7 Secrets to Selling a Property Today

Education & Training

IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO sell your home in a matter of days rather than months, you might want to take some tips from 32-year-old Mona Ross Berman.

To get her Washington, D.C., townhouse ready for sale, the interior designer went through every room, sweating the details. She rearranged furniture, added sophisticated coffee-table books and strategically placed vases and throw pillows to create a cozy environment. She then organized every closet to showcase her ample storage space. Finally, she removed all personal items, including her wedding photos, so potential buyers wouldn't associate the house with someone else. She made the property ‘Q-tip' clean (meaning that every nook, cranny, and air conditioning vent was cleaned and polished. "I think that if you can get a home to show well, it can get you [better results] than it really should," Berman says. Her strategy worked. Within four days of placing her property on the market, she had five offers in hand.

Long gone are the days when you can simply throw some cookie dough into the oven and get an offer for your house. Thanks to the Internet, home buyers are more sophisticated and demanding than ever before. Over 80% of buyers now pre-screen their selections, neighborhood, and pricing online before viewing a property. Your ability to convey the property through words, pictures, and value are imperative. At a bare minimum, would-be sellers need to dispose of clutter and make any necessary repairs. But to really make a property stand out from the crowd and sell quickly, sellers might need to do the following.

1. Hire an Interior Designer
A well-decorated home will sell faster and for more money than one that looks frumpy. That's why more and more sellers are hiring interior designers to do everything from rearrange furniture and paint walls a neutral color to rent artwork. This service, known as "staging," can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a small job to several thousand dollars for high-end properties, says Patricia Dugan, a realtor with The Corcoran Group.

Experts across the country agree that the investment is worthwhile for most properties. According to recent data from Coldwell Banker, staged homes in the San Francisco Bay area spent just 25.3 days on the market and sold at the asking price, while "non-staged" homes languished on the market for 48.2 days and sold for 2% below the asking price.

2. Hire an Organizer
A lovely décor will get you only so far. To really get the buyers chomping at the bit, you need to highlight your home's storage space as well. That means everything should be clean and organized - closets, bathroom vanities, the garage and basement. It might sound trivial, but your home's sale really could rest on whether your linen closets can comfortably store your towels.

If you identify more with Oscar Madison of "The Odd Couple" than with Felix Unger, it might make sense to hire a professional organizer for $75 to $100 an hour. This is especially helpful for those who've lived in their homes for many years and don't know how to dig themselves out of the mess. Some organizers will even help run a yard sale that could end up paying for their services. If you're not sure how to find this type of service, ask your realtor. Most have a list of pros at their fingertips. As with all of these "extra" services mentioned, don't be cheap. You are probably selling a property worth hundreds of thousands of dollars! Trying to save a few hundred could easily cost you a sale and add months to your payments!

3. Hire a Photographer
Up to 74% of home buyers start their search online, according to the National Association of Realtors. Indeed, the Web has become such an important marketing tool that all the realtors we spoke with encourage their clients to hire a professional photographer, which can cost as little as $100, for their online snapshots. Think of it this way: If someone doesn't like how your home looks on the Web, he or she won't bother to make an appointment to see the property in person. Is that a risk you're willing to take?

While putting photographs online isn't exactly new, there are some emerging trends. Six years ago it was OK to have one outside shot of the house, says Tara Rogers, director of marketing for Real Living, a Columbus, Ohio-based real-estate firm. Now, some potential buyers want to see up to a 10-picture slideshow detailing multiple rooms before they commit to a walk-through, she says. Dare to post small, grainy pictures, and risk little foot traffic in your home.

4. Try Marketing Gimmicks
Despite impressive national home-sale figures, some local markets are starting to soften. For example, homes in the western suburbs of Boston are languishing on the market for 90 days and more after previously selling in just 15 to 30, says Nelson Zide, co-owner of ERA Key Realty Services, a Framingham, Mass.-based real-estate brokerage. Zide recently started implementing marketing gimmicks to increase the number of potential buyers to walk through his clients' homes. "I haven't done this in 12 or 13 years," he says.

What strategies does he use? Rather than slash the asking price, he might encourage condo owners, for example, to pay the maintenance fees for a full year, or ask home owners to provide buyers with a cash rebate that's marketed as a decorating allowance. Nine times out of 10, such gimmicks cost less than it would to drop the asking price enough to attract a buyer with a smaller budget, says Zide. It's just one more way to get a potential buyer excited about your home.

5. Hold Open Houses
The benefits of an open house are debatable. Industry experts agree that they tend to benefit realtors more than home owners. (After all, it's a great way for realtors to get new clients.) But that doesn't mean that they can't work. The key is to hold them at various times of the day and week so that folks with busy schedules can squeeze in a viewing. Real Living's Rogers says her company's agents make sure to schedule open houses on Saturdays, as well as in the evenings so people can stop by after work.

Another technique more people are implementing is to hold open houses at the time of day when their house shows the best. If you have a beautiful garden, show it off during the morning before the flowers start to wilt. If you have a stunning view of the sunset, make sure people get to see the late-afternoon light. In other words, if there's one thing that you love most about your home, be sure to share it with potential buyers.

6. Price it right
Most people have over-inflated views of their homes value.  Be honest.  Check with RECENT comparable sales.  When properties were appreciating at double-digits in 2004 and 2005, you could get away with pricing yourself a bit high.  Those days are gone.  Take a reality check and see what the real market will bear.  If you need to sell fast, you should be prepared to give up a bit of equity for a faster sale.

7. Treat it like a Business
With average home prices in the mid $200's it is curious that many realtors and homeowners, for that matter, take the subject of sales and marketing so casually. Many privately held small businesses have revenues that are in the mid to high six figures and they spend WAY more dollars to generate that revenue than the average realtor. But it's not just the money. Doug Crowe, author and speaker said, "It is more about the attitude. When you treat your property like a business, you are now open to hundreds of more marketing tactics and strategies than conventional home owners aren't doing." He cites strategies such as cross promotions, highly focused networking, and industry-specific referrals as strategies that 99% of home sellers don't even consider. In a recent case, one of his homes sold in less than a day because he hyped up the property and location at a church. The "mystery house" rumor was flying for a full 3 weeks before it even hit the market. "The buzz about this deal was so strong, we had a ‘stalker' come by the house before it was ready to sell and offer $30,000 more than what a realtor said it would sell for," quipped Crowe.

Sure, we all know the market is soft or downright depressed. However, it is not at a standstill. Only those home sellers who are standing still are not getting their houses sold. The aggressive, creative, patient and honest sellers are the ones who are moving property. Price it right, be hugely aggressive, and don't dismiss any idea that will bring in one additional buyer. After all, that one new prospect may be the future owner of that property.


Comments (2)

Susan Emo
Sotheby's International Realty Canada - Brokerage - Kingston, ON
Kingston and the 1000 Islands Area

Great tips - thanks for sharing.  Always looking for one piece of info to give to a difficult seller!

Jul 05, 2009 05:39 AM
Fred Griffin Florida Real Estate
Fred Griffin Real Estate - Tallahassee, FL
Licensed Florida Real Estate Broker

We invite you back to ActiveRain.  Much has changed since your last blog post.  We would welcome your return!

Aug 09, 2017 02:09 PM