Essential Guide to Selling Your House in 2014

It can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months to prepare, that’s right, prepare to sell your house.  With multiple offers and all cash deals back, you don’t want to get caught by surprise when your house sells faster than you thought.  If you do the following preparation you’ll be ready to sell when the opportunity presents itself.

Hatch a plan.

If you plan on selling your home, think about what your next move is, both literally and figuratively.  What is your plan for your next home?  Are you thinking to trade up, expand, becoming an empty nester, shift size, or are you splitting up assets? Do you need to sell your house in order to buy the next home? Are you buying an investment or rental property? How you define your reason for selling, along with your needs for your next property will determine what terms you’ll need to structure into your transaction as far as timing, rent backs and other terms. Once you are clear on your objectives, you can then articulate it to the professionals who will advise you in the execution of your plan.

Timing is everything.

Now that you’ve decided to put your house on the market, when is the best time to sell it? Well, that depends. You should certainly sell it when it makes best sense for your personal situation but if all things are equal, the most popular time of year is Spring, starting around February and stretching into May. Gardens are at their peak beauty and people with children are thinking ahead to getting their children settled into schools in the Fall.

Spring is closely followed by Fall which starts after Labor Day and goes into early November. That is also when Marin seems to have its’ best weather too. Summer tends to be quieter with many people on vacation. When selling your house, you want as many people as possible around to see it, and July and August tend to be quiet months. December and January are predictably quiet for obvious reasons though people do buy houses year round.

Familiarize yourself with the current market conditions, and 2013 sales information by reading my Q3 Market Report.

The Doctor is In.

Consult the experts.  Make an appointment with your accountant or your financial adviser in order to understand the positive and negative fiscal and tax implications of selling in 2014.  Capital gains taxes may arise and be more complex in 2014.   Is this a 1031 exchange of an investment property or a primary residence?  An exchange occurs when you sell a property and want to defer the tax obligation on the realized gain until the purchase of a second property.  For investment properties, the time period to identify the replacement property is usually 45 days, and 180 days to close the transaction.  In the case of the sale of a primary residence, a seller has up to 2 years to buy a replacement home before any realized gain is taxable.

If you are married, you may find that by filing jointly your first $500,000 in gain from the sale is exempt from capital gains tax. But, tax laws are complex and change often so please check with a qualified financial advisor. Once you’ve consulted with your accountant or investment adviser and understand your financial and tax requirements, hire a real estate professional to market your home.

Making your Property Stand Out

Find an agent with experience that knows your community and the market in that area, that you can work with and can put together a step by step plan with measurable goalsYou may want to interview several agents.  Selling your home is one of the more nerve-wracking life events and it can involve complex negotiations over a lengthy period of time.  Make sure you are working with a professional who you feel comfortable working with, understands your needs and the marketplace, and is responsive to you.

The Pre-Sale Makeover

Now is the time to fix all those items in your home that you’ve been meaning to get to. The list ranges from small to large. Consult with your real estate agent for where you will get the most return on your investment. Definitely fix the hinges on the cabinet door that won’t close, have the floors refinished, put a fresh coat of paint on the interior and if not the entire exterior, at least do the trim and have the carpets cleaned or replaced. First impressions are always lasting impressions so make sure the entry to your home starting from the street right up to the front door is immaculate. Invest in landscaping and new door hardware.

A word about staging

Next, remove all clutter from your house including excess furniture. In fact, remove everything and have your house staged.  A large percentage of homes in Marin are staged for sale and those that are not , stand in glaring contrast. Put yourself in the role of the buyers, coming into a home that has been cleaned up, fixed up and staged in a specific style that creates a mood and a sense of aspiration. The cost of staging will pay for itself many times over in an increased sale price.

Head off any surprises at the pass by having a home inspection, pest inspection and perhaps other inspections done before putting your home on the market. If you know what issues exist with your home, you can choose to repair them or disclose them and price your house accordingly.

Ready, set, go!

As you can see, there are a few things to consider and then act on if you plan to place your home on the market. Hiring professionals and vendors to do the work can take time and often the best people and organizations can be booked up weeks and sometimes months in advance. So, with 2014 just months away, it’s time to get busy!