It doesn’t take much to throw a buyer off track. Prospective sellers should keep this in mind as they prepare their home for sale. It’s easy to concentrate on making your home look good but overlook other factors that could impede the sale.
Fear of the unknown will send buyers running in the opposite direction. For example, you may take pride in the fact that your home is located next to a vacant lot. There’s no building adjacent to yours to obstruct the view or the quality of light.
From a buyer’s perspective, the feature you relish might be a serious drawback. What if someone builds a monstrosity next door that blocks the light and diminishes the view? Many buyers will pass on a house like this and keep looking, particularly if there are many other homes on the market. Buyers who aren’t dissuaded might require a price concession to compensate for the expected loss of value once the house next door is built.
One solution to the uncertainty, if you can pick when you sell, is to wait until the house next door has been constructed. However, if building plans aren’t even in the works, this might not be feasible. In that case, find out where an interested buyer can go to get more information.
The local building or planning department should have information about building restrictions. Most municipalities have set back requirements; some have restrictions against blocking views and light. Ideally, a buyer will want to know where the house will be located on the lot, its projected height and the general layout.
New developments planned for an area but not completed — like a school or freeway — can also raise questions in buyers’ minds. A new school could be a boon for the neighborhood, unless your house ends up facing the playground.
A new highway leading to a major metropolitan center could generally increase property values in the area, but not necessarily the values of properties that abut the freeway.
HOME SELLER TIP: Some sellers would rather keep information about future development to themselves. This is risky. Depending on disclosure laws in your state, you could be sued for fraudulent inducement, concealment or lack of disclosure, all of which carry hefty penalties. It’s best to find out as much as you can about a proposed project so that you can direct buyers to the right source for more information.
Other examples of uncertainties that buyers will want as much information about as possible are: pending litigation against the property, possible rezoning and disputes with a neighbor.
Property defects can impede a home sale. While it’s wise to correct obvious deferred maintenance before selling, this isn’t always possible. Rather than ignoring that your home needs work, get estimates for necessary work and make this information available to interested buyers.
Some sellers worry that this will scare a buyer off. On the contrary, fear of the unknown can be a worse deterrent. Buyers will tend to estimate the repair costs on the high side, and reduce your price accordingly.
There are buyers who want a home that needs only minimal work. In consideration for the hassle factor of having to get work done, discount your asking price to compensate buyers for purchasing the property in its “as is” condition.
Occasionally, real estate agents get in the way of a sale. They may mean well by speaking for their client. But you are the decision-maker — not your agent.
THE CLOSING: Let your agent know upfront that you will make yourself available for whatever decisions need to be made.
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.