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Professional photos make a huge difference when selling your home

A guide for selling your home, from Summer House Realty

Congratulations! You’ve decided to sell your home – that is a big step. If this is your first time or you’re a grizzled veteran, this guide can still help you make more informed decisions.

It’s based on dozens of years of collective experience from our agents – and of course, if you’d like help selling yours, get help selling your home in Amelia Island or selling in Augusta.

For now? Let’s dive in our guide for selling your home!

Use these links to jump to a section:

Myths to avoid | Nail the staging | Additional tips and tricks
Check your permitting | Seven mistakes | Navigating the offers

Common misconceptions when selling

Falling into one of these traps can throw off your process before it even begins. Let’s begin with a very common one we hear all the time:

Zillow. It’s not 100% accurate.

This is no fault to the seller as Zillow (and similar websites, such as Trulia) is one of the few tools available to get an estimate of the value of your home.

The problem? When selling your home, it’s not what’s listed on a public website that counts. It’s what the home appraises for, and that comes from a property appraisal. You have to pay for this, and it’s usually part of the due diligence or closing process (especially when a mortgage is involved).

Zillow, unfortunately, uses an imperfect algorithm to calculate the value of your home. It’s not a bad tool to help with a rough ballpark estimate, but can’t be considered fully accurate is by no means accurate due to many variables it may not calculate such as recent renovations, functional upgrades, or lack of inventory in your local area.

Zillow estimates aren't the most accurate and can't take everything into account as well as a real estate agent
Zillow’s estimate is an educated guess, but an agent has the local expertise to provide a far more accurate figure

Plus, an agent understands the current market’s environment – whether it’s stronger for buyers, sellers, or is somewhat neutral. And they have their ear to the ground on what trends are hot, what’s turning buyers away, which sections of town are becoming more desirable … the list goes on, but each of these factors absolutely impacts how to value a home’s sales price.

For sale by owner saves money

For Sale By Owner (FSBO) listings accounted for 10% of home sales in 2021, per the National Association of Realtors. That’s a lot!

Also of interest:

“The typical FSBO home sold for $225,000 compared to $330,000 for agent-assisted home sales.”

National Association of Realtors, “Quick Real Estate Statistics”

You may be thinking “yeah, sure, but you’re a real estate agency. You’re biased.” And it’s true, we are!

So here’s what others have to say:

Ramsey Solutions (from Dave Ramsey): “Bottom line: Selling a house by yourself instead of using an agent usually means missing out of tens of thousands of dollars in profit – don’t do it!”

From Investopedia: “Risks include having few potential buyers (let alone qualified buyers), making emotional decisions, not knowing how to negotiate properly, and not having enough free time to dedicate to finding a buyer.”

And from a marketing point of view, iBuyer notes “with a limited-service real estate agent, you get very few of the services that you would get with a typical real estate agent.”

While For Sale By Owner (FSBO) does avoid having a selling agent, you’ll also still pay the buyer’s agent commission. Coupled with the potential to incorrectly price, manage all the paperwork and legal processes, marketing, and deal with feedback directly, what’s the true cost to you?

If time is money, then how much do you save with an agent vs. doing it yourself?

This is where having an agent makes all the difference. And yes, we’re happy to help you sell your home if you’re in our markets – just contact us to get started!

Professional photos are overrated

Not true! Those photos that buyers find online are their first impression – and will make/break the demand for your home. After all, you’re hoping for a multiple-offer situation that drives up the price, right?

So, you need to generate interest. And the photos are the key.

In fact, Business Insider writes homebuyers spend an average of 124 hours looking for a home.

What are they looking at? Those pictures, of course!

One other key component is how to stage your home. So, let’s dive into that now.

How to properly stage your home

Many people need help envisioning themselves moving into your home. Staging helps with that.

A 2021 survey by the National Association of Realtors showed over 80% of realtors indicated a properly-staged home helped buyers see themselves in it.

Remember, the photos also matter greatly since everyone’s discovering it online first – and well-staged photos help those initial impressions, too!

Professional photos make a huge difference when selling your home
What was your initial reaction when seeing this? That feeling matters to prospective buyers, so you need to nail it!

Typically, you’ll do this yourself unless your agent feels you’ll gain more from professional staging (average costs can be close to $2,000, per HomeAdvisor), so here’s some way to get it right:

Tips to stage a Home

  1. De-clutter. It might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at ways people miss this. Counters, walls, decor, how items are displayed on shelves, etc… it all contributes.
  2. Simplify. After you have gotten rid of clutter, simplify your decor. Try to keep a clean and simple look so that your decor doesn’t look piled on top of each other. For example, a single lamp on each end table or only 2-3 pillows on the couch can help. They key phrase? Less is more.
  3. Make it impersonal. Remember, you’re catering to buyers – not yourself. So family pictures, personalized areas of the house, or areas that have your preferred design but might not be as popular with the market will need updating. The good news? Once you sell, it’s less work you have to do later!
  4. Clean. Every crevice, every corner. Nothing ruins an impression like something in a random corner that smells funny. Always vacuum, mop, clean the windows, counters, bathrooms.
  5. Use a candle or plugin. You’re used to the home’s smell, but buyers aren’t. Many realtors recommend something that smells like cookies or a fairly neutral scent (ask your realtor for options) – one by the front door can be a great starting point.
  6. Don’t forget outside. First impressions matter – you’ve picked up on that already. So make sure the mailbox, driveway, garage, front entryway, etc. are all in order and at their best. These are what the buyers will experience before they walk into your home!

Avoid these mistakes

Any of these can destroy the buyer’s experience.

Don’t be cheap on the thermostat. Two reasons why: first, any mold successfully suppressed for years can begin growing and ruin the structure very quickly. Even a few degrees can make a difference!

Second, you won’t save much, but a too-warm or too-cold feeling turns away buyers – remember, their emotions are part of the decision to buy or pass on your home.

Consider putting air purifiers in the main areas, too. This is especially important if the house has odors from pets or smoking. Those smells tend to get worse in a vacant house and become very distasteful.

And a dehumidifier is recommended due to the humid weather we tend to get both in Florida and the Augusta, Georgia area. You’ll need to go on a regular basis and empty the water, but a drier home is also a better experience.

Additional tips if you’re living in the house

This is the most common situation sellers find themselves in – simultaneously buying and selling, which means they’re still living in the home they’re hoping to sell.

If you’re living in the property, keep a close eye on the tidiness and odors in the home, and give things a once-over before an upcoming showing. Ideally, you’ll be out of the home at least an hour before any showing, which can allow your realtor to do a walkthrough as well.

If you have pets, it’d be ideal if they can be away from the home during a showing. This includes storing their items (like toys, kitty condos, etc.) elsewhere as well.

If boarding isn’t an option, perhaps a family member can help? It’s not a deal-breaker for them to be present, but can give a negative impression (or keep away anyone allergic).

If you’re selling a rental property, consider doing a personal inspection regularly. Keep good communication with the current occupants to make sure no unauthorized changes have been made and your property is being cared for.

Permitting Violations

Our agents in the Augusta, Ga. area and agents in Amelia Island know these inside-and-out!

Be very careful about advertising your property based on illegal improvements. No one wants to get three weeks into escrow with a great buyer only to have the sale fall through when they finish their due diligence! Features you love about your home might not be something your buyers can legally enjoy.

Like what, you ask?

Garage conversions, detached apartments, or tiny houses are three examples. Buyers looking for rental income or multifamily property will be very disappointed if they can’t legally use those living spaces.

A bathroom added without the correct permits will also hold up a sale. Creative electrical “fixes” or potential structural issues like wall removals can also be a red flag for a buyer.

Sometimes, you can get an inspection and a permit for existing improvements. If you can’t, consider removing them before you list your house. This will spare you a lot of hassle later on and keep everyone honest – not worrying about lawsuits, etc. Your buyers will be able to get a conventional loan as well, which is very important in a challenging real estate market.

Additional features buyers look for include things like RV pads and hookups. These are common but not necessarily legal on residential lots or land. Check with your county before getting excited. Only include them in the listing advertisement if they’re permitted and a genuine value-add to your property.

Remember the 500-page CCRs or township covenants you didn’t read when you moved in? Now’s the time!

If your chicken coops or boat storage shed in the backyard aren’t allowed, be honest with your agent and potential buyers. Make sure it’s clear that those features aren’t “grandfathered in” or somehow exempt from the rules. Good sales often fall through on small items just like this.

Sure, many of these are uncommon, but not unheard of. It they apply to you, honestly is the best policy.

Seven mistakes to avoid

When thinking of changes to make, please don’t do these.

Use Dark Colors

This applies to both inside and outside of your home.

You don’t need to worry about hiding dirt and scuff marks. Clean the walls before you paint, use a base layer, and top with a neutral color. Beige, gray, and bluish-gray provide a touch of color without creating the impression that you are trying to hide something. 

Overly-bold colors also drive emotional reactions, and you want to avoid the risk of creating the wrong impression. That’s why neutral colors are the way to go here.

Hide the floors

Clearing the clutter in a room allows you to showcase your floors as well as to emphasize the spaciousness of your home. However, you need to do more than allow prospective buyers to view the floors.

Show those beautiful floors when selling your home! It makes a world of difference.
Those gorgeous floors add to the buyer’s impression, don’t they?!

Before you begin showings, take the time to refinish hardwood floors, deep clean any carpet, and polish tile flooring.

Doing so not only accentuates the beauty, but cements a strong impression of a well-maintained home that inspires higher offers.

Updating with Cheap Hardware

The last thing you want is a buyer (or agent) to open a cabinet or turn a doorknob and exclaim “ugh!” Cheap can easily be found, and makes a buyer less likely to make a move.

Also: watch for outdated hardware. What you like may not be what buyers want! Consider replacing your home’s hardware with new pieces offering a polished chrome or nickel finish.

Landscaping with Fruited Plants and Trees

Low-maintenance landscaping is more enticing than a yard filled with rotting fruit and high-maintenance plants.

A well-placed walkway or set of solar lights provides functionality that offers its own sense of appeal and you can leave alone – which buyers will notice.

Turning a Bedroom into an Office

Bedrooms matter!

Turning one of them into an office is something a buyer can do themselves – that’s quite easy to imagine. But why would you actively reduce the amount of “living space” in the home by having an office?

Keep bedrooms set up for the purpose they were intended.

Converting the Garage

Having the additional living space can be appealing for smaller homes, but it goes against typical expectations. 2020 also significantly shifting buyer views on this space:

“Though it may not rank as high as the desire for an updated kitchen or owner’s bathroom, having a finished garage with flexible space has moved up on many buyers’ wish lists.” (source: National Association of Realtors)

The key word? Flexibility. Let buyers choose what to do, but many expect a place to park at least one vehicle.

Painting over Brick

Paint begins to chip, crack, and peel away from the brick, creating an eyesore that’s difficult to ignore. Homeowners are left with two choices – removing the paint or repainting the brick.

For some, neither of these choices are desirable. 

Paint seeps into the pores of the brick, which prevents chemical-based removers from working properly. Any paint remove can also change the appearance of the brick … simply put, once the brick is painted, it never looks the same. 

Navigating the offers

Your home’s on the market, you’re getting offers – wonderful! But, what’s the best offer?

It’s not just the price. Here’s four other factors to consider, which your agent will help walk you through:

Contingencies. Let’s say you have two offers, one for $500,000 but dependent on them selling their own home vs. another at $492,000 but without any contingency.

That’s an $8,000 difference, but there’s a degree of risk: what if that buyer can’t sell their home (or sell it in time to close on yours)?

Buying or selling, visit Summer House Realty in Augusta, GA or Amelia Island, FL!
The place for answers: Summer House Realty!

It’s a risk/reward balance to consider, and your agent can find out more – for instance, how far along the buyer is in selling their own home (if they already have offers, the risk is lower than if they’re just getting it listed).

Other examples can include:

  • For cash offers, they may waive the need for an appraisal.
  • Some buyers may waive their right to an inspection, or have a very short due diligence period (which speeds up time to close).

Closing timeline. How quickly can you vacate the property once it’s sold? Some offers will want to take possession on the day of closing, meaning the day you sign the papers you have to be moved.

Others may have some flexibility. Be realistic on what you can accomplish – especially because if you can’t get out in time, there will be penalties, usually a daily fee you have to pay until you’re out that’s written into the contract.

Repairs or leaving behind items. Some offers may request you make certain repairs at the outset, or leave something of yours with the house (such as a playground, certain set of furniture, etc.)

Many buyers will request some repairs once they’ve done a home inspection as part of their due diligence, so know what you’re willing and able to work with.

Type of buyer (i.e. people? A company?). Large companies may offer a quick cash offer, but the impersonal nature and need to grow their bottom line can make for a more difficult negotiation in the due diligence period. They may be looking to convert the home into a rental, which can bring a different set of requests than you’re expecting, as well.

Conversely, selling to a family looking to move in may align better with your expectations or with their requests, but may require more in terms of checkboxes for their stakeholders (lender, insurance, etc.).

There’s pros and cons your agent will help you understand, but this can dictate how the selling process goes.

Okay, so now what?

If you’re ready to sell or have additional questions, we’re ready to help.

Contact us now, or…