Selling a home can be an emotional process.
There's plenty of excitement that goes along with listing a house or condominium, but playing the waiting game while hoping for offers can be very stressful.
Chicago's real estate market is heating up as new construction continues to give neighborhoods new identities. Places like Ukranian Village, the West Loop, Humboldt Park and West Pullman are now regularly listed among the city's hottest areas. But homes don't always move as quickly as some sellers would like, which oftentimes comes as a result of not understanding the current market.
With that in mind, we've connected with some of Chicago's top real estate agents to offer you tips on how to sell a home in the Windy City quickly while still receiving the best price.
Don't shoot for the stars. Everyone has the same goal in mind when listing a property: Sell for the maximum amount possible. However, you won't achieve that by listing a home at an unrealistic price.
Most successful agents study the market hoping to list homes at prices that will allow them to sell quickly. "It's all in pricing correctly based on market condition and property condition," says Arthur Cirignani of Chicago Realty Partners. "I'm a believer in trying to market at or a little bit below market value." The hope is that numerous offers will result in buyers bidding against one another and driving the price up.
That likely won't happen for an overpriced home that stays on the market too long. In that case, buyers often believe they have the upper hand and begin looking for a bargain – especially in pricier neighborhoods like the Gold Coast and Lincoln Park. With all of this in mind, Lowe Group Chicago President Jeff Lowe likes to give his clients options when listing a home. "I always give two prices," he says, "one to sell in two to four weeks, and another to test market."
The best way to determine a list price in Chicago is to analyze comparable sales in your area, taking into account how long those homes stayed on the market.
Invest in your home. Preparing to sell your home should not start in just the days, weeks or even months leading up to the expected sale. Homeowners who make small investments in their property throughout their stay are often the ones who walk away with the price they're looking for. "When you own a house you're supposed to reinvest every year to upgrade," Lowe says. "If you do that, it remains fresh, and you're going to have more luck getting the price you're looking for."
This is especially true for homes in Chicago's more historic neighborhoods like Old Town, Wicker Park and Hyde Park. These parts of the city are popular thanks to their convenient locations and their plethora of shops and restaurants. But many of the older homes found in these parts of town require regular care.
These improvements don't have to be huge. Small additions such as adding a backsplash to your kitchen, replacing old carpeting or re-doing a closet can make a home much more attractive to potential buyers. Those little things may not seem important, but Haakon Knutson, the director of sales for the MG Group, believes they can go a long way toward urging buyers to place an offer. "People want to see a turnkey, beautiful home that they can envision living in and being excited about," he says. "It's an emotional purchase and you want to touch that emotion."
Make your pictures perfect. With most buyers narrowing down their home searches on the internet, photographs are more important than ever. Great photos can show off an expansive room or highlight an intricate detail, while poorly shot ones can make a home look small or unattractive and lead buyers in another direction. "How good the pictures look directly affects the number of showings you get," Lowe says.
Knutson says he always uses a professional photographer, "Whether it's a rental or million-dollar home."
"In most cases, less is more when it comes to prepping a home for pictures," he says.
For those daring enough to attempt taking photos on their own, there are some rules to follow. Industry professionals recommend shooting with a wide-angle lens, which allows you to capture more of your home in each photo (especially in small rooms) and makes the room appear larger. Lighting is also key. A flash is not always enough to brighten an entire room, so using the lighting within the home can really make your photos glow.
Those with access to photo editing software can improve their shots even more with digital alterations, and sellers who really want to go above and beyond may consider video or aerial photography. Some Chicago Realtors even use drones to capture unique still-frame photos and video footage of a home from a variety of angles.
Set the stage. Great photos can go a long way if a seller has something to show off. But that's not always the case.
If your home needs some sprucing up to attract more buyers, you may want to consider staging it. While many turn to staging for homes that are unoccupied, Lowe is such a believer in the method that he often recommends bringing in professional organizers or replacing accessories to capture a certain look. "You kind of want your house to look like it's staged, even if you're actually living there," he says.
Knutson also directs his clients toward staging when he feels the profile of certain rooms can be improved. "Too many people rush to list a home without giving it some TLC," he said.
The "wants" and "needs" of buyers typically change based on the location or type of home, Knutson added. People looking for homes in places like Roscoe Village will typically look for more traditional finishes, a spacious family room or multiple bedrooms on the same level, while buyers looking for a condo in West Town tend to lean more toward open concept floor plans, contemporary finishes and unique outdoor space like roof decks or large terraces.
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Corrected on June 16, 2016: A previous version of this story misidentified the MG Group.
Corrected on June 28, 2016: A previous version of this story misstated Haakon Knutson's title. He is the director of sales for the MG Group.