Selling your home Do’s and Don’ts
Another title for this post could be “Listing Your Home vs. Selling Your Home” as they are not the same thing and not everyone recognizes that.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Buying Real Estate on a Budget Do’s and Dont’s and it is worth noting that as a Realtor I am playing both sides of the coin on a regular basis. That is, sometimes I am working for the Buyers and sometimes I am working for the Sellers. The Sellers, just like the Buyers, are trying to finish the transaction with as much money as possible, as a rule. The stakes are high and no one wants to lose. It’s about more than winning for ego’s sake, it’s about fulfilling your financial potential in what is probably the biggest financial transaction of your life. The concept is in itself dizzying for most people and just like the Buyers, the Sellers are also trying to outsmart the system. They are trying to get more and save more at the same time. Again we see people trying to think outside the box not knowing what the box looks like. Most of the time, they are standing right in the middle of it and don’t even know it. That said, I will again say that there is a time and a place for creative thinking and that knowing what is typical and what isn’t is the first step in being able to recognize an effective strategy versus having an expensive learning experience.
So, if you are looking to sell your home for top dollar:
- Price it right, and price is right from the beginning. I cannot possibly emphasize this enough. Overpricing is the number one way to cost yourself money when selling real estate and it is what most people will naturally do unless they listen to their Realtor. Almost every Seller is (initially) under the impression that if they have a higher asking price, the offers will be higher. I understand why people think this but it is simply not true. Your home has to be the best deal among the competition, period. Not second best, the best. Yes, how it is presented is a huge part what makes it best. I make this point with the assumed undestanding that the Seller and I are both doing as much as possible for the presentation side of things. Even when the property’s presentation in advertising and in person is finely tuned, the price is still the most important thing. If your price is higher than the other comparable options it will simply make the others look more appealing and they will be getting the offers instead. Sure, you can lower the price later if there is no action but by then half of the Buyers are thinking that there must something wrong with the place and all of the Buyers are under the (probably correct) impression that there is no urgent need to make an offer on this one right away because it’s not likely to be snatched up by someone else while they ponder about it. So, in order to make it more appealing, you will have to price it even lower than you would have had to in the beginning. This is especially true is you wait months and months before doing so. The risk of over pricing is greater than that of under pricing as seriously good deals will attract multiple offers and drive the price up in the end if the situation is right and it is handled properly. As a Realtor, it is my job to make sure you get top dollar for property and I have this conversation with almost every Seller at length and it is sometimes hard to communicate that I am in fact trying to help them make more money rather than less with this key strategy. Some truths are counterintuitive I suppose.
- Understand that your tastes are yours, and not everyone else’s. I often say that if I were to build my real dream home, that I would have to die in it because it would be so strange and specific to my ideas and tastes that few people if anyone would share them let alone pay an amount that makes up for what it cost me to build the crazy thing. Such a home would be so focused on me and my personality that other people would look at the home and see me in it rather than seeing themselves in it. Because of my profession I am acutely aware of what a bad idea it would be for me, financially speaking, to build or alter my home to such a state unless I am prepared to live out the rest of my days there. The best way out would be to pay for renovating it into something marketable. Sure, I’m talking about an extreme example here for the purpose of illustrating my point but every Seller should keep in mind that the reason they chose the home they’ve got is because it was the one they chose. It suited their tastes and over time they have continued to alter/decorate it to make it more and more suitable to their own tastes. Some people really like unique and brightly coloured walls and I will admit that I have a certain fondess for rich coloured Victorian style wallpapering but neither are good ideas for marketing your home. Light, off white paint has been the basic go to for a long time for a reason: It works. It creates a sense of space and light which are very similar to the sensation of being able to breathe and it also gives them mental room to see their own ideas and life in the space rather than yours. Listening to your Realtor (that’s me) will help you with ideas on making the home marketable without wasting too much money.
- Ask questions As part of my process I will in one way or another make sure that you are given the information you need to make an informed decision as all decisions are ultimately up to the client. This does not mean that you are expected to understand every term and concept that the real estate world throws at you right away so don’t be too proud to say “I don’t understand.” Candor is not a weakness in my books but a kind of strength. You will need to wrap your brain around a lot of info before you make a decision though and asking questions helps both of us better know what we need to be talking about as things progress. Most questions I can answer easily, some are more case by case and subjective while others will require speaking to a specialist.
- Be prepared to paint, clean, mop, do minor repairs, garden, send some stuff to storage, get brighter light bulbs, hunt down mould, slightly change your decor, shampoo the rugs and stop cooking funky smelling foods for a while. In some cases a new roof or some flooring may be needed. It is all case by case but regardless of the property there is no doubt that in order to attract top dollar you will need to polish her up.
- Be ready for sudden phone calls and showings. Generally speaking showing requests will come in a day before but it isn’t unusual for a Buyer to see the listing on the system and then suddenly decide to call me or whichever Realtor they are working with hoping to get in on short notice. Maybe they are high maintenance but maybe they are excited about your property and it’s best to let them come have a look. Yes, it is often inconvenient but you never know which Buyer is going to be the one who actually buys. Sometimes they will have looked at it a day or two ago and then suddenly they want to put in an offer without warning. This is an ongoing thing so you will want me to be able to reach you easily and quickly.
- Remember whose side I am on. My particular style of business is to offer the best quality and most ethical service that I possibly can. This means that what I tell you is something I am saying because I take fiduciary duty seriously. It’s not just because I am trying to push the next sale through. I think long term and I want you and your friends to be my clients for life and I also want us all to feel good about that. If I was self centered I wouldn’t have a page like this on my main website or give one percent of my revenues to environmental causes or put posts like this or this on my blog.
- Be offended by negative feedback from Buyers Don’t take it personally. You are not your home and the sooner you can get comfortable with that the easier this will all be. Even negative feedback from a recent showing is a good thing to have especially if there is a recurring theme from various Buyers. In some cases it may be something we can compensate for without affecting your bottom line and sometimes not. Regardless, negative feedback is an opportunity for us to refine our game plan.
- Leave your home messy Your competition is doing things like putting flowers on the table, keeping everything in the home spotless as if it were in a magazine, making it smell nice, leaving lights on, playing happy music, doing meticulous gardening, leaving select curtains and blinds open to get the most out of the view and natural light and so on. From a logical sense, a few dirty dishes in the sink have nothing to do with how nice of a home you have but when Buyers are seriously looking, any little detail rational or otherwise can make the difference between choosing property A or property B.
- Stay home during showings It’s your home and of course you have the right to do this. It does however only remind them that it is your home and not theirs. It won’t allow them to properly relax and feel like they can speak or look around freely while they are there. And if you happen to be home when they show up do not glue yourself to them and try to explain everything about the home to them. They will almost always feel trapped and not want to stick around long. If they ask you questions, then by all means answer them but most of those questions are best answered via me, your listing agent, as there is a certain art to being honest without tipping your hand too much negotiations wise.
- Use cut rate real estate services or the services of those who promise you the moon This would require quite a lot of explanation to make clear as to why this is the case. I go through it in this series that I also link to below. The short of it is that expecting, hoping, wanting, needing something to be the case does not make it the case. The market is bigger than you or I and it is a reality that we have to deal with. It’s often not easy to accept but it’s better to figure out how to properly play the game early rather than getting an extended beating from the market.
- Wait a long time for a price change if there is no serious interest This brings us back to the first one of the ‘do’ end of the list. The appropriate time period to wait will vary depending on the property type, the market and how motivated you are as a seller but there may come a point where it is clear that the price we are at is not working. I have many tricks up my sleeve and will have explored all reasonable options before suggesting a price reduction. Again, my goal is to make you as much money as possible and part of doing that is by making sure that your listing is priced better than the comparable places that haven’t sold yet either. Waiting too long reduces the likelihood and seriousness of interest from Buyers and it makes the whole thing more painful and drawn out for you.
- Push away serious interest If you get an offer within the first few weeks, the tendency is for sellers to try and hold out for a better offer. This is generally a mistake. The biggest fish usually bite first, so keep in mind that your first offer will often be your best.
There are other posts on this theme you may enjoy reading:
There are more too if you hunt through my blog. I’ve been building this blog for over five years at this point so these major concepts have been explored already in one way or another. A lot of the details of real life strategies are case by case but the general stuff ends up here on my blog. I do try to present things in a fresh way every time though, so for depth of undertsanding it is worth reading some or all of these entries if you wish to take the time.