The groundhog has performed his annual task and returned to his burrow. The Polar Vortex has crept south and kept the DC area locked in a seemingly endless string of days where the temperatures rarely climb above freezing and often drop close to zero.
Thoughts of the coming "spring" selling season remain tucked away behind casual day dreams of hot summer nights occasionally tempered by cool beach breezes. Warm weather is coming. As sure as the Cherry Blossoms move through their annual cycle towards arrival in early Spring, potential buyers are getting their proverbial ducks in a row. The cold winter winds we suffer carry a gentle whisper - "The buyers are coming, the buyers are coming".
If you plan to sell and wish to be successful, the time to prepare is now. The steps you take today will lead you to your goal. Before you put that "For Sale" sign in your front yard, before you begin scanning the internet to see what homes are selling for, before you sit down with a real estate agent, you need to accept some cold hard facts about the process.
- At best, you probably have an inflated idea of what your house will sell for or an incorrect assumption of how much money you will net from the sale.
- You will have to emotionally separate from the word "home" and accept that you are selling a house.
- A real estate agent will not sell your house, they will advise you on what they believe will be the best way to present it on the market.
- Attempting to sell the house on your own (For Sale By Owner, FSBO) is a risky proposition. (Only about 12% are successful and the other 88% suffer the loss of time and potential sales value of the house.)
- Your house is the product, it is competing with a large volume of other houses in a market that consists of savvy buyers. Winning is selling at market value, losing is seeing potential dollars lost as other houses are purchased before yours.
It is a competition. In a way, it is a race. While your house may not be the first sold at your price point, you do not want it to linger on the market and find yourself forced to lower the price again and again.
What to do? My advice to clients is simple yet well thought out. While most other agents will sit down and go over a Comparative Market Analysis ( A Comparative Market Analysis also called a CMA, is not to be confused with an appraisal. It is a compilation of houses similar to yours that have sold, are under contract or are currently active. It is put together by an agent to give you an idea of the current market conditions for houses like yours.) The agent will then tour your house and attempt to determine where yours falls in the mix. They will offer advice and possibly suggest the house be "staged" before being put on the market.
The CMA is not the end all-be all. It is a reference tool and nothing more. Remember, the process is about the house. My clients and I are just partners in getting the house sold. We are both seeking the highest price in the shortest period of time.
There are three main factors that will influence our success. They are at the root of every house that is sold. These factors have existed since the first house was sold. The same three things influence every house for sale here or anywhere in the world.
The interesting thing about these three factors is that each one impacts the other. While many say the three factors are : location, location, location, I see location as a primary factor that can not be changed. You can alter the other two to make the house more attractive and in many cases overcome the impact of the location.
The price used when you first put a house on the market should not be determined until you have evaluated the condition and made whatever improvements that are within reason and your means. It is never a good idea to pour large dollars into a house unless you are certain to recoup that money quickly. You certainly want the house (the "product") to be as appealing as possible to all potential buyers but, there is a limit to what you should spend and to what lengths you should go to market the house. This is an area where the advice of an experienced agent is valuable. A professional will have a better idea of what should be repaired, what should be replaced and what can be "spruced up". Never forget, the competition is about selling the house, not having it appear in a Homes & Garden magazine.
Condition will impact price. There is no way around that fact. More importantly, the condition of the house will determine where it falls in the ranking order of each potential buyer. It is impossible to be number one on every list. The goal is to be number one on as many lists as possible. There are many ways to accomplish this goal. Personally, I have my own system of using price, condition and location. Understanding how they work in concert with one another enables me to best advise my clients.
As mentioned above, location is permanent. It is one of the basic tenants of real estate. It can not be changed. You can move an improvement (a house, a shed, etc.) but location is location. Improvements, such as your house, can enhance but never change location. A key factor in selling your house is highlighting the inherent benefits of your location to potential buyers.
One final note for potential sellers. The name of the brokerage on the sign out front has nothing to do with the process. While I happen to work under the Century 21 umbrella, I am the same person that has worked with a smaller boutique brokerage. I have managed an office for the largest privately held brokerage in the country and worked with agents from smaller "mom and pop" firms. The important cog in the wheel, regardless of the size of the wheel is your agent. Don't be fooled into thinking automatically that bigger is better. Choose an agent that best represents your interests and provides you with a sound marketing plan and a sense of confidence that they will enable you to be successful.
There is an old saying, "There is more than one way to skin a cat". I encourage you to take the time to listen to a few agents. Evaluate how their plan does or does not dovetail with your task. Choose wisely. I certainly would welcome the opportunity to expand on what I've shared and offer my vision of how you can accomplish your goal. My phone number is 301-509-5111. I am only a phone call away.
It is almost Spring. You are selling your house. Let the "games" begin!
John MacArthur, Realtor
1000 Pennsylvania Avenue SE
Washington , DC 20003-2142
Business Phone: 202-546-0055
Business Fax: 202-546-0511