Ideally, when you move, you sell your old home and buy the new one at the same time. But, often, the ideal is very different from the real. If you’ve had to move for a job, family reasons, or if you’ve inherited property or retaken possession of a recently vacated rental property – you may find yourself having to sell your property while living out of state.
This can be dicey because it’s hard when you’re not on hand to monitor the appearance of your property, talk to your service-providers (real estate agent, property manager, contractors, landscapers, etc.) in person and make sure everything is running smoothly when it comes to the sale of your home. Nothing beats a good pair of boots on the ground.
Perhaps surprisingly, you’ll be glad to know that with some preparation and a good team, selling a Seattle-area house while living out of state can be done fairly painlessly. So here’s what you need to know about selling your Seattle home when you live out of state.
Pro Tip: Hire a Professional Property Stager
The utility and ROI varies by market, but in Seattle, hiring a professional property stager is an excellent idea. If you browse homes similar to yours online, take a look at the interior pictures. If they include tidy dining rooms, adorable bedrooms, and designer soap in the bathroom, chances are you are looking at photos of a professionally-staged home.
Multiple studies have shown that staged homes sell faster and at a better price than homes that aren’t staged. Not only do they look great online (thus enticing buyers to come out and take a look), they also show well in person, and help a buyer imagine how he or she could use the space. The is especially important in tiny townhomes where the square footage can feel tight, or big open floor plans that can seem amorphous and hard to utilize. So the first thing to keep in mind about selling your Seattle home when you live out of state is that you’ll need to hire a professional stager. (Let me know if you need some names.)
Obviously, you can’t do the staging yourself very well when you live hundreds of miles away. Even people who live locally and hope to keep some of their own furniture in the home to give it a “staged” appearance often find that the look is not as “put together” as that which a professional designer would produce.
Using a professional stager “can really make a huge difference on selling this home while you’re out of state and unable to do it yourself . . . By working with a stager (ideally one your agent recommends), your home won’t look like it was recently abandoned – a vibe that could turn off buyers.”
Price According to Your Selling Goals and Time Frame
Pricing correctly is one of the most important aspects of selling a home. And when you are living out of state, it becomes even more important, yet harder to do. You can’t spy on the neighbors, peep their open-houses and gossip about how much Old Mr. Wilkin’s place sold for. How are you supposed to guess at your home’s market value? Online computer estimates are a starting place, but they’re just run off an algorithm, and can’t take your home’s present condition or unique features into account. This is wear a professional agent can help you. If the house needs work and you can’t do it, you can probably liquidate quickly by selling to a local investor, but if you want top dollar, a real estate agent can prove invaluable.
If you aren’t in a hurry to sell, you can price higher and see if the market demand will bear that price. However, this can be discouraging. Overpricing is the primary reason homes don’t sell in the time frame expected. But if you need to sell quickly, which is more common for sellers who live out of state – due to ongoing holding costs, you’ll need a much different pricing strategy. You will have to figure out how to price the property so that you can still profit while selling within your desired time frame.
Your real estate agent can be a huge asset in pricing according to your selling goals, especially considering that you won’t know whats going on in the Seattle market when you’re in another state. To find out how a good local agent can assist you, call (206) 578-3438.
Hire A Pro: Have a Team and Let It Go… (Let it goooo! Oh no, now I have the Frozen theme song in my head!)
Another important thing to know about selling your Seattle home when you live out of state is that you’ll need a team. Get the band together and make some music. Stager, photographer, contractor, landscaper, real estate agent… everyone has a part to play. Conducting this orchestra can be a real hassle especially when you’re from out of state and have to double-check on the work of all these different players. Here’s where to focus: Just find a team captain – your real estate agent – and let her coordinate all these details for you. You can then satisfactorily relinquish control and let your qualified team work its magic.
Here’s what the pros recommend: “Be sure to hire a broker and a real estate lawyer while you’re in town so you can walk them through your property, give them your deed, etc., and make sure all involved parties have each other’s contact information . . . When you’re selling from out of state, you should have your game plan set from the beginning.” A good agent who’s been through this all before can lead the charge from Seattle and simply let you know when there are documents to sign or bills to pay.
And once you have a good team in place, consider how much control you want to give up. Do you want pictures and receipts of all work done? Do you want to approve a punch list of actions to be taken? It’s a good idea to stay on top of things, including your budget and the timing of any large projects. But remember, trying to micromanage while living out of state is a recipe for disaster. Let your agent help you assemble a team that will do the heavy lifting for you.
Remote Closing – No Sweat
Consider Out-of-State Closing Logistics
Perhaps the most potentially difficult aspect of selling a Seattle when you live out of state is the final stage in the process: closing. When you live in town, it’s traditional to meet at the title company and have a two-hour document-signing ceremony. If you’re living out of state, the good news is you can skip this hassle and do it the easy way, like I do. Get the agent or title company to send you the documents you need to sign, hire a mobile notary or go to the local branch of the title company if they have an office in your town. You must sign in front of a witness or notary, so make sure you get that worked out before dropping off your docs at the UPS Store and heading for Starbucks.
If you live only a short drive away and you WANT to come to closing at the title company, that’s no real problem. But if it means buying an expensive plane ticket and taking time off from work, you may need to find people who are more flexible.
When you live out of state, industry experts advise, “pick a flexible closing attorney or title company . . . When you’re vetting the companies you are going to close with, ask them if you can sign the closing documents with a local notary present. If the buyer’s lender or your [agent] is choosing, have them make sure that you can close from out of state.”
This has never been a challenge for me. If you don’t know a local notary, you can google it. You can also often get free notary services at your bank, or paid notary services at the UPS store. Just make a plan and have your fancy “John Hancock” signing pen ready. The title company can wire you the money or send a check after the dust has settled – usually you’ll have the funds within a day or two.
Hire an Agent Who Can Handle It
Maybe the most important piece of the puzzle for selling your Seattle home while living out of state is hiring an agent who can actually handle this situation. Industry pros say that “you should be especially particular when hiring someone to handle an out-of-state sale. Your listing agent should be experienced in coordinating with clients remotely, and able to make a fast sale on your home so that it doesn’t just sit on the market.” The key is to have a good team in place, and somebody who can make sure all the balls being juggled aren’t dropped.