How to Think Like a Luxury Real Estate Agent When Selling Your Home
Whether it's a penthouse or bungalow, the key to a successful home sale is all in the details.
These upscale homes have not only transformed where people are living and who’s buying, but they have also changed the way many real estate agents do business. For Jared Seligman, a licensed associate real estate broker and leader of the Seligman Team at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York, new development has taken the real estate market to new heights – and buyers' expectations have risen along with it.
As the luxury real estate market evolves, more buyers at all price points expect move-in ready homes, or a fair enough price cut to make up for needed updates and changes. Seligman offers insight into how he does business – and how a luxury broker’s approach can serve you well when selling your home.
Create a profile of the buyer. With any home sale, you want to appeal to as wide a market as possible, but it’s natural that you can rule out certain homebuyers because the home simply wouldn’t fit into their lifestyle. Maybe the location isn't close enough to desired schools for their children, or for an individual who works long hours, a space might not be conducive to a focused working environment.
For the penthouse at 10 Sullivan, a new development nearing completion in Manhattan's SoHo district, Seligman worked with a team to determine the buyer demographic most likely to be attracted to the price range, number of bedrooms, prime location and other details about the space, building and neighborhood.
“We felt the buyer would either be a single or young trophy-asset buyer and/or someone with a large family and/or staff,” Seligman says. “So we found it almost not being anywhere in between, so what we wanted to do is create a floor plan that would work for both, which is the hardest thing.”
He notes there are neighborhoods in New York that are attractive to such a specific type of individual or family that it allows agents to determine the most likely buyers, down to which preschool their children attend and which stores they frequent.
For your own home, consider staging and renovations that may cater best to a buyer likely to look in your neighborhood and the price point for the market value of your home. A home just down the block from an elementary school, for example, could easily appeal to buyers with young children who could walk to and from school. Staging additional bedrooms as kids' rooms and the finished basement as a playroom will help buyers to see the space's potential.
For a home centrally located near nightlife hot spots, single buyers or small families may be more likely to show interest in the area. Staging a spare room as a home office or home gym could paint the picture for the most likely buyer, without ruling out the possibility that it could be used as a child's bedroom or guest room.
Understand what your home offers compared to others. As high-end development continues to enter the market in New York, pricey penthouses are no longer a rarity. Buyers have options, and they may not be pressed to relocate right away.
“When you’re dealing with luxury and trophy assets, these are people who do not need to move. They are fine," Seligman says. "The buyer has a lot of power because now we’re in market where instead of four properties in that price point, there’s 12.”
Negotiations can get complicated and drawn out as buyers see no need to make a purchase until they have everything they want out of the deal. Seligman says the key to a successful sale at top dollar is to offer something the buyer can’t get anywhere else.
The penthouse at 10 Sullivan, for example, has extensive views of the city, including a glimpse of the Empire State Building from the tub in the master bathroom. “That’s when buyers will bite the bullet and be willing to sign,” Seligman says.
Adding something to an otherwise standard property could provide the distinction your home needs to stand out among others on the market. In Chicago's luxury market, Sheldon Salnick, a real estate agent for Dream Town Realty, says many high-end buyers are drawn to large lots – more than 3,000 square feet plus an outdoor space. Sellers who may not have the yard space are furnishing roof space above the garage. "One of my clients did a pizza [oven] up there, and another landscaped it with plants and a tree," Salnick says.
If you're putting your home on the market, consider what features set your home apart from others nearby – be it a functioning fireplace, solar panels or that it's walking distance to shops and restaurants – and highlight those in the marketing materials.
Be a perfectionist when you can. Especially if you live in an area with a lot of new condos or housing developments or where many sellers are flipping homes, pay close attention to the competition as you prepare your own home for the market.
“In resale it’s not uncommon you have paint chips everywhere. For a new development apartment, it’s an entirely different story,” Seligman says.
You won’t always have the same buyers looking at both new development and existing homes on the market, but it can be fruitful to view your home with the same eye a person would in new construction: Nothing can be out of place. Salnick notes a seller should make the property look its best, highlighting the unique features that set it apart from competing homes on the market. "Lighting plays a big role in this," Salnick says.
Salnick adds that staging will help ensure that a buyer's list of must-haves, like a media room for many luxury buyers, doesn't have to be imagined when they tour the home.
Compromise where it makes sense. Depending on your ability to make changes or renovations and the state of your local market, it may be more beneficial to expect a lower price for your home rather than spend additional time and money to prepare it for the market.
Seligman recently closed on the sale of a triplex in Tribeca where the seller chose to do minimal staging rather than overhaul the space, as it would have ultimately been more expensive and inconvenient to move everything to storage and live in a fully staged property while the space was on the market.
“If it had been fully staged, the price point would have been significantly different than what we got,” he says.
The bottom line: When you're pressed for time or simply can't take on the work, it's OK to price your home slightly lower to attract a greater variety of buyers who may not have unwavering expectations.