Is Listing Preparation Necessary in a Seller’s Market?

Is Listing Preparation Necessary in a Seller’s Market?

Sitting across from a seller this morning who had started the process of packing, pausing only to sign our listing agreement, there was a lot of discussion over what is necessary to do prior to hitting the market. Very few homes that I walk into are neutral enough, de-cluttered enough and exuding enough mass appeal to be what I, as a real estate professional, would consider market ready, but it does happen.

As a Top Producing Agent in the Bristow/Gainesville area, the sellers I meet want the maximum amount of money they get out of their homes for the minimal amount of effort. Moving is hard enough. Prepping a home for a red hot market seems ridiculous to them. After all, the market is so hot that some sellers are accepting sight unseen offers. They want to know why I am advising them to paint, de-clutter, put in new carpet, etc when a buyer is likely to write a sight unseen offer. The answer is usually in the realm of, “Because you want the same or better that the seller down the street got, and their home was move-in ready.”

Market value is determined by being open to the market. Yes, buyers actually seeing the inside of your home in person. (I know. What a pain, right?) Time and again, sale after sale as sellers and I go over comps, I point out how much more this home made after a few days on the market, being presented move-in ready and professionally presented vs. that home that listed as Coming Soon and took a sight unseen offer from a buyer that didn’t even see photos of the home. A seller that popped up in our comps today sold their home sight unseen. I know the inside of the home because I have been in it. To say the seller left money on the table by taking a sight unseen offer is an understatement. Try thirty-thousand dollars or so is my guess.

Earlier in the week, two of my Coming Soon listings were getting calls from buyer agents begging for a chance to submit an offer sight unseen and have my sellers decide right then and there. Why is that? They know their buyers won’t be competitive when the listing hit the open market. Why on earth would I advise my sellers to take a sight unseen offer that I know can be bested on the open market when they only get one chance to sell the most valuable asset they have? The situations are few and far between where that would make sense. Trying to sell before losing a home to foreclosure would be one of them. Losing out on a home they are under contract to buy because their home sale contingency is about to expire is a situation where it would make sense. Minimizing the exposure of a bedridden relative to an overwhelming amount of buyers would be another. Anything else that would may tempt someone to walk away from thirty-thousand dollars would be worthy of investigating opportunities they may not have considered. Boarding pets. Spending the weekend in a hotel. You only get to liquidate your home once.

The same argument goes for listing preparation. Buyer enthusiasm with those exuberant multiple offers doesn’t come from a home that hasn’t been de-cluttered, neutralized and spiffed up for buyers. Sure, an unprepared home may get multiple offers, but the offers will be substantially higher when a seller has put effort into making the home move-in ready. The market comps show it time and again. Is skipping the work worth the money that would be lost?

A little effort goes a long way in this market. Painting the home a neutral color is a great way to put a fresh clean face on the interior of a home. Sometimes the outside might need some fresh paint on the doors, shutters and trim. And maybe a power washing. First impressions are powerful. Tidying up and depersonalizing allow buyers to see themselves living there, which increases their enthusiasm for a home, which increases the price seen in offers.

So when a seller asks me if preparation is necessary, the answer is always, “No, but are you willing to walk away from five to ten percent more in final sold price?” The home sale we saw today that left thirty thousand on the table may have thought differently if her agent had said, “I think you can sell for thirty thousand more if we hit the market for a weekend. What do you think?” Put a price tag on the dreaded event and suddenly it doesn’t seem so bad.

Overlooking Simple Things that Date Your Home

Overlooking Simple Things that Date Your Home

There is no question the photo above this post is of an old home. It’s a funny thing about the age of homes. If they are fifteen years or newer, they are pleasing because they are new. If they are one hundred years or older, they are charming because they are old. The in-between, where a lot of homes in Prince William County fall, have the ability to look a lot newer than they do without major renovations.

Middle aged homes show their age in a lot places. Outdated wallpaper and paint colors are obvious, as is worn carpet. What isn’t obvious are switch plate and outlet overs that have been painted over and over, and the yellowing switches or plugs themselves. For relatively minimal costs, you can remove the “age spots” from middle aged homes with crisp white, plain switch plate and outlet covers and new switches and plugs to match.

Another relatively low cost area that can be the equivalent of a botox injection to remove wrinkles, is changing out door hinges and door knobs to what is current. Right now, that would be brushed nickel or oiled bronze.

Freshening up caulk in bathrooms and kitchens is another easy fix and will often be done by your painter as part of a whole house paint job. If you want bathroom grout brightened up, there are companies that specialize in that for reasonable prices if you don’t want to take on the job yourself with a toothbrush, rag and white vinegar.

An experienced listing agent, like myself, can help you when engaged early in the process, to not over spend in areas that are not necessary and focus your budget and energy where it will make the best overall impression. Some sellers have engaged me as far out as two years from hitting the market. You don’t need to worry about bringing me in too early. Helping you with listing preparation consultation is part of what I do.

The Impression Your Home Makes When Listed

The Impression Your Home Makes When Listed

Walking into a beautifully staged home, where it is obvious that a professional stager with a large inventory of items at their disposal has prepped the home is a lovely sight. However, not all staging is about modern furnishings. Particularly when you are staging a home in the time of year when it gets dark at 4:30pm.

Recently my buyers and I walked into a home when it was already dark outside. The home was brightly lit on the main level and in the owner’s bedroom, owner’s bathroom and hall bathroom. However, there was an absence of light in the second, third and fourth bedrooms. It felt like a police raid with us walking in with our flashlight apps searching for some vision of what the rooms might look like. A ten dollar torch lamp from Walmart, plugged into the switched outlet would have made all the difference.

This room photographed brighter than it was.

Staging/perparation fails mounted. Missing light bulbs on a vanity light strip. Who leaves a listing like this and thinks it is ready to be photographed or seen? But hey, there is a pretty orchid on the back of the toilet.

More lighting failures. If this was left by the home owner, the agent or stager should have corrected. As I look at this foyer light there are three different shape and style bulbs in this fixture.

The absolute worst thing we saw, which actually grossed out the buyers was the floor of the owner’s bathroom shower. I’ve counseled my sellers to clean these surfaces with anything from bleach, to CLR, to Easy Off (yes, the oven cleaner) to make sure they look fantastic. And if it doesn’t come out, buy a new shower pan and have a contractor install it. When you are selling a home for nearly half a million dollars, buyers at least expect clean.

This house got multiple offers. I’m not the listing agent, so I have no idea what they were, but I know the offer my buyers made. It was little things like this that kept them from offering more than they otherwise would have. Staging makes a great impression, but it doesn’t take away from the times the buyers shrugged their shoulders in disappointment at these items, only one of which was a potential issue.

Listing preparation is key to getting the absolute max the market will bear, even in a seller’s market with very little inventory. Buyers need to be excited to dig a little deeper in their offers. Want a listing agent that will walk you through presenting your home in the best light and actually help you do that? Get in touch with me and let’s get started.

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