Setting the Price for Your Home

Everything has value. Especially your home.

And when it comes to selling your home, assigning a price to that value is complicated. You made memories there. You’ve got a major financial interest in the place, too.

Buyers think of value, but they’re more concerned with price. And your home’s price is one of its most attractive — or unattractive — features. The right price can attract buyers, quickly. The wrong price may mean the house sits on the market, which can create the vibe among buyers that there’s something wrong it. (If the home buying process is Instagram, think of a wrongly priced home as a photo that isn’t getting any likes.)

It’s your agent’s job, as the real estate expert — mining his or her expertise and knowledge of the market — to determine the best price for your home. But it’s your house. You need to have your own idea of how much your property is worth. Here’s how to get it.

Work With Your Agent

This is crucial. Your agent brings the right mix of industry expertise and knowledge of your local market to the table.

To understand whether your agent is pricing your home properly, read through each of the steps below. Use what you learn about your home’s fair market price to evaluate any price your agent recommends.

Throughout the pricing process, a good agent will:

  • Listen to your needs
  • Take into account your research
  • Use his or her knowledge of the local market to help you pick the best asking price

You’re a team. It’s in both of your interests to price your home correctly — a timely, profitable sale is win for everyone.

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And Yeah, You Should Also Check the Internet

Pricing a home is both art and science. To understand what will inform your agent’s pricing decisions — and to be prepared to bring your own educated input to the conversation — start with a pricing research phase.

This includes taking advantage of online estimating tools — but only to an extent. Property websites like realtor.com® and Redfin enable you to plug in your home’s address to see approximately how much your house is worth. They base their estimates on your home’s square footage and real estate data they’ve collected, such as recent home sales in your local market.

But those results are estimates based on generalized factors, not your unique situation. If at any point the price you see in an online calculator doesn’t align with what your agent suggests, prioritize the agent’s advice.

Online estimators also have a reputation among real estate professionals for misleading buyers and sellers alike with less-than-optimal pricing information. But as a starting point, they have their utility.

Know Your Local History

What your home’s listing price should be largely depends on what similar homes, or “comps,” recently sold for in your area. To price your home, your agent will run the average sales prices of at least three comps to assess your home’s value.

What constitutes a comp? A number of factors, including a home’s:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Square footage
  • Number of bedrooms and bathrooms

Agents will look into the difference between each comp’s listing price, and the price it sold for. He or she will consider price reductions and why they happened, if relevant. All the while, your agent will also rely on inside knowledge of housing stock and the local market. That nuanced understanding is invaluable, particularly when measuring the unique aspects of your home with raw data about comps.

When selecting comps, agents generally look for properties that sold within a one-mile radius of your home, and in the past 90 days. They find these homes using the multiple listing service (MLS), a regional database of homes that agents pay dues to access.

Size Up the Competition

In addition to recently sold homes, your agent will also look at properties that are currently for sale in your area. These listings will be your competition. But because listing photos don’t always tell the full story, a good agent will check out these homes in person to see what condition they’re in and to assess how your home sizes up.

You can do the same. For additional perspective, you can also get in touch with your local association of REALTORS®. Ask if they have information to offer about your neighborhood and the local market.

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Understand the Market You’re In

The housing market where you live can greatly impact your pricing strategy.

If you’re in a seller’s market, where demand from buyers outpaces the number of homes for sale, you may be able to price your home slightly higher than market value.

But if you’re in a buyer’s market, where buyers have the advantage, you may have to price your home slightly below market value to get people interested.

You can see local market trends by checking the online resource realtor.com®. It offers charts that display important housing market data, such as a city’s average listing price, median sales price, and average days a home is on market. It’s a lot of information. At any point, you can ask your agent to help you make sense of how your local market will influence your home’s price.

Put Your Feelings Aside

As previously mentioned, many sellers think their home is worth more than it is.Why? Because memories. Because sentiment. Because pride.

But you have to stay objective when assessing your home’s value. Buyers, after all, won’t know your home’s personal history. What makes your home special to you may not be something that entices them. Read: They may want to convert that craft room you worked so hard to perfect into a man cave.

The lesson: As much as possible, set aside your emotional attachment to your home. It will make it easier to accept your agent’s realistic, clear-eyed calculation of its price.

Remember: It’s All Relative

As you and your agent are talking price, the local market may throw you a curveball or two.

In some markets, for example, it could make sense to price your home slightly below its fair market value to spark a bidding war.

Of course, there’s no guarantee a pricing strategy such as this will pay off. Similarly, there’s no one-size-fits-all playbook. Your home should be priced for its own local, or even hyper-local, market. Period. Confer with your agent before you decide to try any market-specific pricing tactics.

Be Savvy With the Dollar Amount

Pricing your home requires careful attention. In some cases, fair market value may not be precisely what you should list it for — and the reasons can be subtle.

For example, if comps show that your home is worth $410,000, setting that as your asking price can backfire — the reason is that buyers who are looking online for properties under $400,000 won’t see your home in search results in that case. This explains why many agents use the “99” pricing strategy and, for example, list $400,000 homes for $399,000. The idea is to maximize exposure.

Have a Heart-to-Heart With Your Partner

Not the sole decision maker in your household? Talk to your partner about your home’s price before it’s listed. You can use this worksheet as a guide for that discussion.

The reason isn’t just to foster the kind of open communication that’s important to any relationship. It’s that if you’re not on the same page about price or the other things that are important to you about sale, each subsequent step of the selling process will be impacted by that tension.

Keep Your Head in the Game

You’ve considered your agent’s advice, and the two of you have agreed on the right price for your home. Hey, champ! Your house is on the market.

Even after the listing date, price should be an ongoing discussion between you and your agent. Markets are fluid, so it’s possible that you’ll have to make tweaks.

In any case, it’s important to to stay in continuous dialogue with your agent, the MVP of Team Sell Your House. Together, keep your eyes on the price.

Curious to see what your home value is? Click here.

Questions to Ask When Buying New Construction

Buying a new home is exciting. Buying a brand new home can be even more so with the realization of being the first owner and possibly being able to choose your own layout and finishes. The prospect of owning new construction is definitely exciting, but it doesn’t come without its own set of questions. If you’re in the market for a new home, and considering new construction, make note of the questions below when you begin your property search.

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WHAT ARE THE LONG TERM PLANS FOR THE COMMUNITY?

Unless you’re looking at custom homes on acreage, it’s likely new construction in your area will be located in a new development or in a master planned community. With this in mind, feel free to ask about the plans for the community. If it’s a large area, find out if any subdivisions are planned. If there are only a few houses built so far, it’s likely to mean lots of construction in the months to come – which means a lot of noise and construction traffic. Also ask about the builder – if they’re well known and respected, it’s unlikely they’ll lose funding and the community will likely continue on as planned.

WHAT ARE THE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION’S RULES AND REGULATIONS?

Many new developments and master planned communities come with a set of rules and regulations set by a homeowners association. If you’ve never lived in a community with a HOA, it’s important to find out the rules before investing in it. The bylaws and the CC&Rs will let you know what is and isn’t allowed in the community (especially when it comes to the exterior of your home). You’ll also want to find out when the HOA fee begins – in some communities, it can start before the home is even finished.

DO YOU OFFER ANY BUYER OR FINANCIAL INCENTIVES?

If the community or development is still in the early stages, there might be incentives (like a buyer discount, builder upgrades or other financial incentives or freebies) for buyers. Sometimes these offers come with a catch – where something is expected from the buyer in return for the incentive – but it’s important to ask about any offers that may be available, especially if the community is still up and coming.

DO YOU PROVIDE WARRANTIES?

New homes often come with different warranties. Ask if a workmanship and structural warranty come with the home. A workmanship warranty (or builder’s warranty) is a warranty for newly constructed homes that offer limited coverage on workmanship and components of the home like windows, siding, roofs, doors, plumbing, electrical and HVAC. Traditionally a workmanship warranty will cover a one or two year period; another likely warranty is a structural warranty, which covers the structure of a home. If a warranty is provided, make sure you know exactly what is and isn’t covered and how much you’re responsible for in case of any issues.

CAN YOU CONNECT ME WITH SOME CURRENT HOMEOWNERS?

Just as you would check reviews before buying an item online or booking a service, the same can be said for a home builder. Just because the product that’s being offered is a shiny new home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence and check references before making a large investment. While it’s likely that the builder will provide glowing reviews, checking reference and review websites and even knocking on the doors of current homeowners will provide additional information and give you a wider understanding of the builder and its practices. Talking to current homeowners will provide information about the actual community.

New construction is exciting, but you want to make sure you have all pertinent information before you go through with a home purchase. Your real estate agent will be able to help navigate the waters of new construction. Reach out to your agent with any questions you may have about buying new construction in your area.

If I could tell you only one thing when it comes to buying new construction it would be HIRE YOUR OWN REALTOR!  The builders and their real estate agents are only looking out for themselves usually. 

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Common Mortgage Myths

For the average person, mortgages are super confusing.  They are always changing and every lender has different programs and rates.  The best thing you can do before you start searching for a home is to have a meeting with a reputable mortgage lender in person, not a company that you apply with on a phone app.  My two recommendations would be Doreen Hansen with HomeServices Lending, soon to be Prosperity ( a Berkshire Hathaway company).  Doreen has been in the mortgage business for over 15 years here in Kansas City and is great to work with with.  The other mortgage lender I would suggest would be Katie Grimes with Fountain Mortgage.  Fountain Mortgage is a locally owned mortgage company and they take care of their clients and customers better than anyone else in the business.

Common Mortgage Myths

For most Americans, being able to buy a home or property with cash is not a reality. Because of this, banks and other lenders offer mortgage loans to those that qualify. A mortgage loan isn’t a bad thing – for millions of Americans, it’s a way for them to have their own home. As with any popular subject, there are some common myths surrounding mortgage loans. While not every buyer will need a mortgage loan, it’s important to discern the myths from the facts when it comes to mortgages in the United States.aerial-photography-architecture-building-1546168

“YOU NEED TO HAVE 20 PERCENT FOR A DOWN PAYMENT”

This is probably one of the most popular myths surrounding mortgage loans, and it’s also one of the most outdated. While it may have been a requirement generations ago, a buyer does not need to have 20 percent of a home’s purchase price in order to qualify for a mortgage loan. While it may be financially better to put down 20 percent (the total loan amount will be less with a bigger down payment amount), there are a number of different loans and options that allow potential buyers to get a mortgage with less than 20 percent down. An FHA mortgage for first-time buyers requires 3.5 percent down; VA mortgages allow for zero down; USDA home loans require nothing down; and a number of other programs allow buyers to put anything from 3 to 10 percent down. If you’re thinking of buying a home and you know you’ll need a mortgage loan, don’t be fooled by the 20 percent down myth – there are way more options out there now than there used to be.

“ONCE YOU’RE PRE-QUALIFIED YOU’RE GUARANTEED THE LOAN”

It may seem like, with the steps you go through to get pre-qualified, that a mortgage loan will be a sure thing. But that’s not the case. Pre-qualification is not pre-approval. Pre-qualification is the initial step in the mortgage process, and while it’s an important one as it can give a person an idea of a mortgage loan amount they may receive from a lender, it is not the actual approval. Pre-qualification usually does not include a credit report analysis or an in-depth look into one’s ability to buy a home. Because of this, being pre-qualified is not a sure thing and it’s not a guarantee of a mortgage loan. There have been buyers who have been pre-qualified only to be told they were not actually approved for the mortgage loan itself. All of this being said – if you’re looking at homes and know you’ll need a mortgage loan, get pre-approved before you decide to make any offers. Even pre-approval comes with certain conditions, but is much better than a pre-qualification.

“YOU NEED EXCELLENT CREDIT AND NO DEBT TO GET A LOAN”

There are a number of factors that go into mortgage approval, and while creditworthiness and debt-to-income ratio are both considered, you do not need to be ‘excellent’ in either of these areas in order to get a mortgage loan. The minimum credit score necessary for a conventional loan is 620, and an FHA loan with 3.5% down requires a score of 580. With the median FICO credit score in the U.S. at 700, a buyer doesn’t need to have excellent credit in order to qualify for a mortgage loan. As for debt-to-income (DTI) ratio: while it’s best to have as little debt as possible when looking to purchase a home, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (government-sponsored agencies that publish standards for conventional mortgage approval) have the maximum allowable DTI at 50 percent, meaning those with current debt are not at a loss when it comes to qualifying for a mortgage loan.

“30-YEAR FIXED-RATE MORTGAGES ARE THE BEST OPTION”

The financial and housing crisis that occurred in the U.S. in the late 2000s left a sour taste in the mouths of many Americans when it comes to non-traditional mortgage loans. Adjustable rate mortgages and mortgages other than fixed-rate were seen as bad and predatory. While some lenders took advantage of hard working Americans and many people lost their homes, non-traditional mortgage loans are not a bad thing, especially for certain buyers. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is a great option for someone that plans on staying in his/her home for many years, but for someone that knows they’ll likely move within five to seven years, an adjustable rate mortgage might be a better option. Fixed rate loans also come in other than 30 year terms; shorter lengths have a higher monthly payment but can save a lot of interest charges. Those buyers looking to retire soon may be better off with a shorter loan length than someone who is younger and still has many more years in the job force. If you’re in the market for a mortgage, it might be worthwhile to look at all the options available and see which one best aligns with your personal and career goals – it may not be the traditional mortgage loan.

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“EVERYONE RECEIVES THE ADVERTISED INTEREST RATE”

It’s often said if it’s too good to be true, it generally is. The same can be said for mortgage interest rates. When looking for a loan, interest rates will be listed online, in newspapers and wherever else they advertise. Those advertised rates will likely look great and will be incredibly low, but the reality is that most of the time, advertised interest rates are only reserved for those who have a perfect credit score, have an incredible debt-to-income ratio, and are likely putting down a very large down payment. Interest rates are influenced by a number of factors, which of course aren’t included in the advertisement (just in the incredibly small fine print); because of this, take all advertised interest rates with a grain of salt and go into the mortgage loan process with the understanding that you may not receive the advertised interest rate.

Mortgage loans can be confusing and intimidating, especially with the number of myths out there about them. If you still have questions, your agent can help or refer you to someone with more knowledge – they may even have a lender they’ve worked with and recommend. Buying a home with a mortgage loan is still widely popular in the U.S. – don’t let the myths fool you out of achieving the goal of home ownership.

Sell Now or Wait Until Spring?

As with every decision in life, there are pros and cons, and choosing when to sell a home is no different. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before deciding when to sell a home. Many homeowners believe selling a home during the fall or winter months is not a good idea and that the spring is the only time a house should be sold. This is the furthest from the truth. Certainly, most real estate markets across the United States experience a “spring market rush” every year. There is no doubt that the “spring market” is a great time to be selling and buying real estate, however, the fall and winter seasons may be the best fit for you for many reasons.

 

Here are several reasons why choosing to sell your home now may be a better decision than waiting until the spring:

 

1.    Less Competition, If Any!
One way that you can tell the spring real estate market has arrived is by driving down a street in your local community. In all likelihood there will be For Sale signs up all over the neighborhood! One great reason to sell your home now and not wait until the spring market is there is sure to be less competition.  The fewer number of comparable homes for sale, the greater the probability that a buyer will look at your home.
Simply put, it’s the supply and demand theory. If there are less homes for sale, there are less homes that a potential buyer can choose from, therefore increasing the demand for your home. Not only will less competition increase the probability for showings, but it will also increase the probability that an offer will be received, and you will get the maximum amount of money for your home.
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2.    Serious Buyers Are Out There
Homes are sold and bought 365 days a year, period!  Many homeowners believe that buyers aren’t out there during the fall and winter months. This simply is not the case. Serious buyers are always out there!  Some buyers may stop their home search because it is the fall or winter, but serious buyers will continue to look at homes, no matter what time of year it is.
 
3.    The Best Agents Are Always Up to The Challenge
Any real estate agent who tells you that the fall or winter months are a bad time to sell is not someone you want selling your home! A great real estate agent will know how to adapt to the current season and market their listings to reflect that.  A great real estate agent can make suggestions and give some of their tips on how to sell a home during the fall or winter seasons. If a real estate agent doesn’t have any suggestions on making your home more desirable for the current season, you should be concerned about the creativity they are going to use when marketing your home.
 
4.    Staging for The Holiday Season
Many sellers believe staging a home is the main reason a home sells.  While staging certainly helps sell homes, some buyers have a difficult time envisioning themselves in a home no matter what you do. However, there are some buyers who can easily be “sold” on a home because it is staged.  Simple “seasonal” staging such as adjusting the color of the decor or having an aroma in the air that is relative to the time of year can go a long way with some potential buyers and possibly be the difference between a home selling or not.
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5.    Mortgage Rates Are Low
If you’ve read about real estate in the past year, it’s likely you’ve read that the mortgage rates are very low.  You also probably read that there is an expectation that the rates will increase very soon. Since mortgage rates are so low right now, buyers are able to afford more expensive homes.  If mortgage rates increase over the fall and winter months while you’re waiting for the spring market, it could cost you thousands of dollars as it could eliminate many buyers from the real estate marketplace!  Less demand for your home will mean less money. Bottom line: take advantage of selling your home while the rates are this low.
 
6.    Quicker Transactions
Right now, there are fewer real estate transactions than there will be in the spring.  The fewer number of transactions means the mortgage lenders have less loans to process, attorneys have less closings to do, and home inspectors have fewer inspections to do.  
All of these factors should lead to a quicker transaction and closing for all the parties involved.  One of the most frustrating things for a seller to deal with while selling their home is not getting answers in a reasonable amount of time. A quicker transaction is going to be less stress for you.

 

By considering all the reasons above, you will be able to determine whether now is a good time to sell or if you should wait until the spring.