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.
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you can offer carpet/appliance “credits,” or allowances, to potential buyers if they’re balking at your worn carpet or outdated appliances.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.