Truckee and North Lake Tahoe
Home Seller’s Guide

Although selling a home is generally less complicated than buying a home, you still need to do your homework and planning to ensure you net top dollar on the sale. Selling a home can be both an emotional and intimidating experience – it can also be an exciting and rewarding time as you look to new experiences.

When it comes to selling your home, the importance of working with a top-caliber real estate company with a strong track record and an experienced, knowledgeable professional REALTOR® who will listen to your needs and walk with you every step of the way must not be overlooked. Things like market share, name brand recognition and strong Internet presence really do count.

FSBO – Real Estate acronym meaning “For Sale By Owner.” Many owners think they can save the expense of paying a listing commission by listing their property "For Sale By Owner." IF you are exploring this option, here are a few questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Are you prepared to buy advertising space in the local newspapers, in trade magazines that are distributed in the area where the majority of buyers for that area reside?
  2. Can you afford the time it will take to sell your house only with a sign in the yard?
  3. Are you willing to stay close to home for days, weeks, maybe months to show your house?
  4. Do you possess the necessary legal and financial knowledge to answer buyers’ questions, negotiate a contract or close a sale?

If you answered “No” to any of the above-referenced questions, enlisting a real estate professional to help you would be the most efficient and profitable way to sell your home.

The 4 Major Steps In Selling A House

1. Planning the Sale:

Pricing The House Properly - Comparative Market Analysis (CMA’s)
I will assist you in setting the “List Price” or “Asking Price” of your home. Together, we will review the most recent market trends paying close attention to homes of like age, size, location, condition, etc. to that of yours. While past sales are not an exact indicator of what your home will sell for, it certainly is a good starting point to help establish the list price.

Properly pricing your home is perhaps the most crucial factor in making a sale. If you set your price too low, you could lose thousands of dollars. If it’s too high, you may discourage potentially qualified buyers and risk having your home sit on the market – studies show, the longer it sits, the lower the price at which it is finally sold.

The “right” price is a balance between the maximum amount the current housing market will allow, your “competition” and your own time limits in selling. The greatest amount of buyer activity typically occurs during the first three to four weeks but a reasonable time frame for selling a house, especially a 2nd or vacation home may be between 90 to 180 days. If a house is on the market too long, potential buyers may avoid the house, wondering if something is wrong with it.

Determining Your Net Proceeds
We will also look at what your outstanding loan balance (if any) amounts to and provide you with your estimated “Net Profit” at various sales price intervals factoring in escrow, title and commission fees, transfer tax and home warranty policy etc. Before you sell your home, it’s important to estimate the various expenses for which you’ll be responsible – these will effect your bottom line profit. In our area, it is customary that the seller and buyer share equally in title and escrow insurance fees. The seller is responsible for the county transfer tax ($1.10 per 1,000 of sales price) and for providing the NHD (Natural Hazards Disclosure) – a good NHD report runs $100. Looking for “sleep insurance” – a shrewd seller will purchase a one-year Home Warranty policy on behalf of the buyer; this creates good will and affords the seller “peace of mind” coverage. When you walk away from the sale, you really want to walk away from the sale, for good. In all likelihood, you are probably subject to CA FIRPTA (a 3 1/3 withholding tax: 3 1/3 % of the sales price, right off the top and is paid via escrow by the title company to CA State Franchise Tax Board).

2. Understanding The Market

While you and your agent set the price, buyers determine the value. Buyers will compare your home and your asking price to similar homes on the marketplace.

Factors That May Add or Subtract From The Value of Your Home

  • Location – What are the tradeoffs and advantages of your property? Is the house on a busy street or is it on a quiet cul-de-sac? In Truckee, there is a significant difference in the snow load on Donner Summit vs. Glenshire because of the elevation difference. Year-round accessibility can be an important factor in establishing the value of your home. How close is your home to area amenities?
  • Features – Vaulted pine ceilings tend to be more desirable in this second home/vacation home market rather than run-of-the-mill 8-foot drywall ceilings. Buyers are looking for that cozy “cabin” look and feel. Does your property back to a greenbelt or golf course? Does your home offer panoramic mountain, wooded or lake views or do you look at your neighbor’s dilapidated house?
  • Condition of the House – Has the house been adequately maintained during your ownership? Are there minor or major repairs that could make a difference in the immediate sale of your house? Because of the intense summer heat and high snow accumulation customary to the greater Tahoe/Truckee area, the exterior of the homes require staining approximately once every 3 to 5 years. What is the age of and condition of the roof? Are there any shingles missing? Do you have a shake shingle roof? If yes, the wooden shake shingles tend to be very dry and are no longer used in new construction; insurance carriers either will not insure shake shingle roofs or they will add a surcharge to your insurance premium. If you have a metal roof, are any of the screws backing out (this occurs on a regular basis because of the thermal heating and cooling that occurs in our region)? Is the carpeting stained and/or worn? Light-colored, neutral cut or loop Berber carpeting is what buyers see in newly constructed or recently renovated homes, hence this is what they typically are expecting to find in a desirable home. New Berber carpet installed runs approximately $18 to 22 per square yard.
  • Age Of The House – Potential buyers will want to know the age of the plumbing, furnace, roof, appliances, etc. Does the wood-burning woodstove meet EPA particulate matter emission standards?
  • The Current Market – We are in a “Seller’s Market.” While interest rates are low, there are relatively few houses listed for sale and housing prices are on the rise. The median home price in Tahoe Donner has increased 28% from $485,375 in 2002 to $624,650 in 2004.
  • Your Time Frame – How long do you realistically have to sell the house? What was the average “Days On Market” for a comparable home? Can you wait while a buyer arranges financing? The typical escrow period is 30 to 45 days once you’ve accepted an offer on your home. Does your purchase of another home depend on this deal closing quickly?

3. Getting Your Home Ready To Show

To get top dollar and sell quickly, you must prepare your home and property so that it’s in top-notch, move-in condition. Take a look at your house as if you were seeing it for the first time. You may not notice that the driveway is in need of sealing, that the interior walls are scraped, scuffed up and dirty or the burn holes in your carpet near the woodstove but I can assure you that the buyers will notice immediately.

First impressions are hard to break, and the way your home looks from the street (“curbside appeal”) can make or break the sale. Repair torn screens – replace missing ones. Clean outdoor light fixtures and replace burned out light bulbs. Repair loose roof shingles, tighten any screws that are backing out of your metal roof. Fill the cracks in your driveway and seal it. Prune trees, rake accumulated pine needles. Selling during the winter months? Make certain that you have a snow removal contract in place. If a buyer can’t get to your front door they won’t bother even getting out of their car. And now that you’ve got the potential buyer out of the car, continue the allure with a friendly front door. Restore its luster with a few coats of varnish. Make your house a showpiece from the curb to the front door.

They’re about to open your front door. Is your home in order? Start by getting rid of the clutter (and don’t forget the garage). Sparse homes give the appearance of being spacious. Remove knickknacks from tables, countertops and bookshelves. Remove all unnecessary, damaged or worn furniture to make your rooms seem more spacious.Brighten rooms with a fresh coat of paint – choose neutral shades of white, off-white or beige that will coordinate with most decors.

Kitchens should be absolutely spotless. Clean the oven – inside and out. Pack up all excess kitchen appliances. Make sure all appliances are in working order.

4. Closing The Deal

Congratulations – your homework and patience have paid off. The offers are now rolling in. Your sales associate will present and review all offers with you but the final decision is yours. Review every offer – compare the financial qualifications and readiness of each buyer. Price isn’t always the most important or only factor to consider. You have three (3) options when it comes to an offer:

  1. Accept the offer as it was written,
  2. Reject the offer entirely, or
  3. Make changes to the offer, “countering” the terms, price and/or conditions.

In turn, the buyer may do the same:

  1. Accept your counter offer,
  2. Reject your counter offer and walk away from the deal, or
  3. Propose a counter offer to your counter offer.

This process continues until a deal is agreed upon or negotiations are terminated. Terms and conditions are every bit as important and should be carefully evaluated, along with the purchase price and buyer qualifications.

Before accepting an offer, all terms will be negotiated in writing. Once you accept a written offer, the deposit monies will be provided to the title company, along with a copy of the accepted contract – this will serve as “escrow instructions.” A preliminary title search will be conducted by the title company and provided to both the buyer and seller. The buyer will arrange for their financing, obtain any and all inspections they want to order (typically a pest and contractors home inspection at minimum), obtain an appraisal for their lender and review all inspection findings. The standard “contingency” period is 17 days after offer acceptance – at the end of this period, the buyer must either remove all contingencies and proceed with completing the purchase or cancel the deal. The CA Purchase Agreement is extremely “buyer friendly” – during the contingency period, the buyer can cancel the agreement pretty much for no reason whatsoever. Contingencies should be removed in writing and typically an increased deposit should be made upon removal of contingencies (the CA Purchase Agreement states that a seller can legally require up to 3% of the purchase price for the initial + increased deposit monies combined).

Your sales associate will provide you with an “Escrow Timeline” to ensure you know what is to happen when, what actions you are required to take and to make certain your transaction is handled smoothly and close in a timely fashion. Prior to Close of Escrow, your sales associate will prepare and review an “Estimated Closing Settlement Statement” with you. This is when you and your sales associate check to make certain that all taxes, utilities, special assessments, etc. have been properly prorated, that the title and escrow fees are accurate, that the commission dollars are correct, etc. Once the documents are correct, you will then “sign closing docs” with your title/escrow officer OR if done out-of-area, in the presence of a Notary of The Public. Final closing day will be scheduled when all steps have been completed. Closing is when you and the buyer sign all the paperwork and pay your share of the settlement fees, and the documents are recorded at the county recorder’s office. Once you present an executed deed to the buyer and receive the check in agreed upon amount, your home has successfully sold.

Ellen Grace and Satchmo

(530) 448-3068
Office Direct (530) 582-2455

Fax: (530) 579-3234