Selling a Home in Los Angeles: Commonly Asked Questions

Posted by Alisa Peterson on Friday, July 29th, 2016 at 9:32am.

The real estate market in Los Angeles is intense. The lack of inventory combined with an abundance of qualified and eager buyers make quality properties a hot commodity that is in high demand. In the current market, it is not uncommon for well-priced homes to have multiple offers and a bidding war within the first week on the market; assuming the home doesn't sell as a pocket listing before going on the MLS. If you are thinking of selling your home and have no idea where to start, below are some of the most commonly asked questions when someone is selling a home in Los Angeles

Questions asked by sellers in Los Angeles

How much needs to be done to my house before putting it on the market?

It should be obvious, but I'll say it anyway because I see enough houses to know it isn't obvious to everyone: A thorough cleaning before the first showing (and as needed from then on) and decluttering before pictures are taken. You want your home to look its best and a filthy home with your collectible whatevers all over the place are not going to get you a buyer willing to pay the highest price.

Neutralize the home and try to make it seem like a blank canvas (without being empty). Your goal is for buyers to walk in and picture themselves living there, making an emotional connection with as many buyers as possible. Although, at the high-end market developers are adding very specific amenities (casinos, operating rooms, and indoor shooting ranges) to stand out when trying to attract billionaires who covet what no one else has or has even thought of.

Doing major upgrades may or may not be worth it in the long run. If a bathroom is dated with black marble and bronze swan fixtures, it could be worth upgrading. But it may not be worth the headache to do the work when you won't be there long enough to enjoy it. However, if you have the time and money to invest toward improvements, you can turn your investment into bigger profits when you do sell. Consult a Realtor and a contractor to get an idea of the time and money it will take versus the return you will see on your investment.

If the house has not been maintained properly, one thing a seller can do is have a general inspection performed prior to listing the home for sale. The seller then has the option of making repairs prior to getting into escrow and being surprised with an expensive request for repairs from the buyer. While we have seen agents recommend this approach, we generally do not recommend this as it can open up the sell in terms of liability.

How much is my house worth?

This is a great question and usually the only answer a seller wants to hear. The value of a property depends on the house, its condition, and the location. FYI: The Zestimates on Zillow are not a true picture of a home's value as was evidenced when the Zillow CEO sold his house for 40% off the Zestimate. The algorithm uses public record to compare your home to recent sales with similar size, age, bedrooms, and lot size. The problem is the algorithm cannot take into effect views, lighting, design, and all the elements that make a home unique, especially in a city like Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, values can rise or fall based on the side of the street a home is on, the architect, former owners, privacy of the lot, and numerous other factors no one can know until they have seen the home and done some research.

The best way to get a full picture of your home's worth is to have a Realtor come to see it. Once they do they can then run a comparable market analysis (CMA or "comps"). Our team will look at your property and give you a no-obligation valuation, so feel free to contact us.

Two items of warning: If an agent tells you the home is worth a certain number because "homes in the area sell for X/square foot" without seeing your home, you might as well go to Zillow and pull up the Zestimate. And make sure the agent is connected and knowledgeable. Enough properties in Los Angeles sell off market, an agent is missing a large number of comps if they only go to MLS for recent sold comparables. 

How long will it take to sell my home?

This depends on two things: exposure and price. Well-priced homes with excellent marketing sell quickly in today's market. With so many active and savvy buyers, even underpriced homes are getting market value after bidding wars push the price up.

Don't think marketing is any less important in a seller's market. A great home with bad pictures can sit on the market because buyers don't schedule appointments while a not-so-great home that is priced well and marketed well, can sell quick.

Another factor to consider is the size of the buyer pool for a specific home. One reason single-story homes sell for more than those with vertical living is because homes with multiple stories are usually avoided by the elderly and families with young children. High-end homes can also take longer to sell since fewer people can afford the asking price.

Ask your Realtor for their advice on how to price the home based on how fast you want to sell and the current market conditions. 

Is staging important?

Staging is incredibly important. Recent studies have shown staged homes sell for more money and faster than vacant homes. Somehow an empty room seems smaller than it really is; when there is no frame of reference for a buyer to figure out size and space, they may error on the side of caution and assume their furniture will not fit and move on to the next house. Staging doesn't necessarily mean taking out everything a seller owns and replacing it with designer furniture. It could be as simple as decluttering and switching out a few pieces. If an entire home is empty, stage a few key rooms. The goal is to make the home looks its best for potential buyers. 

Should I be present when buyers view my house?

Only if the seller doesn't want anyone to buy their home. Seeing the owner linger in the home will make most buyers uncomfortable. The buyer might be focused on making sure they don't accidentally offend the seller by saying what changes they would make to give the home a new look. Even as an agent representing the buyer, I get a little on edge with the seller present.

A buyer needs to be able to feel like they can walk in a space and make it their home. A seller's presence will prevent that from happening.

What is the agent's commission?

A better question is what am I paying an agent for? A seller is paying a Realtor for expertise, access to the agent's network, and the company's marketing. It is our job as Realtors to have buyers react emotionally to a home so they will fall in love and pay as much as they are comfortable with to make sure they don't lose it. It is also the agent's job to protect the seller's best interests throughout the transaction. A great agent (and why settle for anything less) will net the client more on the sale than their commission. At the end of the day, every seller wants a bigger pile of money on the table at the end of the deal, so the real question is how much money an agent makes for the seller when all expenses are paid out.

Of course just like their owners, every home is different. If you are thinking about selling your home and you have more questions, please contact the Realtors of Gaskill + Peterson. We would be happy to schedule a free home evaluation

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1 Response to "Selling a Home in Los Angeles: Commonly Asked Questions"

Agrippa wrote: Great article Alisa. I would also add the another question: Where do I plan to move after closing?

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2017 at 10:22am.

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