We find the inspection process confusing – do we have to fix everything in the inspection report before we close on our home or just the repairs the buyer requested?
The home inspection report is the document from which your buyer works to make their repair requests of you. Some buyers will ask for everything and others will ask for only those items that they think are important. They may let some things go, for example, if they are planning on renovating an area and anticipate fixing those items as a part of the renovation.
Once you and your buyer agree on a list of repairs, these are memorialized on an addendum. It is that addendum, called a Change in Terms Addendum (“CTA”), from which you work when completing your repairs. You need not refer to the inspection again unless the CTA references it. You do, however, need to make sure that you do everything on the CTA exactly as specified, so be sure to read it carefully and provide a copy to your contractor(s). For example, if the CTA says that you will have GFCI outlets installed by a licensed electrician then you need to make sure you hire a licensed electrician, and not your favorite handyman, to make the repair! If the CTA says you must paint to match existing then you need to take a sample of the existing paint to the paint store and color match it – don’t rely on old paint in cans – paint fades with age and it won’t match. Be very careful to be sure you are complying with the terms of the CTA – if you do not, or if your contractor does not, your closing may be delayed or postponed until the work is done as specified. Along those lines, be sure to review your contactor’s work when complete and make sure that he actually did what you agreed to do on the CTA. If not, request that he return before it becomes a walk-through issue.
And of course, be sure to get paid receipts from all contractors, or if they have not been paid, notify the closing company so that they can be paid at closing. All repairs must be paid for before ownership changes hands so be sure to stay on top of your bills, and provide receipts to the buyers agent.
My home has so many special features. I think it would be best if I were at showings so I could explain them to prospective buyers. Is that ok?
When you are selling your home, its normal to think that only you can fully convey your home’s fine qualities to a buyer. This leads some sellers to consider the possibility of being home for showings, so that they can make sure that the buyer prospects appreciate all of the home’s amenities. While this may seem sensible to a seller, nothing could be further from the truth!
When buyers visit your home, it is important that they be allowed the space to imagine the home as their own. This starts, of course, with home staging, so that the home is not overly personal when the buyers arrive. But it extends to allowing them to tour the home alone with their buyer agent. For buyers to buy a home, they must bond to a home. For buyers to bond to a home, they need to be free to relax in your home and chat with their agent about what they would do to make the home their own. This will not happen if you are present. So what can you do to make sure they appreciate your home’s qualities? Hire a listing agent who will design a custom brochure for your home that is available when buyers visit your home. Such a brochure is your best ammunition – they can take it home and recall all of your home’s wonderful features and get their questions answered as well.
Giving the buyers their space extends to the home inspections as well. The period during the home inspection is one of normal buyer remorse. Did we buy the right home? Will a better home become available? Allowing buyers the freedom to return to your home alone will allow them to bond again to your home and stay committed to it during the sometimes difficult inspection process.
In fact, the only time you should interact with your buyer is at the closing. From initial showing to return visits, inspections and walk throughs, you should always vacate your home and give the buyers their space!
We aren’t ready to move but want to update our home – what are the best choices for paint colors and flooring changes, assuming we may want to move in the next few years?
New paint colors must harmonize with the rest of your home, unless you plan to repaint the entire interior of your home, so any suggestions need to be taken in the context of what else is going on inside your home. My best suggestion for a currently fairly timeless paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray. This color blends with virtually every shade of white that might be on your trim and nearly every color flooring that might be in your home. It is really more of a greige than a gray and, like a chameleon, changes color a bit depending on what is in the space and what kind of light is filtering in through the windows. However, if your home is a palette if golds, for example, this color might not be the right choice! Trending now is white on white (with trim and walls painted the same or nearly the same shade of white), but this is a design style that is best incorporated throughout the entire home, and not just a singular room. If you have wallpaper in your space, then it’s a very good investment to have it removed (do not paint over it, no matter what the painter tells you) and painted in a color that coordinates with your design aesthetic. Wallpaper overall remains a difficult sell.
As to flooring, real wood floors remain the best investment you can make. They are timeless and easy to refinish if they become worn or if the buyer prefers a different color. I highly recommend choosing a medium tone brown, not too yellow, red or dark and preferably in ¾” thickness. If engineered wood floors are what your budget requires, choose one that the manufacturer indicates can be refinished at least once, and keep a few extra pieces on hand in case you damage any through normal wear and tear. Bamboo is another great option and there are on-line suppliers that offer a variety of shades in ¾” planks – it is very resilient, environmentally friendly and installed can look like hardwood. I do not recommend that you choose the latest trend, “LVL” (luxury vinyl flooring), for anything beyond the basement level of your home. These are plastic floors, and if your home will likely sell for over $500,000, these floors will not be appreciated on the main or upper levels. Finally, carpet in a neutral tone plush (no berber, no mixed colors) is acceptable as long as they are clean and stain free. If you stain them during the remaining time in your home, you would need to replace them again before you sell your home.
We plan to move out of our home before we put it on the market. Any thoughts on selling an empty home?
Some homes definitely sell more readily vacant – my last home was one of them – and so I definitely do not dissuade sellers from emptying their homes before selling them, but there are some important tips to keep in mind!
If you are emptying your home, then empty it. Do not leave behind the items you don’t want. Do not leave behind soaps, shampoos, chemicals, lawn fertilizers… Empty is empty. So please plan on a complete clean out. If you need help finding people to help dispose of items, give me a call!
It is critical to be sure that once your home is empty, you bring in a handyman to make sure that everything is in good order. Holes should be patched and touch-up painted, scuffs eliminated, carpets and windows cleaned, all lightbulbs working … When there is no furniture to look at, the condition of the home is all the more important.
Make sure you have a plan for upkeep of your empty home. The yard must be regularly maintained, including weeding, leaf and snow removal. The interior tends to be easier to keep up, but do be sure you arrange for a periodic quick clean. It is also a good idea to hire a neighbor or friend to check your home regularly to make sure that there has been no crisis at your home (such as a broken water pipe).
Be sure to keep your home properly conditioned (warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer). I have actually seen mold grow inside a home when sellers do not keep the air conditioning running in warm weather in their vacant homes – this will cost far more to clean up than the air conditioning bill! Finally, consider putting lights on timers so when buyers drive by in the evening, your home does not appear dark and unloved!
Selling a vacant home is not a bad thing, but it is important that you follow these tips to be sure your home is presenting well to prospective buyers!