Archive for June, 2013

Tips for selling your house in 2013!

June 17, 2013
When sellers market their homes properly, buyers will find that home and buy it!

When sellers market their homes properly, buyers will find that home and buy it!

Many people are excited about the continuously improving real estate market around the country as well as in the Triangle. With demand up and the supply down, the housing market has finally moved back in the favor of the seller. More homes are selling for at or above list price and some even have multiple offers on them. This is still rare in this market, but the right property can see multiple offers. With all of that said, is it still difficult to sell a home in this market?

If you are not prepared to sell your home and make your home stand out, it can still be a challenge. We are not in a market where every home is selling, no matter the price. Those days are probably gone forever…and for good reason. Today, the appraisal process is more difficult so unless you are paying cash, you have to take this into account when selling your home.

Some basics of the home selling process has not changed and will not change, no matter the housing market. Your home has to be well positioned if you hope to sell your home. If you don’t believe me, check the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and see all of the homes that have not sold and are either expired or withdrawn. The odds are up that you will sell in 2013, but it is still not a sure thing.

Differentiate from the competition

It is important to make your home stand out among the competition. It may not be something big, but it should be something that most of the homes you are competing with do not have. For instance, I had a townhouse listing in a large community. Many of the town homes in this community were virtually similar to the other, with the major difference being price. My client did a couple of things to ensure that her home would sell quicker than the competition. First, she did not wait for the Home Owner’s Association (HOA) to refresh her deck, she did it herself. She sanded and stained the deck to make it stand out. Additionally, she had a high-end refrigerator that she considered taking with her. Since most of the competition had very simple refrigerators, this made a huge difference in getting a buyer for her home. Of course, it was included at no additional value, but she obtained her goal of selling her home quickly and at fair market value.

Other ways to differentiate your home would be curb appeal. It’s not a highly expensive task and a do-it-yourself project, but it can make the difference. Do you know how many buyers do not even walk into the front door if the curb appeal is poor? If you cannot get them in the door, you will not sell the house.

Many of the things you can do to differentiate will not add value to your home. So, I caution not to go overboard with this project. For instance, when my wife was selling her townhouse, which was priced in the low $100,000s, her neighbor had the same floor plan and was similar in┬ámany ways. However, the neighbor had granite countertops and my wife had laminate. What made my wife’s home sell quicker? She had replaced the carpets and did touch-up paint throughout the unit where the neighbor had some very loud colors in her home. Both homes sold, but the other sold only after our’s was already off the market. Caution: your upgrades should be typical for your community and price point to get the best bang for your buck.


Nothing turns off buyers more than a cluttered house. I have seen perfectly decent homes stay on the market until the clutter was cleaned. For example, I had a listing when I first got into business. The sellers had several children and the home was a complete clutter mess. I had informed the sellers that it would be difficult to sell the home until the clutter was cleared up. As with many sellers, they did not listen to me and the house sat on the market for several months. It wasn’t until my clients actually moved out of the house and thus, taking the clutter, that is sold. It actually sold quickly after they had left.

Clutter also makes the house look much smaller and the clutter is not just trash. For instance, I showed a large home in one of the nicest communities in North Raleigh. As we walked into the house, there was so much furniture that barely an inch of wall space did not have a piece of furniture in front of it. There were probably six grandfather clocks and this home that was around 4,000 square feet looked very small. The house was clean, but all of the furniture acted like clutter and my buyers could not get past all of the furniture. They wondered if their own furniture would fit in the space even though they didn’t have nearly as much. It took the home quite a while to sell. If you have a lot of furniture that you do not want to get rid of, put it in storage until you make your next move. You may not mind the excessive furniture, but a buyer will.

Remove offensive items

This can be a very sensitive area to address, but one that must be addressed if you are to sell your home. Unfortunately, in our society, everyone it seems is easily offended. This is no different in the real estate business. If you are a hunter and have stuffed prey or deer heads, remove them and put them in storage for your next home. You never know who will walk in your home as a prospective buyer and they may get offended by this display of trophies. Even if the buyer does not get offended, it is a distraction. When my wife and I were looking at homes, she was turned off by all of the stuffed animals and deer heads. In fact, she came within a couple of inches of kissing a deer head because the sellers had so many, they placed one at the top of the back staircase and she was distracted while walking up the stairs. She turned just in time and nearly gave the deer a tongue bath. She is not offended by hunters, but it turned her off.

Additionally, if you smoke, you should refrain from smoking in your house while you are trying to sell it. You should even get a company in to remove the odor from your house. As sensitive an issue as smoking is for many people, if someone who is anti-smoking walks into your home and smells the lingering effects of cigarette smoke, they are likely to turn around and leave without looking at the house. I have seen it done by clients, so remove the odor and smoke outside. I realize it is an inconvenience, but you are trying to sell a product, your home.

This may not be offensive, but rather distracting, but you should remove anything that may be a distraction for the buyers. For instance, while my wife and I were looking for a house several years ago, we went into the home of the producers of the “Golden Girls”. She is a huge fan of the show. Unfortunately for the sellers, they kept all of the memorabilia and awards from the show on display. My wife could not tell you five things about the house after we left it, but she could recall all of the memorabilia she encountered. Some agents will take this to the extreme and inform their clients to remove all family photos. I don’t think this is a requirement, but the number of photos should be limited. For example, my personal home has many family photos mounted on the up the staircase and several in the hallway at the top of the stairs. When we sell, we will have to remove the majority of these photos and caulk and paint over the holes. This can be a major distraction for many buyers.

Sweeten the Deal

Often, in a competitive market, you need to sweeten the deal to ensure the potential buyer will select your home. In the current market where there are fewer listings, this is not as imperative, but if the competition starts to strengthen, you may have to consider it. This could be anything from offering to pay some of the buyer’s closing cost to simply offering a home warranty for the buyer. As housing values have tightened throughout the bust, many sellers may not be able to pay for the closing cost of the buyers, but simply adding a home warranty, which cost between $300-400, is an easy way to encourage a buyer to select your home.

With most home warranties, if you purchase one while you are selling it, you pay for it when it closes and you are covered while it is on the market. Basically, you get a free warranty while you are selling your home and if it doesn’t sell, it didn’t cost you anything. Most warranties have a $75 service charge when you bring out a handyman to repair something, but this is minimal compared to what it could cost you. I always consider this to be a no-brainer.

Move-in Ready

I consider this to be imperative if you want to sell your home quickly and for the most money. If your home looks like the buyer can move in right away, then it will stand out among its competition. The walls should be at least touched up if not completely painted and the carpets should be in pristine condition. The colors should be more neutral, but that doesn’t mean boring. Warm, neutral colors are always best and the bright reds and blues should be avoided at all cost; even in the children’s bedrooms. If the home is positioned for the first-time homebuyers, then having move-in ready conditions is even more important. Many first timers do not know how easy it is to paint the walls and will discount your home if they believe they will have to do it.

I equate this to buying a new or used car from a dealer. When you walk onto a lot to buy that used car, what is the condition of that car? In most cases, that car is in the best condition and looks like brand new. Quality used car dealers know how to market their cars to appeal to the masses. The car is usually very clean and detailed with everything working properly. Of course, there’s no guarantee how long it will stay that way after the purchase, but while it’s on the lot, it is marketed to sell. Your home is no different. The best marketing for your home is the condition of that home. This goes with the inside as well as the outside.

Curb appeal

I have already mentioned this, but this shows how important curb appeal is. It has to look like a home before people will go inside to see the interior. The lawn should be mowed weekly and the hedges should be trimmed. Look at your house from the street and try to think like a buyer. If you were buying your house today, would you purchase it based on the curb appeal?

Buying a home is an emotional decision. I have seen it many times that when a buyer finds a home that evokes an emotional response, they will buy that home. When it becomes an emotional attachment to your home, they will also be less likely to negotiate the price down too much as they don’t want to lose the house. I have had several buyers who did very little negotiating on price or terms because they ‘love’ the house and have to have it. It all starts at the curb. I typically park the car on the street when showing a house so my clients get the full benefit of the curb appeal. If they don’t love the exterior, they will already be skeptical about the house when they walk into the front door.

Pricing it Right

Price is the number one reason a home sells…period! This sounds simplistic, but think about it. The buyer has to be able to afford the house based upon their income. The item that is negotiated the hardest is typically the price. Unless the buyer is paying cash, the house has to appraise for the sales price or they will not be able to get the mortgage approved. They may fall in love with the house, but if you cannot come to an agreement on price, it will not sell.

Now, here’s the dirty little secret. Sellers don’t set the price, the market does. If you don’t price the house competitively, it will sit there with little activity and no offers. Buyers will not overpay for a house, especially after so many were burned during the housing boom. They are cautious of overpaying. What’s more, if you are overpriced to begin, studies have shown that you eventually sell for much less than had you priced it right at the beginning.

How? I’m glad you asked. It’s as simple as this. Most of the activity you will see on your home will be when it is first listed. This is when you really know if you are overpriced. If you don’t get showings, it means the buyers think it is not priced well. After you have been on the market for several months, you will eventually decide you need to reduce your price to sell it. Then, you may be competitive after the reduction. However, now the potential buyers will see how long your home has been on the market and will begin to believe you are getting desperate to sell. This will lead to lower offers for your home. Eventually, the home will be sold for much less than it should have been. Perception is reality. Whether you are desperate or not, this will be the perception and the buyers will act accordingly.

In the Raleigh market, a home that is priced right typically sells for 97-98% of list price. However, homes that are overpriced eventually sell for about 80% of the original list price. This is not just a Wake County trend, but a national trends. So, where ever you are selling your home, you need to be priced correctly.

When I list a home, I tell my clients that we are testing the market. Once all of the marketing is in place, it becomes about testing the price. Once we get the price where the market demands, it will usually sell; especially in a good market.

If you have had difficulty selling in the past several months, you should look to these as potential reasons why it didn’t sell. In good markets, there is typically a buyer for every product, but again, this is not a guarantee. Price it right and it should sell!