think that figure is a good place to start where pricing your home is concerned. Spoiler alert: Realtors don’t really care what Zillow says, because Zillow doesn’t accurately reflect things like local market trends, improvements to homes (whether it’s yours or your neighbors), or the existence of hyper-local circumstances. So don’t get your hopes up just yet! Your real estate agent may toss out a sale price that is far less appealing than the Zestimate you’ve been eyeballing. But hiring a knowledgeable agent and trusting the process can go a long way in getting you the price your home deserves. 

Timing really is everything

While you might be able to sell your house any time of year, what time of year you list it largely determines how long it will sit on the market. Not to mention the amount of money you can get for your house from a buyer can change even month to month. Find a good real estate agent who can look at local market patterns and let you know when the best time to list your house will be. For example, winter is a notoriously slow time of year to sell. And depending on the market, Spring is often a good time to sell to ensure buyers are in their newly purchased homes before the school year starts. 

A pre-listing inspection is almost always a good idea

Again, file this under things everyone talks about when you’re buying a home but no one tells you could be beneficial when you are selling one. Yes, you will have to track down an appropriate home inspection professional, which costs money. But it pays to, well, pay someone to come take a closer look prior to the arrival of potential buyers. That way, you can head any problems off at the pass. 

Start gathering every single shred of paperwork you have right now (seriously, go!)

When you sit down with a real estate professional, they’ll ask you a lot of standard questions about your home — many of which you know the answer to by heart, such as square footage. However, either your agent or the buyer will also wind up asking you a ton of things about which you haven’t a clue. Do you know if your home has an elevation certificate and, if so, what it says? How about flood insurance? Exactly how much does that run per year? How old is the roof? Have you done any home repairs? Do you have permits? Do yourself a favor and track down every single document or shred of information you can find about your house and store it together in a central location.

Open houses don’t actually do much for the seller

For as much hype as there is surrounding open houses, they don’t serve a ton of purpose for the seller. It gets bodies in the door, true. But a truly honest real estate professional will tell you that rarely do people who come to the open houses make the purchase. For the most part, it simply serves as a great networking event for your real estate agent and a great way to meet buyers.

Preparing Your Home for Sale - Don’t Take it Personally

You might love the lime green accent wall in your living room, the decades-old carpeting in the bedroom, and your extensive collection of dolls displayed throughout the home.  And that’s great; you can recreate this look in your new home when you sell!  But, chances are, prospective buyers won’t like any of this and it could turn them off. Don’t let your personal style affect the saleability of your home! Chances are, your Realtor will instruct you to declutter, depersonalize, and simplify your decor - so don’t take it personally!  Buyers want to envision themselves in your home, and the easier you make that for them, the quicker your house can sell!

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