When looking at two very similar homes in the same neighborhood, why is it that one seller can manage to find a buyer more quickly and get more money than the other one? Is it merely a matter of luck?
Before we can answer these questions, we must dispel the myth that a home has an “inherent value.” In other words, the notion that a home will sell at the same price regardless of what the owner does to prepare and market it is false.
Yes, luck plays a role in any sale, but like playing blackjack, there are things you can do to maximize your chances of winning. Of course, in blackjack, there is always the story of a player who takes a “hit” on 18, draws a 3 to get a 21, wins the hand and thinks he’s a genius. In the home-selling context, you may hear about the seller who did absolutely nothing to prepare their home for sale, asked an outrageous price and ended up doing well. In both cases, those are the unicorns. Blackjack players and homeowners who don’t know (or ignore) the odds do so at their peril.
When selling your home, the key is to understand the difference between what you can control (your marketing plan) and what you can’t (the market) and to develop a strategy based on that difference.
Here are a few ways to maximize your odds in the market:
· Presentation: How does your home show? Make sure that you do everything you can to have your home looking its very best. There are countless articles and books on staging, and most good agents and professional stagers can help you here. In short, though, think of it this way: Once you decide to sell, every dollar you invest in improving your home should have a positive return on your investment (ROI). Generally, cosmetic improvements tend to have the greatest ROI, while larger-scale infrastructure improvements (new windows, roof, HVAC system) have the lowest.
· Photography: Virtually every buyer starts their search online. As with dating apps, if your photos are disappointing, buyers won’t swipe right. Don’t feel the need to show every room from every angle. Only use the photos that heighten the chances a prospective buyer will want to come see it for themselves.
· Promotion: Before going to market, make sure you understand who your likely buyers are and have a comprehensive plan in place to make them aware of the opportunity. Are you hitting the different marketing channels as powerfully as you can? What’s your plan to reach real estate agents, neighbors, move-up buyers, downsizers, folks on social media and search engines, major employers, etc.?
· First impressions: You only have one opportunity to make a first impression, and that is almost always the time when your home will receive the most visitors and online traffic. Don’t squander it.
· Days on market: Time works against the seller. If a prospective buyer views a listing that’s been on the market one day, that buyer will likely have a sense of urgency in making a decision. If that same buyer views the listing when the days on market (DOM) is, let’s say, 90 days, that buyer might have an entirely different impression. They might question why it hasn’t sold in the previous three months and wonder if they can get a great bargain. They will ask: “What’s wrong with this property and will it be this hard for me when it’s my turn to sell?”
· Pricing: Getting the highest price for your home is typically the ultimate goal for homeowners. Price too low and you may be leaving some money on the table. Price too high and your home may sit and become stale. The good news is that if you do all the other things listed above to the best of your ability, and your home still isn’t selling, then you’ve isolated price as the last variable.
If you focus on what you can control and learn from reality, you will make better decisions and maximize your chance of getting a satisfactory sale.
Steve and Hans Wydler are associate brokers and founders of Wydler Brothers of Compass in McLean, Va., and Chevy Chase, Md.