Sell Your Home for a Headache-Free Profit
We’re not going to lie—selling your house can be stressful.
Your home is your kingdom, your palace, your private solace—right up until the point of when you decide to sell. After that, it’s all business. So if you really want to sell your house efficiently and effectively, you’ll need to shed those rose-colored glasses, take objective notes, study the market and put in some legwork, elbow grease and maybe even some cold cash to get the most out of your investment.
So while we won’t say it’ll be a painless experience, we can offer you these 13 tips to make your home as appealing as possible while getting you prepared for closing day.
Don’t Worry About Changing Your Price
If your house has been on the market for a couple months and you haven’t seen a buyer bite or a deal go through, relax. Don’t freak out if your home hasn’t sold in a month, or even two months.
On average, it takes a home 2.8 months to sell, according to Zillow’s Consumer Housing Trends survey. During that time, 66 percent of sellers modify their price at least once. So don’t think its taboo to re-list your home at a new price. According to the data, it’s practically expected of home sellers to do so.
Make Smart Improvements
You’re a seller, so while you want to make your house as appealing as possible, you also shouldn’t also go crazy with trendy, high-end remodels that will cost you more than you get in return. That’s why you should check out Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value Report. On a national average, the biggest winners here are a fiberglass attic insulation replacement job which nets a 107.7 percent ROI and replacing your entry door with a 20-gauge steel door with dual-pane half glass panels, which nets a 90.7 percent ROI.
Know Your Buyer
According to Zillow’s study on consumer housing trends, fifty percent of recent homebuyers have been 36 years old or younger; so whenever a prospective homebuyer crosses the threshold, it’s a coin toss if they’ll be a tech-savvy millennial (or xennial).
According to Zillow, younger buyers are much more likely to use the internet to research both your property and your neighborhood and they rely on their friends (or word-of-mouth) to judge the location.
What does this mean for you? Get in tune with what’s going on. Join a social network like Nextdoor, which allows only local neighborhood residents to participate in their forums. Is a new small business opening soon? Has a local been profiled in the paper? If there’s a common complaint in the area, have you figured out how to get around it? If not, can you? And when you do, start writing—hit up Reddit, Nextdoor, City Data, Facebook groups and whatever forums nearby to spread the word.
Younger homebuyers are savvy with their Google-fu and there is a good chance they will find what you’ve written about their prospective neighborhood.
Emphasize Your Neighborhood’s Positives
Find the character in your neighborhood and point it out. Look for and point out hidden gems in the area like mom-and-pop shops and figure out what makes your neighborhood unique. For example, my neighborhood in New Orleans has a roaming peacock. Just look for whatever you love about your neighborhood or point out to your friends and family when they visit, and make a point to advertise it in some way.
Use an Agent
According to National Association of Realtors’ 2017 Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends study, nearly 90 percent of all buyers and sellers, regardless of age, use a real estate agent. What this means is almost all interested buyers will have an agent with them; if you’re listing as a for-sale-by-owner, you’re going to be at a disadvantage. A good agent will understand where you should and shouldn’t compromise and will generally know the local real estate market better. You could be giving buyers the upper hand and you wouldn’t even know it.
If You’ve Got It, Flaunt It—in Your Listing
While every buyer wants something a little different, some items have a more across-the-board appeal than others. A study of over 2 million homes by Zillow revealed homes that included certain terms in their listing sold for more money, faster, than other houses.
These were the top most effective keywords, listed in order:
1. Barn door
2. Shaker cabinet
3. Farmhouse sink
4. Subway Tile
7. Exposed brick
8. Pendant light
9. Frameless shower
10. Heated floors
11. Stainless steel
14. Tankless water heater
15. Outdoor kitchen
So for example, Zillow’s study found that listings advertising a barn door—that is, one of those rustic looking sliding doors inside your house—sold for 13.4% more than their expected value and sold 57 days faster than expected.
So if you have something on this list, be sure to work it into your listing.
Identify Your Market Type
While a general dearth of available homes for sale throughout the country has made way for more sellers’ markets, the same might not be true for your local market. A seller’s market—where there is more demand for houses than there are on the market—is ideal. That’s where you’ll generally get more interest and money for your home.
A buyer’s market—where there is more inventory available than there is demand—puts you at a disadvantage. While your agent can tell you what kind of market you’re in, browsing your local listings can tell you all you need to know. If a bunch of homes have been languishing on the market for months and have lowered their prices, you’re in a buyer’s market. If listings barely stay up for a few weeks and sell over asking, you’re in a seller’s market.
Then Adjust Your Strategy
Now that you know what market you’re in, be prepared for what you might encounter.
If you’re in a seller’s market you might experience:
• Increased foot traffic
• Bidding wars
• Higher and more frequent offers
• A faster sale
These are all good things. Generally, this means you can be pickier about whom you want to sell to and how much or how little you want to compromise on price, fixing things up or including extra items. But if you’re in a buyer’s market, you’re basically dealing with the opposite.
Reminder: You might need to wait longer for a good offer, lower your price, be less picky about whom you sell to and need to compromise more in the way of fixing stuff up or adjusting your price accordingly.
Clean Up Like You Mean It
Pretend like someone very important is coming over—like the President of the United States. Or maybe a former President. You get the idea. Clean everything. Remove as much clutter as possible to show the home’s full space. Don’t just clear out the floor, either—take off some inventory from overstocked built-ins, move some storage boxes and clothes from closets and clear the counters of dish racks and appliances.
You want to show buyers the home’s potential by freeing up space so they can picture their own stuff where yours used to be. It’s that much easier for the buyer if your stuff isn’t there in the first place. You’ll also want to pack up family photos. The buyer wants to imagine themselves and their family in their house—not yours, even if it technically is yours. Which leads us to…
Vacate the Premises
I’ve talked to numerous real estate agents as a real estate journalist and many report that their top pet peeve is that the seller hovers around the property while the agent tries to do their magic. It’s understandable that you love your home—but you also want to make a sale. So don’t let a negative comment sour you toward a buyer. Likewise, remove the opportunity for a buyer to get uncomfortable in your house because you’re around, making them feel like they can’t express their opinion. Your agent is the neutral third party and should be trained to deal with criticism at a detached, professional level.
Tip: Make yourself sparse when home seekers come over.
Get a Professional Photographer
Nothing turns off a buyer more than an awkwardly framed photo of some poorly-lit room taken by an outdated camera.
Go ahead and browse nearby listings like a buyer—the more you look, the more you’ll start to discount or forget about properties with photos that look like they were taken with a bad cell phone camera. The best ones are brightly lit, colorful, and artfully framed to show the home’s best angles and the fullest potential of its space. The good news? A good agent will hire and pay for a professional photographer for you (also known as earning their commission). So before you sign an agent, ask if they provide a professional photographer and for some previous listing photos of theirs as a reference.
Work on Your Curb Appeal
Your curb appeal is basically your home’s dating profile photo: it’s the first thing anyone with any interest sees. And while a professional photographer will take a photo of your front yard in its best light, they can only work with what they’ve got. A professional landscaper can be too costly, but just putting in the effort to mow your lawn and trim your hedges so the colorful flowerbeds shine through can be enough to captivate your buyer before they step foot inside.
Don’t just take our word for it. A study by Zillow found that working on curb appeal is one of the top five improvement projects a seller can do. And don’t think curb appeal only speaks to greenery: just a new coat of paint on the front door can make your home look like new, too.
Consider Staging Your Home
This one is a bit tricky. Staging your home will make it look your best, but it ain’t cheap.
According to realtor.com, most professional stagers cost “$300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per room.” That’s because stagers bring in various types of furnishings, from art to curtains, to make your home look like it belongs in an Ethan Allen catalogue. In addition, some home stagers require a three-month long contract regardless of how fast you sell your home. So even if you sell within a 21 days, you’ll get a bill priced as if it sat for 90. So while a home stager (especially coupled with a professional photographer) will make your house shine in the best light, it’s also expensive. High-end real estate firms may roll in staging fees into their cost, but otherwise you’ll be expected to foot the bill.
As a rule of thumb, if you own a luxury home, it’s probably worth staging. If you’re worried about price but still want to make your home shine and aren’t on a tight budget, pay for the consultation and follow their recommendations.