This section touches on the main points of listing your home.
Your listing price is the most important factor in selling your home. Homes that are priced right sell the fastest.
According to Zillow research, 57% of homes sell at or above listing price when they accept an offer in the first week. In the second week on the market, that drops to 50% and trends downward as the weeks go on.
The point is – the longer your home is on the market, the less you can expect to receive for it.
Think of the real estate market like the stock market.
Say you have a stock like IBM, for example, which may have done a lot of work to make their company valuable. However, the stock market overall may be down so people will be unwilling to pay as much for the IBM stock as you think it is worth.
It’s the same with selling your home.
You may think you have made valuable upgrades to the home, but it won’t sell if the market is down or if you're requesting a price that is too high.
It is important to consider the MARKET when pricing your home.
Get an accurate sale price
YELLOW will help you determine the best price to sell your home. There’s two ways we do this: with an appraisal or price estimate.
The best way to find an accurate sale price is through an appraisal. A professional appraiser will do an examination of your home’s characteristics and analyze the recent sales of similar homes. They then create a report showing the fair market value of your home.
An appraisal can cost upwards of $400+ and YELLOW covers this cost. It will ultimately be paid by the buyer at closing, but will have to be paid by the seller if they pull their home off the market.
Appraisal Tips: To help your home appraisal, be sure you keep your home in top shape. This doesn’t necessarily mean it needs that “staged” look, but it needs to show well. The appraiser WILL be taking pictures of your home and its rooms. Additionally, be ready to provide the appraiser with a list of all major improvements to the home, plus any permits for projects you completed.
A price estimate (also referred to as a Comparative Market Analysis) is free and is completed by YELLOW. It is considered less accurate than an appraisal and is better suited for homes in a community with other similar homes nearby.
The price estimate looks at recently sold homes that are similar and near to yours. Adjustments are made to the price based on the differences in features, like if it is in better condition or has nicer amenities or extra features like a pool.
These adjustments are subjective estimates and while they may not be completely accurate, it does help determine a ballpark for your sale price.
Setting your price
Once the pricing figure comes in, don't automatically set that as your selling price. Look at other homes on the market nearby - are they priced higher or lower than your appraisal figure (this is assuming your home has similar features as the others)? If your figure is higher, consider lowering your selling price to make your home more attractive to buyers.
Don't forget that by using YELLOW, you aren't paying real estate agent fees.
If a home is being sold with an agent, 6% of the sale price will go to the agents involved in the deal. That means you can price your home for 6% less than a similar home and make the same amount on the sale. That’s a great way to make a quick sale!
TIP: Price your home slightly under a round number, like you often see in stores or gas stations. For example, say you would like to sell your home for $200,000. Instead, set the price at $199,900. Psychologists have found that this makes people think they are saving money. A round number like "900" has proven effective, too.
The remainder of this "Price" section has other resources to help with setting the sale price of your home.
When you list your home on YELLOW, we have you set your selling price BEFORE the appraisal or estimate comes back - but don't worry, you can change the sale price amount at any time. We think it is helpful for homeowners to research their sale price, too. We've listed a few resources below that will help with this.
There are many online tools that provide estimates of your home’s value. Their accuracy is debatable, but they provide a good reference point in pricing your home. Understand that sellers will also be looking at these estimates, so they must be considered. A large deviation from the estimate deserves justification.
The biggest site out there is Zillow and you may have heard of the Zillow estimate (or "Zestimate" as they call it). There has been a lot of debate about its accuracy (like this article showing that the “Zestimate” was extremely far from the actual sale price of the Zillow CEO’s home).
The Wall Street Journal finds that Zillow came within 5% of the market price in about a third of cases, was off by 25% or more in 11% of cases, and was off by 50% or more in 3.4% of cases, although this study was done in 2007. LINK
That said, you should be aware of the "Zestimate" because buyers will be. Keep this price in mind when you are listing your home.
According to an independent study of on-market homes, the Redfin Estimate is the most accurate among leading automated home-value tools. They also claim to provide the most accurate value of a home for sale - more than twice as likely to be within 3% of the home's selling price as other top online home-value estimators.
Here are some others sites that provide estimates:
On a personal note, in early 2019 I had an appraisal done on my home for a refinancing.
The estimate from Realtor.com was the closest to the number from the appraiser. They were slightly below the appraisal. An estimate from Chase was the next closest and a little further below the appraisal.
In third was the Redfin estimate, which was significantly above my appraisal. Eppraisal was even higher, FSBO, higher still, and Zillow was the furthest away and highest over the appraisal.
The estimates above my appraisal may sound like great news – but there is something important to consider. A buyer WILL have an appraisal done on your home during closing - it's required for a mortgage. If the appraisal comes in below the price you agreed on, the bank WILL NOT approve a mortgage to buy your home. It’s important to price your home accurately.
Review nearby sales
It’s important to know what the real estate market is like in your area. Looking at recent comparable sales, or “comps,” is the best way to do this.
"Comps" are properties similar to your own that sold recently (ideally in the last six months). The more similar the comp is to your own home (style, age, size, location, amenities, etc.), the better the estimate of your own home’s value.
You can find recently sold homes using almost any online home search websites.
With Zillow, for example, you can pull up the map and click the “Listing Type” button, then check only the ‘Recently Sold’ box. The process with most other websites is similar, too.
Redfin has something interesting. On the search page, click on “More Filters.” Then turn the For Sale OFF and Sold ON. From there you can narrow your search to sales over a certain time period, plus you can select property characteristics that closely match your own home.
On the result maps, you’ll want to look at homes that are:
Most of these postings still have pictures of the home. How does it compare to your home? Nicer features and conditions will make their home worth more, and vice-versa. Take that into consideration when pricing your home.
Lastly, be aware of the listing prices of homes around you that are for sale or pending - but don’t pay them too much attention. The listing price is not likely to be what the buyer ends up paying.
Note that by using YELLOW, you aren’t paying the fees these homes will pay (like the 6% agent fee) so you can list your home a little less than the market and still walk away with more money.
Price per square foot
Buyers will look at the price per square foot of your home. There is a debate over how reliable and accurate this is, but nonetheless, it is something to consider when pricing your home. Take a look at the price per square foot of your comps – is your home priced higher or lower than the average? If your home is priced far away from the average, be sure you can justify it. A nicer home deserves a higher multiple and vice versa.
Appraisers focus heavily on “comps,” so this needs to be a consideration in pricing your home. The buyer WILL have your home appraised and many deals fall apart because the home was priced too high. Keep your home in line with the comps in your area!
We’re here to help, too!
Once you decide on a listing price, run it through a calculator to see how much you will walk away with. Don’t forget to factor in closing costs, which can average 2-4% of your home’s value. Play around with the different price levels in the spreadsheets to see how much you will walk away with at these various levels. It’s also good to know what your breakeven price is.
Will you offer a commission to a buyer's agent?
Many buyers will use a real estate agent to help them buy a home. People often don't realize that these "buyer agent's" are typically paid by you, the seller, from the proceeds of the sale. You'd think the buyer should pay their agent for doing work for them, but for some reason that's not the case. It's customary for the buyer's agent to receive 3% of the sale price, but many discount services charge as low as 1%.
It's up to you if you want to offer compensation to an agent who brings a buyer.
Remember, you only pay this commission if you sell to a buyer using an agent.
Buyers are still required to pay YELLOW's fee regardless of using an agent or not.
Homes that look “staged” sell faster and for a higher price than homes where there is clear evidence of people living there.
Buyers are always told to ignore things like the wall color or the furniture or the flooring because they can be changed later. In reality, though, its hard to overlook the tastes of the seller.
Staging is mostly about cleaning, decluttering, and depersonalizing your home so a buyer can picture themselves living there. It takes a little effort, but it can go a long way to boosting a sale.
Below we have some tips on staging your home.
Home Prep Tips
Keep only essential pieces of furniture to make your home look more spacious. Don't remove so much that it makes your home feel empty, though. Ask yourself, if someone was going to buy this home, what items would they keep? Consider taking the rest to storage.
You may have to invest in a storage unit, but it will pay for itself if it results in a higher sale price. It also helps you get a head start on packing for the move.
Paint the walls a neutral color. Neutral colored walls make the home feel more "move-in” ready and also makes the rooms feel more open, light, and bigger. An accent wall is alright if you like color, but try not to make it too loud.
It's possible to paint over any wallpaper, too, by using an oil-based primer first. Budget plenty of time to dry, especially in humid climates.
Don’t forget curb appeal. Clean up the lawn by keeping the grass cut. If the yard could use a little work, give it some fertilizer and put a sprinkler on it for a couple days. Also clean up overgrown shrubbery and trees and consider planting some flowers for a little color.
Tip: if you keep your lawn mowed and green, weeds are tougher to see.
There is a TV show we like that is a great resource for staging, called Sell This House. It helps homeowners stage their home – at a very low cost. It definitely has a lower budget than anything you'd see on HGTV, but we feel like it’s more realistic. It’s a few years old, but we think it’s still relevant.
You can find it on the 'Dabl' network, which is on many cable carriers. You can also find episodes to watch online in the links below.
This first link requires you to sign in to your TV provider first to watch, but there are many full episodes:
This link has several free videos. Look for the videos over 20 minutes long:
According to Zillow, here are some ways to prepare your home:
Should you use a professional staging company?
There are many reasons to use a professional stager, and not just for their expertise. It’s helpful to get an outside perspective, since many home sellers can’t objectively look at their home and see what needs to be done.
The cost of a professional is not cheap – however, their service is likely to result in a faster sale with a higher price, so it may pay for itself and more.
Cost breakdown, from Home Advisor:
Our suggestion – consider the initial consultation, where you get advice on what should be done and do it yourself if you think you can.
Some people like to make costly upgrades to their home in the hopes of selling it for more money. However, it doesn't usually pay off. A home may look nice with expensive upgrades, but the changes may not be a style that works for the buyer.
Sellers are usually better off not making big renovations and instead, pricing the home lower to appeal to more buyers who can customize it to their tastes.
Rather than a big renovation, make modest improvements and do a thorough cleaning. Let the buyers make the big renovations later if they wish.
Should you make upgrades?
These are the most important part of your listing. Be sure to invest some extra time here to do a good job.
Once you’re comfortable with your home’s appearance, it’s time to take the pictures that will appear in your listing. Studies have shown that the pictures were the most important thing potential buyers looked at, so you want to get this right.
Below are a few tips to help you take the best pictures possible.
Should I hire a professional photographer?
This is a frequent question.
One way to determine the quality of photographs you need is by looking at pictures of homes currently listed near you and at your price level. You can find them on any real estate website. Do the pictures look professional? If so, the answer is yes.
The general consensus the more expensive your home, the more likely it is that you should use a professional.
Use the best camera available to you. DSLR-style cameras are popular and should be your first choice over a cell phone. There are ways to get quality shots on a newer cell phone, too.
Here are some links with more info on using your cellphone camera:
Here are some tips for taking good pictures:
Too much light can cause glares
To prevent too much light from ruining a shot, pay attention to the time of day you are taking pictures.
Indoor pictures should be taken when the sun is bright.
-If the window is facing west, take the picture earlier in the day
-If the window is facing east, take the picture later in the day
This is because you don't want sunlight coming in through the window.
Outdoor pictures look best taken when the sun is lower and behind the cameraman since it reduces the shadows on the home.
Many people also take a twilight picture of the home when the sky is darker but all the curtains are open and the lights are on. This also helps show off any landscape lighting.
More photo tips:
AirBNB has some useful photo tips, too, since the home listers are in a similar situation to YELLOW users:
Here are some of the more popular photo editing apps to touch up a picture:
And apps designed for real estate photos:
Mistakes to avoid
A theme of many bad photos is a lack of attention to little details. Don’t get any people in your shot - including yourself - in the reflections and shadows. Even little things like leaving the toilet seat up can ruin a picture.
There are even websites devoted to bad real estate pictures:
Video can be a great way to give buyers a realistic look at your property.
Sellers have the option to upload a video walkthrough of their home. It can be as simple as a video shot on your cell phone, walking through the home.
Like with your photos, YELLOW will touch up your videos if needed. We use professional software to create a more flattering and realistic video. Take a look at the video below for more info.
Tips for making your video walkthrough:
While property descriptions can have a prominent spot in your listing, they are not nearly as important as the picture section. Don't worry if creative writing isn’t your strong suit. A mediocre description section is unlikely to hurt your sale, but we’ve provided a few pointers and templates to help.
Writing a description
The purpose of the description is to highlight desirable things the buyer can’t see from the pictures. The most important thing is to be honest and don’t overhype your home – exaggeration is easy to see and can turn buyers off.
The odds are that if your home was sold in the last few years, Zillow may still have your home’s description up on their website. You can use that as a guide for what to include, but do not copy the old description! You can be charged with copyright infringement. (This applies to the photos, too.)
It's also helpful to check out the descriptions for other homes in your area to give you a good idea what to include in your description, but again, do not copy.
Listing descriptions tend to follow a basic structure:
Opening statement - This gives readers an idea of what they are looking at and to keep reading.
Description of features - As the name suggests, this part gives an overview of the home’s primary features and their description.
Call to action - Usually the last sentence gives the buyers a reason to act.
Check out these helpful adjectives and keywords that will help enhance your listing (don’t overdo it though!):
Here’s a little more on the basic structure of the description:
The first part of the description tries to capture the reader’s attention. Try to incorporate some of the adjectives found in the links above.
This part highlights the features and tells readers what it’s like to live in the home. Use words that help buyers picture themselves living there. Rather than just a list of features, describe the benefits of those features. It’s okay to keep it concise and factual.
A general rule of thumb is to touch on the main points in the order your pictures appear (starting in the front of the home, moving inside to the living room, kitchen, bedrooms, then to the rear of the home).
Be sure to touch on any upgrades, renovations, or improvements you completed.
Highlight any special features of the home, like hardwood floors, marble countertops, tile showers, insulated windows, solid wood doors, nice views, outdoor areas, etc.
Also include name brands of premium appliances, windows, and doors (like Viking, Sub-Zero, Thermador, etc.) as this indicates quality.
Remember to touch on any nice neighborhood or location features, too. You may be close to certain districts or attractions, or maybe have amenities nearby like walking trails, parks, or even a community pool. Also note a highly-rated school system if it is in your area (this must remain fact based, like "A-rated schools." Subjective terms like "good" can violate the Fair Housing Act. More on this later.).
CLOSING / CALL TO ACTION
The last part of the description conveys a sense of excitement or urgency that can help prod buyers to act. Sometimes these can sound cheesy to us and we don't think they are always helpful, but it may work for you.
Combine these three sections together to get a decent write-up of your home.
Don’t forget to mention that by using YELLOW, you are helping buyers save time and money, which is helpful to selling your home.
Word of caution
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disabilities, or familial status. Be careful to avoid using any terminology that even alludes to these issues.
By law, sellers must disclose any material defects of the home that they are aware of.
To accomplish this, each seller must complete a document that lists any known issues with the property and any repair or remodel projects completed during the time they owned the home.
This only applies to issues you know about.
You aren't expected to know about everything, especially inside the walls. But if the problem is something obvious - like a leaky roof - and you don't disclose it, you may end up in court. It is very important to be honest here.
Condo sellers are required to provide additional documents, which you may recall from when you purchased your condo.
Here are the documents that are required:
After submitting your home
Once you’ve entered your home’s info and uploaded the pictures, it won’t immediately go live (where it appears on our website).
We have to request the inspections and if desired, the appraisal and title search. Plus, we have to send out the yard sign and the digital lockbox for your key. You do have the option for it to go live immediately, but with a 'Coming Soon' notification. We will be in contact with you to work out these details.
The inspection is a critical step, but some sellers balk at the idea of an inspection. This is natural since there is the potential to reveal problems.
Those potential problems will be uncovered eventually.
Buyers will conduct their own inspection and any flaws will be revealed. This adds time to the closing and will lead to new negotiations over the repairs or the home price. It could also cause the buyer to back out of the contract.
Do you have to disclose a pre-sale home inspection?
Yes, you do have to disclose property condition issues that you are aware of (whether you know of them because of the pre-inspection or for another reason). What you are required to disclose depends on where you live, but in general, you’re required to let a buyer know about any major flaws in your home. Even in states with less-strict disclosure laws, you are still required to disclose an issue if you’re asked directly about it.
If a buyer backs out of a deal, the canceled contract will show up in your home’s property history on sites like Zillow and Trulia. Buyers are typically wary of homes that have already had offers fall through since it’s a sign there might be something wrong with the home.
By getting an inspection now, you can address any issues.
Pre-sale Inspection Benefits, from Zillow:
The inspection costs you nothing as the seller – the buyer will ultimately end up covering this cost. Note that if a seller were to back out of using YELLOW before a sale, you will be responsible for the cost.
What do home inspectors look for?
Home inspection checklist in pdf form:
Getting started - Helpful links
Visits to your home