Monday, February 19, 2007

Sellers! It's not your market!

I’ve been touring a lot of homes the last several weeks, in all price points. Working mostly as a buyer’s agent allows me to see what impresses a buyer and, more importantly, what decidedly doesn’t. So I’m taking a break from Buying 101 to talk to sellers:

It takes three weeks longer to sell a home now than it did a year ago. Inventory, at 6.2 months, is higher than it’s been since 2002. With lots and lots from which to choose, a seller needs every advantage.

There are five factors that go into selling a home: Price; Location; Economic Environment; Condition; and Marketing. Note a listing agent has complete control only of the last: his or her greatest responsibility is to use knowledge to assess the others before any marketing takes place. If not, the old axiom applies: nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising.

Location and Economic Environment – interest rates, local job market, etc. – are pretty much fixed, but both affect the most important consideration, the right Price. Listen to your agent, and be realistic! Twenty percent of the homes I’ve been in since the first of the year the prices are, frankly, delusional; thus selling prices 20% below the original listing price are not uncommon. In almost all those cases, the final price would have been higher if priced right from the beginning.

[I’ll cover this more in later posts, but when picking a listing agent do not pick one just because the comp was the highest, and by all means don’t pick the one that leaves the price entirely up to you.]

Condition. Unless you’re selling a fixer – and have priced it accordingly – make the obvious repairs before listing! Paint, inside and out if necessary. A few thousand dollars spent here can mean many more on the other end. Clean up the landscaping. Polish the appliances, get rid of clutter, clean carpets, get rid of clutter, clean windows in and out, get rid of clutter, deodorize pet and smoking smells, get rid of clutter: you’re selling your home, not your porcelain frog collection. If the home is already vacant – and sometimes even if it’s not – have it evaluated and staged by a professional stager. It can make all the difference, worth every penny.

Marketing. After everything else is in place and, in the real estate vernacular, your home ‘shows easily’, the agent’s responsibility becomes getting as many showings as possible. Make sure there are a full complement of photos – MLS allows eight, but individual sites allow as many as 99 – and make sure they’re good photos; pictures of empty bedrooms don't sell a lot of real estate. Virtual tours will show up not just on the MLS, but other web sites as well. Make it as easy as possible for agents to show: use a lockbox, be flexible, avoid serious restrictions. And, while buyer’s agents should not consider it a factor, make sure the buyer’s agent commission is in the norm, currently 2½ to 3 percent.

Do all this, and you’ll be a full step ahead of half the homes I’ve been in this week…

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