Home Selling 101: Marketing Your Home

In the second post of the Home Selling 101 series, we explore what prospective sellers need to do to sell quickly. This includes staging, pricing accurately and having a good team on your side.

In the first post of the series, we discussed what sellers need to know when they start to think about selling their homes. Once the groundwork is laid, sellers need to think smart to make sure their home is poised to sell quickly.

A good presentation is a key to selling success. In the case of Jessica and Matt Allcock, that meant moving out some of the stuff they’d accumulated, giving the house a cleaner, more streamlined appearance. It’s important to purge rooms of personal items such as family photos: Buyers don’t want to see your family in their home; they want to imagine themselves living there.

The Allcock’s agent, Scott Oyler, suggests that sellers consult with home stagers who can tell them how to arrange furniture and amenities to their best effect. Neutralizing paint jobs that are, shall we say, idiosyncratic, is a must. Neon colors may appeal to a select few buyers but ecru or egg shell appeal to more and make the spaces seem larger and warmer.

These days, said Oyler, for homes to sell they usually have to be in excellent condition. Any niggling little problems, like drippy faucets, peeling paint, out-of-date electrical service or other mechanicals, is a big no-no.

“In the past, buyers would buy fixer uppers and do repairs,” he said. “That’s not true anymore. Buyers want houses in top condition.”

The Allcocks took a few months to bring their ranch up to spec. After Oyler’s approval, they put it up for sale. The listing included a brief description but a couple dozen, high quality photographs showed off the house inside and out.

One of the reasons the Allcocks chose Coldwell Banker West as their agent was for exposure. Oyler promoted the home not only with agents from other firms but also by making sure his many colleagues were very familiar with the property. He, for example, invited all of his team’s agents in for a thorough tour so they would be well versed in the home’s virtues.

Price better be right

The most important marketing decision made with the agent’s help is what to put on its price tag. Pricing a house correctly can maximize value and minimize selling time and hassle. An overpriced house will sit on the market and oft times sell for less than a house priced right to begin with.

Here’s how that works, according to Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, a leading appraisal firm in New York City.

“Some sellers think ‘I’ll get lucky,’ that someone will pay more for a house than it’s worth because they don’t know the market,” he said. “But there’s a problem with that. You have this thing called The Internet that gives people lots of pricing info.”

Potential buyers can get turned off by overpriced homes and never even look at them.

“Overpricing also conveys to the brokerage community that the seller is unrealistic,” said Miller.

The house just sits.

“Most activity happens in the first couple of weeks,” said Oyler. “If it doesn’t sell then, people wonder if something is wrong with it.”

That perception can grow into a stigma. Even when the home is marked down to its more realistic value, it may not get as much traffic as it deserves and often winds up selling for less than if it had been priced correctly right off the bat.

“Buyers are more educated than ever,” said Oyler. “They know when something is a good value or not. When a house is a good value, you can get multiple offers and a higher price than you would had you overpriced the house in the first place.”

Jessica and Matt Allcock priced their home accurately and sold it in four days, at only $4,000 less than their asking price.

On the other hand, you don’t want to let the house go for less than its real value. That’s where a thorough knowledge of market conditions helps.

“You have to pay attention to where the market is heading,” said Oyler. “If it’s going up, you don’t want to price it too low.”

In the next and final post in the Home Selling 101 series, we’ll discover what loose ends need to be tied before home sellers seal the deal.

Les is a Real Estate Market Specialist for Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

Born and raised in Whitestone, N.Y., and never having lived outside of NYC, Les is a graduate of City College of New York in Manhattan. Les switched careers in his late 30s, studying writing at New School and Brooklyn Polytechnic, now the New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering. Les has written for several magazines and copyedited books on early childhood education prior to joining CNNMoney as a personal finance writer, where his main beat was real estate. His wife and partner of 42 years is a retired magazine editor who spent her career at the New York Zoological Society (Bronx Zoo). They are residents of the Upper West Side.

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