In my nearly twenty years in the real estate industry, I have seen homes sell for less than they should have. Usually because the seller was unaware of or unwilling to do some specific things that for very little or no cost would have netted them more money in their pockets after the sale.
The list of things I am going to share with you are not a guarantee that you will get more money for your home, but they will increase your chances and give you an edge, especially in a Down or a Buyer’s market.
When I say staging I am not necessarily referring to having a designer replace your existing furniture and decor with new. This could be an option in extreme situations, but generally this is not the case. When you occupy a home for an amount of time your familiarity with the spaces and the items that fill them can cause you to lose a certain amount of objectivity. It’s important to try and see your home through the lense of a Buyer who has never seen it before. Here are some my staging tips.
- Declutter: An overly cluttered space will feel small and claustrophobic and draw attention away from the selling features of your home. Again, you may have grown accustomed to the amount of stuff in your living room, but a stranger who has no history with your stuff will just feel cramped.
- Neutralize: When someone views your house, it’s important they are not distracted by strong colors and textures that don’t blend well. If your mother’s hand sewn curtains don’t match the paint or the couch, put them in storage until after the house is sold.
- Depersonalize: Everyone has different taste, and that’s great. But, do you want people to be distracted by your Edmonton Oilers memorabilia or do you want them to remember the wet bar? How about the deer’s head in the den? The kids artwork on the fridge? These kinds of things, though very important to you may be a turn-off to a Buyer, and at best an undesired distraction.
- Repairs: If something needs repairing and you can afford to fix it or you can do it yourself, do it. Painting a wall, installing a piece of moulding, replacing a cracked window or caulking around the tub are simple things that will put money in your pocket. Remember, you may be used to that dripping faucet, but to a Buyer who has never seen your home this is a negative.
- Clean: Here’s where I tend to step on a few toes… but listen. I’ve been in thousands of homes and there’s one thing I have learned for sure. Not everyone has the same definition of “clean”! So, when I say clean, I mean so clean that you can pass the white glove test. Cleanliness and tidiness are arguably the two most important physical factors when it comes to selling your home.
- Odors: Def: ōdər / noun plural noun: odors: a distinctive smell, especially an unpleasant one. Every home has a smell. Most are barely noticeable but sometimes this is not the case. If you have pets, like to cook with certain spices or have a basement that no one has been in for the last five years, then it’s very possible you may be be “noseblind” as the commercial says, to certain odors that others may find offensive. If you’re not sure about how your home smells, invite your neighbor in to do a sniff test or ask your mother-in-law. She’s been dying to tell you anyway.
Tidiness: And my last point under staging - I know, I know it’s a lot of work keeping a home tidy, but it’s a must if you want to get a good offer. Nothing makes a worse impression than a yard and / or a home that is untidy.
The importance of these items under staging cannot be over emphasized. You only get one chance to wow that Buyer who views your home. They will be comparing yours to the twenty other houses they have viewed. So, it’s crucial that you make it count! What a Buyer, sees, feels and smells in the ten minutes it takes to go through your house are going to create a lasting impression. It’s up to you to ensure it’s a good one.
Photos / Video
Now that your house is staged and looking its best, it’s time to take photos and or video. This is where most people dig out the camera or pick up the iPhone and start taking pics. This is not what you want to do. All that work you did getting your home ready to impress Buyers is of no value if none of them come to see at it! And, since the vast majority of Buyers are going to preview home online before venturing out, you need to give them a reason to come to your address. If a picture paints a thousand words, shut up and get a real estate photographer to take professional photos of your home. Properly staged and professionally photographed homes sell for more money and they sell faster. It’s just that simple!
When it comes to the issue of pricing your home to sell, I feel I need be absolutely frank. Objectivity is key. What someone will be willing to pay for your house has nothing to do with your mortgage penalty, your retirement plans, the house you want to buy or your REALTORS® commissions. I have had to face this harsh reality with many Sellers over the years who have already spent the proceeds of the sale in their minds before even putting their homes on the market. If you bought when the market was high and you need to sell now after the market has dropped, you need to be able to accept that harsh reality. If you don’t price your home right first time, the result of over-pricing can make your situation worse. Let me give you a hypothetical scenario.
A Seller, let’s call him George, purchased his home at the market peak for $350,000. George gets a job offer in Ontario that’s too good to pass up on, but the market has dropped considerably since he purchased. George interviews a couple of REALTORS® who tell him his home is now worth $320,000. George is a little discouraged but undeterred he calls a third REALTOR® and tells her he wants to list his home for $350,000 right away if she wants the listing. Although she knows it’s overpriced, she agrees because she wants the business and she hopes George will reduce later when he doesn't get any offers. In the meantime George accepts the job and tell his REALTOR® he needs to have the house sold in 30 days because that’s when his new job starts. After multiple open houses and much marketing the REALTOR® calls George for the inevitable and very uncomfortable conversation about lowering his price. George is now only ten days from starting his new job so he agrees and asks her what he should reduce the price to. His REALTOR® suggests $310,000. “But I thought it was worth $320,000? George replies”. “It was when you first listed it but prices are dropping and there’s more competing properties on the market now.” George, agrees to agrees to a reduction but with the $320,000 figure still in his head he tells her to reduce it to $325,000 so there’ll be some room for negotiating. Eight days go by and George’s REALTOR calls with good news. She has an offer and would like to come over and present it. When she arrives she tells George the offer is for $305,000. The Buyer wants the house because it’s located close to their job but has attached a list of comparable homes that have sold between $305,000 and $310,000. George counters and $310,000 and they finally agree on a price of $307,000. What’s the moral of this story? The market is oblivious to your personal circumstances, needs and wants. Over-pricing costs you more than being realistic about your home’s market value. In this scenario, had George listed at the right price at the beginning he would have sold for $320,000 or maybe even a little more. Now George is sad.
In addition to this, knowing your home is priced right will give you added confidence during Negotiations.
Now that you’ve got your beautiful photos and you’ve priced your home correctly, you need to let people know it’s for sale. As long as your home is ready for viewing and you’ve priced it right, the more exposure the better. In 2016 this means online exposure. Next to REALTOR.ca, Kijiji is probably your best choice. Where else you advertise depends on your home’s location and the property type. Timing is a critical factor here as well. The first week or two that your home is on the market is when it will attract the most attention. This is the best time to sell it so put your best foot forward right out of the gate.
Ready and Willing and Able
No one likes it when someone calls up at the last minute and requests a Viewing at short notice. My advice here is quite simple. Suck it up. Have your home ready for viewing at all times and be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice. Don’t stay home during the viewing, this will make the Buyer feel awkward and they will probably rush through. In an ideal world every Buyer would give 24 hours notice prior to viewings but that is not the case. For whatever reason, short notice showings are common and motivated Sellers need to be flexible.
Remember, it’s not personal.
Before putting your house up for sale, it’s a good idea to be clear on your goals and what is negotiable and what isn’t. If you allow emotions to cloud your judgement. I have coached many Sellers through situationswhere they have become angry or were insulted by something about the offer that has no material impact on their sale. By staying cool and focusing on your objectives you will have a much better chance of negotiating a favorable outcome.
Taking your pets with you when someone is viewing your home can be inconvenient but do it anyway. I know it’s tempting to keep Fido in his kennel in the basement or to leave the cat at home, but don’t do it. Lot’s of people love animals but for some people this is a deal-breaker. Also keep kennels, litter boxes, hamster cages, etc. out of sight and out of smelling range. People who are not animal enthusiasts or who suffer from allergies may dismiss your home outright otherwise.