Tips for Selling a Home in a Down Market

These continue to be the worst of times for home sellers. The rate of foreclosures has fallen, yet RealtyTrac.com reported in early March that the number of homeowners facing foreclosure in February 2010 still was six percent more than in February 2009.

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That six percent was the smallest annual increase in four years, RealtyTrac.com said. So while the rate of increase in foreclosures has declined, the number of foreclosures still continues to rise. In fact, RealtyTrac.com said three million additional homes should receive foreclosure notices this year, on top of the homes already in foreclosure.

Which is bad news for someone trying to sell their home, since foreclosures tend to drive home prices down. Plus, a glut of foreclosed homes means anyone trying to sell a home today will need to learn the art of patience: some areas of the country are seeing homes on the market for six months to a year or more.

But if you need to sell your home quickly in this down market, below are some tips to help you find a buyer as fast as possible:

1. Make your home as appealing as possible inside and out. Paint the interior a neutral color. Patch the holes in your lawn. Plant some flowers (or at least place a few floral color bowls by your front door). Make minor repairs as needed: replace a cracked vanity mirror, replace a torn window screen, replace the broken hinge on the closet door, and so on.

Don’t bother with major renovations at this time; you won’t recoup your outlay. In fact, there are many ways to increase your home’s value for less than $100 (check out this link for even more frugal ideas to help your home sell). For major blemishes, you can offer carpet/appliance “credits,” or allowances, to potential buyers if they’re balking at your worn carpet or outdated appliances.

2. Clean your house as it’s never been cleaned before. Clean the carpets. Clean the drapes. Steam clean your furniture. Get rid of clutter. In fact, try to remove as much bric a brac and small items as you can from your living space. Try to make your home look as if “no one lives there.”

3. If you want to sell quickly, hire an aggressive realtor. It’s probably not a good time to try to sell the home by yourself so long as you find a house-selling dynamo. Yes, you’d save thousands on agents’ fees by going it alone, but if time is of the essence, hunt for the most aggressive agent you can find.

(Side note: in my own neighborhood, one of my neighbors sold her home in less than a month; most of the homes in a nearby semi-rural area are taking at least six months to sell. Her secret? She found a realtor who marketed the house like crazy to people already living in our town who wanted to buy a bigger place.) Ask potential realtors what they’re doing to sell homes. Be “brutal” with them — you want specifics, not generalities.

4. In addition to marketing your home the traditional way (open houses, ads in “homes for sale” publications, flyers at your “for sale” sign, etc.), post your listing on Craigslist. Ask your realtor to videotape your home’s interior for a virtual tour, post it on YouTube and place the link to your home’s video on your Craigslist ad.

In fact, use social media to your advantage. Twitter about your home for sale, for example. (One savvy marketer I know has given her house its own Twitter account; her home tweets about itself regularly).

5. Pricing. Again, if you must sell PDQ, price it PDL (potentially darn low) compared to comparables in your area. You just might find yourself enjoying a bidding war among multiple potential buyers. Be sure your agent — or you, if you’ve decided to save on realtor’s fees — performs a thorough market analysis of comparable homes for sale. The more homes you use in your analysis, the better.

6. Consider an auction. No, you don’t have to be in foreclosure to auction your home, but you do need to sign on with a recognized auction house, along with an attorney and/or real estate agent. Auctions by their very nature get people bidding against each other, so you could find that your buyer has purchased your home for more than in a “regular” sale.

Comments

  1. Great tips! I have family members trying desperately to sell their homes and I will definitely pass this along.

    At this point I know they are doing small repairs, putting on a fresh coat of paint, and cleaning thoroughly, along with putting most of thier belongings in a storage unit to make it feel less cluttered.

    The tip I really appreciated was regarding getting an aggresive realtor. Selling to someone in your town looking to upgrade is brilliant, and perhaps what my family members should be looking to do as well.

    Thanks!

  2. Make it easy for buyers to say yes. Have neutral colors, remove some furniture to create open spaces, remove family pictures so that they can visualize themselves in your home, make the spaces functional (ex. a garage that’s open, not stuffed with junk).

    And work with your realtor to make sure that you’re ending up on buyers ‘search list’. If you price your home at $302,500, you will have missed being on the list of people who are searching for something $299,999 and less.

  3. Appearance can work magic when selling a home. Also, if you are there when people come to look then get out of the house and let them walk around with the realtor without you around. In my experience in selling our place and looking fr a new one, its much easier to look around without the buyer following you around. Let the realtor do their job to sell the place.

  4. Thanks for the post.

    We are hoping to sell our house in the next 2 years here. This is helpful to see the necessary updates to actually get the house sold. We are luck that our hous is still worth about what we paid for it, maybe a bit more depending on the month. Hopefully, we can at least cover our costs when selling the house. Crazy how expectations have changed

  5. I’m always amazed when I go into a home for sale and it’s cluttered and messy. Cleaning it up is the EASIEST method for increasing your home’s value in the eyes of potential purchasers!

  6. This is great advice of course. Having said that, if you really need to sell,,,,,ask yourself why.

    Maybe you can rent the house or even take in renters? I ain’t selling my home in this market no matter what.

  7. Great points.. The points I agree with the most? Being realistic about price, and getting a good realtor or someone who can aggresively market your place. This is not a time to do your cousin eddie a favor by letting him sell your house.. This is the time to bring in the big guns and let them do what they do best.

  8. I sold my house last year in 9 days. One thing not mentioned in the post? Make the home smell like fresh baked goods. This has been shown to better your chances of a sale, especially with male home buyers. I kept about 10 of those pilsbury refrigerated rolls of cinnamon rolls in my fridge so I could bake them and place them on a wooden cutting board with a new kitchen towel right before the showings. A few of the people who came by actually ate them! Also, I would not consider an open house. I feel it is more for the agent’s sake than for the sake of selling the home.

  9. My MIL’s best friend is a real estate agent. She’s told us that open houses never sell a house…they just get her name out there and it lets your neighbors check out your place.

    When we bought our home, price and general shape of the house was all we cared about. If you price your home well and it’s not falling apart, it should sell…that’s really all we looked at.

  10. We sold our home last year in 5 days for just a couple thousand less than our asking price (BUT $20,000 more than we paid for it 3 years ago!). The house was very carefully priced by our realtor to be competitive for the market. Details are definitely very important. We didn’t re-paint the house, but touched up anything that needed it, and the whole house was very clean. The carpets were all cleaned. One overlooked area is light fixtures. Updated light fixtures in dining rooms and bathrooms and updated ceiling fans make a huge difference. We also re-grouted our tiled kitchen counters, which made them look brand new again. Definitely spruce up the yard as much as possible. We bought a water fountain to place by the front door, and the woman who bought our house fell in love with that fountain!

  11. I sold my house last year in 9 days. One thing not mentioned in the post? Make the home smell like fresh baked goods. This has been shown to better your chances of a sale, especially with male home buyers. I kept about 10 of those pilsbury refrigerated rolls of cinnamon rolls in my fridge so I could bake them and place them on a wooden cutting board with a new kitchen towel right before the showings. A few of the people who came by actually ate them! Also, I would not consider an open house. I feel it is more for the agent’s sake than for the sake of selling the home.

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