Thursday, March 22, 2007

Selling Your Home In Today's Buyer's Market

If you are in a situation when you really need to sell (e.g., relocation, change in family status, bought another home), and are not just listing your home to test the market and see if you can sell, here are some strategies to get you started, now that the market has shifted to become much more Buyer friendly. While these are in no particular order, PRICE is probably most important right now. Price your home competitively – now is NOT the time to try to get what your neighbor got for her identical house a year or two ago, ...it won’t happen.

The comparables are important but you also need to know what is going on in the market right now. If prices are shifting down, comparables 3-6 months ago may distort the price. Neither YOU or your AGENT determines the sale price – the market does. An effective strategy is pricing YOUR home lower than the competition. Variable Range Marketing (VMR) - using a price range - is worth your consideration and may be the best pricing strategy. Ask your REALTOR.

Hire a strong REALTOR – don’t try to sell on your own home to save a few thousand dollars. It won’t work, except in very rare cases. Interview several agents and pick the one with a strong Internet and print marketing plan (in writing), and experience with selling in this market. Ask for references. Someone with a CRS and/or a GRI is a strong contender. DON’T hire the agent who promises to get you a certain price (they can’t promise), OR pick the one who suggests the highest price. Remember point #1. Make sure there is a well-developed marketing plan – maximum exposure is key in this time of huge inventory. There must be a strong and varied Internet presence, along with the traditional methods of marketing. You will want a Broker Open House early on. Ask for a written plan with dates. Agree on how your Agent will communicate feedback with you and when, and enforce it! Photos of your home must be outstanding and there should be plenty of them! The MLS listing must be accurate, without typos, and should contain lots of information about your home.

Stage your house to sell – your home, since you are moving, now becomes a house…a product…a piece of merchandise that must be marketed. Staging is NOT decorating, and is not its condition. Your house needs to appeal to a broad spectrum of buyers, and you don’t want them distracted by clutter and all the personal trappings of how you live (photos, knick knacks, etc); they need to envision themselves living there. Don’t start showing your property until everything looks fabulous, inside and out, unless you cannot avoid it. If the house is vacant, it NEEDS to be staged. National stats indicate that, on average, staged houses sell sooner and for more money.
Consider a home inspection before you list – learn what problems your home might have (particularly important if you have owned your home for more than a few years) and take care of these issues, particularly obvious defects. This will be reassuring to buyers and may take away some of the points of post-inspection negotiation (buyers will still likely do their own inspection). Obvious defects cause buyers to suspect there are other hidden problems and this translates into lower offers.

Be flexible – you don’t want showings 24/7 but don't restrict them to 2 hours per day or weekends only. Agents, with buyers, need access to your home, so determine what is reasonable with your agent, and be prepared to make some reasonable exceptions (e.g., an out-of-town buyer). Make sure the front door key works well. Get pets out of the house – not allowing buyers into the back yard because of a loud or rowdy dog is discouraging to buyers.
Be prepared to negotiate – buyers expect it these days and they will bring you a less-than-full-price offer, and probably ask for other concessions as well. Be thrilled when you get an offer and start the negotiating game, rather than be insulted that it is not full price. Buyers are more in control now. Discuss how to approach this situation with your Realtor.

Expect this will take time – while some homes sell fairly quickly in this market, be prepared for the fact that this may take weeks or longer, even if you follow all these suggestions and more. Buyers are worried now because of the media, and many believe prices will drop further. Some, although they are “looking,” are taking a wait and see approach. We are also getting close to the holidays.

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Massachusetts Home Inspections