- Work with qualified lenders: Before you start working with a bank, mortgage banker, mortgage broker or credit union, get as much information as you can. Check their backgrounds carefully. Also, get an estimate of all possible fees.
- Get pre-approved: If there is a problem getting pre-approval because of your credit rating, get copies of your credit reports and determine if anything on the report is inaccurate or over seven years old, which means it must be removed.
- Look for a neighborhood first: A great home in an undesirable neighborhood (for any of several reasons) is not very worthwhile from a quality of life or from a home value perspective. Learn as much as you can about the neighborhood (online, from visits or at local libraries) and make sure your needs are met.
- Make a wish list: Whether you are going to open houses on your own or using a real estate broker, make up a list of what you would most like in a new home and prioritize it so you can determine what is most important and which items you are comfortable sacrificing.
- Have an inspection done: Have an engineer or independent home inspector inspect the home, including the roof, basement, grounds, heating, pipes, and so on. Make your offer contingent on an inspection.
- Think “improvements”: While you don’t necessarily have to add on a new room or two, make some basic improvements. Fixing up the house can make a significant difference in the eyes of buyers. If the house needs a paint job, use neutral colors, the same with new carpeting. Also make the grounds appealing.
- Have an inspection done: Buyers will most likely have inspections done before they purchase your home and ask you for repairs. Having an inspection done before you list gives you the chance to take care of the small things and be prepared to negotiate on the more expensive issues.
- Be careful with promises: Don’t overcommit yourself. There are some things that you can take care of for the buyer, but others that you cannot. Negotiate.
- Set a fair price: Be realistic about your asking price ”” know what other comparable homes have sold for in your area. Factor in the location, age of the house, economic conditions and improvements you’ve made. Also, consider an asking price just below the closest round number. For example, instead of $200,000, ask $199,000. That way when buyers look for houses up to $200,000, your house will come up. It also makes the price appear significantly lower when it’s really not.
- Think about a real estate agent: When choosing an agent, first make sure you are working with a seller’s agent. Check his or her background and make sure he or she is familiar with your neighborhood. Find out how many homes he or she has sold in your area. Ask where your home will be listed and commit to at least six months; it takes time to show and market your home properly.