I was going to update the original post I made about how I would sell my home back in 2008 (link below in Realated Links). But I would have had to make so many changes and updates that I figured it would be best just to start a new post.
De-cluttering and Staging
You need to know your competition
Before putting any home on the market sellers need to declutter, de-personalize and "stage" their homes. This doesn't always cost money. Today's buyers have a selection of similarly priced flip homes and regular re-sell properties. Many times, even if the flip home is priced a bit higher, it's worth it as the new owners couldn't update a competitor home for less than the flip. Some flips are completely redone - almost like new construction. Other flips are very updated but might not include windows, roof, furnace, air conditioning, etc. Some flips are done very professionally with an eye for detail and somewhat or very upgraded materials. Then there are the flips where they use the cheapest materials and it's plain to see the shoddy work. This isn't about flips so I'll end here. But every seller needs to know what their competition could be.
If you don't hire a cleaning service your home might be dirtier than you think. Buyers won't look under furniture and shouldn't go into bedroom drawers, but they will notice dirt that you don't. I had a Orland Park home for sale that was beautifully decorated when I walked in the door. It was clean and showed great. But when I went into the master bedroom there was a raggedy bedspread and smudgy dirt around the master bath light switch. I asked these sellers to buy a cheap but new bedspread and clean around that bathroom switch. Two little things that made a difference and these sellers got a higher price than we expected.
Like the commercial, many people become "nose blind" in their own homes. I'll let you know if there are any offensive odors. Don't try to mask them with heavily scented home deodorizers. Do try to remove the odors with the newer "bead" type of deodorizers (that usually don't have a scent). Febreze works too in a pinch.
If there are pet odors you might have to hire professional carpet cleaners and they might need to work on your upholstered furniture. You might need to clean or replace pet bedding and blankets. Cat litter boxes might need a major cleaning or replacement.
Don't take de-cluttering personally
In my prior home when I started de-cluttering I was amazed at how much I liked the look after getting rid of some of my decor. It opened things up and made rooms appear larger and cleaner. When I ask a seller to put some things in storage it isn't a personal criticism. I know what today's buyers expect, want and like. Whenever I ask a seller to do something it's to get a quick sale at top dollar.
This is the time to get rid of very personal items like family photos. Remember, when you do sell you're going to have to pack everything up anyway. Do it now. I can't tell you how many times buyers have spent more time looking at seller's family photos than the house itself.
Do you need to paint?
I'll give you my personal advice when viewing your home. If cleaning dirt and smudges on walls can make a difference then that is one suggestion. But if the colors are very vibrant (hot pink, lime green, etc.) or old fashioned, then painting with a more neutral color will make a huge difference in how the home shows.
Many sellers will say "the buyers will want to repaint anyway." That's not always true! Buyers would love to be able to move in and not have to do much work immediately.
I'll give you some ideas on color. White isn't always the best choice. Today's colors are beiges and grays. They might be different a few years down the road, so painting is something you'd probably leave until you're ready to sell. To get an idea of popular color schemes, visit some new construction model homes.
Don't forget your front and back yards. The front of your home is the first impression buyers have. You might need to paint or replace your entry door. Planting some annuals can make a big difference in the presentation of your home.
The back yard should be clean and any yard furniture, pools and sheds need to appear well maintained. A garage or shed with peeling paint can break a buyer's financing, even conventional.
Getting your listing on the MLS
Now that your home is ready for sale and you've signed the Listing Agreement, it will be placed in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS). This is how most real estate gets sold. There are a small amount of for sale by owners that are successful, but most end up listing with an agent and brokerage.
When we take a listing we have to enter it into the MLS within 72 hours. We don't wait that long unless there's a reason (seller is finishing up on getting the home show ready, for example).
The MLS is our database of properties for sale. It is where real estate agents and their brokerages cooperate with each other to show and sell properties. There are rules and regulations and ethics for us to follow. Those who don't follow those rules can lose their licenses.
Since I'm an experienced agent why do I need the MLS? Don't I know enough to sell my home on my own? As mentioned above, the MLS is where the inventory is. There are thousands of agents cooperating to show and sell properties. I wouldn't think of selling a property without listing it in the MLS.
One of the most important reasons to get your listing on the MLS is that agents share your listing with their interested buyers. I create an automated search from the MLS for my buyers based on their price range, areas they're interested in, minimum bedrooms and baths, etc. If your home fits their criteria, it will be sent to their e-mail as soon as it hits the MLS. Any change to your listing, such as a new price, will also get sent out to all interested buyers based on their data.
Real estate photos are one of the most important aspects of selling
We are particular about the photos we use to market our listings. My son Matt is our photographer, and he's good. He takes photos at multiple angles and he works on each one to make it pop. Matt has taken our own listing photos.
We take as many photos as possible and go through each one and choose those that best portray each area of the home, inside and out. Our MLS is finally allowing as many photos as possible. However, that doesn't mean buyers need 50 photos of a 1,000 sq. ft. home. The larger the property, the more photos needed. But normally, even in a large home, 2-3 photos of a room is sufficient. You want enough to entice a buyer to make an appointment but not too many that it becomes boring and that will cause buyers to lose interest.
For sale signs
I would always use a for sale sign. We still get calls on our signs. Many of these callers are working with another agent or just starting the process and want to know the price of a particular home to get an idea of the market. The for sale sign opens your home up to the neighbors and gets people talking.
Interested buyers will look the home up using the single property website url (using a sign rider) and/or listen to our Talking House that we offer. The sign gets their attention (we use large signs and now have the option of using signs that light up at night, although they have a specific size). Then they look the home up on their phone or tablet or at least write down the address to check it out on their computer when they get home. Sometimes, they call us directly.
Many buyers also use real estate apps such as HomeSnap. You can download this for free by clicking the link and putting your phone number in the download section to the right of the page - it's one of my favorite apps that I use when driving in different areas and see an interesting property. It's great when we're out-of-town where we don't have MLS access.
Single Property Websites
Not every agent offers these to their sellers. I think they are important. I believe that the single property website we created for our last home helped sell it. The buyer was raving about how she loved being able to send the link to friends and family all over the world.
These sites allow buyers to simply save the link and easily go back to that website to view a home they're interested in. They can share the link multiple ways - on social media, in e-mails, etc. We only use single property websites that are "responsive" - where they are viewable on a personal computer, any kind of tablet and cell phones. Click here to view a sample site we're currently using. This home is sold and closed and sold so quickly (1 day) we didn't have a chance to do anything but take photos.
We create 2 different single property sites for our listings. One has our contact information on it and this one is used for online advertising. The other doesn't have our contact information on it and this is the one we use in the MLS (they don't allow virtual tours/sites that have agent branding on them). We don't use just a video for our virtual tour in the MLS - we submit our entire website.
I'm on the fence about the necessity for videos. I don't think a professional video is necessary for most homes. I'm thinking of trying to create a quick, cellphone video for my listings but I'm not sure I'll like them. This means I didn't have a video for my prior home.
As a buyer, I would view a little portion of videos on homes I was interested in but if it was too long I'd lose interest and go back to the still photos. On our single property websites we offer a photo slideshow plus a photo gallery. Although most buyers enjoy the slideshows, sometimes they'd like to spend more time on particular pictures. So we offer both options on our single property sites. We can also upload a video.
I love today's technology. But I've tried 3-D tours on other listings and I found it to be clunky and it reminded me of playing a video game. I think imporovements have been made to these Matterport videos (the name of the camera that can create 3-D tour videos), and I would consider them on some large, high end homes. But for the average home I think it's overkill.
With that said, I was talking to someone about this and they made a point that today's younger folk, Millenials that will followed by Generation Z, love these 3-D tours, so I might have to embrace them down the road. At this point in time, I don't think I'll have one when we sell our current home.
Once we put a listing in the MLS it gets sent to many Internet real estate portals. The idea is that you never know which portal your buyer will land on. It could be one of the big guys like Realtor.com, or it could be a website like this one, owned by an individual agent/team. The more we can syndicate your listing to other sites, the more eyeballs we can get on your home.
If buyers get automated listings sent to them by their agent, why would they be on these other portals and websites? Buyers are curious and they think their agent might miss something. And it can happen. I've had buyers send me a listing asking why it didn't show up in their automated search. Most of the time it is out of their price range (which they sometimes tell me to change), or they didn't notice that it only has 2 bedrooms when they want 3+, or another reason. But once in a while, a listing agent will enter the listing incorrectly. They'll omit something like a private laundry in a condo. So once in a while, a listing won't show up in an automated MLS search. This is why buyers also look on 3rd party real estate websites. Plus, it's fun!
Your home will receive as much Internet marketing as our own properties.
Social media marketing
We are members of the best social media sites for real estate such as Facebook, Twitter, Instgram, Pinterest and more. We use these sites for our listings and we pay for advertising on Facebook. We get thousands of views on your listing from this paid advertising. The ad has a link to your single property website where they can get information and see all the photos and easily contact us if they need more or would like to set an appointment.
We can't always measure paid advertising because many buyers will see our ad and then contact their own agent to show them the home. We do know how many people have at least seen the ad, and it's usually thousands.
We will feature your listing on our own websites. Our main, long standing site is this site - you're on our blog now. We're surprised at the amount of people that read our blogs. And we share these posts on all of the social media sites we're members of. Our newer site that is driven 100% by pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is here. These sites are local to our areas we get many buyers from these sites.
We never sent any mailers out for our own homes. For one thing, who do you send them to? Do you send to the neighbors and/or our database (that consists of our friends, family, current and prior clients and sellers who had a listing that expired or are trying to sell on their own)? How many neighbors? Where to begin?
We already send out a monthly newsletter to our entire database. We use snail mail plus e-mail - so two similar but different newsletters are sent out every month to more than 2,000 recipients. We feature our new listings (or price changes, back on market, etc.) in these newsletters. So for our database we don't make a separate mailing.
If we did decide to send a Just Listed postcard, it would be to immediate neighbors of the property. And the reason to do this is twofold. One, we'd like to invite the neighbors to promote the listing. Second, we're introducing ourselves to these neighbors. We're showing them something we'd do for their home. But we'd only want to do this if we specifically wanted to work in this particular area in the future. This brings us to the reality that most advertising done by real estate agents is to promote themselves.
Print advertising has been dead for a long time. This is why many smaller newspapers have shut down or merged with others. Why look at a tiny photo with little information in a newsletter or small real estate magazine when you can get the whole description plus multiple photos, slideshows, etc. online?
There really is no age limit for Internet users. My 93 year old mother has a tablet to play Solitaire on. She doesn't use the Internet. She won't be selling her current home, either. She still lives on her own, and she'll be in that home until the end. Same thing happened with my mother-in-law. My husband and his family ended up selling the home Mom lived in since the '60's.
Most seniors that are selling and buying another home have computers and smart phones. The only time I see people pick up real estate magazines are out-of-towners that are in a destination area. They like the area and are just curious about local home prices. They have no intention of buying anything. This same curiosity occurs online, probably even more so.
So why do some agents still advertise in print? Many of them are older agents that haven't grasped Internet advertising. Or they're just trying to get their name out there in as many advertising vehicles as possible. Most of us feel there is no return on investment and stopped print advertising years ago and have embraced Internet advertising. We go where the most buyers are.
Bottom line, I wouldn't spend a penny on print advertising for my own property.
I haven't done an open house in many years and I didn't do one on my last house. Why? Only 1% of homes sell because of an open house. In the 34 years I've been in the business, I've had many open houses. I advertised the opens in a multitude of ways, trying to get as many interested buyers to attend. I've sent out invitations, I've partnered up with other agents that had listings in the immediate area to have a "multi-open-house" setup. I've been thousands of advertising dollars and put out many open house signs (that get stolen or broken and have to be constantly replaced). I've served food and drink.
With all of this time and money, I never had one of my listings sold because of the open house. The closest I've come is a buyer who had already seen the house with his agent and was ready to write an offer. He drove past the house and noticed it was open so walked in to take another look.
The problem with open houses is that anyone can walk in. They are probably not even looking for a home but enjoy looking at other people's decor. Most will not be financially qualified. Some are neighbors that want to see the inside of the house down the street. And then there are the bad people that want to case the home to see if there's anything worth robbing. They get to see the floor plan and any escape routes. Multiple agents have been mugged, raped and murdered in open houses.
Do you think they're worth it? Open houses do work in some areas better than others. I've sat many open houses that had all the necessary advertising where not one potential buyer showed up - not even a neighbor. I've seen the same couple come to a $50,000.00 condo and then show up to a $350,000 single family home. This is what they did every Sunday, they were not buyers. This was their "HGTV" show - they loved looking at other people's homes, decor and furniture.
Reality is that open houses are to bring agents unrepresented buyers that they can work with. We know it's highly unlikely we'll get your house sold from an open, but we'd like to continue working with the potential buyers that come through if they're not working with an agent already. That's why many times a listing agent won't be in the open house. It will be a new agent that volunteers to sit other agent's listings so they can meet buyers.
Why do builders have them if they don't work well? Having model homes open is different with a builder vs. a resale seller. These are for people interested in building a new home. Buyers interested in new construction know that model homes are open for viewing and they want to see floor plans and the quality of the builders. They know they can go to the new subdivision and view multiple models, or at least nicely drawn floor plans. They are able to get base prices and the costs of most upgrades. Unlike a resale house, they can make adjustments to most models to make the house as close to what they want as possible.
With new construction, you don't get all the information in the MLS (for those that list with a brokerage). There's no way an agent can list prices for every upgrade, although they could include a photo of an upgrade list if the builder provides it. But most buyers want to meet and talk to a builder or their representative. They want to walk away with a folder of flyers and price sheets. So builder open houses are expected by buyers of new construction.
I've sold new construction and we still got looky loos and people who just enjoy looking at model homes. Models are open to all and many buyers aren't qualified for the prices of new construction, but they like to dream.
In the past, many builders didn't list their homes in the MLS. That has changed, and most builders will list their homes with a brokerage. Even if they don't, they will cooperate with an agent that has interested buyers. So you don't have to attend a model open house to view new construction. You can have your agent set an appointment and accompany you. This way you will receive 100% representation from your agent who will work with you and the builder (or their listing agent).
We don't just put your listing in the MLS and a sign on your lawn. We do much more to attract the most buyers possible for your home. We know what works and what doesn't.
We won't ask you to do anything we wouldn't do ourselves to sell our own home. We stand by our motto, if we can sell your home, nobody can!