And yes, I have actual examples to share. This is not theory.
However, I must give a disclaimer up front. No one can guarantee how fast a house will sell. Nor can anyone guarantee how much it will sell for (unless they are going to buy it themselves, and those offers are usually pretty low). The market always determines the actual price and timing of a sale. Not the agent. Not the seller. Always the market.
Repeat that to yourself if you need to. No promise from an aggressive sales agent will obtain a better price for you. No extra willpower from the seller will conjure up additional buyers at a higher price. It’s the market. The market. The market.
But while no one can guarantee how much you will get or how fast you will sell, there are things that can be done to increase the odds of a quick sale. To stack the deck in your favor. To give yourself the best chance at the best outcome.
I already said that neither I, nor you, nor anybody else, can force the hand of the market. But what we can do is try to catch the eye of the market. Just like getting all pretty or handsome before a date, there are ways to increase the chances of finding a mate for your house.
How do we do that? The same way someone prepares for a date. By making the entire process, as well as the physical house itself, as attractive as possible to the potential “mates.”
In fact, there is a known list of things we can do to maximize your house’s appeal to Mr. Market (a.k.a. “buyers”). In other words, maximizing the price you get, and minimizing the time spent waiting for it. Please note: When I say “known” I mean that these methods have been tested and proven. Not everyone seems to actually know that this is the list. And just this. Nothing more. Nothing less.
Don’t fall for all the smoke and mirrors out there. So called special and exclusive “marketing systems” are no match for the simple facts I am about to lay out in this article. Not when it comes to real estate anyway. If you have a product to sell on Amazon, look elsewhere for the best advice. But if you have a house to sell, look no further. This is the truth. The facts. And I welcome anyone to prove otherwise.
1) List early in the year. Preferably just as the weather is starting to warm up. This is when the buyers start to come out in droves. The only downside is that other homes are coming onto the market in droves also, but you want to be in the middle of the most action. And you want the most potential “mates” for your house. You don’t go to an empty restaurant to meet someone. You go somewhere crowded. It’s the same with your house. Houses sell all year long, but the first peak of the year is in the spring. The second peak is in the early fall.
2) List on the MLS (multiple listing service). There are several reasons why you are better off using a Realtor®, but the honest fact is that you don’t actually have to. Not even to get on the MLS. There are flat fee services that will list your house on the MLS for a few hundred dollars if you want to try selling it yourself. I will follow up with a post about FSBO’s and when selling on your own makes sense, but for now I’m only making one point: Make sure you are on the MLS one way or another. Why? Because the MLS is the greatest marketing system anyone has in the real estate industry. Again…why? Because it’s where all the buyers are!!! Very few buyers aren’t looking for houses using the MLS. Zillow. Realtor.com. Trulia. And all the little broker and agent sites, including this one, all pull properties off the MLS. You simply must be there.
3) Goldilocks pricing. Not too high. Not too low. Too high and you won’t get much interest. Too low and you could leave money on the table. Sometimes a low price will generate multiple offers and drive the price higher than what you asked or even higher than you would have considered asking. But no one wants to ask too little. And “starting high” isn’t a good idea either. You want excitement in the beginning. The longer the house sits, the less attractive it looks, at any price. Paragraphs and paragraphs could be written about price strategy, but for now just trust me. You need to be in the sweet spot.
4) Professional pictures. Why do you want really good pictures? Because you want maximum showings. You want the largest number of chances for someone that likes your house to see your house and/or to mention it to a friend who might like it. If they don’t visit, they won’t buy. First come showings, then comes the sale. There are no sales without showings (almost never anyway). So you need plenty of showings, and good clear professional pictures (along with price) are what get them for you.
5) At least one open house within two weeks of listing. This is not a hard and fast rule. Well…none of these are actually. You are in charge of the sale, so you can do it whatever way you like. As an agent, I do what you ask. You are in charge. And you can get by without open houses if you want to. But open houses are not just for the agent, as some would have you believe. They are a 50/50 thing. Yes, open houses bring in potential buyers for the agent to meet. But they also do several things for the seller. a) They allow buyers to visit that do not currently work with an agent. These buyers might not see your house at all if you don’t have an open house. b) They create an atmosphere of competition when buyers see other buyers visiting the same house. I’ve had buyers make immediate offers because they saw others looking at the same house at the same time and were afraid to lose it. c) An open house shows buyers (or at least gives the perception) that the agent is actively marketing the property. Again, this creates a perceived atmosphere of competition and urgency. d) We can get some much needed and direct face to face feedback about the house and the price.
6) Make showings easy for buyers. In fact, make the whole process easy for the buyers. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to negotiate hard. That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to stand your ground if they request too much or become difficult. But try to understand, buyers are squeamish. They don’t know your house like you do. They are about to spend a lot of money and time without knowing for sure who you are or exactly what you are offering. So at least make it easy for them to see the house. Showings should be scheduled online and give the widest possible hours for visitation with minimal restriction. Selling a house is a pain, but the sooner it’s over the better, and that means finding a buyer. Finding a buyer requires getting them to see your house in person. Getting them there in person happens more often if it’s easy for them. Buyers are busy too, with job and family commitments. Some buyers will cross your house off their list if seeing it is too difficult.
7) Prepare the house. This means cleaning. This means painting. And it might mean professional staging. It will at least mean some sort of staging. Look no further than model homes if you want to understand this concept. No successful home builder or renovation specialist would list a home for sale or show a model without having it in top shape. I suggest visiting a model home to see what I’m talking about. Two tone paint (color on the walls with white trim, or the reverse). Very clean. Furnished, but sparsely. And it helps a lot if the house is updated and modern since the majority of buyers do not have the time, money, or skill to be doing extensive renovations. The goal here is to provide the best possible experience for your potential buyer. You want them to feel good there. To feel at home in your house. And you want them to see things in their best light. Don’t leave it to their imagination. Show them.
You don’t have to do these things. You only have to do them if you want a fast sale at top dollar.
I include all of the above elements for my sellers at no additional charge, including a free staging consultation.
Here are some examples among my prior listings. All used the strategies above.
Once you put it on the market, your house is like a single person looking for a “mate” and many of the same principles apply.
Let me show you how I can find a “mate” for your house just like I did in the examples above. In the minimum amount of time, and for top dollar.
In the meantime, you might enjoy my video about one area people rarely think about when staging their home.