How a Seller can protect themselves in a Seller’s Market

What?

It’s their market. Why would they need to do anything? Aren’t they the ones holding all the cards?

Yes, they are. However just because it is their time right now doesn’t mean they don’t need to do things to ensure they got the best terms possible and had a smooth transaction.

So here we go!

DO NOT SELL YOUR HOUSE OFF MARKET-I know this is very popular right now and us realtors love it because it is easier. It has become sort of a status symbol. Sellers feel like their house was more exclusive that it was. Buyers feel like they got an invitation to the after party. It isn’t a good idea though. The market is crazy right now. Buyers are tired of making offers that don’t get accepted. They want a house. I have seen numerous times where I will get multiple offers on a house and one buyer will go way over the list price to get it. Let’s say you get five offers. Four of them are pretty much the same and then there’s one that is waaaaay better. Come to find out, they had lost several houses and were just tired of it. Their attitude was that they were not going to lose another one again. Long story short, you never know what your house is going to sell for until you expose it to the market.

DON’T TAKE THE FIRST GOOD OFFER-There is no question that if you have a decent house and don’t overshoot the value with the list price, you are going to get multiple offers. Too often I see sellers in a rush to accept one. They know it is a sellers market but since they don’t buy or sell houses all that often, they are afraid of losing a buyer. It is up to their realtor to let them know that the buyer is not going to suddenly rescind their offer if it is not accepted within a few hours of receiving it. The only time you want to be in a hurry to accept an offer these days is when it is the ONLY offer you got. I think it is best to give the market at least 24 hours to see the house and let everybody know the cutoff for sending offers. That deadline implies you have multiple offers even if you don’t and makes buyers in a rush to decide if they want the house.

DON’T SELL THE HOUSE “BY OWNER’-I know this one sounds self serving. The temptation to save paying real estate commissions is appealing for sure. I see more for sale by owner sellers having deals fall apart or selling for less than they could have gotten for their house. This could be an entire blog series so I will just skim the top. To begin with, few sellers take good pictures of their houses. That makes people less interested in seeing it. Then they can usually only show the house when they are available. That means fewer showings. Then they don’t leave for showings. Buyers ALWAYS feel awkward when a seller doesn’t leave. They think they need to be in a hurry or can’t open closet doors. They feel like they are invading the sellers personal space. Even worse are the sellers who want to lead you around and tell you unimportant details about their home like telling you what the kitchen looked like before remodeling it. Newsflash, painting a picture in the buyer’s head of the old ugly kitchen does not help to sell your house. Then they go with the highest offer, which on the surface sounds good, but the buyer has to sell their old house first and they were preapproved by “By-Pass Mortgage and Bait Shop” which is located somewhere in Arkansas. Then they feel like they shouldn’t do any home inspection repairs since they have been living there and that leaking roof has never bothered them. In the end, few for sale by owner sellers know if the offer they have is the best one and if it is likely to close. They often kill their own sales since they don’t know what they are doing.

ALWAYS ASK FOR THE TERMS YOU WANT, EVEN IF IT WASN’T IN THE OFFER-If you have several offers, try to combine the terms you like from all of them. Sometimes it works. Let’s say you like the price of one offer, the closing date of another, the possession date of another, and the inspection type of another. What you do is pick the one that you think has the best chance of closing (cash or preapproved with a lender your realtor knows is good, bigger down payment, etc.) Then you see if that buyer can match the other terms you like. You might say to the buyer’s agent that you really want to work with their buyer but you also would like to close on such and such date like one of the other offers you got, and that you’d like the buyer to not do a home inspection like one of the other offers you got. It is a friendly way of letting them know that while you like them the best, you might just go with another buyer who has already agreed to those terms. My experience is that most of the time a buyer is more than willing to alter a closing date, possession date and possibly change their inspection type to get the house.

Something I wish sellers understood

It happens a lot with sellers.

They have a house that isn’t getting much attention from buyers.  It could be due to price, an odd feature of the house, the time of year, competition from new construction, or anything really.  They get a lot of showings and all of the feedback is the same, resulting in no offers.

Then all of the sudden they start getting more and more showings.  Buyers seem more interested in the house than they have been, but still no offers.

The seller finds this time exciting.  They are thinking “Wow, with all these new showings and better feedback, surely my house is about to sell!!!!!

Sellers assume this will last forever but it is a temporary thing.  It lasts until other sellers with better houses put their homes on the market.

And here is the lesson to be learned:  The market changes every time a house sells and every time there is a new listing.  Once the best house in it’s price range sells, it makes every other house look just a little bit better.  That is why your house that hasn’t been that interesting to buyers is all the sudden on their radar.  Once a new listing hits the market, it has to fit into the hierarchy of all the houses available.   If you have one of the better houses for sale, then a house better than your house hits the market, it makes buyers less interested in your house.

When you find the market has it’s eye on your house and you still haven’t gotten any offers, the best thing to do is reduce the price while you have the attention.  If you wait, most likely what is going to happen is the market will move on to other houses and you will be right back where you were.

When everything is right and it still doesn’t sell

It can happen.  I am not going to be one of those agents that pretends all my houses sell fast, like I am some sort of magician.   A lot of selling a house has to do with….the house and the market.  I put the same effort into all my listings.  Most sell quickly, even when the market was terrible.  Sometimes though, a house struggles to find a buyer, even when you’ve done everything correctly and the price is right.

Here are some reasons:

  1.  Too much competition.  If there are like 50+ houses competing for a buyer and all are pretty darn nice and equal to each other, you’re waiting for the right buyer who likes your house just a bit better than the rest.  I am seeing this a lot in a few towns surrounding Lexington where there are a ton of new construction homes.
  2. Bad timing.  Usually the market slows down when school starts in the fall.  The week that school starts is usually really slow because everybody with kids is getting ready for the school year and wants to enjoy that first weekend.  If your house is in a neighborhood with a very popular school district, you may have missed most of your buyers and are waiting for somebody to move during the school year.
  3. There are no buyers….at the moment.  I see this one occasionally.  Sometimes in a certain neighborhood or price range, there just aren’t any active buyers.  This is like fishing when you have the right rod and bait, but there just aren’t any fish there.    I had a listing in a neighborhood of $450-600k houses a while back.  I put my listing on in the late winter.  It got a few showings.  Over the next 6 months there were about 8 houses that also were not selling in this small neighborhood.  It got so bad that all of the agents got together and did a neighborhood open house to try to get some attention for our listings.  Of course, it was a total waste of time and energy because none of them sold any time soon.  It was much later in the year when several of them began to sell left and right.  It wasn’t the neighborhood’s fault.  It wasn’t the fault of all the listing realtors.  All of the houses were priced right.  There were just no buyers at that time and the sellers had to wait for them to enter the market.

 

How many days on the market are best?

One.

One day on the market is best.

A lot of sellers feel like if their house sells immediately that their realtor under priced the house.  Some of them feel like realtors shouldn’t make that much money when a house sells fast.

Here is the truth from 14 years experience:  1)  A house will always sell for market value.  If it was under priced, buyers will bid over the list price.  2)  The effort between selling a house the first day on the market or it taking 6 months is not that different.  Being the listing realtor is a lot like fishing.  You bait a hook with your marketing and cast it in the pool of buyers.  Then you wait for one to bite.

Enough about the realtor perspective, how about why this is somehow great for the seller?

Statistics tell the story.

A seller is much much much more likely to get their full asking price when it is a new listing.

When a house hits the market, every buyer in that price range comes out to see it.   They often see other buyers leaving the house before they see it and/or have other buyers waiting to see it when they leave.  Buyers know that they need to act fast if they want the house.  They know that other buyers may want it too so they better put out their best offer first.  There is a sense of urgency.

If it sells, it will most likely sell for the full list price.

Once all the buyers currently in the market have seen it, a seller will only get showings as new buyers emerge into the market.   There is no frenzy.  No buyer is afraid of losing the house so they want to see how low they can get the seller to go.

A phenomenon that has been happening since buyers have been able to set up their own saved searches on Zillow is that buyers seem to look at a house online only once when it is a new listing.  Few buyers these days will comb through rejected listings.  They opt to just wait for new listings to come on the market…..which means a house that did not sell quickly is unlikely to ever have a buyer reconsider viewing the house.  It is like it doesn’t even exist to them.

So, how many days on the market are best for the seller?

One.

One day on the market is best.

How real estate really works

Maybe it is because this is the only industry I have been in, but there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what it takes to get a house sold.

Before I begin, let me tell you how it doesn’t work:

  1.  Open Houses and/or Broker Open Houses.  I will occasionally have sellers ask me about these.  Open houses used to be a non-committal way for the public to see inside a house before the internet.  Today, all you get is neighbors, thieves and buyers so early in their search that they are not yet ready to make any decision….which is why realtors that need work love to do them.  They get to meet unrepresented buyers at your house and hopefully sell them something in the near future.   Broker open houses are for social realtors who want to win a $50 gift card and hang out with their realtor friends at your house.  Same deal as open houses, these worked best before any agent can look online and see if your house is a good fit for their client.
  2. Marketing.  Again, thanks to the internet, exposure is never a problem.  Google your address right now and see how many websites your house is on…even it if isn’t for sale, it will be on tons of sites.  Something like 98% of buyers find their house online.  I guarantee you that those remaining 2% have a realtor who is online looking for them.
  3. Gimmicks.  These are things that agents do to make themselves stand out.  Many years ago it was those QR codes.  That trend didn’t last long.  Today it is the 3-D house.  I mean, most people have a hard time figuring out a 2 dimensional floor plan.   They will soon go away and be replaced with something else.  Companies come up with these things to sell  us realtors to make us feel like we are cutting edge.  There is a house listed in town that has a unicorn and a dinosaur in many of the pictures.  It has been shared many times.  Everybody loves it.  It is a lot of fun.  The house has been on the market for 38 days.  Do you think it is helping to sell the house in a market where houses in it’s price range rarely last 3 days?

There are 3 things to selling a house.  If you do all of them right, your house will sell fast in any market.  How do I know?  I have been doing them for nearly 15 years with great success.  Every day I scroll through the old posts on Facebook I made on the same day over many years.  I was posting about selling houses the first day on the market or getting multiple offers back in 2009 when I joined Facebook.    It was a buyer’s market back then.  Selling fast and for top dollar is common now.  So much so that I don’t even bother to post it when it happens.  Any agent can do it since there are so many more buyers than there are sellers.  It is nothing to brag about these days.

The 3 things that matter are price, condition and presentation.

If the price isn’t right, then no amount of work can make a house sell.  You can post it all over social media, have dedicated websites, have a hot air balloon over the house, have Drake make a video at your house…none of it will matter.  The public thinks exposure will sell an overpriced house.  Trust me, nothing will make an overpriced house sell.  I have tried to do that when I was a newer agent and I see many agents try today.  Usually it doesn’t sell.  The seller thinks it is the realtors fault.  The seller gets a new realtor, who talks the seller into reducing the price a little bit.  It usually sells AFTER the price reduction.

Condition is the next big thing.  Buyers are looking at every house in their price range.  If your house isn’t one of the better ones, it won’t sell.  I often see an average to below average house sit on the market  because there is always a better house for a buyer to pick.  Sometimes these houses sit on the market until late fall or winter when there is no new competition.  I have always said the best time to sell a below average house is in the late fall and winter.  That time of the year is like going to a buffet right before the restaurant closes.  All that is left are the least popular items.  Of course, price trumps everything in real estate.  Often, getting real about the value can make a house sell.  A below average house listed for $200k might be an average house when reduced to $190k, and an above average house at $180k.  You can also improve the condition of your house to make it sell.  I often work with sellers and tell them some small adjustments they can make that will make their house more attractive to buyers.

Presentation is twofold.  The house has to look attractive online to make somebody want to come see it in person, and it has too look as good in person as people imagine it does from what they saw online.  I think the big takeaway here is that the public loses interest quickly.  You want to grab their attention and keep it as they look at all the pictures.  That is why I order the pictures beginning with the most interesting one first.  Whatever the best feature of the house is, that is what I use as the lead picture because I know as soon as people get bored, they stop looking.  You won’t see 14 pictures of the water heater in my listings.  The words in the description are very important too.  I try to use those to tell a buyer what they can’t deduce from the pictures and what isn’t already mentioned in the listing.  If the specs say the house has 4 bedrooms, I see no need to tell the buyer again that it is a 4 bedroom house.  I want to use that space to tell the buyer how the house feels while they are inside.  The goal of the listing is to attract a showing.  You’re not trying to sell the house from the listing, only make somebody want to come see it in person.

So, that is how getting a house sold really works.  Get those 3 things right and it will always sell.  Anything else is just a waste of a seller’s time.