Take the Home Seller’s Journey with George

 

1,460 Mar Vista homeowners have let us guide them in their home sale journey.

Learn everything possible on how to sell your home in Mar Vista.

 

Selling your home is not just a process it is a journey. Just like any other type of journey, you may find yourself getting lost, having to overcome obstacles or even considering turning back. But if you make some basic preparations, take some precautions and just keep going, you’ll get to where you want to be. What follows are some of the ways you can make sure that you’re headed in the right direction.

 

Learn how to sell your home

Making the Decision  

Because there truly is ‘no place like home,’ making the decision to sell your home entails much more than just changing a mailing address and throwing some boxes in a truck. There is a wide variety of reasons why people sell their homes and these reasons are almost always life changing.

The decision could have been made long ago, in the case of retirement; or more recently if it was based on health reasons or external factors such as a job opportunity or being closer to family members. From time to time I’ve been asked for advice of a very sensitive nature and that is what one should if they’ve lost their spouse. I’ve always advised people to stay in the home for at least one year, if feasible, and then reevaluate. Selling your home is tricky enough in the best of circumstances. Sometimes it’s best to wait until you can give it your full attention.

Look Before You Leap

If you are moving in with family, or relocated to employment housing, you won’t need to spend time looking for a new home.  But for the most part you will need a new place to live. And while it should go without saying, please don’t forget to look before you leap!   Make a point of learning as much as you can about the area, neighborhoods, schools and local businesses. If you’re 55 + years old and moving within California, check and see if the county you’ll be moving to accepts Prop 90, which may allow you to keep the same property tax base.  If you’re staying within L.A. County, take a look into Prop 60 which offers a similar benefit.

Pricing Your Home

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that one of the most important factors in the Selling your home journey is the list price of your home.  Websites like zillow.com can provide an idea, but you should never rely on that, or any website, alone.  A CMA (Comparable Market Analysis) or BPO (Broker Price Opinion) are the most reliable ways to get an accurate assessment of how to position your home on the market.

 

A CMA or BPO incorporates real, recent information from MLS and public records to give you a clear sense of what to expect from the sale price. We always hope for the best, but it’s best to calibrate your plan based on what the facts are, not what what we’d like them to be.  Your list price should be based on what other homes have recently sold for that share comparable lot size, location, square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, condition and more – almost 30 different data points in total. Only in extremely rare, force majeure level circumstances such as earthquakes, massive high mortgage rates or an attack such as the one on 9/11 will you need to reevaluate the list price if we listen to what the marketplace is telling us.

 

Once a reliable list price has been determined, the next step is to collect all of the information you need for a Seller Net Sheet.  This is a list, ideally in chart form, of all of the deductions from the sale price such as mortgage, commissions, closing fees, recording fees and more (don’t worry I have a chart you can use!) costs that will give you a realistic idea – within a few hundred dollars, of what to expect at the close of escrow.

Preparing Your Home

While your new home search and preparation continues, you can’t forget to handle the preparations for the one you are getting ready to sell.

HGTV has a great list for preparing your home for sale, and it’s about a 2 minute read. Preparing your home for sale is straight forward but unless it’s being sold as a tear-down, in which case you don’t need to do a thing, it will make a difference in getting the price you are aiming for.  It’s a good idea to order your own inspection, including the sewer line, to get a sense of what the buyer’s home inspection will reveal.

Selling in Los Angeles

For those of you living in Los Angeles, another crucial step to making this process as smooth as possible is to order a Form 9A from the city sooner than later.  It is a requirement of the city and it only costs $72. This form will prompt a review of your home by the city’s Department of Building and Safety to determine if there are any outstanding special assessment liens against the home for street bonds or other costs L.A. homeowners are responsible for. It’s an extra step and may end up costing a few hundred dollars if there are liens, but it is exactly the type of document that you’ll need to have to make it through escrow smoothly.

Choosing a Broker for Your Home

At this point, if you haven’t already done so, it’s time to select a broker.  Now, I’m obviously a bit biased when it comes to who to work with when selling a home in Mar Vista, but since I know many of my readers live elsewhere, here are some general rules to follow when making this decision.

Location, location, location doesn’t just factor into the home, it is also crucial that your broker lives very close to, if not within, your community. You want to work with someone who is intimately connected to the neighborhood and its subtle nuances and is not just aware of the market trends but is ahead of them.

Friends and Family?

Before deciding to work with a close friend or a family member, consider what might happen if you are unhappy or un comfortable with their performance – can you fire them without it causing trouble at the next Thanksgiving dinner?  You should also consider that as close as you might be, there are things they may not have any business knowing about you, your family, your financial situation or other personal family affairs. A good broker will put their client first, and if a friend or relative doesn’t understand why you don’t think working together is a good idea, they are probably not the broker for you.

Experience Is The Best Teacher

Experience is obviously key when it comes to selecting a broker.  While I’m forever grateful to my instructors at UCLA who guided me on my way to earning an MBA (Go Bruins!) my best teacher is the four decades I’ve spent helping families sell their homes. Your broker should have guided homeowners through enough transactions that it is extremely unlikely that something will come up that they haven’t dealt with – successfully – prior to the sale of your home.  Longevity is key because market conditions are always changing. You want someone who’s successfully navigated inflation, recession and other ebbs and flows that are inevitable over time. Even when you know where you want your Seller’s Journey to end, these types of external conditions will affect how you get there. It’s best to work with someone who’s been down this road hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

I’m often asked whether or not large companies have an advantage over smaller ones.  Over time, and having been part of one of the ‘Big 3’ real estate companies, I’ve learned that this is simply not true.  The biggest issue these companies face, even the best ones, is an unavoidable lack of coordination amongst their agents. When timing is crucial, this is a real drawback.

A Good Broker Is A Good Advisor 

As you move forward, the broker you’ve partnered with will take on more and more heavy lifting.  An experienced broker will be able to provide comprehensive advice on list price, length of sales period, how to handle requirements from the city, county and state, and reviewing disclosure forms such as TDS (Transfer Disclosure Statement) and AVID (Agent Visual Inspection Disclosure).  It’s important that these disclosures are completed and shared with a qualified buyer sooner than later so an offer cannot be changed unless something new is discovered in the course of the inspection.

A Good Broker Knows Marketing

Effective marketing – doing what it takes to make sure that not just ‘a’ buyer but ‘the right’ buyer sees your home, is a major part of the broker’s responsibility.  Posting your home to MLS, making sure lawn signs are placed correctly, coordinating not just the Sunday open house for buyers, but the Tuesday ‘broker caravan,’ and utilizing the latest communication tools such social media and drone video and photography.  A less than fun fact – combo locks can be a major liability. Too many homes have been burglarized after a burglar received access after calling a listing agent impersonating a broker. We only use electronic smart locks that will notify us of every entry and are individualized for each broker based on authenticated contact information.

Evaluating multiple offers, negotiating with a buyer and managing contingency periods can be stressful so your broker’s bedside manner is crucial. Trust your gut about this – you don’t want to feel rushed about any decision.  You should be confident that your broker will not only notice when a detail may have slipped past your thought process but take the time to back up and get you up to speed.

Not just ‘A Buyer’ But ‘The Right Buyer’

Every situation is a bit different, but there are a few avoidable pitfalls that should be mentioned here.  It is quite common for the assignee clause to be used by trusts or large developers to facilitate the title transfer.  However, there are people who are in the practice of ‘double-escrowing’ by making a below market offer, then assigning the deed to a developer and then pocket the difference.  A responsible broker will conduct proper due diligence in order to verify the buyer. It is the broker’s role to make sure that the proceeds of selling a home go into your pockets, not a speculator’s.

As a rule, I recommend passing on a buyer who will not initial the arbitration/mediation clauses in an agreement, especially if the buyer is an attorney.  It’s not that I don’t love attorneys, but it only costs $100 or so to file a case in court, and it will often require 25 hours of your own attorney’s time, which isn’t free, just to get you to court to fight a frivolous lawsuit.

Moving Through Escrow

While it is typically up to the seller to select the escrow company, I like to have some input which one to use.  This is yet another area where a broker’s experience and past dealings will work to your benefit. Due to having done numerous deals with an escrow company an experienced broker will be able to get the best service from them, which really pays off when the timing is critical.

The Journey’s End

Additional factors will come into play as you achieve your goals when selling your home, but by the time you’ve selected a broker, listed your home, evaluated and settled on an offer from a qualified buyer and selected an escrow company the end goal is in sight and it’s all about execution.  There is a lot to keep in mind and it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but just remember that it’s a journey. You can’t do everything at once, but if you take it one step at a time and just keep going, you’ll reach your destination.

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