You may have heard that the market is picking up. In fact, Edmonds home prices this year are at 90 percent of the peak (2007), and up 22 percent from the bottom (2011).
Right now there is roughly 2.4 months of housing inventory available, which is to say that if no more homes were listed, it would take two and a half months for everything currently on the market to sell. A “balanced” market is 4-6 months, so we are currently very firmly planted in a seller’s market.
However, don’t make the mistake of believing that since there is a shortage of homes, you don’t have to worry about preparing your own home for market. While it may be true that you could easily sell your home with a sign, a flier and a few photos on the Multiple Listing Service, skipping a few basic preparation tasks could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.
Here are my top five things every seller should do before they put their home on the market:
1. Bring your realtor in early.
I often find that given the opportunity, I can save my clients thousands by giving them permission to skip upgrades they think they need to do, and suggesting smaller alternatives that have greater return on investment.
2. Fix it!
You know that long list of small repairs you’ve been meaning to get to? Do them. If it costs less than $50, just do it. If it’s more, ask your agent first. Too busy? Hire it out. Do you want the buyers’ first impression of your home to be the cracked window pane on the front door or the finicky lock that has to be jiggled just-so in order to open?
3. Clean it
Personally, I think your agent should pay for it. But lacking that, get it done, or hire it out. A good, deep clean will show your buyers that you care about the house, and are the type of seller they want to buy from.
The yard too – no weeds, no branches up against the side of the house or the roof, and no junk! A buyer wants to believe the yard is both well-maintained, and low-maintenance.
4. Stage it
Again, your realtor should foot this bill. If not, at least go through and depersonalize and de-clutter. Replace the family photos with neutral art, reduce your “stuff” by half, and leave every closet and cupboard one-third empty. You are aiming to please the highest percentage of buyers possible. Anything that might alienate them must go. When we started staging our own listings 9 years ago it was a bit of work explaining what we were doing and why; but now it seems like there are entire television networks devoted to the buying and selling of real estate. Staging works. Do it.
5. Pay for professional photography – ideally HDR
If you’ve spent any time looking at homes online, you know that the quality of photographs varies greatly, and I’m sure you find yourself drawn more to those listings that have better photography. In fact, when a new buyer first gives me their list of online favorites, it’s almost always the six best-photographed kitchens. Even if you know that the quality of the photos isn’t necessarily an indication of the quality of the home, you just can’t help but gravitate toward what looks the best. Bring in a pro. Specifically HDR photography will make sure the home doesn’t seem dark, and that the leading edge of the coffee table will be in the same sharp focus as the leaves of the Japanese maple outside the living room window. I’m not talking about that horrible fisheye lens nonsense that makes small rooms appear bigger, HDR just creates photos that more closely represent what the human eye sees.
Every time we list a home for sale we wait to have a final price discussion until the home is 100-percent ready to list. More often than not, we end up landing on a price that is towards the high end of our initial range. Even though we know that none of our work has substantively changed the house, our own opinion of value goes up. This stuff works.
So before you set out to put that signpost in your front yard, take a little time – even spend a little money – to make sure you are listing your home in the best light possible. You will absolutely be rewarded for your efforts.
— By Jacob Pickett
Jacob Pickett of the Black+Pickett Real Estate Group born in Seattle and raised in Edmonds. He has been a realtor in the Greater Seattle Area for over 10 years , and enjoys the fact that no two days are the same in the real estate business. He and his wife are parents to two children — a boy and a girl.