Inspections are an important part of the home-selling process. The home inspector will locate any potential problems with the property, making sure that all involved know what’s wrong and what needs to be fixed. What happens then, though? Whose responsibility is it to fix the issues that the home inspector discovered?
As with a lot of problems, the answer is a resounding “It depends.”
One big determining factor in how problems found in a home inspection are dealt with is how severe the issues are. A major problem with a property can be a deal breaker for many buyers. Depending on where you live, such a problem may even have to be addressed before the property can be sold. State-level restrictions vary, but most are rooted in making sure that sellers can’t avoid fixing potentially dangerous problems or leave them for the buyer to discover on their own. Even if a problem isn’t critical, most states require that any problems found by a home inspection be disclosed to potential buyers. This disclosure is a big deal, as it can significantly affect how much the buyers are willing to pay.
Loan Program Requirements
Beyond repair and disclosure requirements that vary from state to state, different loan programs (such as those offered by the Federal Housing Authority or Department of Housing and Urban Development) may have additional requirements when it comes to problems discovered during a home inspection. Many programs have very specific guidelines regarding the condition of the property that a buyer can purchase using those loans. If a loan program won’t allow a purchase while unsatisfactory conditions exist, the issues must either be repaired or have satisfactory arrangements made to facilitate the repair before the purchase can continue. Keep in mind that not all loan programs will make allowances for future repairs, either; in those cases, the repairs will either have to be made in full or the buyer will have to find a different lender that does not follow the same strict requirements.
In the event that there aren’t specific regulations at the state level or restrictions in the buyer’s loan program concerning problems with the property, it falls to the buyer and the seller to determine what repairs will be made. This is typically part of the price negotiation, as buyers are willing to pay more for a property that they don’t have to make extensive repairs to. In many cases, sellers may offer to cover the most pressing repairs and address any serious issues while the buyer assumes responsibility for any other issues found in the buyer’s home inspection disclosure. In many cases this will be agreed to in writing, either at the request of one of the parties or as a condition of the mortgage loan that the buyer is using for the purchase. By formalizing the agreement in writing, it ensures that both parties understand their responsibility and protects the seller from potential legal action regarding issues that weren’t addressed (provided that the seller completed all of the repairs that they agreed to.)
The strength of the housing market can have a big effect on who does the bulk of repairs on a property. If similar properties are plentiful and interest rates are low, it creates what’s referred to as a “buyer’s market”; buyers have a lot of options and can easily walk away from the purchase if they don’t get what they want. In this situation, the buyer has a lot of leverage and can usually get the seller to agree to either a lower price or a higher percentage of the repairs. When the opposite occurs and there are few choices and higher interest rates, a “seller’s market” is created. Buyers can’t walk away as easily and be guaranteed a good deal elsewhere, so sellers can often hold their ground more and get buyers to agree to higher prices or a greater percentage of repairs.
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Spring and summer are traditionally seen as the best times to sell your house. Research has actually shown that homes sold during the first half of May tend to sell faster and sell for a higher average price than house sales at any other time of the year. Once you get into fall and winter, buyer competition doesn’t seem as fierce and average prices start to drop. This doesn’t mean you can’t sell during the off season, of course; it just means that you need to maximize the value of your home to get the most out of your property.
There’s Always a Buyer
Even though it’s the off season, there will always be someone out there who’s looking to buy a home. There are traditionally fewer home sales during the fall and winter, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any. It’s easy to assume that you’ll have to take what you can get if you find someone who’s interested, but that’s definitely not the case. While there’s a good chance that you’re a motivated seller if you’re selling during the off season, keep in mind that many home buyers are motivated as well. It’s true that you might not get as much out of your home as you would near the start of summer, but don’t think that you’re necessarily going to have to settle either.
Aggressive Pricing Strategies
With that said, you’re more likely to sell quickly if you’re more aggressive with your pricing strategy than you would be during the summer. Don’t price your home for less than its worth – but cut a little closer to its actual value than you might otherwise. Determine the actual value of the home and what you need to get from the sale, then add a little more to the total to give yourself some wiggle room for negotiations. This lets you present the home as a great deal and still yield a bit to the buyer, convincing them that they really are getting a great deal on the property and need to make the purchase before somebody else comes along.
It’s always important to have your house looking its best when you’re trying to make a sale, but it’s especially important during the off season. This can be a chore, especially if you have trees dropping leaves all over the yard, but it’s worth it. If at all possible, your home should be the one that stands out from the neighborhood because it has fresher paint, a neater lawn, cleaner windows and any other adjustments you can make to improve its overall look. The more you can wow potential buyers, the more likely they are to actually buy.
Cut Out the Clutter
If you’re in the process of packing while trying to sell your home, take any boxes and anything that’s ready to go and get it out of the house and into a storage unit or elsewhere. The same goes for most of the clutter that we build up in our daily lives. When a potential buyer comes to look at the house you should ideally have everything pared down to some basic furniture, standard amenities and perhaps a few picture frames or other personal items that are tastefully presented around the house. You want buyers to see the house for its beauty and be able to picture their lives there, not to see how the house looks overflowing with your life.
If you really want to get a potential buyer’s attention, show them that you’re prepared to answer any questions they might have about the house. Get a pre-inspection so you’ll know about any issues that you might not have noticed, making necessary repairs or disclosures as needed. Gather up documentation about the heating and cooling system, any maintenance that’s been performed and even details like the energy ratings on the windows. If you really want to go the extra mile, track down photos of the house from different seasons or pictures of any flowers or trees in bloom so that potential buyers will have an idea of what they can look forward to.
If you’re planning to sell your house, proper staging can make a huge difference. It’s important to keep in mind that tastes change over time, though, and the staging techniques that were popular when you bought the home might not impress buyers today. If you really want to get the most value out of your home when you sell, it helps to employ staging that will appeal to buyers in the current housing market. Fortunately, there are many ways you can stage your home so that it draws in modern buyers. The goal is to help them see your home as a place they could inhabit and fill with their own style, and these suggestions will help you to achieve this even if tastes have changed since you last decorated your home.
Maximize Your Lighting
A lot of modern buyers are looking for function as well as form when they’re looking at houses. One example of this comes in the form of good lighting. Make sure that the windows are clean and that your window dressings allow natural light to come through. Check that you have sufficiently bright bulbs in your fixtures, and double check that none are burned out. You might also consider adding spotlights or other accent lights in places like the kitchen and bathroom where the potential buyers might want additional light. If you really want to wow people, you could even install smart bulbs that can be controlled from a smartphone or smart speaker.
Keep It Earthy
Color trends change over time. At the moment, warm colors are hot. When staging your home, work with accent colors such as chocolate, olive green, beige and wine to tie your various decorations together. This will add splashes of warm, earthy color that’s neither too bright nor too dark. As an added benefit, these shades go well with a wide range of wall and floor options, so you can add some nice earthy accents without having to completely redesign your home beforehand.
Touch Up the Walls
If your walls are too mild or too wild, consider adding a fresh coat of paint before you get ready to sell your home. There are several colors that are popular right now, including a number of shades of blue, gray and green. You can usually get away with some light pink and gold shades too, as well as the occasional off-white. You don’t want anything too bold in most rooms, just something that will give a bit of color to the room. But feel free to skew a little darker if you’re painting a bathroom or bedroom.
De-Personalize the Place
You may have heard that it’s a good idea to make your home look lived in, since that can help potential buyers see it as an actual living space instead of just a showcase. This isn’t bad advice; having some unique decorative items and other accents can really help buyers to picture their own stuff in the house. Just make sure that you take out anything that’s overly personal, like family photos, items with your family name and other keepsakes. Leave your decorations a little sparse, too. The goal is to inspire potential buyers and help them picture where they would put their belongings and their own pictures, and it’s hard to do that if there are pictures of your family everywhere or decorations filling every available space.
Finding the Right Look
If you’re not exactly sure how to stage your home, don’t be afraid to bring in a bit of professional help. HomeKeepr is here to help you with that, too. Sign up for a free account now and you’ll be on your way to finding the decorator or professional stager to assist you in getting just the look you need to really make your buyers want to sign.