The winter has been long on snowy weather and, until this weekend, short on new Verona real estate listings. With multiple offers being made on those properties that do come on the market, more homeowners may be considering putting their homes up for sale. If you’re among them, Verona real estate professionals say there are several steps you need to take to get ready.
First, take a look around your house as if you were a buyer–a really hard look. “Look for the things that tend not to bother you,” says Andrew Mensch, branch manager for the Prudential New Jersey Properties office in Verona. Look for missing light switch covers, paint dings, and floor scratches, and make sure the front doorbell is working. “Once buyers find one thing not working, they question everything else,” Mensch adds.
Then on to what could be your biggest problem: Taking the underground oil tank out. Underground oil tanks are not uncommon in Verona, and they are deal breakers now. Even if you had the tank decommissioned in the past and the soil around it is clean, your house can’t be sold in this market with it in the ground. That could be a headache for sellers who put a beautiful paver driveway or a backyard deck over their tank, but it has to be done. “Some buyers freak about oil tanks, some just walk away,” says Jack McEvoy, a licensed home inspector in Verona.
Then check the utilities and the basics. “More families have two working parents,” says Mensch, which means they are less likely to want to do work on a house they buy.”
Schedule a service call for your furnace or boiler and get it tuned up. If your drains are running slowly, get your plumber out to have a look. “If people a see there’s any chance of things not working properly, they think there’s going to be a big repair bill,” says McEvoy. If the steam pipes in your house have been insulated with asbestos, don’t panic. You may be able to have the pipes wrapped rather than have the asbestos removed.
Then look for electrical issues that could trip up your sale during a home inspection. Make sure that all light fixtures in your closets have a cover over the bulb–yes, even high hats in your walk-in closet. Also make sure you’ve got covers on all outlets, light switches and junction boxes. Those are often DIY fixes, and while you are picking up supplies, pick up a ground fault circuit tester (about $10) and note any outlets that fail. That’s something you get point out to your electrician when you get him or her over to make sure you have the proper ground jumper wiring at your water meter and hot water heater.
Attention to the basics also includes having the chimney cleaned and certified free of problems. If it doesn’t have a cap on it, now would be an excellent time to get one. “Squirrels and birds can fall in and clog the chimney even if you don’t use the fireplace,” says McEvoy.
Then circle back to the cosmetics. Prudential’s Mensch says a freshly painted front door can give a house a boost. Keep the carpet if it is in good shape, but know that many buyers are looking for the hardwood floors that most Verona houses were built with. If you are going to repaint interior walls, keep the colors neutral. They appeal to more buyers and they make rooms look larger.
And forget what you think you would have gotten for your house in 2005 or 2006. That won’t happen now. While prices have recovered substantially since the depths of the recession, banks are being much more conservative on appraisals and lending, and, thanks to all the information on real estate web sites, buyers are much more aware of comparable prices and valuations. “The buyer from a decade who fell in love with your house and overpaid for it, that won’t happen any more,” says Mensch. “They are not going to get a mortgage. The appraisers are being more diligent.”
One other thing that’s radically different since the bottom of the recession: Your house won’t stay on the market for long. Selling times fell 15% last year from 2012. Agents like Liz Morris, a Verona resident who heads a sales team at Keller Williams in Montclair, all have lists of buyers ready to look at the next property that comes on the market. “Don’t worry about what the winter did to your landscape,” says Morris, “just get your house listed.”