Real Estate

Smart moves for home sellers in the market now or on the sidelines during the pandemic

Whether you’re actively selling now or temporarily on the sidelines, there are smart moves you can make now to potentially improve your outcome in the market.

Selling a house is hard enough during normal times, but it’s downright scary when you’re attempting to do so during uncertain times like a pandemic or a recession.

“I was worried about rushing to put our house on the market because this is unknown territory for everyone,” Dave Franco, who is trying to sell his single-family home in the Penderbrook golf course community in Fairfax County, Va., told The Post in April.

That’s why it’s understandable so many people opted this spring to pull their homes off the market and wait for conditions to improve rather than move forward with their plans. According to Bright MLS, the number of sellers in Washington temporarily taking their homes off the market rose 112 percent during the March 23-April 19 period compared with the same period last year.

Whether you’re actively selling now or temporarily on the sidelines, real estate experts say, there are smart moves you can make now to potentially improve your outcome in the market.

If you’re trying to sell, experts offer the following advice:

  • Move out of the property if you can. If you can’t, vacate the premises during all tours.
  • Eliminate nonserious house hunters by insisting that all potential buyers provide loan-preapproval information before seeing your home.
  • Offer live video chat tours and virtual tours.
  • Provide plenty of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes for in-person visits. Keep doors open and light switches on to minimize the need for visitors to touch surfaces. Disinfect the home before and after each visit.
  • Make sure you and the potential buyers sign a covid-19 addendum to allow for potential virus-related delays.

If you’re opting to wait until summer or fall, now is a good time to learn or review the fundamentals of selling and get everything in order for when the time is right.

Here are some things you should know from preparing to put your home on the market on the front end to negotiating with the buyers on the offer and fixes on the back end:

Choosing an agent

Choosing the right agent is important, but you can save thousands without one.

One of the biggest decisions you'll make is choosing the right agent to help you sell your home. (Michelle Kondrich for The Washington Post)

One of the first decisions you’ll want to make is whether to use a real estate agent. You’ll want to find someone who is experienced selling homes in your neighborhood — preferably selling a high volume of homes in your neighborhood — and someone with whom you can have a great rapport.

Make sure you fully understand whether your agent will represent your interests (this is the one you want) and not the buyer’s interest. Also know that agents’ commission rates vary — generally from 1 to 6 percent. Select the agent who has the fee with which you’re most comfortable.

If you opt to go the “for sale by owner” (FSBO) route, you can save yourself thousands of dollars. But you’ll have to make sure you thoroughly educate yourself on the Washington-area housing market. You’ll have to market the home, stage it, schedule open houses and coordinate with house hunters on showings. Or you can hire a company such as Rocket Homes, which runs the website, for help with photography or other a la carte services.

Often, people selling their homes without an agent give themselves a deadline; if they aren’t able to sell the home in a certain amount of time they hire an agent.


Fixing your home or selling it as is depends on your time frame.

Probably the second most important decision to make is whether to invest more money in your home to fix it up or sell it as is.

If you fix it up, chances are you can attract more buyers and ask top dollar for it. But there’s no guarantee you’ll get a return on your investment.

Selling it as is might be good if you’re in a hurry and don’t want to invest the time in renovations. »Read more


Staging is more important than you think.

Staging could help give your home a wow factor to better attract buyers. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)

Giving your home a wow factor could set it apart in the market. Experts say the best way to do that is to stage it.

Remember, buyers often view your home with unreasonable expectations — they are looking for an HGTV-ready home. They want to immediately see themselves in the home and not be distracted by your personal belongings and your style, which they might consider outdated.

The National Association of Realtors estimates that sellers can get a quadruple return for every dollar they spend on staging. »Read more

Listing price

Listing your home too high can send the wrong message to buyers.

Finding the right price for a home often feels like a balancing act. (Michelle Kondrich for The Washington Post)

Sellers’ biggest impulse is to price it as high as possible. But that could backfire; if you price your home too high, it will sit on the market. Buyers now have access to more historical data on your home — including what you paid for it. Always assume that the buyer has at least a rough estimate of the value of the property and aim for “Goldilocks” pricing that isn’t too high or low, according to real estate reporter Michele Lerner.

There are several other big mistakes you should avoid — putting bad photos of the home online and failing to make necessary repairs. »Read more


The value of the offer depends on the market and a range of factors.

Let’s say you get your first offer and it’s not quite what you wanted. Do you take it? Do you reject it? Or do you try to negotiate it higher? The answers depend on a range of factors, including market conditions, your investment in the property and the amount of money you’d need to make from the sale to buy another home.

The decision to accept or reject the first offer depends on whether you received it the first day it went on the market or three weeks after it went on the market. “You need to know what the market is like, how long similar homes stay on the market and how many showings you had before the offer,” says Catalina Sandoval, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. »Read more


Always disclose the defects to the buyer.

If you’re fortunate, you’ll get not only an early offer but several great offers. Every seller hopes for a bidding war situation — where the buyer is so desperate for your home that they not only offer you above the asking price but also waive their right to an inspection. Even if that’s the case, you aren’t off the hook from disclosing defects in the home.

You can be in big trouble if it’s an expensive problem: The buyer can sue you if they can prove you knew about the problem yet hid it from them.

“If you truly can’t fix the problem, you should disclose the problem to the buyer and then make sure your contract also states that you have disclosed this problem,” according to Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin, authors of the Real Estate Matters column. “You might still scare off some buyers, but at least they shouldn’t be able to come back and sue you for not disclosing the issue to them.” »Read more


What if the home you’re selling isn’t yours?

It can be particularly difficult to prepare to sell a home inherited from a deceased parent. (iStock) (Romolo Tavani/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Not all sellers are putting their own houses on the market. Often after a death, many people are faced with having to sell their parents’ home. People in that position must not only determine whether to fix it up or sell as is but also decide what to do about a lifetime of belongings there. (We want to hear from you.)

Those decisions can be even more heart-wrenching when there is no will. The best thing to do is to get good legal advice and investigate the possibility of hiring a company to help you with an estate sale to clear the home.

Read more on Real estate:

How to have influence on your condo board

Home financing ‘hit a perfect storm’ with virus and the economic downturn

Pandemic prompts inventive methods to sell homes

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