Hands Off What Stays With a House When You Sell It?

home inspection

By Wendy Helfenbaum

When standup comedian Nathan Brannon moved into his newly purchased home in rural Washington state, it seemed the joke was on him: The previous owner had left the pegboard on the garage wall, but had taken all the pegs.

“When I first saw the pegs were missing, I was super confused; I mean, what are you going to do with just pegs?” Brannon recalls. “Now I have a pile of yard tools on the floor in front of the pegboard.”

“What do I have to leave when I sell my house?”

Brannon isn’t the only home buyer to discover that sellers sometimes take the strangest things with them when they vacate a property. We’ve seen home buyers ranting on social media about missing doorknobs, toilet paper holders, and even trees from the front yard.

But it can be far beyond merely annoying for the buyer. If you take something you haven’t negotiated to keep, you could tank the sale—or even face a lawsuit.

Not sure what you’re allowed to take with you when you move? Here are some rules to keep in mind before—and after—closing the deal.

1. If it’s nailed down, bolted, or mounted, it probably stays behind

When Laurel-Ann Dooley walked through a vacation property she was purchasing, there was a glaring hole where a storage shed had recently stood.

“The previous owner had sold it, even though it was supposed to stay,” recalls Dooley, who’s an attorney and Realtor® at PalmerHouse Properties in Atlanta.

While most buyers and sellers probably know that “fixtures”—immovable elements of a home such as built-in furniture, fences, or, yes, a storage shed—must stay behind, there can still be some confusion, saysBill Gassett, a Realtor® with Re/Max Executive Realty in Hopkinton, MA.

“Probably the No. 1 gray area that I’ve found is the mounting mechanism for big-screen TVs,” Gassett shares. “Obviously, it’s attached, so it’s supposed to stay with the house. But commonsense says, ‘Well, if somebody has a $3,000 TV hanging on the wall, unless they’re including [the TV] with the house, [the mounting mechanism] doesn’t stay.’”

“It becomes a real battling point with buyers and sellers if it’s not specifically referenced,” he adds.

Generally, Dooley says, if a house has been modified for an item, it’s probably a fixture.

“If an air-conditioning unit is placed in a window, it’s arguably personal property and the buyer can take it with them,” she says. “But if a hole has been cut in the wall to accommodate the unit, then it’s most likely a fixture.”

With that said, you want to avoid “arguably”, “probably”, or “most likely” when it comes to selling your home, Dooley cautions. Be specific and firm.

“If you want it, say so upfront,” Dooley advises.

2. Leave Mother Nature alone

Unless the property listing specifically mentions that you intend to take the prized rose patch your Aunt Zelda gave you, sellers cannot remove any landscaping, Gassett says.

“I’ve had sellers with specific requests to take certain things that might have been a special gift,” Gassett says. “Otherwise, you can’t just dig up a plant and take it with you; it’s part of the property.”

3. Hands off anything anchored in the ground

Other backyard items are also potential sources of misunderstanding between buyers and sellers.

“Technically, if a basketball hoop is cemented into the ground, then it’s considered to go with the house. Freestanding ones sitting on the lawn, however, would be something buyers could take with them,” he says.

Ditto for swing sets: If it’s anchored in the ground, it stays.

4. Let go of your lighting fixtures

Even if you’re attached to your show-stopping dining room chandelier, don’t pack it up and leave electrical wires hanging when you leave. And if you’re thinking about swapping out that chandelier right before closing—and hoping the buyer won’t notice? Forget about it, Gassett says.

“When you buy a property, you’re buying what you saw the day you saw the property and wrote the offer on the house, so for sellers to change something out after that date is illegal,” Gassett warns. Yes—illegal. 

You can declare your intention to remove it, Dooley says, but be aware that excluded items often become sticking points between buyers and sellers.

“Instead, take that chandelier out before you list your house, and put something else there,” she suggests.

5. Do you leave curtains when you move? Yep, window treatments stay, too

You may have spent a fortune on those custom blinds in your living room, but technically, you’re supposed to leave ‘em hanging, Gassett says.

“Curtains are always considered personal property, because they just slide off,” he says. “Rods and blinds, on the other hand, are considered part of the house because they’re affixed and attached.”

Mirrors are another murky area, he adds, but pretty easy to figure out: If they’re hung like paintings on a wall, they’re personal property. Bolted to the studs? They’re fixtures.

Don’t be petty—or you might tank the sale

Often, the littlest things cause the most heated debates, or even the derailment of the sale itself.

Sometimes, as in Brannon’s case of the missing pegs, sellers remove things from the house that aren’t worth chasing after, but are incredibly annoying nonetheless, Gassett says. For instance, he recalls a seller who took the control box for an underground dog fence.

“In real estate deals, some people take it out on the buyer by nickel-and-diming on stuff,” he says. “Especially if they don’t feel the sale has gone exactly the way they wanted it to, or they have resentment towards the buyer.”

Dooley heard of a seller who removed all the lightbulbs in the house before moving.

“With the amount of money you’re talking about on the sale of a home, I can’t imagine attaching sentimental value to your 60-watt lightbulbs,” she says. “It’s kind of silly.”

 

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8 Costly Home Seller Mistakes

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8 Costly Home Seller Mistakes

By: Anne Miller at Realtor.com

Homeowners who want to sell their home know they need to get the place spruced up for marketing, but a tougher challenge for some sellers is to get mentally prepared for putting their residence on the market.

After all, if you’ve been happily living in your home for years, it can be emotionally hard to detach yourself from your memories and look at the place as a commodity you’re selling.

For a smoother sales transaction that garners the most possible profit from your sale, avoid these common, yet costly, seller mistakes:

1. Skipping a home inspection. Depending on the age of your home, scheduling a pre-listing home inspection could save you a lot of time and aggravation. You can address issues on your own time and budget before negotiating with a buyer to fix problems.

2. Skimping on your sales prep. While you may be tempted to ?test the waters? and put your home on the market without painting it or making minor repairs, your home is likely to languish on the market and get a reputation for having a major problem. A thorough, professional-level cleaning should be your bare minimum seller prep. Your eventual sales price is likely to be lower if you don’t sell within the first few weeks after you list your home.

3. Choosing the wrong REALTOR®. Instead of picking a REALTOR® who’s a friend of a friend, a relative or perhaps someone who’s great at working with buyers, take the time to pick a REALTOR® with an excellent reputation for listing homes. Your payoff will be much larger if you list your home with a REALTOR® with local market knowledge and sales expertise.

4. Neglecting to ramp up your curb appeal. If you polish and primp inside your home but neglect to pull weeds or paint your front door, you run the risk of potential buyers leaving without ever entering your home.

5. Withholding information from buyers. If you hope that the buyers or their inspector won’t find out about the leak under your bathroom sink or the fact that your basement gets flooded every winter, you run the risk of a nasty negotiating period, or  worse, a lawsuit after the settlement.

6. Overpricing your home. If you’ve hired the right REALTOR®, someone who can give you a strong market analysis and help you determine a reasonable price for your home, then you can avoid overpricing your home. If you don’t listen to your REALTOR® and base your listing price on an inflated view of your home’s value, you’re likely to end up selling after multiple price drops for less than you would have if you priced it right the first time.

7. Being unprepared for your next step. Whether you should buy your next home or sell your current home first is only one part of the preparation you need to make to move. You need a back-up plan in case your transaction on either end takes longer or shorter than you think, and you need to understand your mortgage payoff and the closing costs you must pay.

8. Letting your pets and kids spoil a sale. Part of your emotional detachment from your home is recognizing that while you love Fluffy and your darling twins, buyers want to visualize themselves and their own family in your home. Bribe your kids if you have to, but make sure the house is neat and as neutral-looking and smelling as possible. Take the kids and your pets out (or lock up your pets) when prospective buyers are visiting ? you never know if someone who is terrified of dogs or cats will be turned off from making an offer because of your adorable pet.

Selling a home can be challenging, but with the help of a reliable REALTOR® you can avoid making mistakes and reap the rewards of your sale.

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How to Market Your Home for Maximum Exposure

By: Michele Lerner at Realtor.com

Once you’ve made the commitment to sell your home, chosen a Realtor to represent you, and established a list price, it’s time to work with your Realtor to market your property so it sells as quickly as possible. Your Realtor should share a marketing plan with you, but the more you know about the process of selling your home the easier it is to support your Realtor’s efforts.

Pre- Market Tips

The day your home goes on the market it should be in prime condition and priced right to attract the most potential buyers. While your Realtor can help you determine an appropriate price and can offer suggestions to make your home more appealing, your job is to put in the work to get your home pristine clean and to remove clutter and personalization. Buyers want to see a home where they can visualize themselves living. If buyers see an overstuffed closet, they’ll assume the home lacks storage space; and if your kitchen counters are cluttered, they’ll think the space is too small.

Provide your Realtor with tips about what you love best about your home and community that can be incorporated into your marketing materials.

Your Realtor can advise you on what you need to repair before putting your home on the market. You can also visit other homes that are for sale, or even local model homes for ideas on ways to present your home to potential buyers.

What to Expect From Your Realtor

Many Realtors have experience staging homes, or they can bring in a stager to rearrange your place. In addition, your Realtor should market your home in multiple ways:

  • Research the market to identify potential buyers to target for direct mail,
  • Reach out to other real estate brokers and agents who work with buyers in your price range,
  • Take excellent photos or hire a professional photographer to showcase your home online with attractive pictures,
  • List your home on the local MLS (Multiple Listing Service) and make sure it receives maximum exposure on multiple websites,
  • Take a video of your home or produce a virtual tour with numerous photos so your home can be viewed in-depth by buyers looking online.

Once buyers begin visiting your home or contacting your Realtor, your agent should respond as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going. Every visitor to your home or their agent should be contacted by your Realtor to get feedback on your home and to gauge their interest.

What Your Realtor Should Expect From You

While your Realtor does the heavy lifting when it comes to marketing, as a seller you need to support your Realtor in several ways:

  • Keep your home as clean, neat and odor-free as possible while your home is on the market. This may mean that you have to give up cooking your favorite liver-and-onions dish and that you have to bribe your kids to make their beds and take out the trash every day.
  • Make your home as available as possible to buyers, no matter how inconvenient it is for you and your family. Your home won’t sell if no one can see it.
  • Leave the house when buyers are there, since studies show that buyers will linger and look more carefully when the homeowners aren’t there.
  • Lock up your pets or take them away when buyers are visiting, especially during an open house when multiple visitors are expected.
  • Provide information to buyers about community amenities or neighborhood sports leagues so they can appreciate your home’s location.

If you and your Realtor develop a team approach to selling, you’ll benefit from a quicker and more pleasant real estate transaction.

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Why Use a Realtor When Selling Your Home

real estate agent
Article by: Realtor.com Team
Selling a house can be a complex process. A Realtor can help you at every stage, from setting a price to marketing the property to closing the sale.

Setting the Price The selling process generally begins with a determination of a reasonable asking price. Your real estate agent or Realtor can give you up-to-date information on what is happening in your local marketplace, as well as the price, financing, terms and condition of competing properties. These are key factors in marketing your home and selling it at the best price. Often, your agent can recommend repairs or cosmetic work that will significantly enhance the salability of the property.

Marketing The next step is a marketing plan. Marketing exposes your property to the public as well as to other real estate agents through a Multiple Listing Service, other cooperative marketing networks, open houses for agents, and so on. In many markets, a substantial portion of real estate sales are cooperative sales; that is, a real estate agent other than yours brings in the buyer. The Realtor Code of Ethics requires Realtors to use these cooperative relationships when they benefit clients.

An agent will also know when, where and how to advertise — which medium, format and frequency will work best for your home and your market. Though advertising can be valuable, the notion that advertising sells real estate is a misconception. National Association of Realtors studies show that 82 percent of real estate sales are the result of agent contacts from previous clients, referrals, friends, family and personal contacts. (Read More Here)

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