It may make you feel better to hear that I've been there before. Buying my first home with my husband — an adorable little condo in a landscaped community — was exhilarating. Selling my first home — the adorable little condo that turned out to be a crumbling money pit with leaks and foundation issues — was a nightmare.
Our realtor remained optimistic. But after close to a year (yes, you read that right), we did not. Oh, and did I mention the fact that, in the midst of it all, we decided to have a baby? So, not only were we trying to keep our home spic and span to prepare for the possibility of a showing at any minute, but we also had to flee the scene with a crying infant in tow until a showing was done. Finally, finally, finally, we were put out of our misery after the one-year mark when some merciful soul placed a bid.
In my case, selling my home was a rigorous process that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. But real estate experts argue that it doesn't have to be so hard. There are plenty of variables that can affect how quickly your home sells, most notably whether you set a fair asking price and if you are in a buyer's or seller's market. If your house has been listed far beyond the median 34 days on the market in peak season, you may be missing some effective property moving strategies that are right under your nose:
Think about the horrors you saw the last time you went house hunting, and you'll quickly realize how unattractive a cluttered countertop can be. Meridith Baer of Meridith Baer Home says that the first — and the easiest way — to hook a potential buyer is by tackling the claustrophobic buildup lurking in the corners of your home. "To freshen up the look of your home, remove all of your accessories and books from bookshelves, consoles and coffee tables," she explains. "Reimagine your surfaces and give each piece a new home. Place interesting items that may have been hidden away on a shelf on your coffee table to display them. Moving things around a bit may even help you clear some clutter."
Clutter is one thing, and an unpleasant smell is quite another. If your house has a lingering funk in the air, you can guarantee that even the most eager buyer will not be signing on the dotted line. "First impressions are crucial and even a smell can ruin that first impression," says Fiona Scott, RE/MAX North-San Antonio realtor since 2009. "From the second a potential client enters your home, they are critiquing everything. Nothing is nicer than to walk into a home that smells fresh and clean. No one wants to smell smoke or pet odor when entering a home — even vacant homes can smell musty. You may be used to the smell of your home, so consult with your real estate agent or a friend. There are numerous options from a fresh coat of paint to plug-ins and scented candles."
The quickest way to sell an older home is to bring it into the 21st century. According to Clair Jones, relocation specialist at Movearoo, home automation is a "huge selling point" for millennial and Gen-X buyers. She advises, "Consider installing a few automation products like a smart thermostat, locks, lighting or security system. Labeling your house as a 'smart home' can make it sell faster and give you a competitive advantage over similar homes in your area."
If your house is neck-and-neck with dozens of other homes for sale in your neighborhood, you're going to have to crank it up a notch. This doesn't mean buying a gold toilet. It does mean adding a high-class touch to your living spaces so that buyers feel like they are visiting a hotel. Start with the bathroom, says Baer. "This means a counter free of products, except a couple that have pretty packaging. Rolled up white towels in a basket and a potted plant look clean."
We're living in an Instagram world, so it should come as no surprise that potential buyers have big expectations when browsing pictures of houses online — #nofilter, please. To keep a grainy photo from standing in the way of you and a sale, Scott recommends investing in professional photography when listing your house. She explains, "If you can't get people through the front door, your home will never sell. Professional photographers are excellent at taking the most flattering pictures of your home. Your home needs to stand out from the masses when potential buyers are browsing through the numerous homes on the Internet."
Here's the thing — you may have figured out by now that not everyone loves your precious pooch as much as you do, least of all a curious buyer touring your home for the first time. Jones says not to risk it. She advises hiring a pet sitter during daytime showings. "While you may think your dog or cat is a cute bundle of joy, some potential buyers may see them as a distracting source of pesky odors and allergens, so you're better off eliminating them from the equation," she explains.
Bianca Mitchell, a Keller Williams realtor in Santa Monica, has a whole new interpretation of "if you build it, they will come." Mitchell says the best bait for a buyer is preparation — make it as easy as possible for someone to make an offer on your house. She explains, "Have an 'Offer Guidelines' sheet for other realtors and buyers that outlines what you are looking for. Which escrow company do you like? Why are you moving? How long have you lived there? This is really helpful to other realtors working with buyers for your home and will make it much easier and faster for them to write up an offer. If you can be direct and transparent from the start, the sale and offer process will be much smoother."
I clearly saved the best for last — and by "best," I mean the selling strategy you've been trying to avoid. If nothing else seems to work and your home has been on the market for months (or years), price could be holding you back. "Don't price too high and don't be afraid to use an event pricing strategy," says Mitchell. "When you first sit down with your realtor, they will present to you a CMA showing you where the market says your house should be priced. Usually, you have a few options of price ranges, from high to low, that will still work for your property. When trying to sell quickly, don't be afraid to pick the lower price as your list price. While pricing is a delicate balance, many homes that are priced too high from the start sit on the market and become stale. If you are priced correctly (or even a bit under market) you will draw much more traffic in the critical first few weeks of your listing."
She continues, "Some sellers are afraid that pricing too low will bring them a lower outcome. Think of pricing as a cork floating in water — no matter where you start out, the cork will generally fall to the same spot when you let it go. Agents and buyers working in today's real estate market are smarter than ever and have the resources to become extremely educated. They know what a property is worth — pricing is your chance to draw them to your sale. When priced correctly, or at market, you have more of a chance of drawing multiple offers, giving you more options and a better sales price."
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