How to Sell in a Buyer’s Market:
As we’re firmly planted in a Buyer’s Market across the North Shore, I’ve recently been asked by several clients how to take advantage. Yes, it’s likely today your home will sell for less than it could have a year or two ago, most sellers are making up any losses on the purchase of their next home. This is especially true if looking to buy something larger or more expensive than what you currently own, as prices tend to have decreased exponentially the higher the price point.
Gone are the days of taking photos on your iPhone, sticking a sign in the ground, and expecting a stack of offers within a couple days. Selling a home in today’s market now requires significantly more effort from both the owner and their agent. I understand many of these suggestions are challenging to sustain for extended periods – however it’s been my experience that biting the bullet and doing as many things as possible before listing almost always results in a much quicker sale, thus less time living in disruption.
Exterior Home Condition: Most potential buyers are now looking for properties that require little work upon moving in. Take an objective look at the exterior of your home. This is the first impression a buyer will have. Investing money in new paint, a gardener, taking down the kid’s old treehouse that’s falling apart, re-sodding the grass etc. are all important steps to make the curbside appeal as impactful as possible.
Declutter: We’ve heard this word far too much, but it’s one of the most powerful actions a seller can take. Removing clutter creates the illusion the home is larger. It makes it easier for potential buyers to move about the home when viewing it. It creates the impression there’s adequate storage in the home (whether this is true or not!) as items are all put away and out of site. Make sure all your closets and storage areas are only half full. Short term solutions can include renting a mobile storage pod, discarding or donating items, or stashing things at a relative’s or neighbor’s house. Besides helping improve your home’s value, this step will also make your move much easier when the time comes.
Handyman Jobs: Try and fix as many of “the little things” as possible. Loose door handles, light fixtures that don’t work, scrapes and gouges in walls, paint touch-ups, dated fixtures, carpet stains, windows that don’t close easily – today’s buyer is far more sensitive and influenced by these things. Typically hiring someone for a few hours to take care of these items will be an investment that proves very worthwhile.
Pre-Inspection: This can be a valuable tool, especially in older properties. Hiring an accredited inspector to carefully inspect your home prior to listing can help mitigate any surprises when a potential buyer does their own inspection. If needed, address any issues proactively.
Larger Renovations: There may be instances where investing some money into the property may yield a much stronger return. Have a conversation with your agent to see what they think. This could include updating rooms in your home (most notably kitchens and bathrooms), or modernizing components such as hot water tanks, heating systems, roofs etc. Obviously budget will be a key factor, but some of these costs will be easily recoverable in your selling price.
Depersonalize: I encourage sellers to make their homes as “appealing to the masses” as possible. If you have unique tastes or decorating style, now may be the time to take the suggestions of your agent or a staging expert and remove or substitute some items in the home. Remove very personal items, such as family photos or kids art projects, as buyers often get drawn into looking at these objects rather than staying focused on the home itself. I strongly recommend storing very valuable items such as jewelry in a safe or somewhere secure off site.
Pets: If you have pets, try to remove as much evidence of them as possible. Remove dog crates and beds, litter boxes etc. during showings, and have a friend you trust walk through your home and give you an honest opinion if it smells like pets. If so, you may want to consider cleaning carpets and furniture as required. If you have a yard, inspect it for pet waste. I once had to convince a seller that having her pet tarantula in the home during showings was in no way going to help her cause.
Marketing: Work with your agent to create a marketing plan you’re happy with. In my experience, exposure is key. The more people that see your home, the higher likelihood someone will buy it.
Advertising in a newspaper may have been effective 20 years ago, but today, marketing requires much more. Ensure your agent has a strategy in place for online marketing, including real estate sites (both paid and free), personal websites, and social media. Professional photography and videography is key for this. Don’t settle for shots of your house taken with a phone or inexpensive camera. When working with larger properties, some fantastic images can often be curated using drone photography.
Insist on as many open houses as possible, including agent’s opens (designed specifically for other agents to view the home).
Price: I’ve saved the most important for last. The largest factor in a buyer’s market usually comes down to price. Closely evaluate all the recently sold similar properties in your neighborhood. This is the most effective way to establish value. Looking at what’s currently on market can be effective to understand your competition, but true value is only established once a home sells.
Understand that Assessed Value is NOT Market Value. The assessed value of your home in most cases is not an accurate representation of what your home will sell for on the open market. Depending on region, property type, renovations etc. I often see homes sell for significantly more or less than the assessed value.
Most Buyers expect to have some level of negotiation in this market, so pricing slightly above your target price is important, while not going too high that you risk having potential buyers pass you by.
React Quickly: If you’re not getting good interest in your home in the first couple of weeks, something needs to be adjusted. Look at how it’s being marketed and where it’s priced, and make a change as soon as possible.