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Bought to Be Sold

Michael Flack

I’M STILL AMAZED WHEN I speak with friends and neighbors who have no idea what their home is worth. They tell me they might sell in the near future. When I ask them how much they think they’ll get, they say something like, “I’m not sure, I’m meeting a real estate agent next week.”

Homeowners always need to know how much their home is worth. You can’t wait until your boss tells you about a great opportunity in Honolulu to start determining your home’s value. Like selecting an agent to sell your house, you need to plan ahead. Every home is bought to be sold.

If you don’t know how much your home is worth, how do you know your agent is listing it at the correct price? I don’t want to hear that you can just look at Zillow. Besides having to deal with the unfriendly layout and the slow loading pages, if you spend any time at all looking at Zillow, you’ll quickly realize that its Zestimate® isn’t worth Zit®, as it can easily be off by 25%. Many times, a listing will contain a Zestimate® history graph that looks like Elvis’s EKG.

The adage that “selling your home is the biggest financial transaction of your life” is as old as it is correct. And you’re going to trust an algorithm for guidance? I might trust one to find me a wife, but not when half-a-million smackers are on the line. By the way, where I live, after a home is sold, Zillow doesn’t even list the final sale price.

What’s a proud homeowner supposed to do? If it were me, I’d solve this problem the same way I solve every problem—with a spreadsheet.

In the first row, enter all the relevant real estate details: address, square feet, list price, sale price, date, bedrooms, bathrooms and so on. In the second row, enter the details of the home you purchased. Then ask the agent you used to buy your home to set up an automatic email to be sent to you every time there’s an MLS update for your neighborhood. As new homes in your area come on the market and get sold, update and analyze the spreadsheet accordingly.

You aren’t done yet. You need to attend the open houses for the above homes. I personally don’t see this as a chore, as I live in a condominium and am fascinated to see how other unit owners live. More important, it’s a way to determine how similar other condos are to mine. Do they have new Macassar Ebony hardwood floors, an updated kitchen with a Thermador dual fuel 48″ Pro Grand stainless steel range or a Pottery Barn Galvez 67″ clawfoot painted bathtub? It’s also a great way to get design ideas, contractor recommendations and meet the neighbors.

While you’re at the open house, chat with the listing agent. It’s a chance to put your finger on the pulse of the local market and shop for the seller’s agent you’ll eventually need.

You may think you’ll live in your home forever. Trust me, in all likelihood, you won’t. Remember, every home is bought to be sold.

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