It may be due to a career change, a job loss, divorce or health problems, but the day may come when you have to sell your home -- quickly. If it occurs in the kind of real estate market we're facing today, you've got problems.
"If I was in a situation where I had to sell my house next month, I'd know exactly what to do," says Tawny Stanton, a Realtor with the Schwartz-Stanton Group in Lake Tahoe, Calif. "I'd slash the price so that anyone with even a little interest would have to come see it. It would hurt, but you do what you have to do."
Here are some tips to to keep in mind when you absolutely must get that property in someone else's name fast.
The Big Push. The best way to sell in a challenging environment with tons of properties competing for too few buyers comes down to chopping your profits to the bare minimum, if possible. In a more balanced market, a weekend spent painting, planting, fixing up the yard, etc. could make a big difference on a quick sale. But when there are five other homes for sale on your street, your best friend is a skilled, honest Realtor.
"You want someone who can run an accurate market analysis showing comparable sales for the last six months and who can help you price your property accordingly," says Alex Harb, an Orlando, Fla., Realtor. "You want to be the absolute best buy in the neighborhood."
Play for Time. Need to sell in six weeks? Take a tip from retailers and drop your price over time. Start with a 10% or 15% discount from what the comparables indicate your price should be, then take off another 5% to 10% each week until you've hit your maximum.
Avoid the Cash4Houses Scammers. They come in and offer you a sale with guaranteed cash in hand in 10 days or less, in exchange for about 40% off the price of your property. They're an absolutely last resort.
Clean Up, It Couldn't Hurt. If the house is a mess, the yard is a jungle and the Realtor is telling buyers you're looking for a short escrow, you're starting to reek of desperation and buyers get nervous, greedy or both. "If Realtors will be showing the property when you're away, make sure the beds are made, the kitchen's clean, you've picked up after the dog outside and the cat boxes have been changed," says Harb. "Little things mean a lot. You want to make people feel they could easily move in."
Why Are You Selling? A buyer may want to know why you need to get out of town so quickly. If a buyer learns it's because of a divorce or some other emotionally difficult circumstance, he or she may be a little leery about the place. The response when asked this question is to say: "I have a new opportunity in another city." Such an answer promotes hope and progress, and hopefully a sale.
And if you really are moving because of a new job and if your status is high enough in the company, you could see if the firm will buy your house at the comparable market rate, a fairly common executive perk in the not-so-distant past.
Mortgage Bank Me. If you can live without the proceeds from the sale, you can consider a seller-financing deal. This is where you "take back" a private mortgage, under which the buyer makes monthly payments to you, and if he or she fails you have the right to foreclose just like a bank. This can help buyers who may have problems qualifying under current loan conditions, and it's also well suited for dealing with a close friend or family member whom you feel comfortable loaning to. The title is given to the buyer and they have the right to refinance into a conventional loan when they choose, which would pay off your private mortgage.