The MILITARY Advantage from
The MILITARY Advantage from
9 Ways to Sell Your Home Fast For the Most Money
The military has issued orders, and you’re selling your home while also trying to coordinate the five million details of not only finding a new house in a new location but also setting up the foundation for a successful transition for your family. You need your current home to sell quickly and for as much money as possible. While lots of variables outside of your control can affect the housing market, you can stack the deck to your advantage.
Make it feel like home. Do you remember what made you decide on your home when you bought it? Maybe you had to find a place quickly. Or maybe it was the right price. But chances are good that you also walked through each room imagining who would sleep in what room and where you’d eat meals together, etc. That is what you want potential buyers to do—imagine themselves living there. You want people to walk into your house and picture it as theirs already. You want it to feel like home to them…if “home” were clean and organized.
So clean out the junk and clutter. Wipe down surfaces. Fix the broken and banged-up things that you can within your budget and timelines. Then go a step further and make it appealing. Your house should look pretty, smell good, and feel warm and welcoming. You can easily and inexpensively evoke these feelings with something as simple as fresh cut flowers, fluffed sofa cushions, a cute welcome mat, bright lighting, smartly grouped furnishings, or any other number of details. Your real estate agent can help you to stage your home for maximum effect.
Remember curb appeal. Getting folks in the door is half the battle. So make sure the distance from the street to the door is attractive and well-maintained. Grass mowed or raked, depending upon the season; trash cleared; siding power washed; kids’ stuff put neatly away—the details matter. Bonus points for colorful landscaping or tasteful seasonal decor.
Maintain the order. Once you’ve decluttered and cleaned up both the inside and outside of your house, do your best to keep things that way. Assume someone could be stopping by at any time and act accordingly. Remind all family members, even if nagging is required, that they share responsibility in keeping things nice. That means making sure everyone stays on top of washing dishes, doing laundry, clearing surfaces, and the like. Whenever you’re leaving the house, do a quick scan of things to make sure everything’s neat and tidy. That way, if you’re away from home and someone wants to look at the house, it’s ready.
Be honest. Don’t oversell features or hide broken things. A home can be appealing without being deceptive. Otherwise, an inspection will likely reveal what you’ve been hiding. And then you’ll find yourself going back and forth negotiating over repairs or allowances/credits that must be made, which can cost you both time and money when all is said and done. That’s not to say you need to point out every scratch and scrape, but represent the condition of things honestly. Your agent can showcase what’s special about your house while also managing a potential buyer’s expectations.
Price your house right. A good price will bring motivated buyers in quickly. Haggling and bidding wars take time. The right price, even if it’s not your dream price, is more likely to result in a good offer made quickly. Too high a price and you turn potential buyers off. Too low and you take a financial hit and cause potential buyers to question what’s wrong with the property that you’re willing to sell for too little. Your agent knows what the local marketplace looks like and can help you find that pricing sweet spot.
Promote your house. Get as many eyes on it as possible. Your agent will be able to help with listing and posting/sharing via his or her network. But you can do your part too. Share that it’s for sale. Encourage your family and friends to do the same. Word of mouth, social media—it’s all fair game. Does your house have an interesting history or unique features? Tell its story. Storytelling can do so much more than pretty pictures. And if you’ve got the story and the great photos, you’re in even better shape.
Give folks a feel for your neighborhood. Don’t just include the minimum info about numbers of rooms and baths; give them a sense of what it’s like to live in your current town. Where do people like to gather? Who makes the best pizza? How close is the nearest movie theater, mall, library, or park? People buy houses, but they crave community. So share what your community is like.
Make yourself available. Easier said than done if you’re juggling the sale of one house with the whole process of uprooting your family to be planted wherever the military has decided. Still, say yes to as many opportunities to show your home as you possibly can. Even if it means asking someone to watch your kids or temporarily pet sit for you to make it happen.
Partner with a great real estate agent. There’s a lot to be done if you’re going to get a good price on your home and get it finalized quickly. Your agent is invaluable here. From helping you stage your home, to listing and sharing it, to pre-qualifying potential buyers, to showing it, and ultimately—ideally—to going through those fantastic offers you get, at every stage of this process your agent is your advocate. A positive outcome is in everyone’s best interest, and top-notch real estate agents will fight to make that happen for you.
In a perfect world, your home sells quickly and for more than your asking price. But we don’t live in a perfect world. Keep in mind that a quick sale and a sale that yields the most income for you can be at odds with each other. Only you know how much or how little time you have before you need to be at your next duty station. Only you know what your bottom line is financially. Communicate this information honestly to your real estate agent so he or she can best represent your needs. And help you get as close to the best of both worlds as possible.
Step-by-Step Guide to Obtaining Your VA Loan Benefit
There’s a lot that is less than fantastic about military life. Missed birthdays and anniversaries. Worry during deployments. Picking up and moving time and again. But there are also perks to military life. One of those perks is the VA Loan Benefit. What’s not to like about a 0% down loan with no mandatory private mortgage insurance (PMI) and often with lower rates than a conventional loan? If you are eligible for this benefit, it’s one you should take advantage of.
Keep in mind: While it’s called a VA Loan Benefit, the VA does not provide home loans. What the VA does is act as the security of the loan, meaning the VA guarantees to cover the bank’s losses if there’s a default on the mortgage. This is added peace of mind for lenders!
Do you qualify? Did you or your spouse serve on active duty during wartime for 90 consecutive days? Or serve on active duty during peacetime for 181 days? Or serve in the National Guard or Reserves for six years? Were you or your spouse discharged from the service under honorable conditions? Or are you the spouse of a service member who died in the line of duty or as a result of a service-related injury or disability? If you can respond with “yes” to one or more of these requirements, you should be eligible.
Prove you’re eligible. You’ll need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to establish that you are indeed eligible for a VA Loan. You can do this yourself by completing a Certificate of Eligibility Request Form (VA Form 261880). Sign onto ebenefits.va.gov with your CAC card (ID card) to complete this form. This part of the process will require you to create an eBenefits account if you don’t already have one, or to login with existing credentials. Once on the site, click on the link entitled “Certificate of Eligibility for a Home Loan” and follow the instructions. Make sure to print out at least two copies of the COE—one for your own records and one for your mortgage lender.
Any questions or technical issues? You can contact VA/DoD at 1-800-983-0937. You can also ask your lender for assistance with obtaining your COE.
Speaking of lenders… While most lenders can offer VA Loans, it is to your advantage to choose a lender who specializes in them. One of the advantages of working with a military-serving real estate agent is that he or she knows and works with lenders with experience and expertise navigating the VA Loan program. This means smoother sailing for you!
Get your other documentation in order. You’re no stranger to needing documentation. Here’s where you’ll want to ensure you’re tracking which documents you’ll need: A DD-214 will verify an honorable discharge. You will also need to demonstrate that you have steady income sufficient to cover your mortgage payment and monthly expenses, so you’ll want to make sure you have your pay stubs or other proof of income readily available. While individual lender requirements may vary, you will likely be asked to produce bank statements, tax returns, W-2s, and orders (if you’re PCSing). Your lender will communicate any additional documentation that is necessary.
Pro tip: Put this information aside before you’re packing up if you’re in the middle of a move.
Once you’ve obtained your Certificate of Eligibility, put together your documentation, and assembled your dream team—an agent who is a pro at working with military families and a lender who’s comfortable with VA Loans—you’re ready to move forward with your home purchase. And in the process, you’ll be able to reap the financial rewards of a hard-earned benefit.
I Pledge to Serve Those Who Have Served
Every real estate agent has a responsibility to provide the best home buying experience and resources available to his or her clients. That’s why I’ve pledged to ask every client “Did You Serve?” As a Veteran, you are eligible for many benefits earned through your service, among them is the advantages of the VA Home Loan program. It’s my privilege to educate you on these home buying benefits and to help make those benefits accessible and attainable.