The tables have turned across the U.S. as the real estate market has shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market, which means that more homes are for sale than there are buyers to purchase them. Gone are the days of listing a home and it selling overnight simply because of its mere existence, as if it were the last home to be had. In many parts of the country, buyers had felt lucky and accomplished just for winning a bidding war for a property.
Those days are over and now sellers have to do everything perfectly, from initial pricing to marketing strategy, in order to sell their properties on a reasonable timeline. But not everything about this shift is unfavorable for sellers and their agents.
There are a few things sellers can do to ensure the buyer's market doesn't get the best of them. This new set of rules is critical to follow in any market as it forces both sellers and agents to think carefully about all aspects of the transaction process, and the importance of getting it right the first time around.
Here are five details to focus on while you prepare your house to sell in a buyer’s market:
- Attitude Adjustment
Understand the comparable recent sales and active listings in your area, and work with an agent to price your property accordingly. A buyer’s market is not the time for aspirational pricing. Only unique properties, which are really outliers, fly off the shelf these days. Buyers are looking for deals and they rarely bid at asking price.
When pricing, it's best to factor in a cushion for negotiating. Price up slightly, but not out of the range to lure in buyers. It's important to note that, as a general rule in this market, underpricing is not recommended as a strategy to drive up demand. Underpricing works best in a seller's market, when multiple bids can drive a price up. But when buyers have the upper hand they're rarely bidding properties up, and you may end up with offers lower than your bottom price.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but not always in the eye of the buyer. This can be a hard pill to swallow because you may not only need to freshen up your decor and paint, but the work also costs you money at a time when you're looking to make money, not spend it. Make that first impression count. Buyers want properties that look clean, fresh and uncluttered.
Make sure the online listing photos and marketing materials are of the highest caliber and quality, and appeal to the widest pool of potential buyers. The photos are your calling card, and the deciding factor when agents and customers are choosing whether to view your property. You’d be amazed at how many bedroom photos show wrinkled comforters and how many kitchen counters are overcrowded with appliances and decorative bowls.
Most importantly, work with your agent to review and plan a comprehensive marketing strategy that best suits your specific property, which might encompass a combination of a custom video tour, social media advertising campaign and print or digital advertising.
Make your property accessible to buyers within reasonable days and times, which often means being able to make yourself scarce during evenings and weekends. Remember that you want to make it as easy as possible for interested buyers to come and see your property. After all, they are the customer and you want to make it the most pleasant experience, not a hardship. This is why most agents schedule open houses in the morning or early afternoon on Saturdays and Sundays.
[Read: The Guide to Selling Your Home]
Get real. Listen and educate yourself on current market conditions in your neighborhood. Ask your real estate agent for recent comparable closings and active listings, and size them up to market highs. It’s also very important to take into account the number of days on market. In New York City, for example, the median time from a listing hitting the market to contract signed increased to 117 days in February 2019, nearly a month longer than in February 2018, according to a report from New York real estate information company StreetEasy.
If you don’t like the hand the current marketplace is dealing, and if you’re not in a hurry to sell, you may want to consider positioning your property when market conditions are more favorable to sellers. It's critical that the seller has realistic expectations and is on board with the new playing field if he or she wishes to have a quick and profitable transaction.
The real estate market has pressed the reset button. Now more than ever, sellers cannot leave anything to chance if they want to get top dollar for their properties in this new arena. In the end, consider these guidelines as best practices for any market, up or down. Putting your best foot forward, pricing correctly and marketing your property with excellence should always be the gold standard.
Ensure a quick sale.
Selling your home quickly not only allows you to move on with your life, it also means fewer days of keeping your home in pristine condition and leaving every time your agent brings prospective buyers for a tour. According to real estate information company Zillow, the best time to list a home for sale is on a Saturday between May 1 and 15; homes listed during those times sell six days faster and for 0.7% more than the average annual home price. But how fast your home actually sells, and at what price, depends on factors beyond timing. Here are 10 secrets to selling your home faster, no matter when you list it.
Updated on March 20, 2020: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.Pick a selling strategy.
Pick a selling strategy.
Before putting a for sale sign in your yard, it's important to pick the selling strategy that will work best for you. The for-sale-by-owner option may be best if you feel confident in your ability to market the home and negotiate. If your time is better spent on other details, a real estate agent could be best. If you need to sell the home quickly, you may want to inquire with an iBuyer, an entity that can make the deal close faster than the typical homebuyer. You should feel confident in the selling strategy you choose, and avoid switching from one to the other while your house is on the market. Buyers could be turned off by the constant changing of circumstances.Invest in a professional photographer.
Invest in a professional photographer.
According to NAR's 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 44% of recent buyers started their search online. Of those, 87% found photos very useful in their home search. If your listing photos don’t show off the features of your home, prospective buyers may reject it without even taking a tour or going to the open house. Hiring a professional photographer and posting at least 30 photos of your home, inside and out, is a good way to attract buyers. Photography is often free for home sellers, as shoots are often conducted at the expense of real estate brokers as part of marketing the property.Clean everything.
(People Images/ Getty Images)
Nothing turns off buyers like a dirty house. Hire a company to deep clean if you can’t do it yourself. “When the (home) is on the market, no matter what time of day or night, it should be clean and neat,” says Ellen Cohen, a licensed associate real estate broker with real estate brokerage Compass in New York City.
Key places to clean while your home is on the market include:
- Kitchen countertops.
- Inside cabinets and appliances.
- Floors and room corners where dust collects.
- Bathroom counters, toilets, tubs and showers.
- Inside closets.
- Windows, inside and out.
- Scuffed walls, baseboards and doors.
- Basement and garage.
Depersonalize the home.
Remove all your family photos and memorabilia. You want buyers to see the house as a home for their family, not yours. Remove political and religious items, your children’s artwork (and everything else) from the refrigerator and anything that marks the house as your territory rather than neutral territory. The same goes for any collections such as figurines, sports memorabilia or kids' toys that can make a buyer think less about the house and more about you. Family photos can be replaced by neutral art or removed entirely – just be sure to remove any nails and repair nail holes where any hanging photos used to be.Let the light in.
Let the light in.
People love light and bright, and the best way to show off your house is to let the sunshine in. Open all the curtains, blinds and shades, and turn lights on in any dark rooms. If the natural light situation is lacking in any room, strategically place lamps or light sources throughout to set the mood. And while your house is on the market, open all curtains and turn on lights every time you leave your house for work or errands in case you get word that a buyer would like to tour the space before you get home.Be flexible with showings.
Be flexible with showings.
Buyers like to see homes on their schedule, which often means evenings and weekends. Plus, they want to be able to tour a home soon after they find it online, especially in a hot market where they're competing with other buyers. If your home can be shown with little or no notice, more prospective buyers will see it. If you require 24 hours’ notice, they may choose to skip your home altogether. "That's one less person who gets to see the property," Cohen says. Be ready to leave quickly as well – if you're still cleaning up or hanging around outside when the buyer arrives, it can make for an awkward interaction.Set the right price.
Set the right price.
No seller wants to leave money on the table, but the strategy of setting an unrealistically high price with the idea that you can come down later doesn’t work in real estate. Buyers and their agents have access to more information on comparable homes than ever, and they know what most homes are worth before viewing them. A home that’s overpriced in the beginning tends to stay on the market longer, even after the price is cut, because buyers think there must be something wrong with it. "Pricing correctly on the lower side tends to work much better," Cohen says.Remove excess furniture and clutter.
Remove excess furniture and clutter.
Nothing makes a home seem smaller than too much big furniture. Rent a self-storage container or a storage unit and remove as much furniture as you can. It will immediately make your home seem calmer and larger. Remove knickknacks from all surfaces, pack them away and store the pieces upon which you displayed them. Take a minimalist approach to books, throw rugs and draperies, and clear off your kitchen and bathroom countertops, even removing appliances you normally use. If you can scale down the contents of your closets, that’s even better, because it makes the home's storage space look more ample.Repaint in neutral colors.
Repaint in neutral colors.
A new coat of paint will do wonders to freshen up your home, both inside and out. This is the time to paint over your daughter’s purple bedroom, nix the quirky turquoise bathroom and cover up the red accent wall in your dining room. Busy wallpaper can also turn off potential buyers. Your goal is to create a neutral palette so buyers can envision incorporating their own personal touches in the home. "You just want people to see the space for what it is," Cohen says. Rather than a stark white, consider neutral shades of gray, taupe and cream on the walls.Spruce up the front of your home.
Spruce up the front of your home.
You’ve heard it 100 times before, and it’s still true: Curb appeal matters. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. A new or freshly painted front door, new house numbers and a new mailbox can breathe life into your entryway. Fresh landscaping and flowers in beds or in pots also enhance your home’s first impression. Trim trees and bushes, tidy up flower beds, remove dead leaves from plants, clear out cobwebs from nooks near the entrance and pressure-wash walkways, patios and decks. Leave the outdoor lights on, too, because prospective buyers may drive by at night.Here are 10 tips to sell your home faster:
Here are 10 tips to sell your home faster:
- Pick a selling strategy.
- Invest in a professional photographer.
- Clean everything.
- Depersonalize the home.
- Let the light in.
- Be flexible with showings.
- Set the right price.
- Remove excess furniture and clutter.
- Repaint in neutral colors.
- Spruce up the front of your home.
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After earning a degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, Arriz worked in wholesale sales for several top fashion designers in New York City. While her business sense, tireless work ethic and integrity fuel her success, most importantly, she believes wholeheartedly that one’s living space should be not only an investment but also a home and sanctuary.
Arriz has resided on the Upper East Side for over 30 years and currently lives in Carnegie Hill with her husband, three children and her miniature schnauzer, Lucy.