Yes You Can...
Sell a house in less than 30 days in today's market. Here's how-
- Price it right. So how do you know? Check comparable 'active,' 'pending' and recently 'sold and closed' properties that are similar to yours. Compare them on a dollars-per-square-foot basis. If the 'sold and closed' properties average $150/sf, the 'pending' ones average $140/sf, and the 'actives' average $130/sf- you HAVE to go to the low end if you HAVE to sell. It's that simple. All things being equal, you want to be the least expensive house in your market segment if you must sell. Otherwise you'll be trying to 'chase' the market by doing frantic price reductions while the houses priced correcting are selling around you.
- Make it so clean and shiny that it sparkles. Scrub everything and have carpets and windows professionally cleaned. Trim shrubbery away from the house. And if it's in front of a window, trim it lower than the window sills.
- Eliminate 1/3 of the furniture and 1/2 of everything else. Store it or get rid of it. Including the myriads of sentimental photo, travel and trophy collections that make the house feel like yours. Your want the house to feel roomy. You want the buyers to easily imagine it as theirs (with minimal 'mental subtracting' of your lifestyle).
- Change colors as needed. If anything is an ugly or outdated color, change it. Ask your agent and believe what they tell you.
- Regarding price, ask the right people the right questions...then act on what you learn. Like it or not, it's the market place that sets prices. The marketplace is cruel. It doesn't care what you 'need in order to buy another place you like.' It isn't swayed by how much money, love, time and energy you've put into it. If your mechanic or hairdresser tells you your property is worth 20% more than your agent tells you...sell it to them on the spot before they regain their sanity!
- Allocate money for staging. Your house will sell faster and for more money professionally staged. And don't waste your time with "it wasn't staged when we bought it and we liked it just fine." The current real estate market is the worst we've seen in a long time. Many houses that don't sell in the first month are sitting for as long as a year with no offers.
- Make your house easy to show. This isn't the time to play hard-to-get. There aren't remotely enough buyers to buy all the houses for sale in your city right now. Say 'yes' when the agent calls and asks if she can show it between 5 and 6 PM today. That's the time she and her out-of-town buyer are going to be in your area. At 7 PM they're going to be across town. Tomorrow the buyer's going to be back in Montana. No one asks to show your house at dinner time if they have a choice. They'd rather be home eating dinner, too. (And with today's gas prices, they'll be choosing efficient routes with as little doubling back as possible.)
Unless it's medically impossible, plan to be out of the house during the time the buyers will be visiting. They'll be more likely to take their time and really think about how it will work for them if they and the agent are the only ones there. Before leaving, turn on every light you can find in the house (even if it's the middle of the day in Phoenix). And leave the blinds and drapes open.
- Special caveats for vacant houses. Having the utilities turned off is generally a false economy. If buyers have to walk through a dark, freezing (or boiling) house, they're not going to stay around as long or feel as good about the house as if it seemed more 'normal.' Also, clean the house regularly to prevent 'dead fly syndrome' from setting in. And tend to the yard periodically.
- Choose an agent who pulls out all of the marketing stops from the get-go. Your house should appear on multiple national websites, including both a 'virtual tour' and multiple interior and exterior photos. Nowadays 84% of all buyers do most of their property searching on the Internet. And most won't even consider properties without enough photos to give them a good sense of what the house and grounds have to offer.
Watch for my next blog posting on "Advice you never thought you'd hear from a real estate agent."
© 2008 Janine Hook Pierson and Chuck Pierson