Common Questions from Sellers

And The Answers!

Our Selling Process

Q: What can I do to get my property ready
before I list for sale??

A: The short answer is clean up your property and make it shine.

The question here is what CAN you do to get your property ready before you list for sale. I am going to go through the basic actions a Seller can take before listing for sale. I understand that there may not be enough money or enough time to make any or all of these happen. That being said, here is a list of basic actions a Seller can take before coming on the market.

Make basic repairs.
For example:
Front door lock broken? Fix it.
Touch-up painting required in entry hall? Touch it up.
Bathroom faucet leaking? Have it repaired.

Clean up.
For example:
Lots of junk in the basement? Now is a good time to get rid of it.
House need cleaning? Have a housecleaner clean the property to within an inch of its life. Can it be expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
Clean the windows?  Yes. Right before coming on the market, have the windows professionally cleaned.

Engage the services of an experienced stager? Possibly.
Do you live in your property? The stager can help you add and subtract items to help your property show to best advantage.
Is the property vacant? The stager can stage the main rooms or the entire residence.

Virtual staging is now also an option.

It's a good idea to engage your listing agent at the beginning of this process, so that your listing agent can offer assistance with preparing your property for sale. I have literally gone through this process hundreds of times as a listing agent. It's very helpful to have an experienced Realtor giving guidance on these matters - as it is when you are contemplating more challenging questions such as the following: Do I need to replace the roof? Is it worth it to upgrade the kitchen appliances?

There is a lot to the process of getting a property ready for sale. Engaging an experienced Realtor will make it much easier for you to get ready.

Q: What is the best time of year to list my property for sale?

A: The short answer is the spring market..

Every year, the spring market is the heart of the market.

When is the spring market? A broad definition defines the spring market as being early January through early June - basically the first six months of the year. The heart of the spring market is typically March and April and May. The determining factor here in New England is the weather. The sooner the snow melts, the sooner the spring market heats up. New listings steadily start coming on the market in the spring. Several years ago, we were being hammered by a series of heavy snowstorms early in the year and many new listings were delayed - and many buyers holed up at home. That year the spring market kicked off later.

Why is the spring market the best time of year to list your property for sale?

Well, typically it is the time of year that the most buyers are in the market. Buyers are a good thing for sellers. Spring fever.

Your house can look very appealing in the heart of the spring market. The grass it starting to green up. The flowers are blooming. There is more daylight.

To say that the spring market is the best time of year to list your property for sale is not to say that it is the only time of year one can list for sale. Properties are for sale all year long and one can list at any time.

The next best time after the spring market is the fall market. The fall market runs from just after Labor Day until mid November. The summer market - June and July and August - is also a perfectly fine time to list. Really, the only time that it is truly challenging to be on the market is between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, when you are up against the holidays and days that get dark before 5 pm and not too many buyers being in the market.

The answer to the essential question when is the best time for you to list your property for sale is going to be determined not just by what time of year is best but also by other factors impacting your decision, such as when you are moving or the date you are aiming to close by or possibly a job relocation. An experienced Realtor will help you make the best decision with regard to when to list for your property sale based on your variables.

Q: What interior paint colors will help sell your home?

A:The short answer is paint colors in the off-white and gray families of paint colors.

Neutral paint colors - in the off-white and gray families of paint colors - tend to be the most popular with most buyers. For sure, many a home has sold for top dollar with a richer palette of paint colors. That being said, the off-white and gray paint color families are the biggest winners with most home buyers, simply because they are neutral. Paint colors in the gray and white families are the most popular choice in the Cambridge and Somerville marketplace.

Atlanta Realtor Lesa Bell has put together an awesome Pinterest board on interior paint colors that will sell your house.
Check it out!

Q: What can a seller do to prepare a property for a home inspection?

A:The short answer is to make the property fully accessible for the inspector to complete the inspection.

Also, very often it is valuable for the Seller to take care of basic repair and maintenance issues prior to the inspection. David Rainey and Sallie McBrien have written a useful blog post on the topic: Preparing the Home for Buyer Inspections. Worth reading their post! In my view, the best time for a Seller to prepare is prior to coming on the market.

The Cambridge and Somerville real estate market has been hot, hot, hot, for a prolonged period of time. Some buyers are dropping the home inspection contingency clause from their offer and forgoing having a home inspection. That being said, home inspections have not altogether disappeared. Some happen before offers are due. Some happen on the other side of an accepted offer. A Seller who has prepared for a home inspection is likely in better shape than a Seller who has not.

Q: Where do I need to have smoke and CO detectors installed inside my property?

A:The short answer is you need smoke detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors on every level (including the basement) and within 10 feet of every bedroom. Additionally, smoke detectors are required on the ceiling of all stairways on all floor levels.

In Massachusetts, the law requires that when a residential property is going to be sold, the local fire department visit the property prior to the closing to inspect that the property has functional smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed in all the proper places. The fire department then issues a certificate that the property has PASSED inspection. The smoke/co inspection certificate is REQUIRED for the property to close.

As a listing agent for my seller clients, I help make sure that the property is equipped with functional smoke and co detectors in all the right places prior to the fire department inspection. If you have a question about the requirements of the law as they pertain to your property, be sure to contact your local fire department for guidance.

As of December 1, 2016, the state of Massachusetts passed a new law that impacts one- and two-family residences built before January 1, 1975, that have not been substantially altered.
In these residences:
- Smoke alarms must be photoelectric
- Smoke alarms must have a hush feature to silence nuisance alarms
- Smoke alarms must have 10-year, sealed, non-rechargeable, non-replaceable batteries
CLICK HERE to see the pdf from the state of Massachusetts Fire Marshal on this law.

The requirement in Massachusetts for carbon monoxide detectors on every level and within 10 feet of each bedroom has not changed since 2006. CLICK HERE to see the pdf from the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services on carbon monoxide detectors.

The requirement that the fire department visit the property prior to closing to insure that the property has functional smoke and co detectors in all the right places is a good thing.

Working with seller clients in Cambridge and Somerville over the years, here are a few pro tips:
- Do not wait until the last minute. Early on in the process, check to make sure you have functional smoke and co detectors in all the right places. An experienced listing agent can give guidance.
- If you have a hard-wired system and one or more of the detectors is not functional, you likely will need to hire an electrician to resolve the matter. Note that it may be necessary to order like-kind replacement detector(s) that work with your system. This can take time. Plan accordingly.
- Remember, in Cambridge and Somerville, the smoke/co inspection certificate issued by the fire department is good for 60 days after it is issued. Make sure the certificate is still valid for the closing date. Also, when the certificate is issued, review the certificate for accuracy.
- Best to book your smoke/co inspection in advance with the fire department. It can be challenging to get an appointment right away, especially in Somerville. PLAN AHEAD. Please note that Somerville does offer an expedited service for an additional fee.
- In Cambridge, smoke/co inspections take place on Tuesdays and Thursday, between 9:30 and 11 AM.
- In Somerville, smoke/co inspections are by appointment for a specific day and time.
- In Somerville, for buildings with fire safety sprinkler systems, you will also be expected to have A) copy of inspection of fire safety system, dated within the last 12 months and B) copy of monitoring agreement, dated within the last twelve months. Check with the building management or condo association regarding these matters. If either A) or B) are not in place, you will need to formulate an action plan to have the matter resolved. This takes time.

CLICK HERE to see information regarding smoke/co detectors and inspections from the Cambridge Fire Department.

CLICK HERE to see information regarding smoke/co detectors and inspections from the Somerville Fire Department.

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