Photo (cc) by Ian Muttoo
Forget the Great Recession. Old-school real estate agents are probably what killed any possible home sale for Michelyn Petersen in 2009.
The Alpena, Mich., resident was trying to unload her Grand Rapids home and listed it with real estate agents she had located through the grapevine. First, it was an agent who had sold a relative’s house, and then Petersen tried the daughter of a neighbor.
Yes, the economy wasn’t great, but there was no shortage of people going through the open houses. And yet the house sat and sat and sat – for nearly a year without a bite. Eventually, Petersen gave up the dream of selling the house and rented it instead.
That is, until she relisted it last month and got a full-price offer in less than 48 hours.
“It was listed on Monday, and I had an offer on Tuesday night,” she says.
She attributes the quick sale to more than simply an upturn in the economy. It was also the result of picking an Internet-savvy Realtor, making some strategic updates, and many hours spent power-washing, carpet-steaming and deep-cleaning the house.
If you are hoping for a quick sale of your own, here are five tips to get that “sold” sign in your front yard ASAP.
1. Choose your listing agent wisely
It all starts with selecting the right real estate agent. In Petersen’s case, she originally selected her brokers based upon personal recommendations and ended up with agents who apparently had not yet stepped into the 21st century.
They placed ads in the newspaper and scheduled open houses but must not have gotten the memo from the National Association of Realtors that 62 percent of people who use the Internet in their home search (90 percent of people do) walked through a home after viewing it online. With Internet marketing not a priority for these agents, the online listing for Petersen’s home featured unflattering, poorly lit photos taken from odd angles.
That was one mistake this homeowner wasn’t going to make again. This time around she interviewed several agents until she found the one she liked.
“This [new] Realtor was all about the Internet,” Petersen says.
Instead of a generic listing, her new agent created a dedicated website for her home complete with a virtual tour and interactive elements. But tech savvy was just part of the appeal of this broker. She also knew the area and seemed committed to a quick sale.
“I picked her because she knows the west side and seemed fairly aggressive,” Petersen says.
2. Stage for success
Much has been written about the need for staging a home, and if you’ve picked the right broker, that person should walk you through it.
Petersen’s broker included a consultation with an interior designer as part of her fee.
“She suggested the house needed to be either completely staged or completely empty,” says Petersen. Since her home was vacant, she opted to go the completely empty route.
However, if you decide to stage your house, you can either hire a pro or go the DIY route of clearing clutter, removing personal items, and cleaning from top to bottom.
3. Light up the place
Another suggestion made by Petersen’s interior designer was to brighten all the rooms with new lighting.
“She recommended we replace all the light bulbs to make all the rooms as bright as possible,” says Petersen.
The improved lighting made the 1,000-square-foot house feel light and airy rather than dark and cramped.
4. Say goodbye to the ’70s
You might think the 1970s were groovy, but an open house shouldn’t be the time to show off your retro cool. Homebuyers want to envision themselves living in your house and that is hard for them to do when every room screams “I’m from another era!”
However, updating your house doesn’t necessarily mean gutting it or emptying your wallet on new décor. It can be as simple as painting the walls with neutral or modern hues.
The interior designer recommended that Petersen remove the valances from the windows and update light fixtures. Not only did these changes allow more light into the house, but they also removed what were otherwise dated accents.
5. Price it right
Finally, nothing helps spur a home sale faster than the right price. A good broker should be able to help you settle on a competitive listing price.
Otherwise, look at what comparable homes are selling for in your area and, if you can afford it, cut 5 percent to 10 percent off your listing price to make your house stand out.
If you can’t stomach dropping the price that much, take heart. Petersen choose to forgo a cut in her price and instead invested a couple of weekends power-washing the exterior, edging the lawn and cleaning from top to bottom. And, obviously, that approach worked just fine for her.
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