Navigating the ups and downs of a first-time home seller


Edy Nathan lived in his French colony in Port Washington for 30 years and had never sold a home before. When deciding to put the house on the market in July, she assumed the newly remodeled bathroom and workout room in the basement were enough selling points to quickly move the four-bedroom home. . Against the recommendation of her real estate agent, she kept her red dining room, bay bathroom and coral bedroom ceiling.

“It surprised me how negatively people reacted to any type of color,” says Nathan, a psychotherapist in private practice who is leaving the area. In July, after two weeks without the house receiving an offer, she pulled it off the market to follow the advice her agent had given her in the first place: paint in neutrals. (The typical cost of a paint job is around $ 300 per piece).

Ines Ramirez-Heitner and John Heitner of Rockville Center bought their five bedroom home in 2010 before the birth of their children, now 4 and 8 years old. But because it was in a busy area, they decided to move. Last summer, Ramirez-Heitner attempted to sell the house himself, using her experience as a digital marketing consultant and hoping to save the agent’s commission.

“But then I realized that as familiar as I am with the list of things on Facebook Marketplace, there’s no way I can control everyone who comes in to qualify,” she says. “We realized we had to trust the experts to identify and help us manage the influx of people with questions about the house.”

Nathan and Ramirez-Heitner were both first-time home sellers, so they had no idea what to expect, how to prepare to list their homes and, more importantly, what potential buyers would be looking for. Buyers’ wishlists these days typically include updated kitchens, finished basements, and home offices. They ended up relying on their agents to guide them through the process.

First-time sellers made up 31% of all sellers nationwide in 2020, according to the National Association of Realtors.

For new sellers, agents advise taking specific advice on what makes the process easier during the pre-registration phase, while your home is being shown, and when you contract with a buyer.

Pre-registration stage

Ideally, about six months to a year or more before you put the home on the market, have a real estate agent review and point out affordable updates and any potential issues, says Kelly Forman, office real estate advisor. of Daniel’s Long Beach. Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. This includes decluttering to make rooms more open.

“It’s also a good time to clean the basement, the attic, all your little lockers,” says Joyce Roe, agent at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Farmingville. “Plus, these are all areas you will need to clean up on your way around, so you have a head start.”

Another important preparation step is a pre-registration consultation with a home inspector, especially if you’ve lived in your home for a long time, says Forman. Typical costs for a 3,000 square foot home are around $ 550. “It’s not a full inspection, but they snoop around looking at your utilities, roof, foundation, and electrical issues. They give you recommendations on things that will affect the engineer’s relationship with the buyer. ”

One advantage is that it can flag issues that not only interfere with a buyer’s loan, but can also be a hindrance, says Tanya Negron, licensed associate broker at Marylou Swan Realty Corp. at East Patchogue. “It can make a buyer wonder what else is wrong with the house. The buyer needs to get an inspection, so you’ll have to deal with it anyway. “

Taking these steps helped Ramirez-Heitner follow recommendations on what to put in place for the code, such as adding a chimney cap. “We also declutter and had a professional landscaper cover the bushes to make them look pretty for photos, things we weren’t aware of,” she says.

The couple listed their home in July and had a buyer in August for $ 799,000. They are waiting to close a house nearby.

At her agent’s suggestion, Nathan also abandoned her office to turn it into a living room and converted a four-car parking lot she used for patients into 1,200 square feet of backyard. When she put the house back on the market in September, it sold over two weekends for just under its asking price of $ 1.259 million.

Nathan said the process was helpful. “It was actually disorienting. But then I realized it was a good thing because it gave me some distance, which I needed to let the house go,” she said, adding that ‘she was able to enjoy her new garden until moving day, a bonus.

The demonstration scene

Have a plan of what to do during open houses, as well as during visits, as it is recommended that you not be home when potential buyers show up. Most agents will try to give 24 hours’ notice, although Negron says that in this bustling market, buyers sometimes want to see a home a few hours in advance. Having a good relationship and open lines of communication with your agent helps relieve stress as he will adjust to your schedule, she says. “Usually you are moved for 15 to 20 minutes. “

Another stressor is making sure your kids and pets are out of the way and that your inhabited house looks like no one is living there. You’ll want to make sure the beds are made and the kitchen sink is clear. This is the time when you can’t really live your life in your home the way you usually do, says Negron.

Nathan says it was an adjustment to have to take his dog, Ziggy, out of the house for each show, as well as to conduct patient sessions from his car. “It’s kind of a move, but if you sell your house and someone wants to see it, it’s not a choice.”

Ramirez-Heitner also found it difficult to manage two young children, a puppy, and his home business during this time. “You get into a groove after those first two firsts,” she says. “Knowing that this was a temporary situation helped us out of it.”

The contract stage

The good news? Negron says this period is generally short and will likely last around 10 days in the current market. Once you are under contract, you can stop making the bed.

But just because your house is shrinking quickly doesn’t mean you’re going to move quickly. Typically, you have 30 to 90 days before closing to wait for the buyer’s mortgage letter of commitment from the bank.

Roe says that waiting period for the closing date can be nerve-racking. “Usually you wouldn’t know until within a week of when you were closing, and it’s really difficult for the sellers who have to coordinate the logistics of the move.”

Negron advises sellers to accept that delays are likely. “It may sound very painful and stressful,” she says, “but it will.”

And something that can help you overcome all the uncertainties? Start packing.

Setbacks to watch out for

Unexpected legal issues can slow the sale down – or derail it all together, says John J. Breslin, Jr., attorney and real estate appraiser in Huntington. Before you even put the house on the market, try to gather all the documents you can, including the mortgage and the original documents of the purchase, such as the survey, deed and title information, as well as COs (certificates of occupancy).

Here are some common setbacks to watch out for:

  • Look for COs for decks, finished basement, bedroom with skylight, or extra bathroom. This could translate into anything from installing a new septic tank to converting a basement to its previous state that does not have a legal exit or proper ceiling height.
  • Find out if there are any old mortgages that have not been satisfied or that do not have the associated documents.
  • Check that the statement still represents what the property looks like and that there have been no changes to the perimeter, such as adding a fence.
  • Know the potential easements or rights of way, such as a common lane, and find the supporting documents.



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