Ensure that your clients make the most of their free time in the summer to complete the legwork that’s necessary before putting their houses on the market in the fall. Here’s where they should start.

Nicole Solari is a top-producing broker-owner in Northern California whose regular bimonthly column, which covers real estate marketing, selling strategies and working with clients, publishes on Tuesdays. 

Spring may be the busiest season for home sales, but fall is not far behind. So, if you have sellers who plan to put their property on the market after Labor Day, here’s an overview of what they can do to make their fall selling process easier, faster and more profitable.

1. Ask them to spend a couple of weekends touring homes similar to theirs

Ask them to tour comparable homes in the price range you — and they — believe their home is likely to sell for.

2. After their open house tour, suggest sellers ‘tour’ their home as if they were buyers to pinpoint any needed pre-sale fixes

1. Structural and operational issues

Suggest sellers schedule home, pest and roof and chimney inspections to define problem areas that buyers are likely to balk at accepting. Even before the inspectors arrive, sellers know what works as intended and what doesn’t.

An amazing number of people just live with dysfunction until outside forces intervene. So you get saddled with the unhappy task of telling them they have to address their problem areas before going on market to ensure inspection contingencies will be released on time and without demands for costly repairs.

2. Cosmetic flaws

Will a good scrubbing perk up kitchens and baths, or do they need a facelift? Are windows clean and clear and window coverings in style and in good condition?

Are paint and flooring in good condition or scuffed and worn? What about door and trim paint?

How’s the curb appeal? Are the exterior, driveway and backyard in good shape or do they need attention?

3. Excess furniture and personal knick-knacks

Unless sellers are unusually vigilant, it’s easy to accumulate too much stuff — including excess furniture.

Identifying problem areas, packing up non-essential items and moving out the excess before the stager arrives is a surprisingly time-consuming task.

You can help your sellers by doing a walkthrough with them (and your stager) to create a list of furnishings and accessories that need to go (or go into storage) before the property is staged for market.

And without even going on the property, you can confidently advise every seller to clear out the garage, their closets, and bath and kitchen cabinets. Sadly, “I’ll use this someday-itis” afflicts everyone.

3. Mentally ready them to have a home on the market

We give sellers who aren’t vacating before the sale a tip sheet on how to survive living in a staged house. Then we suggest sellers handle these three very important tasks well in advance of their on-market date:

  • Secure valuables: Hordes of inspectors, craftspeople, house cleaners, window washers, agents and buyers will visit your seller’s property before and after it goes on the market. Selling a property is stressful enough without adding the gut-punch of having family heirlooms or other valuables disappear. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. So, advise sellers to secure their important papers, heirlooms and other valuables in a safe deposit box or with a family member or friend early in the process. Daily medications can also prove irresistible to visitors. Sellers should get in the habit of stowing them in a handbag, briefcase or vehicle that remains with them whenever strangers are on site.
  • Plan a getaway for the first week or two on the market: The greatest flurry of broker caravans, public open houses and showings occur in the first week or two after a property goes on the market. If sellers can go somewhere fun during that time, they and their family (and pets) an avoid a predictably stressful period.
  • Strategize how to live, eat and keep their property in showroom condition while it’s on the market: We suggest (not completely in jest) that our sellers not cook, eat, shower or otherwise actually “live” in their staged homes to avoid messing them up. Also, it seems to be a rule of the universe that, the minute there’s a mess, a buyer will want to see their property on short notice. Sellers are better off if they strategize how to handle the basics of daily life — and short-notice showings — in advance. Maybe they’ll decide to eat out, hang with friends during open houses, shower at the gym and board the dog.

It doesn’t really matter what they plan. Just having a plan helps them manage their very real stress.

4. Sellers need to prepare to sell — and move

Sellers (and agents) can fixate on getting a property on the market and available for showings. It’s just as important that sellers prepare to accept an offer, set aside time to pack, sign the property over, then move out.

They’ll need to schedule movers and cleaning people, transfer utilities, change addresses, decide how to handle their vehicles (drive or ship), retrieve their valuables and run last-minute errands. Faced with moving, many sellers are simply too overwhelmed to think. So if you can hand them a checklist complete with phone numbers, you’ll be doing them a huge favor.

If you’ve never been a “seller” yourself,  you should probably ask previous sellers about their experience. From pre-sale prep through relocation, selling can range from merely inconvenient to almost unbearably stressful.  Empathy is your friend. So are checklists!

Cover your sellers with timely checklists that help them minimize stress, and you’ll have a client for life.

Nicole Solari is owner and managing broker of The Solari Group in Solano and Napa Counties in Northern California. Nicole runs one of the highest producing brokerages in all of Northern California.

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