Best time to sell is not when you think

I get asked all the time “When is the best time to sell a house?”

I usually tell people as soon as they are ready.  In Lexington, it slows down a little after school begins, then slows down a little more until we get past New Year’s Day, then slowly picks up steam until we hit spring….and we all know how it is in the spring and summer.

A graph of Lexington sales is more like the gentle rolling hills of the Bluegrass than the shape of Mount Everest.

The bottom line and main thing to remember is that even in a bad market or bad time of year, a good house will always sell quickly.  If there was only one buyer in the market ready to pull the trigger and there were two houses, the nicest one is always going to sell first and for top dollar.

What about the average, below average or house that needs a specific buyer?

Now is the best time to sell those.

This is the time of year when a lot of people whose houses have not sold take them off the market until the spring.

THAT IS THE ABSOLUTE WORST MISTAKE YOU CAN MAKE!!

If your house sat on the market all year and did not sell, taking it off the market and putting it back on in the spring will get you the same results.  The reason is the house is always a buyer’s second or third choice.  As long as there are better listings, you will always be the bridesmaid and never the bride.  What you need to do is wait for a time when there are fewer competing listings, even if it also means there are fewer buyers.  You only need one buyer to want your house.  Why do you care if there are fewer buyers out shopping?  Having fewer listings is much more important.

 

 

5 things all sellers should know

There are a lot of misconceptions about how selling your house works.  I think a lot of that is because we agents don’t take the time to explain things.  Nobody really understands what we do and I think just like math homework, we should “Show our work.”

So, here are the answers to the most typical questions/comments I get from sellers:

  1.  Don’t we need a lot of wiggle room between the list price and what we think the sale price will be?  No, especially in Fayette Co.  Most agents price their listings close to the market value.  Outside of Fayette County, it is more common to have more wiggle room.  If you have a $230k house that you list for $250k so you have room to negotiate and most sellers are pricing closer to market value, buyers will not be expecting you to have so much wiggle room.  They will be comparing your $230k house with other homes listed for $250k and your house will not be appealing to them.
  2. If my houses sells quickly, does that mean we sold it for too cheap?  Not at all.  Often that means that you had one of the best houses available in your price range.  Even when the market was terrible, it was common for the best houses to sell quickly.  The value of your house and how long it took to find a buyer are not related.  The value of your house is determined by what a buyer will pay.  We figure that out by examining the sales in your area to see what buyer’s have recently been willing to pay.  We are in a time where there are more buyers than there are sellers.  It is pretty typical for most houses to sell quickly.
  3. My house has been on the market for a while and not sold, I think you should do more to advertise it.  If a house isn’t selling, it is due to the price or the condtion of the house.  Very rarely, especially in a seller’s market, do I see a house not sell due to the marketing.  Sure, there is a difference between a good presentation and bad, but let’s face it, when there are more buyers than sellers, buyers will come see a poorly presented house just like they will one that was presented well.  Also, exposure is never an issue these days.  Once a agent puts the house on the local MLS, it is automatically fed to Zillow, Trulia, realtor.com and every other site with listings.  Within 24 hours of your house hitting the market, you can google your address and see pages of websites it is on.  Often when I have had somebody tell me this, I will look on zillow and see that hundreds of people have viewed the listing.  I will also remind them that none of the buyer’s who have come to see their house made an offer.  The big question is why did none of them buy the house?  Price and/or condition.  All an agent can do is attract somebody to the front door.  Once they go inside, the house has to do the rest.  Being a Realtor isn’t about making somebody buy a house they don’t want.  It is about making your house appealing enough for somebody to buy.
  4. I don’t want to paint my house because I don’t know what color my buyer will want.  I often hear this from sellers after I have suggested they paint due to the house needing it or because they have wild colors that I think will turn off most buyers.  Fresh paint is THE biggest return on investment when selling.  Buyer’s don’t have vision.  Just watch HGTV and you will notice that.  People walk into a house before the renovation and just can’t visualize what it is going to look like at the end of the show.  Let’s say it will cost $3k to paint your house.  Odds are it is going to sell for $5k less if you don’t.  The color you pick is whatever is trendy at the moment because everybody likes it.
  5. The list price you suggest is too low.  My house has________________.  It is common for sellers to want to add value for the features their house has that other houses in the area do not.  You have a covered patio and the others houses don’t.  It adds value.  You have granite counter tops and other houses don’t.  They add value.  But, determining value is done by comparing your house to others that have sold in your area.  Agents and appraisers make adjustments for how your house is better or worse than the houses that have sold.  Sellers tend to not realize when those “Other” houses are better than their own house, and we need to make adjustments for that too.  Think of it like balancing your checkbook.  You’ve got deposits and debits.  Once you’ve added and subtracted those, you know your balance.

 

 

Do this if you never want your house to sell

I showed a pretty nice house last night that is going to be very hard for the listing agent to sell.

It was one of the lower prices for a huge house on a gorgeous lot in a very desirable neighborhood.

You’d think that would be enough in any market, yet alone one starved for listings.

This is what it was like seeing the house.  You walk up to a freshly painted facade with recently mowed grass and fresh mulch.  You are feeling good about it.  You go inside.  The foyer is nice.  It is a little strange that you can’t see any rooms from the foyer, but not the end of the world.

You go towards the left and see the dining room.  Wall paper from the 90s.  You go into the kitchen next.  Red wall paper from the 90s.  You go into a really nice sunroom.  What do you see?  Murals painted on the walls.  You go back through all those rooms and then you enter the great room, which was super nice.  Then you see a bedroom.  Ok.  Then you see a bathroom that not only has wall paper, but wall paper boarders on the ceilings and top of the walls, as if they were making crown molding.  The shower curtain is heavy, like the dress Scarlett made in Gone with the Wind.  Then you enter the living room which is set up as an office and has way too much furniture in it.

Heading upstairs, you notice that all the bedrooms are painted a different color.  The basement is pretty normal.

The sellers furniture was nice, but they probably bought all of it when the house was new in the early 90s.  I am not bashing anybody’s stuff because my own house is probably the most boringly decorated house in the whole world, but I am not trying to sell it.  I would need to stage my own house if I were selling because my stuff would make my house feel as dated as this one did.  All of my furniture is stuff my parents gave me and that my wife and I put together from a box.  I’m just not into decorating……maybe that is why I can always see the house past the decor.

It sort of made me sad because I could picture the house vacant and with a coat of fresh paint.  It was nice.  Sure, the house would have still been a little outdated since it was about 25 years old, but it wasn’t terrible at all and typical for the neighborhood.

There was a stack of realtor cards on the table in the foyer.  That means all those people in addition to my buyers said “No” to this house.

What sellers never realize is that a buyer will walk through their entire house in about 20 minutes.  Having too much furniture in a room may suit the sellers needs, but it makes the rooms feel smaller to the buyer.  It is also hard to see the room past the furniture.  I always say that when you live in a house, the room exists to show off your decor.  When you are selling, the decor should show off the room.  Also, colors make a big difference.  A seller may be in one room of their house for a while and then go to another.  The buyer, when walking through the entire house, gets sensory overload if every room is drastically different.  A uniform color can also help when the house has a choppy floor plan too.

I am sure all the feedback on this listing has been that it needs too much work.  If this were my house, I would remove as much furniture as I could stand.  I would put a fresh coat of neutral paint everywhere.  People ask me all the time what is the biggest bang for the buck.  I always say fresh paint.  Nothing makes as big of an impact as fresh paint.

With all the wall paper gone, most of the dated furniture out, and a coat of fresh paint, the house would feel so much better.  The 25 year old finishes were neutral enough that buyers would find them acceptable in the absence of the 25 year old furniture and wall paper.

When I go to sell my current house, I am taking my own advice since my place is very similar to this one.

Best way to get top dollar for your house

I don’t really know how to say this without upsetting some of my realtor friends, but most of the current marketing trends are just hype.

Many agents are doing weekday open houses.  Like a Tuesday or Thursday from 5-7.  Often the house sells before the open house……and if the listing had hit the market that day, that is the exact time buyers would be scheduling their showing anyway.

Many agents are doing these “Coming Soon” listings.  After making everybody wait to see it, the house sells the first day on the market for full price.  Imagine that.  Just like every other new listing that is priced appropriately.

Some say that these are the best ways to expose the listing to a market that is already hungry for new listings, and at a time when there is a shortage of houses for sale.

Here is what I say is the absolute positively BEST way to know you got top dollar:

You put the house on the market late on a Friday.  Why?  So the listing gets fed to zillow and all the other real estate sites in enough time to get on every buyer’s radar but is too late to be shown that night.  Why again?  Because more people are available to look at a house on the weekend than they are during the week.  Why do you want that?  Because you want every buyer to not only see your house, but to also see every other buyer flocking to your house.  Nothing motivates a buyer more than seeing people coming and going during their viewing.

You show the house all weekend.

And this is where the rubber meets the road.  You tell all the agents that the seller is not making a decision until Sunday evening and to submit their client’s highest and best offer.  That gives time for the house to be seen by every interested buyer.  More interested buyers means more offers.  More offers means a better price and/or terms.

 

 

The hardest houses to sell

I’ve been at this for a long time.  I’ve sold a lot of houses.  In a good market.  In a bad market.  In Lexington.  Outside of Lexington.  In neighborhoods.  In the country.

Want to know the houses that are the absolute hardest to sell?

The ones that are partially updated.

Why?

You would think that a buyer would view a house that has some parts really nice to be a big bonus.  They don’t.  The nice part of the house just makes the rest of the house look worse to a buyer.  Too much contrast between the nice and the average bits of the house.

Who comes to see these houses?

  1.  The buyer who sees the nice new stuff in the pictures.  They get excited but almost always say that the rest of the house needs too much work.
  2. The buyer who see the part of the house that needs updated.  They get excited because they want to renovate the rest of the house, but not give any credit for the work that has been done……meaning they want it for free.
  3.  All the other buyers who come mainly because it meets some or all of their search criteria.  They don’t buy it because they say it needs too much work.

What you have to do with a house like this is try to make the non-updated bits look as good as possible.  You want to minimize that contrast.  You don’t want the buyer to walk in one room and be unhappy, then walk in the next and fall in love, then walk in the next and be unhappy.  The goal is to make them at least feel neutral, then love, then neutral as they walk through the house.  Less contrast is good.

You also have to really emphasis the other features of the house, hoping that the right buyer will see all the other pluses and feel like they can live with the house like it is or take on the updating.  If the house is the best bargain in the neighborhood, walking distance to trendy places, has a park nearby, a desirable school district, is the most square footage for the money…..whatever the house excels at, and all houses have something unique, that is what you want to emphasize.  Anybody looking for one or more of those unique features is usually the one who buys the house.  Why?  Because they don’t have as many choices