Connecticut Home & Garden: Home-Selling Tips
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Real estate agent Jim Porto remembers a determined client who, on studying the market analysis of his home a few years back, looked up and asked simply: “What do I have to do to sell my house fast?” Sensing that this client was a tad more adventuresome than most, Porto, who is with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Milford, went out on a limb. “Look at the comps,” he said, “and then list it at 10 percent under them.”
The agent’s advice (and nearly 30 years’ experience) paid off: Offers came pouring in, buyers got into a bidding war and the house sold for well over the asking price. “He loved the strategy,” says Porto of the seller, “because it worked. When it works, everybody’s a hero.”
Would that it were always that simple.
Selling a home in a recovering market like this one can be more complicated. Homeowners may have suffered financial losses or have emotional attachments they can’t easily brush off. They may lack the confidence they need to move up or move on. Most are not inclined toward crapshoots, preferring tried-and-true methods to tilt the selling odds in their favor.
So what does a homeowner have to do to close a deal? According to the real estate professionals we asked, you really can’t go wrong if you:
Price It Right
The industry standard for determining the market value of a house is based on facts (your home’s age, square footage, numbers of beds, baths, etc.), its appraised value, what comparable homes in your area have sold for—and ultimately what today’s buyer is willing to pay.
However, sellers often base their list price on what they originally paid or the dollar figure they feel they should (or have to) get out of a home. But the truth is that serious sellers must “let go and price homes properly” or they won’t sell, says PJ Louis, sales manager of the William Raveis office in Avon. “It’s Economics 101. Everyone can see all the information they need online, and they know exactly what they can get in a price range,” says Louis. “Your home is competing with comparable listings, so it has to be priced accordingly.” That said, Louis says home prices are “starting to drift back up” and he’s optimistic about the near future. “This has been one of the busiest winters in a long time … it’s almost like a perfect storm,” he says. “The economy is improving, consumer confidence is up, investments are bouncing back. And home prices and interest rates are still relatively low.”
It helps to think of a home sale as a lifestyle decision, and not just a property transaction, Louis says, especially if you’re buying up. Any loss you may take on your current home will theoretically be made up in the value of the home you’re purchasing, he says: “If you take a $100,000 hit, but you move to a nicer house in a more desirable location, with better schools, etc., then you’ve improved your lifestyle.”
Ira D. Goldspiel of Sotheby’s International Realty in Kent takes a more practical view. “Our buyers are very Internet-savvy. They are as smart as we are. They do research on properties before they see them and they know comps before they see a house,” Goldspiel says. “So if you market correctly and price correctly, you will sell. If you overprice it, a house will sit. Buyers cannot be fooled.”
Put Your Best Foot Forward
Regarding good first impressions, two truths prevail: 1.) You can only make one once; and 2.) It can take as little as 30 seconds to rule out a home, so make yours count.
For starters, your curbside view has to be pristine—be sure your lawn and shrubs are neatly trimmed, and that your mailbox, house number, light posts and planters are in good repair. Sweep the walkway. Paint the door. House hunters never forget the front door that wouldn’t open, the bell that didn’t work, or the worn welcome mat that may just as well have said “Go Away.”
Make certain the exterior of your home is “photo-shoot ready,” says Goldspiel. And that gaining entry is seamless: “Don’t forget that keys and locks should be serviced and in working order.”
Some agents swear that good light is second only to location when it comes to swaying a buyer; the rest readily concede that a house can never be too bright or uncluttered.
Suffice it to say that the last thing you want is a buyer standing in the dark while an agent fumbles for the light switch or draws back drapes in an effort to brighten up a room. “Light, bright and airy sells,” according to Porto. Replace heavy window treatments with sheers and wash windows thoroughly, inside and out. Paint sills and trims to frame outdoor views. Trim overgrown foundation plantings that are blocking light. Replace bulbs in overhead fixtures and increase wattage where you can. Replace dark, ornate shades with simple, neutral ones.
Lightening up also refers to eliminating stuff. It’s imperative that you clear out clutter—from bulky furniture to piles of magazines—with a vengeance. This is often where a professional home stager comes in. He or she is trained to see beyond over-decorated rooms (and just plain junk) and transform them into neat and orderly spaces. To that end, they advise homeowners on ways to cut down on visual noise and make a house appear cleaner and more spacious.