Spring is a great time to consider making a move. But before you list or put down an offer, it’s important to do your research and familiarize yourself with current market trends. We consulted a diverse group of licensed Connecticut real estate agents for their favorite tips for both buyers and sellers throughout the complicated process.
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Tips for sellers
Don’t make it personal
Selling a home can be an emotional process, but hiring a real estate agent can alleviate some of the stress. “A Realtor should be objective and help you make good decisions,” says Chris Balfanz of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Glastonbury. When showing a home, “box up personal items such as family photos, religious items and things of value” — potential buyers can better envision the home this way. Doing so can also remove some of the sentimental aspects of selling and free your mind for objective decision-making as you move forward with the sale.
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Make it fresh
“Today’s success is the result of yesterday’s preparation,” says Elyse Morris of Elyse Harney Real Estate in Salisbury. Sellers only get one chance to make a first impression. “Small improvements that give your home a fresh and well-kept appearance create a welcoming vibe for prospective buyers.”
Price it right
“When it comes to pricing a home to sell, keep in mind that many buyers are including an appraisal rider in their offer,” says Katie French of Coldwell Banker in Simsbury. A home that is priced at a fair market value will attract serious buyers and perhaps multiple offers. The rider can provide an “out for buyers” in the event a home is appraised at the time of purchase for less than what’s being offered.
Stage for showtime
Staging can help a property sell for the best price in the shortest amount of time. In order to gain an edge in today’s market, a property must be priced right and look better than the competition. “It’s all about gaining the buyer’s immediate attention and making it easier for them to visualize the property as a future home,” says Liz Johnson of Coldwell Banker in Greenwich. It is very important to “declutter, clean, repair, position furniture and paintings and to focus on color and lighting.” And, for goodness sake, eliminate any pet stains and odors, and tuck away that litter box in an inconspicuous spot.
Get to know FSBO
Find ways to save by researching all selling options including local “FSBO” (for sale by owner) in the Multiple Listing Service. You’ll want to find a broker who is “based in Connecticut and provides coaching, not just a ‘list-’em and dump-’em service,’ “ says Carol Granger York of Canton-based Sellers Listing Service. “Make sure the company has a FSBO philosophy and is not just an agent with a twist to get more listings.” You can get top dollar for your home by listing this way and saving on commission.
Peace of mind, with a pre-inspection
“In order to avoid issues during the home-inspection process, consider a pre-inspection before you put your home on the market,” says Deb Cohen of Coldwell Banker in West Hartford. This will highlight items that might become an issue during the inspection and allow you the opportunity to fix them beforehand. Not only will it give you peace of mind but you’ll have “improved negotiating capability when a buyer makes an offer.”
Tips for buyers
It’s important to work with a lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage. A lender will be able to tell you whether you can afford a specific home and give you, your agent and the seller peace of mind. “Real estate agents want to show you homes that you can afford,” Cohen says. “It is no fun falling in love with a house that you won’t be able to pay for!”
Be cool with the pool
An in-ground pool can frighten potential buyers — safety, monthly costs, and repairs are likely topics for questioning. “It is best to have as much information available as possible,” says Sharon Major of William Raveis in Farmington. Ask your Realtor or building-code official if the pool has the correct fence surround. If you plan to move forward, “hire a reputable pool company to perform the inspection.” You will want to know the year it was built, the condition of the coping (the protective lip around a pool’s top edge), patio surround and mechanical components as well as the company or person who had been maintaining it.
Find the right agent
When looking for a real estate agent it’s common to ask friends and family for recommendations. You can also look at reviews on trusted sites and at signs around your neighborhood. Once you’ve narrowed down a few potential agents you can start the interviewing process. “Look for an agent who possesses the qualities of compassion, honesty and integrity,” says Amy Sartirana of Northwest CT Realty, which has offices in Winsted and Torrington. Finding someone who communicates in a timely manner is also key.
Get a good look
When looking at a potential home, don’t forget to check your surroundings. “Note the type of neighborhood and proximity to amenities,” says David Sartirana of Northwest CT Realty. Is this a community where you can envision yourself living? Stop by during different days and times to get a better idea of what the area is like. Other important considerations are: the condition of the foundation, siding, roof, windows, yard and any outbuildings. Take photos to help you remember the details. “Ask the listing agent for a property condition disclosure; it can provide a lot of added insight.” And, of course, hire a well-reviewed home inspector to find any potential issues that you can use in the negotiation with the seller or simply move on.
Rule the rental
If you’re looking to buy a property that will double as a rental, ask your Realtor about local laws and regulations. If you’re planning to use a third-party rental service such as Airbnb, do your homework; they might have their own rules. Lastly, offer your rental at a comparable price to others in the neighborhood and chat with your agent to find out if they can help with the rental process.
Buying on the beach
When considering an oceanfront home, do your research on flood insurance. “Know what the rates are like and find out if the community works proactively with FEMA to assist residents,” says Caity Serra of Randall Realtors in Connecticut and Rhode Island. And check on beach access. “Even if your new home is near the beach, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have beach access,” Serra says. Ask your Realtor to investigate your property rights, finding out as much as possible about local beach access and beach passes.