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Chicago First Time Seller's Guide

Although it might seem pretty straight forward, selling your home can actually be a challenging process. Changing market demands can mean speeding up or slowing down the listing process. And, you want to get the most value out of the home, but it can be difficult to objectively value a home where you have developed an emotional attachment.

Your home is most likely your most important financial asset and selling it can be stressful. As a seller in today’s market, you want to make sure you receive the highest price for your home. Often, enlisting the help of a qualified real estate broker can help you enter the market at the most ideal price and timing and save you potentially thousands of dollars.

So…where do you begin? What’s the first step in the home selling process?

The selection of an agent

will be one of the most important decisions you’ll make when selling your home. According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors, almost 20% of sellers choose a real estate agent who is a friend or relative. On one hand this makes sense. Selling a home is one of the largest transactions you’ll make in your life, and it is reasonable to want someone you know and trust to help you through the process.

But before you do hire someone you know well, there are a few things to consider.

  • You’ll want to hire a Realtor who is committed to making real estate their full-time profession. Make sure that whoever is working for you makes selling your home at the right price their top priority. Sometimes, it’s easy to place friends and loved ones behind strangers in professional situations, because you know they’ll understand if you need to postpone or if you make a mistake. But with the sale of your home, you never want your agent to put you or your property on the backburner.

  • To effectively sell your home, you’ll want to have a professional relationship with the agent you choose, because your Realtor works for you. If you won’t feel comfortable asking about the progress of your home sale because you’re afraid of being too pushy with your friend or family member, then you probably should not choose someone you know.

  • Finally, having an agent that isn’t a friend or relative can sometimes give you a more objective perspective of the process. You will find it beneficial to hire an agent who will tell you what you need to hear (not what you want to hear) without the fear of injuring a personal relationship. For example, your friend might not want to hurt your feelings when you price your home too high, meaning you could miss out on weeks of potential buyers before you drop the price to the appropriate level.

You’ll want to find an agent who knows your neighborhood, who has knowledge of schools, shopping, streets, transportation and other local amenities. Also, an agent with buyer connections will usually yield a better selling price, as they will be able to generate more demand for the property. An effective real estate agent should also have a proven marketing plan. Selling a home requires more than simply putting your home on the Multiple Listing Service and putting up a for sale sign. According to research by the National Association of Realtors, 3 out of 4 buyers begin their search for a new home by checking available properties listed on the Internet. It’s also important to look for a Realtor who is a broker and not just an agent. In today’s world the term agent and broker are used interchangeably. However, in reality they are very different. Most buyers and sellers are usually not familiar with the different levels of training and professional designations within the real estate industry. After all, real estate professionals are all the same, right??!! WRONG!! While a salesperson (agent) license requires taking only one course, the broker’s license requires several additional courses and passage of a more comprehensive licensing exam. A broker may also operate his own real estate practice.

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. Choosing the right agent can be difficult. Below are some questions that we think will make the process easier:

Suggested Questions for Listing Agents.

  1. How long have you been selling real estate?

  2. How many homes did you sell last year?

  3. What educational designations have you achieved?

  4. How many contracts have you successfully negotiated this year?

  5. What percentage of your listings sold last year, compared to the MLS?

  6. What was the average time on the market, compared to the MLS?

  7. What was the percentage difference between asking price and selling price?

  8. Do you have a full-time, licensed assistant?

  9. Do you zone-farm my neighborhood for buyers?

  10. Would you mail brochures of my home to other agents?

  11. Do you provide a written report to sellers?

  12. May I see your resume?

  13. Why should I hire you?

  14. Do you have a list of references I may check?

  15. Do you have a website?

  16. Do you have a proven marketing plan?

Let us be your first interview! We’ll be happy to answer all of these questions and more about our agents. We know the real estate business inside and out, and we’ve been able to help hundreds of clients find the perfect Realtor on our team. Since entering the real estate profession over two decades ago, we have been a consistent top-producing team, ranking in the top one percent of Realtors nationwide. In addition, we pride ourselves in staying abreast of the latest in technological advancements, making sure we give our sellers maximum exposure.

We have always believed that balance is essential to everything. Expertise must be blended with personal service in order to achieve the greatest results. We’re devoted to customer service. And best of all, we offer a SATISFACTION GUARANTEE!

The next piece of the selling process

is a very important one, determining the price. To set the right price on your home, you should combine an objective evaluation of your property with a realistic assessment of market conditions. We’ve found that good agents base their estimates on a review of recently closed sales of homes similar to yours. They take into consideration prices of other properties on the market and know which neighborhoods are competing for the same pool of buyers. We’ll create for you a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA), detailing the type of market we are currently in and share with you recent sales of comparable properties. We will also show you the properties that would be in direct competition with your home. Plus, we will discuss the average number of days it took for a property to sell in your area. Beware…never choose your agent based on price! Some agents may try to price your home too high just to get the listing. We will give you a clear and objective sense of market value.

Many sellers feel that they should start at a high price thinking they can always come down. What many sellers don’t realize is that overpricing can result in their getting less for their home than if they priced it right to begin with. It’s been our experience that knowledgeable agents and buyers often won’t bid on an overpriced property. By the time the seller wises up, many of his best prospects have bought other homes, which decreases the demand for the now properly priced property.

Why is proper pricing so crucial, especially at the very beginning?

Overpricing will:

  1. Reduce sales associates’ activity – Agents won’t show the property if they feel it is priced too high

  2. Reduce responses to advertising – Potential buyers will be looking for certain types of homes in a price range

  3. Lose interested buyers – They will feel they should be getting more for the price

  4. Attract the wrong prospects – They will be comparing it with properties that really are higher priced homes

  5. Eliminate offers – Buyers make offers based on what properties are available to them

  6. Help the competition – A high priced property makes the others look like a great deal

  7. Cause appraisal problems – Appraisals are based on what similar properties have sold for

  8. Extend marketing time – Most of the time the price ends up lower than when it could have been to start with

Once you make the decision to sell your home,

it is critical that you view your property through the eyes of a prospective buyer. Remember that the buyer will be comparing your home to all others that they may look at. It has been our experience that buyers connect or disconnect emotionally with a home. Feelings are generated when they first see your home from the curb, or first step inside, and those “first impressions” are extremely powerful. We suggest you detach yourself emotionally from your home and be objective as you move forward in preparing your home to sell.

Get ready…

It’s time to get your property in “showing” and “selling” condition. Most of us don’t keep our homes in the condition it needs to be in to sell. Over the years we become accustomed to our surroundings. What’s normal for us may be unacceptable to a buyer. The few boxes we had stacked in a corner of the closet have multiplied, things have broken we just never got around to fixing, and some things have just plain worn out.

Part of our service to you involves bringing in a professional staging expert to make suggestions on how to maximize the impact of your first impression. Our expert will work with the items in your home, as well as give you ideas on little touches to make the space more inviting, such as air fresheners, minimizing clothes in closets, and replacing welcome mats.

Remember, first impressions are very important and you only get to make one. Below are some questions you should ask yourself to help make the best first impression possible.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Showing Your Home

  1. Does the property or any part of the property need painting?

  2. Shall I re-seed the lawn and get my landscaping in top shape?

  3. What about the screens? – any holes? What about the windows? – do they work well or do they need attention?

  4. Does the carpet need cleaning? How about replacing?

  5. Are pets under control at all times?

  6. Are all appliances in good working order?

  7. Should I stay out of a prospective buyer’s way?

  8. What will be the buyer’s first impression of the exterior of our property? What can I do to improve it?

  9. Since the buyer will be looking in closets, should I take some of the clothes out to make them appear roomier?

  10. What is the buyer’s first impression as they step inside my home? What can I do to improve it?

  11. Can I take items from the kitchen cabinets to make them more spacious?

  12. Is there any furniture I could store or dispose of to make rooms appear larger?

  13. Do any cabinets need to be touched up or refinished?

  14. Should I give We Sell Chicago a list of things my family likes about the home and the neighborhood?

  15. What about the doormats? Should I replace them with new ones that are neutral and omit our family’s name?

  16. Should I remove an item that a buyer may want as part of the home? For example, a special chandelier or wall system?

  17. Should I remove all personal photos of my family and myself?

  18. Should I ask the We Sell Chicago Team for a list of recommendations prepared specifically for helping market my home?

  19. Are the price and terms offered going to appeal to most of the buying public in my price range?

  20. Do I need to be aware of other properties similar to mine also being offered for sale?

  21. Are the garage and storage areas as clean and neat as they should be?

  22. Before spending needless time and money, should I consult with the We Sell Chicago Team?

Preparing for a Scheduled Showing

When showing your home it is important to make the buyers feel at home. They should not only feel that that they are guests; they should also be able to see themselves living in the home. Your goal is to make people feel at home. Here are some helpful tips for showing your home:

  • Pick up unnecessary items form counters, floors and stairs

    Newspapers, magazines, mail, toys, clothing, recreation gear, shoes

  • Turn on all lights, even those in closets and stage rooms

    Make your home as light and bright as possible

  • Open all drapes, shades and blinds

    Unless view is offensive

  • Be sure all beds are made neatly and attractively

  • Be sure all kitchen appliances and countertops are “sparkling” clean

  • Keep pets out of sight

    Pet lovers will be distracted and non-pet people might be turned off

  • Keep children out of rooms being shown and don’t let them follow buyers around

  • Eliminate distracting sounds

    Turn on soft, pleasant background music in all rooms with radios

  • Keep air fresheners in closets, bathrooms and kitchen

    Be especially careful to keep kitchen odors fresh and inviting

    Coffee brewing or a cinnamon coffeecake baking in the oven have a lasting, inviting effect

  • Light a fire in the fireplace for a “toasty” effect

  • Place fresh attractive towels in kitchen and baths

  • Keep front door scrubbed and clean

    It’s the first and last impression – make it a good one!

  • Keep a well manicured lawn and neatly trimmed shrubs

We also advise and highly recommended that you not be present when your home is being shown. Many sellers think agents and buyers won’t be able to find everything, and they must be there to point out important features. It’s been our experience that at the very least, buyers feel uncomfortable when sellers are present, and that it can actually kill a sale. A few examples are:

  • Buyers often won’t even open closet or cabinet door when the seller is present because ‘It’s not polite.’ If they cannot view the house comfortably, they’ll hurry up and move on to the next one.

  • Sellers want to talk, and not just about the house. You never know when a buyer will be turned off by the mood of the seller, or by a statement the seller makes. Buyers are there to look at the house, not chitchat about hobbies or the weather.

If you must be home during a showing, go outside or stay put in one location, don’t wander around with the agent and buyers. Most of all, remember to prepare well for showings! Homes sell more quickly and for higher prices when they show their best!

Who is present for a showing?

In most instances, someone from our Team will be there to show your property to buyers and their agents. However, there are times when we may not be available. That is why we recommend using a lockbox. A lock box is a heavy-duty device that holds the keys to your property. It is usually attached to your front door knob. It is accessed by a push-button combination that can only be obtained through the We Sell Chicago Team or it can be accessed by an electronic keypad that is regulated by the Chicago Association of Realtors. You can expect at least 16% more showings using a lockbox. Buyers’ agents love to show property they can easily access; 80% of buyers’ agents unable to show a property the first time will not make a second attempt. Accessibility is a top priority…if we can’t show your home, we can’t sell it.

Planning a selling strategy

means looking at all the elements of selling your home and putting them in their proper places. We have a proven marketing program, which results in your home being sold for the highest possible price, in the shortest period of time and with the fewest problems. The We Sell Chicago Team combines a perfect balance of cutting edge high tech expertise with top-notch personal service.  

The We Sell Chicago Marketing Plan

  1. Your home will be placed immediately on the MLS

  2. Custom high quality, full color highlight brochures will be delivered to your home within days.

  3. Your home will be placed on our award winning website. Most agents will tell you they’ll put your home on the Internet, but that is not enough. It is critical that buyers find your home to view. What value is there in having your home on the Internet and no one knows it’s there? We take great pride in making sure our website receives the search engine placement it needs to be found, guaranteeing your home will be seen.

  4. We’ll target market your home to buyers to excite them into viewing your home.

  5. More than half of our business comes from past and present client referrals and from Realtor referrals. We belong to many professional groups and have an extraordinary network of outstanding Realtors nationwide who continually refer us to their clients wishing to relocate to the Chicagoland. Of course, those buyers see our listings first!

  6. Besides the benefit of having us exclusively represent you and negotiating on your behalf, our marketing program includes buyer outreach. Through Open Houses, Referrals, Internet website activity, sign call ins, etc., our Team specializes in getting properties sold by getting buyers’ agents into our properties.

  7. We offer a way for you to view activity regarding the selling of your home online. In addition, we will send weekly reports with any agent or buyer feedback, so you know exactly how your home is being considered.

Understanding feedback can be difficult. Price objections are always clothed in different terms:

When an Agent says…

What the Agent means…

“Buyer thought the house was too small”

Buyer found a larger home for the same price.

“They liked the home but bought another”

Buyer found homes that were better values.

“They didn’t like the carpet”

Seller should replace carpet because of age or color.

“They thought the yard was too small, the street too busy”

They found other homes with larger yards, quieter streets.

“They didn’t like the floor plan”

They didn’t like the floor plan.

 Seller’s Goal: To Be The Nicest Home In The Price Range

If your home is not being shown, it means the agents think the price is too high for the neighborhood.
Recommendation:A significant price adjustment.

If your home is being shown, but we are not getting any offers, it means the buyers are finding nicer homes for the money.
Recommendation:A moderate price adjustment.

If your home is in the running, but the buyers purchase another property or if the buyers view the home a second time but purchase something else, it means we are close.
Recommendation:A minor price adjustment.

When a buyer decides to purchase your property,

they will with the guidance of their agent, write a contract to purchase. The buyer’s agent will deliver the offer to us, and we will then present the offer to you. We’ll review the terms of the offer with you and explain the significance of each part of the contract. You have the option of responding in one of three ways:

  1. Accept the offer as is

  2. Make a counter offer

  3. Reject the offer

It is advisable to counter a non-acceptable offer. Your counter offer would reflect the price and terms that you would accept.

Webster’s defines negotiating as “to confer with another, to arrive at a settlement” and “to get through, around or over successfully.” A real estate transaction involves both types of negotiation. We want to give you the satisfaction of knowing that your home was sold at its highest and best value, but we also want you to feel that the process was straightforward and that you were taken care of the entire way. Being familiar with the market conditions and knowing your personal motivation for selling will help guide the negotiation process. With our proven negotiating skills, we’ll give you objective counsel and caring guidance you deserve.

Here are some items that we will consider when deciding how to respond to an offer:

  • Price – Is the price within the range that you are willing to accept?

  • Is the Buyer Pre-Approved?

  • Down Payment – Does the buyer have the down payment? This can determine how easy it will be for them to be approved for the loan if they are not already

  • Earnest Money Deposit – An Earnest Money Deposit from the buyer shows their sincere intention to purchase your property

  • Occupancy Time Frame – Can you move by the time they want to move in?

  • Is the Interest Rate they want available?

  • Closing Date – Will you be in town? Do you have any appointments that day that cannot be rescheduled?

  • Possession Date – What day will you hand over the keys?

  • Home Protection Plan – Who pays?

  • Inspections – What type?

  • Personal Property Items included – Appliances, Window Treatments, Garage Door Openers, etc.

  • Contingencies – What and how long?

Contingencies may seem like a minor issue, but they can be a major stumbling block. A contingency means that something else must happen in order for the deal to go through. A purchase may be contingent on the buyer getting approved for financing, selling the home they already own, getting a favorable inspection report, or any number of other things. We’ll make sure the contingencies are as specific as possible, and spell out exactly what will happen if the contingency is or isn’t met. Once we have finished negotiating the contract, all copies are faxed or emailed to your attorney and lender. From this stage on, your attorney becomes the next piece of the puzzle. He or she will see your contract through to closing.

A home inspection is

something a buyer requests, and the cost of the inspection is paid by the buyer. In most cases the buyer has 3 to 5 business days from the acceptance of the contract to inspect the home.

A home inspection is an objective visual examination of the physical structure and systems of a home, from the roof to the foundation. The standard home inspector’s report will include an evaluation of the condition of the home’s heating system, central air conditioning system (temperature permitting), interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic, and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement, and visible structure. A professional home inspection is an examination of the current condition of your prospective home. It is not an appraisal, which determines market value. A home inspector will not pass or fail a house, but rather describe its physical condition and indicate what may need repair or replacement. Of course, a home inspection will also point out the positive aspects of a home, as well as the maintenance that will be necessary to keep it in good shape.

No house is perfect. If the inspector finds problems, it doesn’t necessarily mean the buyer won’t buy the home. A buyer has the following options if something is found to be wrong with the home:

  1. Buy the property as is

  2. Request that you make repairs

  3. Ask for an allowance be given at closing to cover the cost of the repairs

  4. Rescind the offer and void the contract

Some buyers look at the home inspection as an opportunity for a second round of negotiations, and want everything fixed to bring a house into “as new” condition. This train of thought is not realistic. Generally any post-inspection negotiation focuses on items of a substantive nature or that are health or safety related that might not have been disclosed or evident when an offer was made.

Moving is a very stress filled time for most people.

It is not only physically exhausting, but it can be emotionally strenuous too. However, with careful planning your move can be organized and relatively stress free.

The first decision you need to make is whether to move yourself or hire professionals. No matter which option you choose, it’s important to reserve either your moving truck or professional movers at least 4 – 6 weeks before closing.

Whether moving two blocks or 2,000 miles, you also need to decide what goes with you. It can be expensive and time consuming to move things you really don’t need, or worse, to find that there’s no place to put them in your new home. This is be a good time for seriously cleaning the closets or the basement where you’ve been storing your “valuables.” If you are disposing of a large number of items, consider holding a garage or moving sale to offset some of your moving expenses. If you’re donating items to charitable organizations, ask for a receipt for tax purposes.

Besides packing up your belongings, there are many organizations and companies that will need to be notified of your move. Here’s a checklist to help you remember all the necessary parties that must be notified of your move:


Magazine Subscriptions

Insurance Agent

Organizations & Clubs
Credit Card Companies
Friends & Relatives
Newspaper Deliveryman

You’ll also want to file a change of address form with the Post Office for each person receiving mail at your home. The Post Office can supply you with address change cards to send to creditors, magazines, clubs, etc.

Don’t forget to check with your homeowners insurance company to see if you may need additional insurance to cover your move. Also make arrangements to transfer your policy to cover your new address. 

Helping Your Children During The Move  

Moving involves more than boxing up your belongings. Many memories have occurred within the walls of your current home. Children often have difficulty dealing with a move. Here are some ideas to assist you in helping your children with a move:

  • Show the children the new home and their new room prior to moving. If it’s not possible, then pictures or videos will help them visualize where they are going.

  • Assure children that you and they won’t forget their friends.

  • Make a scrapbook of the old home and neighborhood.

  • Throw a good-bye party. At the party have their friends sign a T-shirt.

  • Have your children write good-bye letters and enclose their new address. Send along a self-addressed stamped envelope so their friends can write them immediately.

  • When packing, give the children their own box. They can decorate it so they will know which one is theirs.

  • Start a scrapbook for their new home. Include a diary of My First…

  • Visit their new school, park, church, etc. Don’t forget to take a camera to capture the new “firsts”.

  • Remember even if you only lived in a home a few years, to a young child it is nearly their entire lifetime.

The big day is here!

But what exactly happens at closing?

At closing, the buyer requires that the seller prove the title is complete and free of anyone else’s claims. Technically, two separate closings occur at this time: the closing of the buyer’s loan and the closing of the sale. The buyer, the seller, their attorneys, and the closing agent typically attend the closing. The meeting can take from 1 ½ to 3 hours and is usually held at the closing agent’s office (title company) or the seller’s attorney’s office. You’ll be required at that time to review and sign various documents relating to the sale and closing costs. The closing agent will review the settlement sheet with you and your attorney and answer any questions. Once everyone agrees that the papers are in order, the buyer will submit a certified or cashier’s check to cover the closing costs and the balance of funds due (if applicable). After everything is signed, you give the keys to the buyer. It is now their home to enjoy!

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