A lot has been written about how to prep first-time buyers, but when it comes to giving sellers advice, not so much. In addition to the usual home-prep and for-sale advice, here are 12 tips for first-time sellers that’ll help quell their fears.

Cara Ameer, a top-producing broker associate from Northeast Florida, writes about working with buyers and sellers, sticky situations and real estate marketing in her regular Inman column that publishes every other Wednesday.

The media loves writing and talking about first-time buyers, what they need to know and what they should do to prepare for their first major purchase. When it comes to first-time seller advice, not so much.

A lot of the information is lumped in with content geared at any homeseller such as home repairs, staging, decluttering, freshening up the landscaping, etc.

For those selling their home for the very first time, the process can be scary. Whether the move is elective or job-related, the decision to give up one’s current abode can be filled with fear and false expectations about the process.

Are people going to just show up at the front door and want to see the home anytime they want? How long will a showing last? What happens when an offer is made? How soon will I have to move out?

In addition to all of the normal prep for sale advice, here are twelve things first time sellers need to know before putting their home on the market:

1. To DIY or not to DIY

In the DIY age in which we live, you can go online and find instructions for virtually everything from renovation to whipping up gourmet meals.

With the proliferation of information online, sellers might be inclined to try selling their home alone. Selling a home is not a do-it-yourself venture.

Sellers don’t know what they don’t know, and a little information without proper context can be a dangerous thing. Risking their single largest investment could cause them to leave money on the table and cost them expensive mistakes, not to mention compromise safety and security.

There are certain things that are best left to the professionals to handle such as legal issues, medical matters and selling a home.

2. Get educated

This is where working with a real estate professional is invaluable. To become comfortable with the selling process, sellers must have a thorough overview of what comparable homes are selling for and what the market might realistically bring for the property.

Sellers should also understand what they are competing with in terms of resales and new construction.

3. Understand the costs

Just like when they bought their home, there are costs involved with selling. A real estate agent should explain and review the closing costs in detail that will be deducted from the selling price along with factoring in the loan payoff and any prorations for taxes, association fees, etc.

It is best to become familiar with all of these now, not when an offer is at hand and decisions need to be made.

4. Have a plan

Ask sellers:

  • Do you know where you are going when your home sells?
  • Have you taken some time to understand what your options are?
  • Will you need to rent until you can find something, or are there an abundance of choices for you to buy?
  • If you are considering new construction, what is the timing of homes for completion that fit your budget and criteria?

Understanding the choices available to them as well as the cost will help them avoid making rash decisions when an offer is made.

5. Put it on display

Selling a home is a highly intrusive process for all the world to see. With a home’s listing syndicating to several hundred websites, in essence, sellers are letting people in their “virtual” front door 24/7.

The first showing happens online, and the second showing happens in person. There is more information out there than ever, available to buyers and their agents about a property.

Thanks to Google, it is easy to find out how the home looks from the street and from the air, what’s behind it, next door to it, when sellers bought it, what they paid, how much their taxes are, if any work was or wasn’t permitted, etc.

6. Remember, it’s business, it’s not personal

Speaking of showings in person, agents will coordinate an agreed upon showing procedure for the home whereby appointments will be confirmed by sellers at agreed upon times.

The reality is, buyers and agents want to come through on their schedule, so showing requests should be accommodated as much as possible, including last-minute showings, which can and often arise.

The more difficult it is to show a home, the less agents will want to show it. While the process works well most of the time, there can be situations with no-shows or cancellations, sometimes right before the actual showing is supposed to occur.

Although this is frustrating, it happens to many sellers, and it’s just one of those things that unfortunately are part of the selling process.

7. How many showings does it take?

Speaking of showings, there is no magic number of showings that have to happen before an offer is made. It can vary widely, and in some cases, it can be just a few, and in other cases, it can take 10, 20 or more.

So much of this will depend on the home is priced and what it offers relative to the competition. If there are a lot of choices, it could take more showings to get an offer.

8. Forget the rose-colored glasses

No one will likely see the home in the same light as the sellers. No matter how much they’ve done to fix it up, prepare it for sale or how well it shows, buyers view every homes through different lenses.

What appeals to one person is different from another. Some feedback from showings will make more sense than others because not everyone can articulate what they like. Buyers often don’t know what they really want in a home until they see it.

Don’t take feedback personally. Some of it will focus on things that can be changed (such as price or how the home shows).

Feedback on the location of the home, neighborhood or layout is not something you can really address. Buyers shop by comparison, and all it takes is one. A buyer might initially see the home and eliminate it from consideration, but revisit it two months later and decide it is “the one.”

Buyers shopping for homes are often confused and just as nervous as sellers initially were when they started their home search.

9. Keep in mind that greed backfires

No matter how many showings a home gets, it can be easy to let all the activity go to your head and think that will lead to multiple offers.

Buyers and agents all have access to the same information with regard to comparable sales and sellers will likely find that most offers will come in with a range similar to each other.

Everyone is on a budget, and buyers aren’t going to be super irrational, throw caution to the wind and overpay for the sake of doing so.

10. Offers

Speaking of offers, when sellers receive one, they should try to work with it as best as they can.

Now is not the time to try play hardball because you might end up scaring the buyer off. Sellers also want to respond in a timely manner rather than dragging out a response as that also will alienate the buyer.

Being difficult or inflexible is a surefire way to have things backfire. The adage “your first offer is often your best offer” often holds true.

11. Repairs

Have this conversation with sellers:

Remember all of those repairs that came up on the inspection in which you negotiated a credit toward your closing costs so you could take care of them after closing?

Well guess what? If you never quite got around to them, they are likely going to come up again on the next buyer’s inspection report, so it would be a good idea to take care of anything you know needs attention and maintenance before going on the market.

If there are things that you are not able to address, be sure to disclose that upfront.

12. Clean it up

When sellers vacate their property, they will need to remove all unwanted items, including garbage, before the next buyer moves in. Leaving a pile of junk won’t pass muster with the soon to be new owner or their agent, who will be doing a walkthrough a day or two before closing.

Ditto for leaving it clean. This is not like moving out of an apartment where your version of clean might have been acceptable to get your security deposit back. Plan on having the home professionally cleaned upon move out because the reality is sellers won’t have time to do it themselves.

By following these pieces of advice, a first-time seller will be better equipped to handle the selling process when they finally put their home on the market.

Cara Ameer is a broker associate and global luxury agent with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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