By: G. M. Filisko

Selling your home will go a lot smoother if you think of it as a business transaction and don't let emotions get in the way.

Woman reviewing house offer over the phone

You’ve worked hard to get your home ready for sale and to price it properly. With any luck, offers will come quickly. You’ll need to review each carefully to determine its strengths and drawbacks and pick one to accept. Here’s a plan for evaluating offers.

1. Understand the process

All offers are negotiable, as your agent will tell you. When you receive an offer, you can accept it, reject it, or respond by asking that terms be modified, which is called making a counteroffer.

2. Set baselines

Decide in advance what terms are most important to you. For instance, if price is most important, you may need to be flexible on your closing date. Or if you want certainty that the transaction won’t fall apart because the buyer can’t get a mortgage, require a prequalified or cash buyer.

3. Create an offer review process

If you think your home will receive multiple offers, work with your agent to establish a time frame during which buyers must submit offers. That gives your agent time to market your home to as many potential buyers as possible, and you time to review all the offers you receive.

4. Don’t take offers personally

Selling your home can be emotional. But it’s simply a business transaction, and you should treat it that way. If your agent tells you a buyer complained that your kitchen is horribly outdated, justifying a lowball offer, don’t be offended. Consider it a sign the buyer is interested and understand that those comments are a negotiating tactic. Negotiate in kind.

5. Review every term

Carefully evaluate all the terms of each offer. Price is important, but so are other terms. Is the buyer asking for property or fixtures—such as appliances, furniture, or window treatments—to be included in the sale that you plan to take with you?

Is the amount of earnest money the buyer proposes to deposit toward the downpayment sufficient? The lower the earnest money, the less painful it will be for the buyer to forfeit those funds by walking away from the purchase if problems arise.

Have the buyers attached a prequalification or pre-approval letter, which means they’ve already been approved for financing? Or does the offer include a financing or other contingency? If so, the buyers can walk away from the deal if they can’t get a mortgage, and they’ll take their earnest money back, too. Are you comfortable with that uncertainty?

Is the buyer asking you to make concessions, like covering some closing costs? Are you willing, and can you afford to do that? Does the buyer’s proposed closing date mesh with your timeline?

With each factor, ask yourself: Is this a deal breaker, or can I compromise to achieve my ultimate goal of closing the sale?

6. Be creative

If you’ve received an unacceptable offer through your agent, ask questions to determine what’s most important to the buyer and see if you can meet that need. You may learn the buyer has to move quickly. That may allow you to stand firm on price but offer to close quickly. The key to successfully negotiating the sale is to remain flexible.

G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has survived several closings. A frequent contributor to many national publications including Bankrate.com, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Used with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Copyright 2010.
All rights reserved.
 


Tired of dreary winter days and ready for the warmth and renewal of spring?  So are house hunters!  Here are some easy, inexpensive steps that can lighten listings for the spring season and appeal to potential buyers:

  • Open curtains, shades and blinds to let spring sunshine in.  Wash windows inside and out to remove winter grime and to brighten up the home.

  • Remove winter leaves and debris from the lawn and flower beds. Apply early season fertilizer and weed control treatments as recommended for the specific turf type and climate. Plant blooming annuals for spring color in flower beds or in strategically placed pots, window boxes and planters.

  • Clean fireplaces and hide firebox discolorations with fire screens or potted plants.

  • Bring spring color inside with fresh seasonal flowers such as tulips, daffodils and hyacinths.

  • To give rooms a warm weather lift, put away heavy throws, blankets and dark accessories. Add some brightly colored pillows or candles. Crystal bowls and candlesticks give a light, airy feel to any table or room.  If possible, replace dark area rugs with lighter floor coverings.

  • Place a spring-themed centerpiece on the dining table, or hang a spring wreath on the door.  Put out some pastel placemats and colorful dishes.

  • Touch up paint.   Even if the home does not need complete repainting, applying a fresh coat of paint to doors, woodwork, window sills and stair treads can make rooms seem cleaner and brighter.

  • Plan open houses around budding spring flowers, trees and shrubs for maximum impact and appeal.

Breathing new life into older listings is especially important.  Make some of these suggestions, and watch listings spring to life! 

SOURCE: American Home Shield


Generally, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) treats debt forgiveness by a creditor as taxable income.  However, under federal legislation that took effect in 2007, certain home mortgage debt cancellations—such as loan modifications, short sales, or foreclosures—may be exempted from federal taxes.  Other exemptions are also available.

 

  • Homeowners considering a loan modification, short sale, or foreclosure should note that the federal tax exclusion under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 only applies to mortgage balances on a qualified principal residence and not on second homes, rental real estate, or business properties. 

  • The maximum amount of forgiven debt eligible under the 2007 law is $2 million for married taxpayers filing jointly and $1 million for single taxpayers.

  • The debt reduction only can be for loan amounts used to buy, build, or substantially improve a principal residence, including refinance loans as long as  an increase in the total mortgage debt if any is attributable to renovations and capital improvements of the house.  However, if refinance proceeds were used for other personal purposes, such as paying off credit card bills, purchasing cars, or investing in stocks, then the mortgage debt attributable to those expenditures is not eligible for tax exclusion under the 2007 law.

  • California homeowners who sold their house in a short sale or were foreclosed upon in 2009 still may have to pay state taxes on forgiven mortgage debt.  The California legislature did not extend the tax exemption for mortgage debt forgiveness for state taxes.  However, lawmakers are working on a bill that would provide the same tax relief on state taxes as the federal government currently offers.

SOURCE: CAR Summarization of article from March 14, 2010