For the past five years or so, millions of homeowners have been stuck in their homes, unable to refinance or sell because they were underwater. That situation began to change in 2013 when the housing market finally began to show signs of life. Buyers across the country were back in the game and home prices rose in many communities.
For many sellers this meant they could finally move out of a small house, cut down on their commute time, or simply go on with their lives. Almost 2 million homeowners came out from negative equity positions in 2013.
If you plan to sell your home in 2014, be aware that buyers have changed since the economic downturn. They're savvier than ever, and they're not desperate. Many of today's buyers are millennials (also known as Generation Y) who've come of age with access to endless information via the Internet. It's in their DNA to search, and they love photographs and sharing.
Here are three bits of advice that will make you a smart seller in 2014:
Take your photo shoot seriously: Today, many buyers get their first impression of your home online. Too often, listings go online with photos of a dark room, lights off or blinds closed. Even worse? A new listing without photos or that has only one. If your real agent isn't hiring a professional photographer to take high resolution photos, then you should invest the few hundred dollars to do so. Have them taken at the best time of day. Clean the home in advance and put away clutter. Prepare for the photo shoot just as you would for an open house. If buyers don't like what they see online, you may never get them in the door.
Have your home inspected before listing: Nothing is worse than waiting months or even years for an offer, only to have potential buyers discover that your HVAC system is on the fritz or that there is dry rot. When that happens, you're forced to reduce the price or give credits. Even worse, you may scare off the buyer and be forced to go back on the market. Often when this occurs, buyers and agents think there's a problem with your property-which can make it tough to sell. That's why a few hundred dollars on a pre-sales inspection is the best investment you can make. If there are issues, you can price the home accordingly. More importantly, you're providing the buyers with more information. You'll be in their good graces from the start.
Throw buyers a bone: Receive an offer on your home at a good price? Have you been one of the lucky ones who received more than one offer over a short period of time? Good for you; you're in the driver's seat. Even so, you still want to be in the buyer's good graces during escrow and even after the sale. If you have the opportunity, throw the buyer a bone. If they ask for an early closing and you can do it, give it to them. Negotiate to buy them a one-year home warranty or give them a small credit. These little offerings will go a long way toward a speedy and hassle-free escrow.
The most important thing to remember is that to be a smart seller, you need to put yourself in the buyer's shoes. Remember that today's buyers lived through one of the biggest housing and credit crises in generations. They're motivated but cautious, and they have a wealth of information available to them online. Don't take anything for granted.
Brendon DeSimone is a Realtor, a nationally recognized real estate expert and author of the book "Next Generation Real Estate." His practical advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets including FOX News, CNBC, USA Today, Bloomberg, FOX Business and Forbes. An active investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the U.S. and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York. Consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.