Just Because It's a Seller's Market Doesn't Mean Your Home Will Sell Itself

It’s a seller’s market in the high season, as everyone knows by now. So if your home is listed, you’re already halfway to the bank, right?

Slow your roll, O Zealous Seller! It’s still perfectly possible to scotch your own sale. There are plenty of things you should do, and avoid, to make sure you actually make it to closing day, your way. 

"When properties are moving quickly, if your home doesn’t sell within the first couple of weeks, buyers will start to perceive your home as market-worn," says Dave Fry of The Fry Group, a Keller Williams premier realty in Minneapolis–Saint Paul. "They’ll assume there is an issue with it and consider themselves in a stronger bargaining position or reject the home altogether."

So if you’re selling your home, don’t just phone it in. We talked to local experts in some of the nation’s hottest markets right now for tips on how you can ride the wave—as opposed to getting swept up in it.

1. Price to sell
So many factors can feed in to your initial list price: market inventory, perceived vs. actual value, and others. Sellers often fall victim to the lure of a gigantic payday, thinking the higher the price, the higher their take-home. That is almost never true, says Alison Sternfels, a 17-year Realtor® with Re/Max in Atlanta.

"In this market," she said, "buyers don’t think sellers are negotiating very much. If you overprice it, you’ll lose the sweet spot of the first 45 days on the market. Even if you price it $20K over, instead of making an offer, they’ll move on." Your house will take longer to sell, and you’ll likely end up having to cut the price anyway.

"The strategy we hear a lot—‘We can always come down in price'—can be a very costly one," says Fry. "I understand that nobody wants to leave money on the table, but unfortunately this strategy does exactly that."

2. Don't get booed off the stage
Even the nicest, newest cribs need TLC, says JD Esajian of FortuneBuilders.TV, a real estate investing website.

"People don’t buy empty, nice, renovated houses," he says. "People buy homes. And staging makes a house a home." As awesome as your house may be, it’s your home. Strategic staging offers prospective buyers visual cues to help them picture your house as their home—which can translate to a sale.

"Some buyers are capable of visualizing, but most are not," says Sternfels, who estimates that 60% to 70% of prospective buyers need a little help to imagine themselves in your home. "Stagers have the expertise to make the most out of certain spaces in the home."

3. Nab them at the curb
The outside of your home is at least as important as the inside. Brown grass, sketchy shrubs, wilting flowers, peeling paint—all those and more can disqualify a home before your prospect walks through the door, says Jay O'Brien, managing partner and Realtor with Re/Max Prestige in the hot region of Anaheim Hills/Costa Mesa, CA.

"You don’t need to redo your entire house, but there are cost-effective improvements you can make that will dramatically enhance the appeal to your property, like a freshly landscaped yard, clean windows, and a tidy house," O'Brien says.

Fry adds that we sometimes forsake the exterior to declutter and streamline the inside—but both remain important.

"The first impression is everything," he says. "Most of us open the garage door, park the car, and enter our house from the garage and rarely enter through the front door. Take the time to act like a buyer and enter your home from there, remembering that they will be spending time waiting for the Realtor to unlock the door so they will get a real good look there. Touch up paint, clean off cobwebs, shine your door handle, freshen up landscaping, and scan for brown spots in the lawn if you have a pet. This all matters."

4. Choose your agent wisely
For all of the above, your best counselor is a good agent—even if you've got the nicest digs on the block.

"It's paramount to hire a Realtor that you like, trust, and respect," says O'Brien, adding that even in a lively market, if you don't match well with your listing agent, your sale could be adversely affected.

"The feeling must be mutual, or no working relationship should ever take place," he says.

Use the list above, do your homework and due diligence, and remember: Stay humble. These markets and others may be going gangbusters with activity, but selling your home is never a given. You and your Realtor will still need to hustle to land the right buyer.

By Will Pollock for Realtor.com

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