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Thursday, August 13, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Selling a home for the first time? Know the market and what costs to expect to avoid frustrations

Local real estate agents say it important that first-time home sellers understand if they are in a seller’s, buyer’s or neutral market. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Local real estate agents say it important that first-time home sellers understand if they are in a seller’s, buyer’s or neutral market. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

For first-time sellers, putting a home on the market can be a daunting and stressful process that involves staging the residence, scheduling open houses and navigating home inspection and closing costs.

The average cost to sell a Spokane home priced near $216,000 is $21,701, which includes $4,850 in basic home preparation costs and $16,851 in closing costs, according to data from Zillow.

Jennifer Valerien, the owner/broker of Re/Max Inland Empire and a board member for the Spokane Association of Realtors, said closing costs are often split between the buyer and seller, but sometimes, if a buyer is well-qualified by a lender and can’t afford the closing payment, they can ask the seller to pay closing costs, Valerien said.

She said in addition to closing costs, there’s a Washington state excise tax for sellers, which can be from 1.5 to 1.7 percent of the selling price.

Kenneth Sax, president of the Spokane Association of Realtors and designated broker at Keller Williams Realty, said it’s important for first-time home sellers to understand if they are in a seller’s, buyer’s or neutral market.

“Every market has its own set of dynamics,” he said.

At present, Spokane is a seller’s market, which means a low inventory means homes are quickly snapped up by buyers.

“If your house is clean and priced well and not a million dollars, you can expect to have the house under contract from the first week to the first month,” Sax said.

However, Sax advises first-time sellers to avoid overpricing their home.

“The buyer isn’t even seeing your house because they are looking for homes they can afford,” he said.

Additionally, sellers should understand that if a buyer is willing to overpay for the house, it still must be appraised. If the appraisal comes in at a lower value than the amount offered, the lender may not loan the buyers more money than the house is worth.

“Understand what the options are if the appraisal comes in low,” he said. “(Lenders) add in a little appreciation, but often times not enough. Understand it’s never a done deal.”

Valerien said multiple offers on homes are common in Spokane, but echoes that buyers are still only looking at houses appropriately priced in the market.

Valerien said people should call a real estate agent early to help navigate the selling process by discussing scenarios, logistics and timing – even if the home isn’t market-ready.

“We can help explain to them the time and monetary investment to maximize their return,” she said. “If they reach out early enough, we can advise them what to do to get the house ready.”

Sax said it’s imperative to declutter the home and eliminate emotions during the selling process.

“You have to not think of your house as the home that you raised your children in and it’s full of memories,” he said. “The house must be viewed as the buyer’s house, not your house. Make it look like a model home.”

Valerien agrees, saying sellers should make the home appealing to as many buyers as possible.

“The buyer wants to be able to visualize themselves and have a hard time doing that when they see your stuff,” she said, adding to stage rooms as they typically would be used by most people.

Sax emphasizes first-time home sellers should be receptive to the demands of prospective buyers for showings.

“Make your house available,” Sax said. “If somebody wants in, let them in. If buyers can’t get in, they are going to move on.”

Valerien said sellers should consider taking a backup offer on the home in case the first offer falls through.

“In this market, I think it’s important for sellers to know they might get an offer accepted on their property and it may fall through, but it’s OK … I don’t want them to get discouraged about that,” she said.

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