5 Things You Need to Know Before Selling a Home in Los Angeles

It may be a seller's market in Los Angeles, but unless you heed this advice, you might not get everything you envisioned out of your home.

Photo courtesy of Williams & Williams Estates Consider the fact that L.A. buyers are paying some of the highest prices in the country, and are therefore particularly demanding and discerning. "When a buyer's eye travels to little fixes that need to be made, they start adding up, and it makes them think of bigger fixes — it’s just human nature,” according to Brandon and Rayni Williams of Williams & Williams Estates.

Just because you live in one of the hottest seller's markets in the country doesn’t mean you can plop a “For Sale” sign in your yard and the buyers will come running with multiple bids. While there are only 3.9 homes for every thousand people in the L.A. area and homes average about nine days on the market, it still takes plenty of skill and savvy to get the ideal deal.

We asked prominent local Realtors for their best selling advice, and came up with these invaluable tips.

1. Brand your home. You’ve heard a lot about branding yourself to get a good job, so why not brand your house to get a great sale? “Presentation is everything,” says John Barrentine, CEO and co-founder of RED Real Estate Group at Keller Williams/Larchmont. “The successful marketing plan begins with creating a visually arresting and emotional hook. On average, buyers are looking online at homes for six to eight months before they fully step into the market. The launch of your home on the Internet is everything. Photos cannot just be shot from a camera on a cell phone. High production value, professional shots are just the starting point. Video, property URLs, and exposure to hundreds of websites are part of any good marketing plan."

Photo courtesy of Williams & Williams Estates “Before listing a home we do a walk-through with the seller and note all the areas that need improvement. Sometimes this is as simple as taking away clutter, or too many personal touches, photos or memorabilia,” say Brandon and Rayni Williams of Williams & Williams Estates. This is a perfect example of a home that is pristine and clutter free.

2. Sweat the small stuff. Because Los Angeles buyers are paying a premium, they expect perfection down to the tiniest detail.  Gail Steinberg, senior estates director of Dilbeck Estates, suggests power washing the exterior to rid your home of cobwebs and hornets’ nests, replacing dead or sickly plants and grass, touching up paint both inside and out, washing your windows both inside and out and removing screens where possible for showing so that windows gleam. Even cleaning light switches to get rid of finger marks, and/or replacing old dingy ones can make a huge difference.

3. Make sure the price is right. We web savvy Californians are so used to doing home value research online that we forget to get out in the neighborhood and see how similar homes are actually selling. Barrentine advises going to open houses and tracking those home sales, and then picking an agent whose judgment and honesty you really trust.

"If you over-price the property initially, it can languish on the market and force a reduction," he says. “However, if your property is properly exposed and priced just under market value, it can create significant demand and ultimately a higher sales price and better terms, not to mention less time and hassle from unfruitful open houses.”

4. Anticipate inspections and make repairs in advance. California, and Los Angeles in particular, have all sorts of legal requirements of home sellers, according to prominent L.A. Realtor Joe Babajian. These include installation of ultra-low flush toilets and showerheads; installation of an earthquake gas shut-off valve; and installation of carbon monoxide detectors. See a full list of requirements on Babajian’s blog

Then there are the repairs that are not required by law, but will likely be required by the buyers prior to selling – “the unglamorous inner-workings of a home that usually need attention,” according to Brandon and Rayni Williams of Williams & Williams Estates. "These include things that sellers often forget about maintaining like the sewer line, termite damage work, full gutters and landscaping. All of these issues will come up in a buyer's inspection anyway, they say, so why not take care of them in advance? 

5. Decide what you want to accomplish. It’s never just about making a huge profit, is it? You need to take into consideration length of escrow, the date your future residence will be available, and the fees and fixes involved in the sale. You’ll also need to know about capital gains taxes, and whether or not you can transfer your current tax basis to your new home. Then there’s the sentimentality that might come into play – are you looking for someone who will love your home as you did, or perhaps someone who will maintain the architectural integrity?

It’s such a hot real estate market in L.A. right now that if you’re taken by surprise by some of these factors, become confused and wait too long to sort them out, you could easily blow a sale. Barrentine advises you to “begin by visualizing the perfect buyers for your home, make your needs known, and then step back and let your advisers and professionals take it from there.” If that's not an L.A. state of mind for a real estate sale, nothing is.


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