So you’ve decided to sell your home.  Maybe you’re leaving the area. Maybe you’re staying local but need something a little bigger.  No matter why you’re moving, one thing is true: you only get one chance to get it right.  Homebuyers are becoming more selective than ever in what they want, and if you don’t grab them at the first visit they usually won’t come back!  We’ve put together the following home selling tips for 2019 to help you impress buyers, generate offers, and get more money for your listing.

1. Pay attention to pre-listing repairs

I sometimes jokingly say that real estate photographers are too good at their job.  If you’re shopping for homes, you know what I mean. Most listings photos are beautiful, having perfectly balanced color, bright lights, and dramatic shadows.  This is great for getting people in the door. However, once you get to the home, reality can be very different. There might be chipping paint, loose baseboards, cracked caulking, or a dozen other small projects that you’ve been meaning to get to “someday”.  If you’re like most people and have some maintenance items to take care of, it is absolutely critical to do so before listing. This first home selling tip is important for two reasons:

  1. Deferred maintenance takes the buyer out of the experience.  When buyers picture their new home, it’s perfect.  We want to deliver an experience that is as close as possible to their expectation to keep them interested.  Your listing should be remembered as “the one with the beautiful countertops” or “the one with the huge closets”.  You don’t want to be “the one with peeling paint” or “the one the cracked windows”.
  2. Buyers will create a story for these items, even if that story isn’t true. Buying and selling homes are very different, but both are incredibly stressful.  Homebuyers have their guard up and are going to come to their own conclusions about maintenance issues.  In their mind, paint cracks at common stress points becomes a foundation issue. To them, a spot on the ceiling is evidence of mold crawling through the walls.  Buyers (rightly) want to mitigate risk and will extrapolate a few hundred dollars worth of repairs into tens of thousands of dollars of risk! Even if they’re still interested in making an offer, they’ll want to pay less.  A small investment in maintenance items now will give you tons of negotiation leverage because you’re delivering a premium product.

Note:  For the purposes of this article, I’m talking about common maintenance work that you would usually make on a periodic basis.  This does not mean spending thousands of dollars to update/upgrade the home. This is not required and would only be recommended if the return is there.  See our three-part video series on pre-listing renovations to find out how a more substantial investment could increase your ROI.

2. Don’t wait to have a conversation about selling

Selling a home can take time if you want to do it right.  Usually this is because of the pre-listing repairs that we talked about above.  Most homes need at least some work, and you can expect good contractors to be busy.  From the day you call them, you’re looking at 2-3 weeks before work is complete (more in the spring/summer months).  Do you have multiple vendors coming in? You could be looking at a month or more just for the pre-listing repairs. Once you add in time for staging, photography, and proper marketing, we sometimes see a turnaround time of 6-8 weeks before a listing is ready for the first open house!

Now imagine inventory in your neighborhood is at a record low and homebuyers are in a frenzy.  That’s exactly what’s happening as I write this! All of our listings hitting the market right now are getting multiple offers and selling for 3-5% more than they would if there were more inventory.  Now say you want to list your home but you need to get three or four contractors in to get it into a condition that will make buyers love it. We’ve already established that these repairs can pay huge returns.  However, by the time you can get the pre-listing repairs completed, three similar homes have been listed for sale. Buyers will have more choice which decreases your leverage.  This leads to less offers received for less money. In a case like this, waiting too long to start the conversation about selling can cost you.

You want to give yourself flexibility and every opportunity possible to capitalize on the market.  The easiest way to do that is by talking a real estate agent early. Not only can this increase your return, but it also decreases stress by spreading these pre-listing activities out over a longer period of time.  If you are thinking of listing a home in the next two, six, or even twelve months, don’t wait. Having a conversation now is free and could make you thousands of dollars.

3. Take advantage of staging (which you can get for cheap or even free)

One of the great things about working with homebuyers every day is that it keeps us up to date on the latest design trends.  The more your listing is in tune with these trends, the greater the chance that you will receive more and higher offers.  An obvious way to help with this is staging. I won’t talk too much about why you should stage your home – there are endless stats on how staging can yield you a greater return in less time.  However, staging is expensive:  the average cost is between $2000 and $3000. It can be hard to justify that cost, no matter what the experts say.

As real estate agents, we speak to many sellers that are apprehensive about the cost of staging.  We also know how much staging can help. Because of this, bringing affordable staging options to our clients has been a core focus of our business since the beginning.  This starts with our “light staging” package, included in every listing at no extra cost. Period. Our team will bring mattresses, bedding, knick-knacks, towels, bath rugs, and shower curtains to your home to enhance both the photography and the buyer experience.  We also work to optimize the configuration of your existing furniture layout to enhance room flow and make the home feel more spacious.

In many cases our light staging is enough.  We’ve been doing it for years and we know that it helps to sell homes for more money, faster.  However, we recognize that some homes will benefit strongly from more robust staging.  As of January 1 of this year, we’re proud to offer FULL STAGING to our seller clients for just $995!  That includes all of the items in our light staging package PLUS a sofa, coffee table, dining room table and chairs, wall art, end tables, and large area rugs. Bringing this much value to the home seller for less than a thousand dollars (!) makes the investment into full staging much less daunting.  Our staging options (one completely free and the other unbelievably affordable) ensure that every listing puts its best foot forward.

4. Trust your real estate agent first when it comes to your pricing strategy

Your neighbors, your coworkers, the news:  they all think they know how much your house is worth.  Well, don’t listen (too much).  You are paying your real estate agent for their market knowledge and guidance. They are working with local home buyers every day.  They (should) know design trends, local market happenings, buyer activity, and other information that will determine the best pricing strategy for your home.  While national trends are helpful, real estate is an INCREDIBLY local business. Many times, the national trends that you hear on the news are weeks or even months old to your agent.  We get calls and emails from buyers and sellers every hour, telling us the why, what, and when of their next real estate decision. These insights are incredible indicators of where the market is and where it will go when you are listing your home.

This doesn’t mean that you should shut everyone out.  National forecasts are important, especially when it comes to your long-term financial plans and goals.  But when it comes to your list price and strategy, your real estate agent is your best-equipped ally.

5. Don’t invite price drops

I love statistics so this next home selling tip for 2019 has a few.  There were 2,814 residential real estate sales in the City of Alexandria in 2018.  Of those, about 1 in 4 underwent a price drop before selling. So even with the best marketing, price drops are sometimes necessary to get buyers to make an offer.  However, there are two trains of thought that can bring on price drops unnecessarily:

  1. If the listing is overpriced, it doesn’t matter.  Buyers will make an offer for what they think it is worth (we hear this a lot from sellers).
  2. If the home isn’t selling, you can always lower the price (we hear this a lot from other real estate agents).

Let’s look at these lines of thinking in-depth and how they can hurt your listing:

  1. The homebuyer doesn’t know how you arrived at your price, so they’re going to make an assumption.  The most logical conclusion is that you think the home is worth x. Not $20,000 below x, not $10,000 below x, but x.  The other assumption is that you’ve probably received pricing feedback (or a low offer) and in the face of that, decided NOT to lower the price.  In their mind, it isn’t the worth the trouble. This is really how it works in the real estate market.  Some buyers will make that lower offer, but most will pass you by and continue their search elsewhere. We don’t want that.  We want every serious buyer making offers so we can get a bidding war.  Getting buyers to make an offer is the surest way to get them invested in the process and attached to the idea of the home.  Suddenly, homebuyers are negotiating against each other, which brings higher offers.
  2. Let’s look at those 2018 Alexandria sales again.  Homes that sold without undergoing a price drop netted their sellers an average of 98.9% of the final list price (because there was no price drop, the final list price was the same as the original list price).  However, homes that underwent a price drop sold for 97.6% of the final list price (that’s the list price AFTER the price drop). That’s an additional 1.3% of lost return AFTER the price drop.  Statistically then, price drops cost you additional money when compared to starting at an appropriate price.

We’re not saying price drops are a disaster.  We’re also not saying that you shouldn’t drop your price if the home isn’t selling.  If you need the home to sell and you’re overpriced, it’s one of your best options. However, price drops should never be a part of your initial listing strategy.  We firmly reject the idea that you can safely list above market and rely on a price drop later.

These are home selling tips for 2019 and since we’re still in Q1, things could change.  Don’t forget to subscribe to our email list for market updates and more home selling tips as the market evolves.  Are you currently thinking of selling a home?  Click here for your free, no-obligation listing consultation!