Tag Archives: selling homes

How To Get Top Dollar For Your Home

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How does a seller get top dollar for their home? Every seller wants the assurance that his/her house will sell at the highest price possible. But, real estate, as with most industries, is a highly inexact science. There are many factors at play within rapidly changing market terrain. While there are no concise answers as to how one ensures a house sells for top dollar, there are some important considerations to deliberate as the seller that can help you maximize profits, maintain control and reduce the stress that comes with home-selling.

  • Know why you’re selling and keep it to yourself.

The reasons behind your decision to sell impact the process greatly. Do you already have another house in escrow? Do you need to sell quickly? Or is profit your highest priority? All of these questions will factor into your pricing strategy. However, do not reveal your motivation to anyone else other than your agent or they may use the information against you during negotiations.

  • Set your price appropriately.

Setting the right price is the single most important decision you will make when you decide to sell. Price too high and you will turn off potential buyers. Price too low and you may leave money on the table. Make sure you do your homework by looking at comparable sales in your neighborhood in the last 3-6 months. Visit all the competitive offerings and see how they’ve been priced relative to the condition of the home. It’s always good practice to know your competition. While pricing, stay as objective as possible, and really look at your house from a potential buyer’s perspective. Emotional attachment to the house tends to drive pricing higher than necessary.

  • Maximize your home’s sales potential.

You may not be able to change your home’s floor plan or location, but you can make cosmetic updates that will enhance buyer impression. Assess your home, again, through the eyes of perspective buyers, and determine what can use updating. Fresh carpeting and/or a paint job can transform a space dramatically. If possible, avoid showing the house empty. You want to help potential buyers envision the home as their own, so provide neutral staging or de-personalize your existing décor. Furthermore, make repairs to visible damage. And don’t ignore the exterior. Buyer impression starts upon arrival at the house, so make your home appealing from the curb.

  • Consider a pre-appraisal and a pre-inspection.

A pre-appraisal will provide you with an objective basis for pricing your home. Additionally, a pre-inspection can identify any issues with the house that you can address ahead of time rather than during escrow as re-negotiating during escrow can be more costly since you’ll have less leverage and the transaction can be at stake.

  • Know your buyer.

While you shouldn’t disclose much about your reasons for selling, you should try and find out who your buyers are. Why are they moving? Do they need to move quickly? Are they in good financial standing? Having some information on the buyer’s motivation and personal situation will give you the upper hand in the negotiations process.

  • Time your sale.

If possible, watch market conditions carefully and time your sale. Typically, spring and summer are good times to sell. But specific to your market, be mindful of supply and demand. Are there more buyers than sellers? Are interest rates reasonably low? When there are more buyers in the market, sellers can get better pricing and terms, especially if there are multiple parties interested in your property.

  • Hire the right listing agent to represent you.

Truthfully, nothing is more instrumental to your successful home sale than the right real estate agent for your needs. Not all listing agents are created equal. If you hire an experienced agent, they will perform all the research necessary to advise you on all the points listed above: pricing, home improvements, negotiations, timing of the sale, etc. Get a few quality referrals from friends and interview several agents. As part of the interview, make sure you understand how each agent’s marketing plan for your property differs.

To sell your home for top dollar requires proper positioning of your property to the maximum number of prospective buyers. Educating yourself on market conditions and having an experienced agent as your representation will increase the likelihood of a successful transaction for top dollar.

 

After the Listing Agreement: What to Expect

Red For Sale Real Estate Sign in Front of House.

You’ve decided to sell your house.  You’ve selected an experienced real estate agent to represent you and the “For Sale” sign has been placed in front of the house.  What next?

Selling a house is usually not a quick and easy process.  It takes longer than most imagine, can be emotionally taxing, and have some unexpected costs associated with it.  Knowing could happen next can help manage your personal expectations.  Here’s  a look at what you can expect once you’ve signed a listing agreement.

Prepping the House for Market

Most agents put their listings up in the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) along with a set of beautiful photographs of the house to entice potential buyers.  Your real estate agent will hire the photographer and set the appointment.  All you have to do is tidy up, de-clutter and remove personal effects from sight.  Your real estate agent may also suggest some quick easy fixes to get the house photo-ready and primed for imminent showings.  Most sellers underestimate the time and effort required to get the house to market.

If you’ve already moved out, then staging might be a good idea to warm up the environment and give the buyers a sense of how to live in the space.  Whatever the case, the homeowner and the agent need to work together to make sure that the home is aesthetically ready for market, and that it is consistently maintained in tip-top condition during the selling period.  This is not an easy feat if you are actively living in the home with your family!

Open Houses

Your agent will want to hold the house open for colleagues and area agents.  This usually takes place on a weekday and it’s called a broker’s open.  The idea is to expose the house to as many agents as possible so they can start bringing forward suitable buyers.   Then, from time to time, your agents might suggest holding the house open for the general public.  It is best for the homeowners not to be present during an open house so that agents and buyers can tour the home freely and with ease.

Showings

During the first 2-3 weeks, you should be getting phone calls from your agent asking you to vacate your house while he/she brings through potential buyers.  If your agent placed a lockbox on your house, area agents and their clients may drop in on you during times you’ve specified as available for showings.

After a few weeks, traffic may taper a bit and showings may become a little less frequent.  Do not worry if the number of showings decreases, as the dip is rather typical.  Average days on market can be 60-90 days in a normal market.  If the market is slow, buyers will take their time.  It’s a positive sign of real interest when the same buyer returns for additional showings.

Next Steps

In my experience, after about 6 weeks, sellers tend to get anxious.  The initial excitement of being on the market has waned and keeping the house immaculate at all times has become tedious.  Unless you are in a very difficult market, if you haven’t netted any serious interest in 6 weeks, it might be time to assess a change in course or next steps.  The housing market can change quickly, so it may be worth a look at updated comps to determine if the house is competitively priced to sell.   Additionally, it may be in the best interest of everyone involved for the house to undergo some light improvements or cosmetic updates such as flooring or paint.

As real estate professionals, we hope that every house gets sold quickly and with minimal intrusiveness to the homeowner’s life.  But the truth is, the process of selling a house is laborious and can have many twists and turns.  Staying informed and knowing what to expect is key to a positive transaction.

Reasons Homes Don’t Sell

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As a homeowner with a house on the market, your dream scenario is to have the house sell within days and with multiple offers. If you are selling during a housing boom, that can very well be the case.  But under current market conditions, the buying-frenzy scenario isn’t as likely, especially if you are inadvertently making any key selling mistakes.

If you’ve had your home on the market for several months and haven’t seen much activity or any offers, you might want to step back and identify the reasons why the house isn’t selling.

Price is too high

The most common reason for a home not selling is that the list price is too high.  Enthusiastic real estate agents who are eager to win your business may suggest a too high asking price.  Or often times, you as the seller have high expectations given your history with the house.  Whatever the reason, if a house is priced too high, it will limit traffic to the house and hinder buyers from making an offer.  Make sure when selecting an agent to work with, that you don’t necessarily go with the agent that suggests the highest price. Agents wishing to win your trust should have a lengthy comp list of recent sales to justify their suggested price.  The fact is, your home is in competition with other homes in the neighborhood, and what buyers are willing to pay will determine the final sales price.

The condition of your home

If there’s healthy inventory on the market, your home could be in a decent amount of competition.  What sets your home apart from the competition is its condition.  The more you can do to make your house appealing to a broader audience, the better your chances are for a quick sale.  That means de-cluttering the house, de-personalizing the space, and neutralizing the rooms.  If you make upgrades to the house prior to listing, don’t get too personal with finish selections.  Other easy and cost-effective fixes that make a huge impact would be paint, flooring/carpeting and curb appeal enhancements.

Location, location, location

So cliché to say, but so true… location is king.  Buyers want homes zoned for good schools, in a safe neighborhood and have great community amenities.  If your house is in a less than ideal location, your real estate agent might offer up some improvements to minimize the home’s shortcomings.  But the only reliable way to overcome a difficult location is with a lower price that adjusts for the less-than-ideal location.

Soft marketing campaign

With 90% of buyers starting their home search online, you need to make sure that the pictures of your house are appealing.  Online first impressions are very important in this day of age of real estate.  Beautiful pictures lead to appointments with interested buyers.  Flat, lackluster photos will leave your home with few showings.  Additionally, an aggressive listing agent should be touting your home to the greater agent community and running ads in numerous publications.  As the seller, make sure you understand the extent of the marketing campaign and ask for marketing updates from your realtor periodically.

Limited Home Accessibility

To get your home sold quickly, it’s important that the home is widely exposed to other agents and potential buyers.  That means the house needs to be easily and frequently accessible for broker’s open, showings and open houses.  While highly inconvenient for you as the seller, being flexible and making the house accessible for potential buyers can help reduce your days on market.

If your house is languishing on the market, make sure you take a step back and survey your home from a buyer’s perspective.  Ask yourself if your home is priced appropriately amongst the competition.  Verify that your real estate agent has a comprehensive and strategic marketing campaign in place.  And make your home available for as many showings as possible.  If what your home needs is a quality rehab, take it off the market and make some updates to give it a fresh facelift.  A break from the market is often necessary to give a new lease to the listing.

DIY Staging Tips

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In last week’s blog post, we covered a few tips on how to prep your house prior to listing it for sale.  We discussed improving curb appeal and light remodeling to make the home more universally appealing.  To that effort, we also mentioned the importance of de-cluttering, de-personalizing and cleanliness.  So now that the house is neutral and clean, how does one dress each space to additionally enhance a buyer’s impression of the house?  This is where the art of staging comes into play.  Should you want to take a crack at staging your house, here are some few helpful tips to consider.

Furniture Grouping

Roll up your sleeves and start moving furniture. There’s a common belief that rooms feel larger if the furniture is pushed up against the walls, but it actually isn’t true.  Reconfigure your sitting areas by floating furniture away from the walls.  Reposition sofas and chairs into groupings that look conducive to conversations. Not only will this make the room feel more inviting, but it will open up the space and the area will appear larger.  Give yourself permission to remove furniture items entirely if the room requires more breathing room for better traffic flow.

Accessorize

Style your dining room table as if you’re expecting a dinner party.  Bring some greenery indoors as flowers and plants instantly add vibrancy and life into any room.  Place pleasant, non-controversial artwork or photography that befit the style of your home on walls that seem too bare.  Dress each bed with complementary linens and pillows for a comfortable, lived-in look.  For the master bedroom, remember to tow a gender neutral line when selecting bedding and accessories.

Home Lighting

Do not forget to consider lighting.  The first thing a real estate agent does when showing a home is to turn on all the lights, regardless of the time of day.  So at some point, mimic a showing and turn on all the lights in the house to give yourself the buyer’s perspective.  What you want is to make sure that your home looks warm, inviting and well-lit.  As it turns out, most homes are improperly lighted. To remedy the problem, increase the wattage in your lamps and fixtures. Aim for a total of 100 watts for each 50 square feet.  Make sure you have all three types of lighting in the house: ambient (general or overhead), task (pendant, under-cabinet or reading) and accent (table, floor or wall lamps).

Make Awkward Spaces Functional

One way to really add value to a house via staging is by creating a purpose for an otherwise awkward space.  The area under the staircase can sometimes fit a small desk for a quaint office nook.  Transforming a blank space into a practical area gives the house a feature that is memorable to the buyer.  It also gives the impression that the house is bigger and thoughtfully functional.  If you have an awkward space, check out interior design websites like Houzz for inspiration on how to give it a quick transformation.

Make Every Room Count

Most of us have a room in the house that is a “hobby room” which is a euphemism for “dumping ground.”  As part of the decluttering process, make sure the room is thoroughly cleansed and all unnecessary items are removed.  Then, give the room a purpose.  Would potential buyers want to see a guest bedroom?  Or an additional kid’s room?  Making a real room out of what was your junk room will have a big payoff on buyer impression.

The goal of staging is to breathe new life into the house, giving it universal appeal.  Chances are, while living in the house, you’ve made it work very specifically for yourself over the years.  Staging removes some of the specificity and quirkiness.  When well done, it gives buyers an idea of how to use every space well and maximizes the home’s potential for positive impressions.  Staging is immensely valuable tool in selling a house.

Preparing for a Home Inspection

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During the complex process of selling a house, one of the bigger hurdles to a successful close of escrow comes at the point of inspection.  Varying statistics pinpoint the percentage of contracts that fall out of escrow at somewhere between 20% to 30%.  While a small percentage of buyers cancel contracts simply due to a change of heart or the inability to secure financing, a handful of contracts blow up over the home inspection.

No matter how meticulous you’ve been in maintaining your home over the years, the home inspector will likely find issues with the house that your buyers will want to have addressed.  And while it’s not feasibly possible for anyone to “ace” their home inspection, there are a few steps you can take to make the inspection go as smoothly as possible and thereby presenting the buyers with the peace of mind that they are purchasing a home that’s been well cared for over the years.  Here are a few tips in preparation for the home inspection:

1)    Consider a Pre-Inspection

One of the smartest things a home seller can do before putting their house on the market is to complete a home inspection on the property, especially if the property is older.  If your home is relatively new and you aren’t aware of any issues, you can probably skip this step.  But, for the price of a home inspection, which runs somewhere between $350 to $450 in the Newport Beach market, you will receive a report of potential problems and decide on your own timeline which items to address.  One reason buyers get cold feet at this juncture is the length of the home inspection report that inevitably equates into mounting costs and stress in their minds.  A seller with an inspection report could head off this potential roadblock by cherry picking several cost-effective fixes and thereby mitigating the report for the buyer down the line.  Plus, if you know all the potential issues ahead of time, you can plan for how you might respond when a buyer asks for repairs or a credit.

2)    Scour the Home for “Quick Fixes”

  • Make sure all the lightbulbs and light fixtures are functioning.
  • Make sure all the smoke detectors are working.
  • Change out furnace filters and vacuum the registers.
  • Ensure all windows and doors open and close properly.
  • Provide easy and unobstructed access to the attic, crawlspaces, furnace, water heater, and electrical panel.
  • Clean out gutters and clear the roofline of debris.
  • Check that bath vents and dryer vents are venting effectively.
  • Remove unnecessary and potentially hazardous materials such as rotting firewood, paints and solvents from the premise.
  • Remove excess clutter and clean the house.

3)    Leave the house

Letting the home inspector freely roam your house unencumbered is a good idea.  Most home inspectors prefer to do their work without the scrutiny of the homeowner’s presence.  And remember to take your children and pets with you so they feel at ease during their time in the house.

4)    Prepare Documentation for Work Performed

If you are a meticulous and thoughtful homeowner and have a backlog of receipts for maintenance work done to the house, collect those items and make them available after the inspection.  Paperwork will come in handy to prove that work was already performed to fix certain problems and to what extent.

In general, the easier you make it for the home inspector, the more favorable the experience will be for all parties involved.  Home inspectors and buyers are more partial to homes that have the semblance of constant care and thoughtful maintenance.  If as the seller you elect to perform a pre-inspection, the transparency provided by the report will avoid surprises during escrow and prepare you with the knowledge and a plan to circumvent a potential round of re-negotiations.  At the end of the day, a good home inspector will never overlook a serious problem, but if you prepare in advance to provide an easy inspection experience, your efforts could impact and minimize the report by a small but significant margin.

Real Estate Photography: Quality Photos Required!

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I’m not a photographer. But I know that with nine out of ten buyers starting their home search online, good photography matters when it comes to selling houses.  With the proliferation of real estate search engines and visually dependent social media platforms, both buyers and sellers are demanding appealing photography. A couple of years ago, having beautiful photos of a listing set you apart from the competition, but now beautiful photography is what’s expected.

Now again, I am not a photographer.  I leave the artistry of real estate photography in the capable hands of the professionals that I hire.  But here are few details I keep in mind when dealing with photographing listings:

1) Get a good exterior shot.

Researchers who track the eye movements of consumers looking at online home listings found that more than 95% of users viewed the first photo – typically the exterior photo – for a total of 20 seconds.  The photos of the rest of the house, such as the master bedroom, kitchen, and outdoor space, each net less than 10 seconds of the viewer’s attention span.  Not surprisingly, the exterior shot is the one that leaves the strongest impression and hooks the user into viewing the rest of the photos.  Plus, with eye fatigue and extensive search of inventory, users tend to forget the interior shots fairly quickly.  So if nothing else, make sure the photo shoot yields an attractive exterior shot.

2) Highlight the strong points of the house.

Before a photo shoot, I go through the house and pinpoint its strongest points and make certain I convey these features to the photographer.  I don’t assume that the photographer and I share the same opinion on what sells the house.  Sometimes an assessment of a house’s strengths will determine which photographer I use.  For example, for homes with dramatic windows or stunning views, I typically hire photographers that offer to shoot twice in the same day: daytime and twilight.  The reason being that during twilight hour (the half hour before sunset), there are two shots that showcase the windows beautifully: exterior of the house with the lights on inside and interior shot with sunset colors through the windows.  These shots consistently provide photos with the wow factor that consumers are looking for.  Additionally, luxury waterfront properties here in Coastal Orange County often warrant an aerial shot to demonstrate water frontage, proximity to beach or expansive lot size.

A few other features that are at the top of a photography hit list include outdoors spaces, expansive views, dramatic staircases, spacious floor plan and an inviting bedroom retreat.

3) Curate the pictures.

Upon receipt of photos from the photographer, I like to select a handful of pictures that get uploaded with the listing to the MLS. It’s not necessary to include every photo from the entire shoot.  If the house is immaculate with the exception of the powder room, then the powder room photo gets discarded.  The purpose of the photos is to lure the viewer into requesting an in-person showing.  It serves no one to include photos that might leave a bad impression or imply a remodel project.  In general, a listing going live on the MLS should be accompanied by 8-15 photos depending on the size of the home.  More than 15 pictures may potentially dilute a powerful impression.  Less than 8 might imply that the home is hiding a few flaws.

With real estate photography, it’s best to keep it simple.  It’s imperative to capture a single, stunning exterior shot.  To cover all the bases, a well-rounded set of photos should also include a shot of each major living space: kitchen, family room, dining room, formal living room, master bedroom, extra bedrooms and outdoor space.  Exceptional properties might warrant aerial shots and/or shots from various times of the day. To showcase the home’s strongest features, a set of key images should be selected to accompany the listing on the MLS.  Digital enhancements and dramatic filters generally aren’t necessary, as they tend to give images the “over-processed” look.  At the end of the day, real estate photography should be warm, inviting and genuine, and hopefully be effective in delivering a steady stream of potential buyers to the front door.