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Selling Privately (Part 2)

Posted February 15th, 2011 under pitfalls, smart selling.

Last month we discussed the first half of the process of selling privately, including budgeting, finding a lawyer, setting your asking price, and advertising. This month we'll cover the remaining steps to a successful sale.

STEP 5: Let's continue from where we left off. By now, your advertising has attracted interest and somebody has called to see your home. This is where you need to exercise some caution. Private buyers are not pre-qualified by an agent, so you need to be on your guard for people with bad intentions as well as timewasters who aren't seriously interested in purchasing. (Some people will drop by just to look at your decor!)

First of all, prepare your home ahead of time. Put all jewelry, cash, wallets, watches, and personal papers away somewhere safe. (Don't put them in the drawer of your night table or dresser, as this is too obvious a spot.)

Turn all the lights on before you show the home, especially in the evenings. This creates a better impression, is safer, and avoids distractions during the showing.

Be ready to answer questions about the condition of the home. For example, you may be asked when the roof was last re-shingled, when the furnace was replaced, when the A/C was installed, and when the windows were put in. Write this information down or memorize it so you can answer promptly.

Always have a second person in the home when showing. Avoid showing your home to people who knock on the door after seeing your lawn sign. It's best to make appointments so you can prepare.

Finally, never let someone walk through your home unsupervised. Be wary of families with children, as professional thieves will enter as a family then split up, making it impossible to supervise them all. (For more tips, see my article How to Have a Successful Showing.)

STEP 6: After showing your home enough times, you will hopefully find someone who is interested and puts in an offer. Congratulations, this is the exciting part! It's also the critical stage of the sale, so you'll need to be careful of a number of pitfalls.

First of all, an agreement to sell must be in writing. Real estate can not legally be sold without a written contract. You should be prepared to receive an offer in either of two ways. If an agent presents an offer, they will already have it drawn up in the form of an agreement.

Meanwhile, private buyers often prefer to discuss terms and conditions verbally. This is fine so long as the offer is then drawn up in writing by either the buyer or their lawyer.

Once you have the written offer, either from the agent or the private buyer, you may be pressured to sign. Never sign anything without showing it to your lawyer first! There is no cooling-off period in real estate resales: once you've signed the agreement, it's binding.

STEP 7: It's up to you to follow up and ensure that all terms and conditions have been fulfilled. Ask your lawyer what steps you should take. It's also wise to demand a reasonable amount as a deposit in your agreement. This ensures the buyer does not simply disappear at closing time. Have your lawyer hold the deposit in trust so you are sure to receive the money if your buyer defaults.

Finally, your closing day will arrive. Congratulations! You've just sold your home!

Want to know more about selling privately? Just ask me, I'll be happy to help.

--Peter

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