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When a crisis forces a quick sale
Sometimes your life can change drastically--and on short notice.
Your particular moment of trauma could come in an e-mail to employees of your division announcing a move to a new headquarters several states away. You have just two choices: relocate or surrender your job. Grudgingly you accept the move.
"Dislocation can cause a great deal of trauma," says Mitzi McClosky, an author and therapist for 20 years.
Illness or marital difficulties also can uproot people on short notice.
"The breakup of a marriage is enormously stressful, as is a death in the family, and the stress is compounded when a move is involved," McClosky says.
Like other therapists, McClosky recommends that those going through a personal crisis try to postpone a housing move until they can clear through the emotional chaos. Obviously this isn't an option for people who must move quickly for financial reasons.
"But just because you must sell quickly doesn't mean you have to let your property go under desperation terms," says Robert Irwin, author of "Tips and Traps When Selling a Home" (McGraw-Hill, $14.95). "You don't want to make yourself vulnerable to lowball offers," he says.
Here are several pointers for those who must sell in the midst of a crisis:
- Find a seasoned listing agent to represent you. "When you feel like your life is out of control, an organized, `take charge' real estate agent may be just what you need to help make the most of your home sale," Irwin says.
He recommends you find someone with "loads of experience" selling properties in your particular community.
"This isn't just an agent who happens to list a lot of homes in your area. They should also have a track record for pricing neighborhood properties accurately from the get-go," Irwin says.
Calling the managing broker of a local real estate office is one way to identify a competent agent, though be sure to indicate that you're looking for one with a substantial track record selling your type of housing in your price bracket.
- Do a quick check of recent sales in your area prior to pricing your home. Before your home is listed and available to the public, your agent will undoubtedly suggest an asking price. However, before accepting any pricing recommendation, all sellers--no matter how hurried--should do at least a nominal amount of research.
"Tell your agent to give you a list of nearby properties that have sold recently, along with the final sum they yielded at closing. Then take that list, get in your car and drive by these homes, noting how they compare with your own. This should take no more than 30 to 60 minutes," Irwin says.
- Consider a price just one notch below prevailing market values. Ironically, sellers on a deadline can often receive more for their property if they price it just 2 percent or so below its apparent market value.
"Pricing a tad low generates excitement from buyers. More people are likely to bid if they perceive the property to be good value. And competition can push up your final proceeds," he says.
- Create a compressed time schedule to ready your home for market. Typical homeowners spend more than a month or two preparing their property for market. They clean, cull through belongings, prune their greenery and paint wherever needed.
But if you're selling your home during a crisis phase of your life, chances are you have no more than a couple of weeks to get the home in showing condition. One obvious way to cut back on your home preparation time is to hire contractors for work you might normally do yourself.
"Some people hate paying others to do work they know how to do, like painting or carpet cleaning. But if time is short and contractors are available in your area, chances are the work will go much faster if contractors step in," Irwin says.
Moreover, as he points out, home sellers with properties that are sparkling clean and freshly painted typically recoup more at closing than they invested in contract services.
"Remember that time is money if you have to move very quickly and can't afford your house sitting on the market vacant," Irwin says.
- Develop a backup plan for your property's sale. To avert panic in this situation, Irwin suggests that people who are selling in the midst of a life-changing situation should develop a "Plan B" for coping if the process takes longer than they expected.
Maybe you'll arrange for a trusted brother-in-law to take over responsibility for your home sale. Or perhaps you'll want to "buy time" by putting your property up for rent for six months.
Arranging for a backup plan helps keep you from dwelling on worst-case scenarios.
"Knowing what you'll do if your home doesn't sell quickly should calm your nerves and let you concentrate on whatever crisis has befallen you," Irwin says.