For years, sellers have been in the driver’s seat. Now the tide has turned. Sellers are no longer calling the shots. However, sellers who take a proactive approach to selling their home can still have an edge in the new selling environment.

It’s a given that sellers who expect to sell for top dollar need to have their homes in prime condition. But, bringing about a successful sale has to do with more than just looking good.

Today’s buyers are sophisticated and they are cautious. They aren’t likely to waive contingencies like they did when the market was short of inventory and hot as a pistol. Now, you can expect that your home will be carefully scrutinized before a buyer agrees to close a sale.

The inspection process can be anxiety-producing. You can reduce that anxiety by ordering pre-sale inspections. With a report in hand, you can determine what work to do before you market your home. Even if you don’t complete any repairs, disclosing the inspection reports to buyers before they make an offer is likely to reduce the renegotiations that can occur after the buyers do their own inspections.

If a big-ticket item shows up on a presale inspection report, it’s a good idea to obtain a repair or replacement estimate from a reputable, licensed professional. This gives buyers the answer to an unknown that might otherwise turn off their interest.

For example, suppose the home inspector says that the roof is at the end of its life and needs to be replaced. Inexperienced buyers might have no idea what this would cost. If they imagine the worst, they could shy away from making an offer. If they know upfront how much the job will cost, they’re better equipped to make a rational decision.

It’s best to take care of lingering issues involving your property before putting it on the market. Buying a home is a stressful experience for most people. If there are disputes that might affect closing a sale, such as between heirs to an estate or between sellers who are divorcing, they should be resolved before you start showing your home to prospective buyers.

Keep in mind that sellers now have more competition from other sellers and this means that buyers have more choice. Given alternatives, most buyers would steer clear of listings that are clouded with unresolved issues. This is particularly so in today’s rising inventory market. Many buyers are anxious to close on a home sale quickly in order to preserve an interest rate commitment.

HOME SELLER TIP: Neighbors’ concerns should not be ignored. If you don’t attempt to resolve these concerns before you put your home on the market, your neighbor is likely to make the issue known as soon as the sale sign goes up.

Several years ago, a couple put their North Berkeley, Calif., home on the market. It was staged for sale and priced right for the market. The public open house drew a huge crowd. During peak open house hours, a neighbor showed up and broadcast to all in ear-shot that the back fence was encroaching on his property. This kind of publicity can be a major turn-off.

More recently, the seller of an Oakland, Calif., home received a letter from a neighbor soon after his home went on the market. The letter informed him of a drainage issue emanating from his property that affected the neighbor’s property. The seller immediately contacted a drainage engineer who wrote a report and proposal for taking care of the problem. The neighbor’s concern was alleviated, knowing that this information would be disclosed to the buyers.

THE CLOSING: Had the seller not been proactive, this could have developed into a more serious problem.

Dian Hymer is author of “House Hunting, The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers,” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide,” Chronicle Books.


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