Spring is traditionally the peak home sales season. Home sellers know if they want to earn top sales price, they must have their house or condo in tip-top condition during this best home sale time of the year when the largest number of buyers are in the market.

But the 2006 home sales season started off much differently than usual in most communities. Perhaps it was the mild weather in many areas.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

For some unexplained reason, the number of homes listed for sale grew abnormally large in January and February, traditionally slow home sales months.

The result for buyers is an especially enjoyable “buyer’s market” in most areas. That means there are more homes for sale than there are qualified buyers, which means that home buyers can be especially aggressive with their price and sales term negotiations.

HOW TO SELL YOUR HOME FOR TOP DOLLAR. However, if you are a 2006 home seller, you need to know how to get top dollar for your house or condo amid the competition from other residences listed for sale.

The first step is to get your home into its best physical condition. This includes cleaning, repairing, and painting so your residence shows its best.

The second step is to have customary local inspections made and necessary repairs completed before listing your home for sale. Such inspections might include termite (pest control), radon, building code compliance, and energy efficiency.

The third step is to have a professional home inspection. While not required, savvy home buyers insist on such inspections as a sales contingency. However, many buyers will accept the seller’s professional inspection report.

When the report reveals an unexpected problem that you don’t want or can’t afford to have repaired, just sell the home “as is” but disclose the defect. An “as is” sale means the seller won’t pay for any repairs but all known defects have been disclosed.

If you don’t know a local qualified professional home inspector, the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has the toughest, most respected standards. To find local ASHI members, go to www.ashi.org or phone 1-800-743-2744.

The fourth step to a profitable home sale is to interview at least three successful local real estate agents. Even if you plan to sell your home alone “for sale by owner,” it’s smart to interview three agents to find out the market value of your home and all the details of today’s home sales.

Don’t worry. The agents you interview won’t mind, even if you want to sell your home alone. They know most do-it-yourself home sellers fail and, within 30 to 60 days, list with one of the agents interviewed.

HOW TO LOCATE THREE REALTY AGENTS TO INTERVIEW. After your house or condo is ready to sell, and you had it professionally inspected so you know of its warts, if any, selecting listing agents to interview is your next step.

The reason it is critical to interview at least three successful local agents is to compare their evaluations of your home. Don’t be misled by a charismatic agent who gushes with enthusiasm for your home. Also, watch out for the enthusiastic agent who says your home is worth far more than the other interviewed agents estimate.

To find agents to interview, consider agents who send you their monthly newsletters about local home sales prices (disregard those glossy four-color flyers with recipes but nothing of local interest).

In addition, look for agents whose “for sale” signs turned to “sold” signs within a reasonable time. Finally, ask nearby friends and business associates for names of realty agents who recently sold their homes.

If you still don’t have the names of three successful local realty agents, a good Internet source is www.homegain.com. There you can also check nearby home sales prices and ask local agents to inform you of their services (while you remain anonymous).

In addition, on the Internet you can go to the brand-new, free Web site www.zillow.com for a computerized appraisal of your home’s market value. Not yet available in all areas, this amazing Web site provides aerial photos of home addresses, market value estimates, and recent sales prices of comparable homes. I tried it for several of my properties and found it to be remarkably accurate.

KEY QUESTIONS TO ASK OF AGENTS YOU INTERVIEW. Each agent you individually interview should, after inspecting your residence, prepare a personal CMA (comparative market analysis) and give you an opinion of your home’s market value. Compare this information with the Zillow market-value estimate you may have already obtained.

As a savvy home seller, discuss each CMA with the agent who prepared it. Watch out for agents who try to “buy the listing” by estimating an abnormally high sales price without justification based on sales prices within the last few months of comparable nearby homes.

Next, ask the 10 key questions each agent hopes you don’t ask:

1.) How long have you been selling homes in this area?

2.) What are the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your five most recent home sellers?

3.) What is your writing marketing plan for my home?

4.) Do you sell real estate full-time (dismiss any part-time agent unless you want part-time service)?

5.) How many listings do you currently have (watch out for agents who have too many listings and won’t have personal time to devote to your home sale)?

6.) Do you have any office assistants (if so, inquire if you will be dealing with them or the agent)?

7.) What day of the week do you take off and which agent covers for you when you are gone?

8.) Do you plan to take any vacation during my listing period?

9.) Will you be able to sell my home within the 90-day listing period?

10.) What is your sales commission fee schedule?

If you don’t like an agent’s answer to one or more questions, don’t necessarily dismiss that agent (unless the agent is not a full-time agent). To illustrate, a new agent might have more time to devote to your listing than an “old pro” who has too many listings.

AVOID LONG-TERM LISTINGS. The biggest pitfall home sellers make is signing a long-term listing without an escape clause. Some of the best agents insist on a long 180-day listing. But, if you ask, they will usually agree to an unconditional cancellation clause after 90 days.

The reason to avoid long listings over 90 days is just in case you chose a lazy agent who doesn’t aggressively market your home, and you don’t want to be stuck with an unsold home

Even when the agent says something like, “Well, according to local statistics, homes in this area take an average of 132 days to sell,” your very polite reply should be, “I don’t want to list with an average sales agent. If you won’t either list and sell my home within 90 days, or list for 180 days with an unconditional written cancellation clause after 90 days, I don’t think we should do business.” The best agents have enough confidence in their ability to agree to such terms.

CONCLUSION: Home sellers who want to earn top dollar for their homes in today’s extremely competitive home sales market must (a) carefully prepare their residence for sale, (b) interview at least three successful local real estate agents, (c) ask lots of questions, and (d) list with the best agent.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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