Desperate sellers find relief in renters, staging

A marketing plan for those who must move before selling

By Inman News Feed
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A marketing plan for those who must move before selling

Dian Hymer
Inman News

It's difficult to predict how long it will take a home to sell in today's market. Ideally, it sells and closes by the time you need to make a move. If not, there are several options.

Homes that show well draw more attention from serious buyers, particularly if they are in areas that are bloated with inventory. Before you make a decision about moving completely out of your home, visit Sunday open houses in your neighborhood and size up the competition.

Are other competitive listings staged for sale? How does your home look in comparison? How will it look if you remove your furnishings and leave it vacant?

Vacant listings can be difficult to sell. Most buyers can't imagine how a home might look furnished, or how they'd use an empty space. For example, it's hard to gauge how your king bed will look in a bedroom that has no bed to use as a basis for comparison. Without a place to sit down, it's hard for some buyers get a sense of the home's ambiance.

Leaving your furniture in place until the house sells is an option for sellers who plan to rent a furnished rental in the new location. Be sure to check with your homeowners insurance carrier. Some insurers won't cover an unoccupied home. You might consider hiring a house sitter.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Sellers who staged their home for sale should consider keeping it staged after they leave. Negotiate a reduced fee for leaving the staging in place beyond the contract expiration date. If you can't afford to keep the home fully staged, consider a partial staging concentrating on the public rooms and at least one bedroom.

First impressions are important. The buyers should experience a positive feeling when they walk in your front door. The grounds will also need to be maintained, so don't cancel your gardener. You will need to maintain the property until the home is sold and closed.

Many sellers are cash strapped and feel the only way they can keep their home on the market until it sells is to rent it to a tenant who will cooperate with the sale process. This means making the home easily accessible for showings to prospective buyers, allowing Sunday and broker open houses and not interfering with the sale.

Some tenants would rather not have your home sell because it means that they have to find another place to live. Tenants have been known to make negative remarks to discourage buyers. It's best if tenants aren't home during showings or open houses.

Your home may not show as well if your furniture and staging are moved out and the tenants' furniture is less than ideal. This could result in a lower sale price and a longer time on the market.

Some cities have rent-control ordinances. Before renting your home out, talk to a local attorney who specializes in the local rent-control laws to find out how they might affect you.

Check with your accountant to find out the tax ramifications of renting out your single-family residence. To take advantage of the current federal capital gains tax-free exemption ($250,000 for a tax single tax filer and $500,000 for a married couple filing jointly), you need to have lived the property as your primary residence for two of the past five years.

THE CLOSING: Make sure to line up a crew to maintain the property while it's rented. Keep the gardener; don't rely on the tenants to preserve your landscaping. You'll need to fix-up the house for sale if you rent it and then decide to sell after the tenant vacates. So, keep a reserve fund to cover this work and staging the house for sale.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years' experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer's Guide."

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