For many people, selling a home is an experience akin to a tornado whose aftermath often leaves a seemingly random amount of money in its wake. One could easily look at a closing statement and analyze credits and debits and see how this number was derived. But to make the number bigger, one must find the proverbial flux capacitor in order to go back in time and invest in the correct opportunities to create a higher dollar amount.
If you are selling your home, my recommendation as a real estate broker would be to do the following five things (and then to treat yourself or your loved ones when your hard work is complete):
1. Keep it clean.
Clean, clean and then clean. The data is clear that clean houses sell for more and my experience in showing thousands of houses tells me this intuitively. While you are at it, touch up the chipped and peeling paint on the exterior, including fascia, doors and siding.
Inside, don’t forget to touch up your battered baseboards, dented cupboards and scuffed-up walls. I typically advise renting a storage unit to declutter. Your kitchen and bathroom counters should be clear of clutter and your walls should mimic this minimalism. You want your home to look like a bungalow in Dwell, not Coolio’s hoarders’ paradise.
Outside, spread some fresh bark in the beds and plant some perennials, annuals, flora, fauna and other interesting plants.
2. Choose selectively.
You will want to consciously select your real estate agent and other partners. This does not mean saying “yes” to the first real estate agent who cold calls you or knocks on your door. On the contrary, you should proactively choose your real estate agent.
I would suggest a broker or agent who is more of a teacher than a salesperson. Choose somebody who can handle stress, negotiate and who has done at least 10-20 deals. They must be trustworthy. You should interview them. How much are they going to charge? What marketing are they going to provide? Will they put the property in MLS? Will they have a virtual tour, 3D or drone? Will they hold open houses?
If something doesn’t feel right with the realtor or agent then go on to the next interview.
3. Market appropriately.
If you don’t professionally photograph your house and put it on MLS, you may as well shoot yourself in the foot while you are at it. Don’t be cheap and don’t let your agent be either.
I’d strongly recommend hiring a stager and asking them for an itemized list of things you should do (i.e., declutter, touch-up paint, rearrange furniture, give purpose to rooms, etc.). Once you have this list, complete it or have somebody else do it for you.
I’ve sold many places directly or indirectly at open houses and believe this is a necessary marketing method. If you have a nice piece of land, add some drone footage. If you have a nice residence or commercial building, add video, a virtual tour and/or a 3D walkthrough with a program such as Matterport. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and traditional paper advertising all have positive effects, as well.
4. Be mindful of costs.
Real estate brokerage fees are the 800-pound gorilla here. If you are selling a $500,000 house with a 6% brokerage fee, you will be paying $30,000 at closing. I own a real estate brokerage that standardizes marketing and charges sellers 5%, 4%, 3% or 2% brokerage fees. In other words, instead of $30,000, we would charge $25,000, $20,000, $15,000 or $10,000 depending on the circumstances.
Many people don’t like to talk about money or negotiate, and for those people, I would recommend Redfin or another company that is transparent about its fees. If the brokerage you select avoids discussing fees then you should ask questions before signing a listing agreement. In my experience, you don’t want the cheapest or most expensive agent.
5. Be flexible.
I once had a client ask me to list a home for $500,000 and he needed it gone ASAP. The problem was that the home was only worth about $350,000. I told him I could sell it for $500,000 but it could take 5-13 years for the market to catch up, or I could probably sell it in 30-90 days but he’d get closer to $350,000.
Which would he prefer: money or time? Some offers may be contingent upon the sale of a house, a seller may find difficult repairs under an FHA or VA loan or a buyer may want a new roof and new plumbing. Things don’t move perfectly when selling a home. In order to make a real estate deal happen, you often need to be flexible, and not just on the price.
If you’d like as much money as possible in your pocket after selling your home, you need to plan ahead, work hard and make good decisions. Make sure you proactively select a good realtor or agent who is honest, understands the process, can negotiate and puts your home on MLS.
To sum up: Hire a stager, a professional photographer and make sure your marketing is strong. Put in some elbow grease and declutter, make your windows sparkle and make your home shine before it goes up on MLS. You want your tired, old house to look like something straight out of Martha Stewart or Dwell. Adding video, drone, 3D tours and print advertising all help but are expensive. Even if you aren’t good at math, make sure you understand the fees you are paying and what services you are getting. If you do all of the above, remember to relax, be flexible and have faith that it will all work out. You can do this!