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 7,570,000 results. Yes, that’s over seven 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 derail a transaction which could have been avoided with a bit of preparation. Following are 5 questions you should ask your agent at your initial consultation to give your property the edge over the competition, avoid nasty surprises and help you pocket top dollar at closing.

1. Will I need a property survey or a rezone of my property? Depending on the property, a survey is often a good selling point and may be required if you will be splitting an existing 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 want to split your property, a consultation with an experienced land agent before ordering the survey can be to your benefit. 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 you want to create. Be aware that just because you create parcels, doesn’t mean they’re automatically rezoned for your attended use.

2. Will the easements associated with my property affect the sale? 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, an 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. Your rural property agent should be familiar with easements and if they suspect an issue, he or she may recommend that you 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 may be rejected by a buyer’s attorney leading to a lot of frustration and wasted time before it’s resolved. Some things that most buyers will want to see in an easement document are the width, length, legal description of the easement location, 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 correcting any issues it before a buyer becomes involved can save the day.

3.  Do you need my records for the government programs, agreements and covenants? 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 legally use the property so you should consider bringing them to your agent’s attention and disclosing them in writing to a buyer. Your agent will likely recommend having a copy of all government program contracts, applicable development bylaws, shared driveway agreements, shared well agreements and building covenants for the buyer to review. Buyers will be more comfortable when they know what will be expected of them after the sale which often results in them making a stronger offer.

4. What about a preliminary 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. To get the ball rolling on this, just ask your agent to order the preliminary search from a local title company. As long as you order the title insurance from that company when an offer is submitted, there likely won’t be a charge for this initial search.

5. I thought buyers do a home inspection; why would I want to do one now? Yes, the home, well and septic inspections are generally done after the offer is made and at the buyer’s expense. That being said, the reasons for ordering one at the time of listing is compelling. 1) Your home will show better if obvious defects are repaired before the buyer sees the house. 2) In a tight negotiation, the buyer will often feel more comfortable giving a ‘little more’ if they know there aren’t any defects that they will have to repair and you can negotiate with confidence knowing that everything is as it should be.
Of course, some sellers don’t discuss these items with their agent and their sale is completed anyway. While that may be the case, most sellers have the goal of selling their property for top dollar, in a timely manner and with the least amount of stress possible. Discussing the items above with an experienced rural property agent will go a long way towards making your goals a reality.
Post by: Jay Frazier – Broker Associate with First Weber Realtors

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