Real Estate: The Need to Sell Quandary

People sell their homes for many different reasons. Downsizing, upsizing, death, divorce, children. But we forget that some people NEED to sell, simply because they can no longer afford the house. It’s a bit of a secret here in Newton, where many people have money or live a keep-up-with-the-Joneses lifestyle. I’ve been called into many a listing appointment and witnessed an urgent need to sell. Most sellers try to keep this from you and, of course, I get that. Who wants to admit defeat?

“It feels shameful to be put in the position of being forced to sell. It is more common than you think.”

Some of these homes have been neglected and are showing disrepair. Others look pretty on the outside but an ugly mess behind the walls. We often give advice to paint this or replace that without enough regard to the cost. I once sat across the table from a woman who broke down in sobs asking me why Realtors didn’t get she was selling because she had to? She didn’t have money to repaint and fix the porch or spruce up the landscaping. I can’t begin to tell you how unaware and thoughtless I felt. We devised a plan that she and her sister would clean and declutter to the bone. They were able to do a bit of touch up, painting themselves, and they scraped together a few dollars to get rid of excess junk. I must say the house looked *much* better.

Our plan to list the house was to disclose, disclose and disclose. The roof was at the end of its life span, the porch needed to be replaced. The heating was 35 years old and there was no central air. The kitchen and baths were between 35 and 75 years old but they were sparkling clean. The drafty windows were as clear as could be. The basement was unfinished with a leaky fieldstone foundation but you could have served dinner on the floors. I must say I was proud to list this house. I was thrilled with a capital T that we received $67K over asking. A developer didn’t purchase the house, a young couple with 2 children and a fair amount of expendable cash purchased the house and brought the house back to life.

Clean and decluttered is a huge improvement. The most important piece of advice I can give anyone looking to sell is, DO NOT hide anything. It is so much better to disclose a problem up front than explain it after an inspection. My reputation is on the line. If I’m lied to and relay that information, buyers think I’ve lied. Sellers lie to us all the time, even a sweet adorable 80-year-old will look us in the eye and says she’s never had a drop of water in the basement in 50 years. I can see the water line 6 inches up the basement wall and my mold spore allergies are at full speed. When something doesn’t seem right and you ask the listing agent a direct question and the response is, “the seller told me,” listen carefully. A good inspector will be able to spot trouble. If you disclose ahead of time the buyer makes an offer reflecting the work that needs to be done. After a bad inspection, a buyer starts deducting unexpected repair costs not to mention wondering what else has been covered up.

I will never again assume a seller has the cash to spruce up for a sale. It is better for the seller to be honest with the broker about their selling situation. We’ve seen and heard more than you can imagine; we won’t be shocked or judgmental. We see every day how bad things happen to good people. Every transaction is a learning opportunity for us, let us put our experience and service providers to work for you. A real estate relationship should be built on trust and that works both ways.

This guest post contributed by:

Margaret Szerlip

Compass

Email:  margaret@compass.com Mobile:  617.921.6860

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Author: Margaret Szerlip

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