You would think in the current seller’s market that selling your home, condo or townhouse would be a piece of cake, right? It can be if you do everything right – set the price correctly, prepare your property to show very well, promote it in the right places in the right way. But even then, you may get an offer or multiple offers and still have to be smart about which offer you choose. And after that you still have to get that buyer to the closing table.
So how can you increase the likelihood of getting what you want when selling? It comes down to three things: 1) having certainty that you want to sell and being realistic about what you can get, 2) doing the right things to help with the selling process and 3) having the right team of professionals on your side.
Being Certain About Selling and Realistic About What You Can Get
I’ve found through experience that the most difficult properties to sell are ones where the owner has some uncertainty about selling or where their expectations are unrealistic.
The first step in selling is the decision to sell. That may sound very simple and basic but you would be surprised how many people think they should sell but don’t really want to or want to try selling to see what happens, but aren’t really motivated to sell. I’ve found in these situations that many times the property just doesn’t sell.
I had a client a few years ago that needed to sell because they could no longer afford their mortgage. Despite doing everything right we just couldn’t get it under contract. After a year they took it off the market.
About 8 months later they contacted me again and the husband, who really hadn’t wanted to sell before, had decided he did want to sell it now. Within 2 weeks of relisting it during a slower period of the year for sales we had it under contract and it closed with full short sale approval from 2 lenders less than 2 months after that.
Being realistic with expectations is also important both for price and time to sell. When I say being realistic that doesn’t mean selling at a low price, it means selling at the right price for that specific property in that specific area. This is based on a proper evaluation of market conditions for that neighborhood and type of property as well as studying the comparable properties that have sold recently and what is available for sale in that area that is similar (the competition). Looking at values on Zillow or Trulia just isn’t enough and can give expectations for price that are either too high or too low.
There is also some judgment to be used in this – since the market is what really determines the price, sometimes you have to see how a property does when it is on the market and then make adjustments.
For a recent client I did an evaluation of his neighborhood and recent sales plus other homes in his community that were for sale. I felt the home would sell in the $180,000 to $190,000 range and so we priced the home at $207,000. It had a few showings the 3 weeks which dwindled down over time, and no offers. After a month I suggested that we lower the price to $200,000 which should then increase activity and the likelihood of getting an offer. 6 days after we reduced the price we got an offer for $192,500 which went to contract that same day and closed about a month later.
Having been through the process with many clients and seeing the importance of being certain about selling and having realistic expectations, I’ve now implemented a procedure to help any seller be certain about whether to sell or not, to clarify what they want and how they want it to go as well as find out what they can realistically expect.
Doing the Right Things to Help With the Selling Process
There are certain things that a motivated seller will do that will help improve the likelihood of a successful sale. These fall mainly in the category of preparing the property for showing and making it easier to show.
Buyers will look at location, pricing and features in their decision-making, but often what sells them is an emotional response to how well a home shows. Having worked with many buyers I can tell you that a home/condo/townhouse that shows really well will sell faster and for a better price than ones that show poorly.
In some cases, the sellers have upgraded and kept up their home very well and there isn’t much to do. In other cases there is work to be done to get the property in its best showing condition. Sometimes there are just minor things needed. In other cases, a home inspection needs to be done to determine repairs that should be completed and sometimes it is smart to work with a staging professional.
You’ll hear a lot about how important good photos are and the need to promote in all the right places – but their success will depend a lot on how the property looks. And photos that make a home look better than it looks in person will only annoy potential buyers.
A seller who works with their real estate agent to get the home in its best showing condition within the limits of what they are able or willing to spend in money and time will definitely be more likely to be successful.
I had a recent client who was selling a condo in a nice complex where there were already 2 similar condos for sale. I met him at the condo and went over all the things I noticed that I felt would take away from the showing condition. He completed all of the things I asked him to do (not expensive but did take some of his time) and we listed the condo at a price in between the 2 other condos that were still on the market. We got it under contract 10 days later at about 95% of the list price and it closed about 4 weeks later. The other 2 condos are still for sale.
In addition to helping by making sure the property is in its best showing condition possible, a seller also needs to work out how to make it as easy to show as possible. If it is too difficult for your agent or another agent to show the property you will obviously have a much harder time selling it. Of course you can’t be expected to arrange your entire life around showing your home, but you do need to work out how it can be shown without being too difficult to do so.
Having the Right Team of Professionals on Your Side
This may not seem that important but it can definitely make a huge difference on the price you get and the time it takes to sell.
Not only should you have a professional real estate agent, you should also have a professional mortgage broker who can step in and help a buyer if their financing is falling apart and a title company that will be proactive about any possible issues that might affect the closing.
A high level of communication and responsiveness, the ability to be creative and think outside the box but still within the laws and rules, skill at recognizing and quickly resolving problems are 3 of the most important characteristics you want in any professionals you have on your team to support you in selling.
A seller I worked with a few months ago did not have a good opinion of real estate agents based on their past experience. Calls would not get returned, questions would not get answered and the agents didn’t seem to be willing to work hard when necessary. They decided to have me list their home and found that I responded quickly, made sure to answer their questions to their satisfaction and did a lot more than they usually saw when we were preparing to list their home. We spent a lot of time making sure we had it priced right and they worked hard to get their home showing very well. That resulted in the house going under contract within 3 days for 96.5% of the list price and closing successfully.
They were so pleased they referred their neighbor across the street to me and told them about their results. I met with the neighbor and told them what I felt their house was worth, what it should be priced at, what needed to be done and that it should be listed within a certain timeframe. They ended up listing the home about a month later than I recommended and went with another agent because they had known that agent for a long time, that agent ‘knew the area like the back of their hand’ and that agent would have their listing on 50 different places and ‘exposure is what is important’. These were obviously statements directly from that agent’s sales pitch to them.
It’s now over a month since they listed and the house is still on the market.
The first and last of these three are even more important when you’re in a short sale situation.
Will you get what you want when you sell?