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DCU Realty's Comprehensive and Personalized Marketing Plan

The Overall Process

It's important to understand the overall process of marketing and selling a home. Beginning from points on choosing an agent, we'll give you an overall view of the different steps of the process you'll need to take to the closing when the big day arrives!

Choosing a Listing Agent

You should interview up to three agents and consider the expertise of the agent, the company the agent works for and the marketing plan that the agent outlines for your home. Your agent will be your primary contact throughout the home selling process and it's imperative that you have confidence in their ability and are comfortable enough to ask questions. You will also want to make sure that they work for an agency that provides maximum marketing exposure for all their listings.

Don't be tempted to hire the agent who has promised you a higher asking price or the lowest commissions. The price of your home is set by what a buyer is willing to pay for a comparable home in the market place. Agents do not set the market price and cannot promise you a higher price for your home. Likewise, a discount agent cannot offer you a full suite of marketing tools to get your home exposed to the most buyers in the best possible light. The more buyers that view your home across various marketing channels, the better chance you have of selling your home at top dollar.

You should choose a listing agent that is going to get the job done with the least chances for any legal snares and the least amount of inconvenience to you.

Get Home Ready for Sale

Prepare your home for sale by cleaning, decluttering and improving curb appeal. Buyers want a home that is neat, clean and ready to be moved into.

First impressions count. If a buyer pulls up and doesn't like the exterior of the house, you will never get her inside. Look at the yard, landscaping, trim, lights. Paint the front door and window trim. Replace or repair light fixtures if necessary. Mow the lawn, clean up the walk, plant some flowers. Make it a place that someone will want to walk into.

Inside, add a fresh coat of paint in any rooms that need it. Clean out closets, cabinets and bookcases. Throw away, donate or pack away as much as possible. (Remember, at some point you are going to have to pack it, move it and unpack it again! You might as well start now.) Remove large or excess furniture and put in storage. You want to make your home appear as clean, open and fresh as possible.

Clean, clean and clean again! Make your house sparkle!

Pricing your home

The biggest mistake a home owner can make is to overprice. It's the single most important factor in getting the right buyers into view your home. Pricing is all about supply and demand. It's part art and part science, and no two agents price property exactly the same way.

Most agents will prepare a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis) that compares homes that are currently available and those that have sold in your neighborhood in the past year. The more similar the features -- square footage, number of rooms, lot size, etc. -- and the more recent the data, the more accurately it reflects the current market. Don't confuse listing price with sold price -- the most important factor in the CMA.

Market Your Home

Your agent should have a customizable marketing plan that they use to help sell their listings. Each home is unique so the list of marketing tasks should meet the needs of the individual property. Some items might include: submitting accurate listing information to the Multiple Listing Service, taking high quality photos to be included in MLS as well as on other on-line and print marketing materials, installing lockboxes to facilitate showings, putting a sign in the front of the house, arranging open houses and broker caravans, mailing postcards and calling other agents in the area to make sure they know about your home. This is a short list and can vary greatly depending on the needs of the homeowner and the market conditions.

Show Your Home

You probably have a lockbox on your home. You may hear advice that you should insist on accompanied showings (your listing agent meets every agent with a buyer at your property). Be assured, you'll get more showings if you let buyer agents use a lockbox. First, appointments will not depend on your agent being available each and every thing that another agent wants to show your house. In addition, often a buyer wants the privacy to view your home with just their agent and really get to know the property. Sometimes, knowing that the listing agent will be there is enough to cause a buyer not to want to see your home.

When a showing is scheduled, you should plan ahead so that the house is sparkling when the buyer gets there. Make sure beds are made, dishes in the dishwasher, laundry and toys put away, bathrooms and kitchens clean. About 15 minutes before the buyers are scheduled to arrive, LEAVE. Don't be home when the buyers get there or sit outside so they feel they need to hurry. Give them space and time to imagine them living in your home.

Once the showing is over, your agent will ask for buyer feedback so you can adjust your price, condition or marketing campaigns accordingly.

Negotiate Offers to Purchase

Your agent will present all Offers to Purchase to you. You will have a chance to review not only the price but all terms, including deposit amounts, contract dates. Your agent will offer advice and suggestions on next steps regarding accepting or counter offering with different terms. Do not be offended if you receive a lowball offer. All offers are starting points of a negotiation.

You will want to be sure that the buyer is qualified to purchase your home so the offer should be accompanied with a pre-approval letter from a lending institution. You will also want to be sure that the buyer is putting down adequate deposits to solidify the transaction.

Home Inspection

One of the contingencies that a buyer normally includes in the Offer to Purchase is for a Home Inspection which normally takes place within 10 days of accepted offer. The buyer usually contracts with a licensed home inspector and is responsible for the cost of any and all home inspections. The home inspection usually consists of a general home inspection which reviews all of the major systems in your home. It includes exterior items such as roof, chimneys, gutters, siding and interior items such as electrical systems, plumbing and appliances. In addition, a buyer can choose to add on additional tests such as lead paint and radon. There is an extensive list of various tests that the buyer can choose from but since each additional inspection is an additional fee, buyers tend to pick only those that are most important to them.

Once the inspections are complete and all results are back, the buyer may approach you with a list of items that the inspector found to be of concern. You may choose to address all of the items before closing, some of them or none of them. Depending on your response, the buyer then chooses to move forward or cancel the contract and get any deposits back. Keep in mind that if the home inspection finds too many problems and the buyer doesn't not feel comfortable with moving forward even with you addressing the issues, the buyer does have the option of canceling the contract and getting any deposits back. Make sure your home is in top notch condition prior to the inspection.

Obtain Seller-Required Inspections/Repairs

In Massachusetts, as a seller, you are responsible to provide a Title V certificate if you have a septic system and a Smoke/CO2 Certificate, issued by the fire department prior to closing. There may be other requirements (ex: final water reading, electric shut off, gas shut off, final oil reading) specific to your home that your agent and attorney will advise you of.

Purchase and Sale

The purchase and sale agreement (P&S) is signed approximately 2 weeks after the offer has been accepted and all home inspections have taken place. It spells out both parties' responsibilities during the period when the property is taken off the market and closing.

In Massachusetts, the P&S is usually a standard form provided by either the state or local realtor boards. Because your agent is not an attorney and is limited to filling in the blanks on the form, we strongly encourage our sellers to retain a real estate attorney. The attorney will modify the P&S in order to best protect the seller's interests and customize the agreement to the particulars of the transaction. Any additional deposits from the buyer are traditionally due with the executed P&S.

Commitment

Both the offer and P&S specify that the buyer has a finance contingency. This means that the buyer must apply for a mortgage by a specific date and then receive a "commitment" from the financial institution that they will loan the buyer the money to buy your property. Once the P&S is signed, the buyer submits it to the financial institution to start underwriting the loan. They look at the buyer's credit and ability to pay the loan back as well as examining the title history and the appraised value of the property. So long as the buyer is still able to qualify for the loan, there is a clean title and the appraised value meets the requirement of the loan value, they issue a commitment letter and the transaction is scheduled to close.

Final Walk Through

The night before or morning of closing, the buyer will do a final walk through of your property. They want to see that you have moved out, left the house in the same condition as when the offer was accepted and that all of your personal items are gone. The house should be free from trash and in broom-swept condition. If there are any major problems, closing can be delayed or the attorneys may have you deposit money into an escrow account to cover any necessary repairs.

Closing

Finally, the big day arrives!

When you get to closing, you will be given an opportunity to review all of the closing documents, including your deed and Closing Disclosure which details the list of costs associated with the sale of the home. Often you will get the Closing Disclosure 24 hours in advance to give you time to review it. Once you've reviewed and signed all closing documents, the house keys will be given to the buyer, you will receive a check for any proceeds from the sale that are due to you and you will have successfully sold your home!

— Kim Chagnon, Managing Broker, DCU Realty

*** The above information pertains to a Massachusetts real estate transaction. Other states, although similar, may vary in the process.

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