6 Tips for a Quick Home Sale in 2016

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By Laura Agadoni

When it comes to timing your home sale, predicting the real estate market can seem impossible. Even psychics don't always know what the future holds for real estate. But you can make some predictions based on what's happened in past real estate cycles.

For starters, 2016 is an election year. There's also talk of interest rates potentially rising even higher than the quarter-point hike that went into effect in December, the first such rate increase since 2006. Your strategies for selling, because of those issues and more, might differ this year.

Here are six clever tips to learn how to sell a house fast and to help your home sell quickly in 2016.

1. Price the home right.

If you ask two real estate agents whether you should underprice or overprice your home for sale, you might get opposite responses. The overprice camp believes you can get more money by asking for more money.

The underprice side believes you'll pique the interest of more potential buyers by asking less than the price that comparable properties fetch. That could start a bidding war, which could drive the price back up.

"I am a huge proponent of underpricing just ever so slightly," says Brett Miles, an agent with Douglas Elliman in New York. "Buyers are extremely savvy these days and watch the market like hawks. They are well aware of the bloated asking prices we are experiencing currently."

Sellers have been "successfully pushing the envelope on ask for three-plus years," says James Brune, also an agent with Douglas Elliman in New York. "But prices are plateauing now," he says. "Sellers will need to be realistic and price at or below current market to get maximum interest [in their home]."

2. Finance the sale yourself.

Federal Reserve officials are calling for a gradual rate increase over time. The federal funds rate has been 0 percent for years. The recent December increase brings the rate to 0.25%. The next increase will bring it to 0.5 percent, and there could be more increases after that. "If mortgage rates [keep rising], this will begin to affect affordability across the board," says Brune.

One way to help a potential buyer afford to buy your home if interest rates rise is to "offer to finance the purchase; be the bank," says Miles. If you finance the deal, you can make the monthly payments work for your buyer by offering a lower interest rate than they could get from a traditional mortgage lender.

3. Stage your home.

It's always a good idea to present your home in the best light possible before a sale, and doing so becomes even more important during a buyer's market.

If buyers believe election results "will affect their pocketbooks directly, they may wait to buy," says Miles. The same happens with increased interest rates. "People sit where they are [instead of buying]," says Jessica Dolan, a Pennsylvania home stager. "Therefore, it becomes a buyer's market, and sellers will really need to make their properties shine through."

Dolan suggests some tips and tricks, many of which won't cost you anything, except a little elbow grease:

-- Deep-clean from top to bottom.

-- Remove screens from windows to let in more light (make sure the glass is clean).

-- Clear all walkways throughout the house.

-- Make sure all doors, closets, and cabinets can open easily.

-- Put out fresh fruit on the kitchen table and fresh flowers on bathroom counters.

-- Display clean towels in bathrooms.

-- Hide all personal items in bathrooms, including trash cans.

-- Pull furniture away from walls to create social sitting areas.

-- Give each room a purpose, especially oddly shaped or random rooms.

-- Paint the ceilings white, especially in dark rooms, to reflect more light.

4. Prepare for El Niño.

The topic of weather is more than just small talk when it comes to selling your home. Extreme weather conditions, such as more rain from El Niño, for example, play a role. And El Niño is likely to be a factor during winter and early spring 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It may seem strange that a weather event could have an impact on home sales, but knowing that weather is coming can be a deciding factor for purchasing older homes, fixer-uppers, and anything with a roofing, foundation, or plumbing problem," says Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration.

But there are ways to make your home more marketable during El Niño conditions, says Ruggie:

-- For colder-climate homes: Add gutter heaters, which keep gutters and downspouts running free and clear. Doing so helps prevent ceiling leaks from overflows from increased snowfall.

-- For homes in warmer climates: Keep water at bay by adding weatherproofing tape and new window glazing.
-- For homes with basements: Purchase a sump pump.

You can also appeal to environmentally conscious buyers by installing a water catchment system to harvest rainwater from El Niño.

5. Time the sale.

Springtime and early summer are traditionally good times to put your house on the market for a quick sale. And this becomes even more important in 2016 since it's an election year.

"Election years mean uncertainty to a housing market," says Mike Minihan, a real estate agent in Atlanta. "If you are concerned that the election could potentially throw a wrench in the market, [spring and early summer] will be early enough in the year to get the house sold before wild speculation starts breeding fear in homebuyers."

6. Target millennials.

It's a safe bet that when you sell your home in 2016, your target market will be millennials, people between the ages of 18 and 34.

"Baby boomers will start to cash out of their houses, which will put more houses on the market," says Sam Heskel, CEO of Nadlan Valuation, a New York City appraisal company. An increased inventory of homes combined with an improving job market "will enable more millennials to become homebuyers."

Millennials tend to like backyard decks, gourmet kitchens, open floor plans, balconies with views, and vegetable gardens. If your home has any of those amenities, feature them in your marketing.

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