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Dean's Team Fearless Leader - Dean Moss

It is likely that the year 2008 will go down as one most friendly to home buyers with good credit and solid down payment funds. 

Here in and around Chicago, and in many parts of the U.S., it will also be remembered as the year that home market values fell for many, equity slipped, and selling your home meant long waits, fewer showings, lower offers, and numerous after-the-contract issues.

Where does that leave home sellers today?  Is it possible to sell your home, make a little profit, and move up to your next home, in a reasonable marketing time frame?

The answer is absolutely "YES!"  But you need to follow these 10 Important Home Seller Guidelines for a Shifting Real Estate Market -

1.  HOW STRONG IS YOUR MOTIVATION TO MOVE?  For those "just thinking" about moving to a nicer, larger home, tremendous discount opportunities await most buyers.  However, most home sellers today face long market times, repeated price reductions, possible lowball offers, issues raised during the Home Inspection Period immediately after the contract is negotiated, and a bevy of Buyer Loan Qualification Requirements.  If you don't have the patience for these potholes in the road, or don't want the headaches, you may wish to consider delaying your moving decision until the Real Estate Market stabilizes.

2,  HOW MUCH EQUITY DO YOU TRULY HAVE IN YOUR HOME TODAY?     If your Projected Home Equity is low, and you have little additional savings for your new home, you might not be able to gather together enough of a down payment on your new home to qualify for a new home mortgage loan.   It's important here to be true to yourself here - and trust the candid advice of your real estate and lending professionals.

3.  PRICE YOUR HOME CORRECTLY - RIGHT FROM THE START!   We often plead with our clients - despite what your friends, family, and elder parents might advise you - today, do not "test the waters" with a higher than market price, thinking you can "always come down" in negotiation.  Take a close look at the SOLD prices (not the ASKING prices) of comparable properties within a tight, three-month maximum time frame, and include the comparable data of houses in historically-more-expensive neighborhoods a little further away.  Use these guidelines as your ABSOLUTE MAXIMUM PRICE.  Depending on your timing, the condition of your home, and your specific needs, it might be prudent to set your asking price SOMEWHAT LOWER than these comparable properties, to ensure a faster sale, for close to your asking price.  Remember, online, automated home pricing sites, such as, often OVER ESTIMATE your value - without even seeing your house, and without experience or knowledge of your neighborhood!

4.  STAGE YOUR HOUSE PROPERLY!  Home Staging involves preparing your house for sale so it creates an instant positive impression.  It involves a number of steps.  First, furniture must be selected and arranged to make the rooms appear big.  Room lighting is CRITICAL - brightly-lit rooms appear much larger than those lit dimly.  Also, TOOTHBRUSH CLEAN is an absolute imperative!  Homes with less-than-pristine housekeeping will generate a "Let's move on" response from potential buyers.

6813 N Lakewood, Chicago

5.  HAVE YOUR PROPERTY SHOWABLE AT ALL TIMES, AND WITH SHORT NOTICE!  Today, with scheduled showings fewer in number, and qualified home buyers at a premium, you will never know if that showing you refused because "you're tired," or "it's inconvenient might have been the perfect buyer that you threw away.  Use Secure Agent Lock Boxes, if your Real Estate Professional advises you to do so.

6.  NEVER REJECT AN OFFER TO PURCHASE - EVEN IF IT'S A LOWBALL!  Don't get me wrong - I'm not advising you to become a pushover.  But, please COUNTEROFFER EVERYTHING, and don't take low offers from any buyer personally!  Remember, there is no sin in saving money, and buyers - perhaps even YOU, when you buy your next home - might be inclined to "test" with a low offer, while maintaining every intention to INCREASE THE OFFER if necessary.  Even if your Real Estate Professional advises you to counter a low offer with one close to your asking price - COUNTER ALL OFFERS TO PURCHASE - NEVER REJECT OUT OF HAND!

7.  LOWER YOUR PRICE QUICKLY, AND SYSTEMATICALLY, UNTIL YOU RECEIVE AN OFFER!   Every property, in any kind of market - weak or strong - will sell eventually, AT THE RIGHT PRICE!  Often, however, it takes some time to find the correct price level.  If there are no offers within the first TWO WEEKS your house is on the market, REDUCE YOUR ASKING PRICE A MINIMUM OF 3% until you receive an offer.  Continue this pricing strategy until the house goes under contract.  Always maintain a "price lower, then stay FIRM," mentality - but, today, you often have to lower your asking price once or several times to sell your home.  Our advice: we would rather have you counter offer a lowball offer, than keep your price too high and receive no offers on your home at all!

8.  FSBO - NO GO!   Are you considering selling by-owner?  You'll save Real Estate Fees - yes?  DEAD WRONG!  In most cases, buyers looking at For Sale By Owner (FSBO) properties offer far less on these homes than those represented by a Professional, Full-Service Realtor.  (Figures from National Association of Realtors research indicate the typical by-owner seller NETS 16% less versus selling with a qualified Real Estate Professional - a figure greatly exceeding nearly EVERY agent's Professional Services Fee, or "Commission.")   Why?  FSBO Buyers want to save the same money YOU want to save by flying without Professional Realtor Help.  They will offer less, and attempt to nickel-and-dime during Home Inspection periods.  Many by-owner buyers delay closings, or raise final walk through issues.  Also, in today's more stringent lending environment for home buyers, many FSBO Buyers have flaws in their credit credentials and pre-approval.  This could doom a sale very close to the time of closing!

5419 Warwick

9.  GET YOUR HOME SOLD FIRST - THEN, START LOOKING FOR A NEW ONE!  Today, unfortunately, many of our seller clients are finding their ultimate sales price is often quite a bit lower than what they originally projected.  If you purchase your new home FIRST, you are completing the move process IN REVERSE - you purchase your new place without knowing exactly how much you'll be walking away with on your old one.  The seller of your new home will read that risk, and negotiate for more money, versus your likely price if you sold first, when you purchase to cover the perceived risk.   Those buying before the sell often find themselves lowering the sales price of their old house by an even greater amount, to avoid losing the new home on a Home Sale Contingency Contract.  To our clients, we always advise to SELL FIRST, then NEGOTIATE POST-CLOSING POSSESSION on your old home, and then - ONLY THEN - seek out your new home.  We would be happy to explain how this would work for you!

10.  DON'T MAKE COSTLY, UNNECESSARY IMPROVEMENTS ON YOUR OLD HOME!  Over-improving a home for sale can get very costly, very quickly!  You might feel you need to paint the whole house, or purchase new appliances, get new carpet, or update a bathroom.  Our Team's experience selling in excess of 525 homes over 15 years, however, suggests most of these late-improvement investments have a negligible impact on the ultimate sales price of the home!  Yes, some repairs should be completed - a defective hot water heater need be replaced, a running toilet need be repaired, a leaky roof must be made leak-free.  However, in most cases, costly pre-sale home improvements or extensive decorating is truly not necessary to sell!  Why would you invest $10,000 in improvements, and get only $2,000 back in incremental sales price?  In most cases, KEEP YOUR WALLET IN YOUR POCKET regarding most repairs when it is time to sell.

We hope this Checklist for Home Sellers is helpful.  Remember, as well, we're always available for questions and consultation, for any Chicago Neighborhood or Suburb in which you are interested.  Just let us know!

Happy Holidays!


Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 3:25 PM by Dean's Team


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