I just spent a couple of minutes reviewing the listings in my local area and I have a couple of observations for sellers that, hopefully, will help you to sell your house in 2009.You have probably heard all of these things from your Broker and/or the media, but if you have a house to sell, it is time to listen.
Price matters. If you have not received a contract--or at least serious interest-- on your home after 2 months, the price is too high (and, really, it should be the first month, but I think the current rules have to modified a bit to account for the downturn in the real estate market). You may believe it is worth the listing price, but if others are not offering to buy it, that is no longer what your property is worth. Don't fool yourself into thinking that buyers will 'make an offer.' A home that is priced over market value (or even at the top of the local market) can indicate a seller that may not be realistic in the negotiations. There are too many other properties out there, buyers don't need to waste their time negotiating on properties that are overpriced. The right price is the price at which your house will get a contract.
Updates matter. One of the listings I just looked at really caught my eye. The house was beautiful and it was beautifully presented. When I got to the pictures of the kitchen, I understand why it hasn't sold. Remember Pickled Pine cabinetry? If you have very outdated kitchen cabinets and appliances, you should be prepared to do a reasonable kitchen remodel or price your house UNDER market value. You probably don't want to hear this, but buyers will by-pass your home for a comparably priced home with an updated kitchen. Why shouldn't they? There is no shortage of inventory and a lot of it has the updates and the same price. The same is true for bathroom updates--particularly Master Bath updates.
Pictures matter. I just spent some time looking through listings. If your agent is not putting close to the maximum number of photos on-line (sometimes, in a smaller house, you run out of things to photograph so just make sure they have a lot), they are not doing their job. Put yourself in the buyer's place; would you choose to look at a house with a lot of pictures or one that has 3 or 4? If you had to pick between two houses in a neighborhood to see would you pick the one that looks nice in the pictures or the one that doesn't have pictures available? Wouldn't you think the one with fewer pictures is probably not updated?What if your house IS outdated and you don't want to show that in photographs? Go ahead and include the photos, but PRICE ACCORDINGLY! Buyers will overlook anything for the right price! Having a video is a MUST for all listings, but it does not eliminate the need for photographs. Most people do a quick preview of listings using the photographs which are much easier to load and quicker to review. Make sure your listing includes both photographs (and lots of them) AND a video.
If you have a house on the market and it is not selling, I can hear what you are thinking. Yes, I know that not as many people are looking for property right now and that can contribute to a house taking longer to sell. Believe me, I know! But don't allow yourself to accept that reasoning as an excuse for not presenting your own house in the best possible manner. Think of selling your car without getting it cleaned. Would you advertise it for sale if it still had a big chocolate milk puddle dried on the carpet? Ripped seats? Wouldn't you find a way to present it so that those items were not as noticeable? Or maybe you would find a replacement seat (or at least a seat cover) and get new carpet or floor pads?
I have talked to people who are selling their houses and don't want to spend money remodeling the kitchen. That's fine. Price your house accordingly. Stop focusing on what you want out of your house and start thinking about what your house is worth--in comparison to other houses. Your house is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. The value of your house has nothing to do with the money you expect to get from the sale.
Obviously, there is much, much more that goes in to successfully selling your house. But if you choose to ignore these 3 points, you may be wasting your time on your other preparations. Do you really want to get up everyday and clean your house if no one is going to come through?
There are houses that are selling even in this uncertain market. A realistic view of the competition, and of your own property. is the key to making sure that yours is one of them!