Arrie and Tanya Debose acted quickly and decisively to sell...

Arrie and Tanya Debose acted quickly and decisively to sell their four-bedroom Victorian in Coram. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Listing their four-bedroom Victorian in Coram, the site of weddings and family gatherings around the pool, was a sudden decision for Arrie and Tanya Debose.

After living in the home for about 20 years, the couple wanted to retire and open a bed-and-breakfast in Costa Rica. Arrie, 54, had worked as a technician for Verizon, and Tanya, 52, as an event planner.

“We knew we had to act fast and smart and to deal with a seasoned professional,” said Tanya Debose. “This was not a for-sale-by-owner scenario. We knew we needed to call in the 'big guns.' ”

For the Deboses, that meant working with Patricia Bayley America, a broker with Signature Premier Properties, who got their house listed quickly, suggesting the couple only show to prequalified buyers and forgo open houses.

They priced the house at $630,000 in November and it sold for well over asking just 12 days later, the couple said. 

Picking a real estate agent who feels like a good fit is one of several important choices homeowners can make to ensure their property sells as fast and efficiently as possible as they face a shifting market, experts say.

After enjoying a seller's market sparked by the pandemic, today’s home sellers are facing a tide that has been turning against them in the past few months, as mortgage rates have risen and the pool of buyers has shrunk.

Agents and experts have noted that the steep increase in mortgage rates has made homes on Long Island less affordable, easing the competition among buyers.

But "homes that are priced accordingly are still getting significant interest, and some are receiving multiple offers over asking price," said Janet Scott-Nation of Keller Williams Greater Nassau in Garden City.

The rise in interest rates has meant mortgage applications have declined as fewer buyers shop for homes, which leads to fewer offers, said Amrish Dias, a mortgage broker with Melville-based Cardinal Financial. “We are seeing fewer bidding wars and more seller flexibility on home prices, and even seller concession to help buyers with closing costs."

What’s a seller to do?

Here are seven tips from savvy sellers and agents to give you a leg up when putting up that For Sale sign so you can land the deal you want.

1. Consider your decision to sell

Whether you are downsizing, relocating for a new job, or feel you simply can't afford to live on Long Island anymore, be certain that you are ready to move on. The argument among many here is that once you leave the Island, you might not be able afford to come back.

"I hate to leave Long Island. The taxes are killing me, and we can't afford it in the future for retirement," said George Rupp, 68, of Smithtown, who listed his single-family, farm ranch-style home for $850,000 in July. The environmental consultant said that while he and his family loved their home, a big catalyst for leaving was the high cost of living here.

Rupp, who moved to North Carolina, joins others who have benefited from the recent selling boom, with many cashing in on their homes and moving to parts of the country, such as the South, with lower costs of living.

Establishing trust with your real estate agent is essential, said Lisa...

Establishing trust with your real estate agent is essential, said Lisa Burke, who sold her late mother's Cape in Franklin Square. Credit: Barry Sloan

2. Find an agent you trust

Establishing trust and a good rapport with your real estate agent is essential. Don't hesitate to ask for data about their recent sales, how they will determine the listing price, and how they plan to attract buyers.

"Interview your realtors,” said Lisa Burke of Massapequa, who sold her late mother’s Cape in Franklin Square in September for $669,000, below its $729,000 asking price.

“Use people who have had success with selling homes, and make sure that they have good marketing strategies," said Burke, 62, an office manager. "You want someone who does this full-time, not just as a side job."

3. Be ready to repair, upgrade

With the softening of the market, many buyers are not as willing to overlook issues in a house that need repairs. Sellers are finding they have to weigh the costs of any renovations against their return on investment.

"Be prepared with any home, no matter the age, that issues may arise,” said Ryan Ranellone, an agent with Signature Premier Properties. “If a buyer asks for repairs after inspection, both parties need to be reasonable."

When it comes to leaks, issues with heating systems, and the notorious repointing of chimneys, agents will often try to mediate a solution where the buyer and seller split repair costs or the seller gives a credit at closing, he said.

As for large-scale renovations, the Deboses’ agent, America, suggests focusing on high-value rooms such as the kitchen and bathrooms.

"You should always look to upgrade those rooms; floors, countertops, and stainless steel appliances. The kitchen and bath could get you an extra $40,000," she said, adding that a seller should also consider fixing a roof and boiler, and possibly converting from oil to gas heating.

If you are not in a position to make changes, you can always list a home in its current condition.

Burke sold her mother's 1954 home in as-is condition after several offers close to the asking price fell through, including one impressive cash offer. She said there was plenty of traffic, but buyers backed out or came in with low offers because they said the house needed updates.

"We had never planned on doing any renovations, but we did fix elements that were broken ahead of time,” Burke said. “Be sure to investigate that your home is in good repair before you list it."

4. Get permits in order

While pools, decks, screened-in porches and extensions add to a property's appeal, what's less appealing is a lack of permits and certificates. It is up to the builder and the homeowner to file such claims when work is done on a home to ensure that everything is well-documented.

An unforeseen circumstance for Burke was the issue of permits and certificates of occupancy (COs). She emphasized hiring a real estate attorney who could look them over, find any missing ones and help prevent setbacks.

"Some permits were listed in a different town from way back when," Burke said. "My parents bought the house without that ever coming up.” She added that the lack of some permits, which a title search revealed, as well as a missing certificate of occupancy for a dormer “got us on the back end, and we lost money because of it."

5. Use professional real estate photography

How a home photographs is essential to generating interest, especially for prospective buyers who window shop for the perfect home online. A decluttered space with natural light that is staged properly will highlight the features of the house (while a house painted in neutral colors is also a plus), agents said.

Patricia Duncanson Skeete, a nutritionist and her husband, Glen, a retiree, made a permanent move to their second home in Pennsylvania soon after closing on their two-bedroom condo in Valley Stream home in October. The couple listed and sold the unit for $450,000 after just one week on the market.

Skeete credits the walk-through video of the home, shot on their agent's phone, that they posted in the listing for the quick sale of the property.

6. Be flexible about home showings

Accommodating potential buyers can also improve chances of getting multiple offers, especially when it comes to showing the home. Scott-Nation said that sellers need to have their homes shown during the week for those who can't get there on the weekend.

"Because interest rates are close to 7%, in order for the sellers' home to stand out and move relatively quickly, they have to be accessible for viewings, she said. The sellers should also “pay attention to staging the inside and outside of the home," she added.

“We are seeing fewer bidding wars and more seller flexibility...

“We are seeing fewer bidding wars and more seller flexibility on home prices and even seller concession to help buyers with closing costs," said Amrish Dias, a mortgage broker with Melville-based Cardinal Financial. Credit: Barry Sloan

7. Choose the right buyer

Years ago, having a buyer who had all their ducks in a row was a bonus. Today, it is crucial, according to Dias, who emphasized the importance of buyers being preapproved before they begin the search.

"A preapproval establishes a buyer's budget and buying power, which shows the seller that they are serious about the home-buying process," he said.

But a preapproval doesn’t always guarantee a quick sale, as Rupp learned. "People who were preapproved and looked like serious buyers walked away. There were three or four offers that looked solid but fell through," said Rupp, who closed on his home in November after accepting an offer of $830,000, $20,000 lower than he hoped for.

Scott-Nation said that the key to selling a house is managing sellers’ expectations and pricing the home well, perhaps more conservatively than they would have a few months ago at the height of the market.

Real estate agent Patricia Bayley America discusses strategies with home...

Real estate agent Patricia Bayley America discusses strategies with home sellers Tanya Debose, left, and Arrie Debose. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

She recommends that sellers avoid lowering the initial listing price. "Price reductions show the public that you're vulnerable and priced the home wrong," she said.

Scott-Nation also emphasized that sellers who are open to different types of financing from the buyer tend to have a better outcome.

"Buyers are looking at other creative ways to finance their home purchase. Traditionally one was a [Federal Housing Administration] FHA mortgage, which was sniffed at during this unusual sellers' market, so they have to be open to that today," she said.

For some sellers, such as Kathy Smith, it's about a personal connection. The 67-year-old state Department of Transportation secretary sold her 1969 splanch at its listing price of $520,000, allowing her to downsize to a smaller house on Long Island.

"I listed in May, the house sold in a couple of weeks, and I closed three months later," said Smith. "I took the first person who made a fair offer because I liked her family. Connecting with the person who is going to be living in your home and making memories with their own family resonated with me."

Latest Videos