There is really no lack of information on how to prepare your home for sale. In fact, when I recently Googled the subject I got over 51,500,000 results. Yes, that’s over fifty-one million! While de-cluttering your closets and painting in neutral colors applies to all homes, country properties can create their own unique challenges. I was reminded of this in a recent transaction when it seemed that everything that could go wrong did, along with some things that I could only imagine. How could the deceased relative of a neighbor affect a sale of a property? Well he did and I now have more gray hair- but that’s a story for another day! In my time as a rural property agent I’ve seen a variety of issues kill or derail a transaction which could have been avoided with a bit of preparation. Following are 5 things you can do to give your property the edge over the competition, and help you pocket top dollar at closing.
1. Consider a property survey. A survey is usually a good idea (in many cases it’s required) if you will be splitting an existing property. Even if you aren’t splitting a parcel, a survey can expose issues that may then be cleared up before a buyer becomes involved. Survey markers also give a sense of security to buyers as they “know” what they’re buying. If you are going to split your property, a consultation with an experienced land agent can be a good idea. Their experience working with buyers can give you valuable insight on where to split the parcel to make it the most desirable. At times just an acre or two one way or the other can mean the difference between a quick profitable sale and a property that stays on the market for years. Your agent can also put you in contact with the proper officials to determine if the zoning is correct for the parcel size you want to create. Be aware that just because you create parcels, doesn’t mean it’s automatically rezoned to allow a residence.
2. Easements: These seemingly simple documents have the potential to cause more stress than just about any other single detail in a sale. The reason is simple. While most other facets of the transaction are negotiated between the buyer and seller, the easement often involves a third party which has no incentive to be cooperative with proposed changes. That doesn’t mean that you have to despair if you have an easement associated with your property. What I recommend to my clients is that they consider reviewing the easement with an attorney early in the sale process. Many of the older easements that I see in my business are critically vague and will be rejected by a buyer’s attorney leading to a lot of frustration before it’s resolved. Some things that most buyers will want to see on an easement are the width, length, legal description of easement centerline (determined by the survey), whether it is exclusive or non exclusive (others may use it), and whether it’s transferable. Other things may be added based on the situation. A maintenance agreement showing who is responsible for any maintenance on the easement may also be required especially if more than one party has use of it. A poorly written easement has the potential to be a deal breaker, but having an attorney update it before a buyer becomes involved can save the day.
3. Government Programs: When you’re preparing to sell your land, don’t overlook any government programs associated with the property such as Managed Forest Law (MFL) or Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres. These and other government programs will affect how a buyer is able to use the property so be sure to disclose them in a timely manner. Having a copy of the contract for the buyer to review will be appreciated and give them the information they need to make an offer while they are still excited about the property. Also, get a copy of any applicable development bylaws and building covenants. Having these readily available allows your agent to forward them to the buyer before an offer is made to help avoid costly surprises later.
4. Title Search: Here’s a scenario that you don’t want to experience: You have an accepted offer, the home inspection went well, and approval for financing is looking good. Then the title search reveals a surprise that derails the train. While most “surprises” can be resolved, there may be a few days of nail biting before the train gets back on the rails. Most of these surprises can be avoided by getting a preliminary title search at the time of listing. When you order a title search, the title company will conduct a comprehensive search of public records, maps, and documents to disclose any recorded easements, liens and encumbrances. If any potential deal breakers are uncovered, you can get them resolved before an offer is written.
5. Home Inspection: This last tip holds true for any property with a residence but especially for rural homes. Talk to your agent about getting a home inspection at the time of listing. The inspection is generally done after the offer is made, but completing it up front allows you to repair any defects before a buyer sees the house so you can negotiate with confidence knowing that everything is as it should be.
The good news is that sellers often don’t follow these suggestions and their sale is completed anyway. On the other hand, in a buyers market like we’re experiencing now, being prepared can not only add value but help your rural property stand out in the crowd. Taking care of these things ahead of time could very well mean the difference between a sold sign by the driveway and the disappointment and frustration of an offer that falls apart at an inopportune time.
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