Real estate inventory is low (like, bananas-low) in Philly and the surrounding suburban counties.
If you’re a seller (who isn’t planning to also purchase locally) then rejoice. A well-executed sales and marketing plan will help you capitalize on the current sales momentum and maximize your sale price.
Your next best steps:
Criteria for Finding a Great Agent
Speak with a Realtor® who is responsive, creative, and has a strong marketing background. Ask them how they’ll market your home specifically. How will the agent position your home against competing properties, and then how will they communicate the top selling points using today’s tools?
Additionally, choose an agent who communicates well and focuses on strategically solving problems. Unexpected situations arise every day in real estate transactions. You’ll want an advisor in your corner who can keep everyone calm and design solutions for challenges that arise.
Invite the agent over to walk through your home and discuss possible upgrades and/or updates. A knowledgable agent knows what the top buyer objections are and can help you sidestep some of the crazy.
Make sure your agent takes professional photos. In the age of COVID, it’s also a great idea to ask your agent if they plan on having a professional walkthrough video taken. This may help weed out unnecessary visitors.
Work with an agent who understands the appraisal process and will recommend pricing that is consistent with current sale prices in your neighborhood. Overpricing is a recipe for failure. Buyers are well-educated and know what homes sell for in any given area. Even if you do get a buyer to offer an inflated price, chances are you’ll be re-negotiating the sale price when the appraisal is done.
Know your numbers before advancing to any of the strategies below. Avoid improvements that don’t make financial sense. Have your agent discuss best- and worst-case sales scenarios so that you don’t jeopardize your bottomline.
Get Your Home Ready
We live in the HGTV generation and buyer expectations are on steroids. Here’s the down-and-dirty...
- Declutter. Get a POD, get a temporary storage space, have a yard sale, post items in craigslist, call Habitat for Humanity or Purple Heart… get the extra stuff out of your home.
- Consider the Scale of your Existing Furniture. Furniture that is too large for a room can make the room look smaller.
- Deep Clean. It’s amazing how shiny floors and sparkling windows can change the appeal of a home. If you’re hating my suggestion… call a cleaning service. There are companies who specialize in deep cleaning before a home is marketed for sale.
- Eliminate Odors. Pet odors and cooking smells are two of the biggest offenders. You may have grown accustomed to the aroma in your home. Hire an agent who will be honest with you.
Skip the heavily perfumed candles and cleaning products. I’ve had buyers ask what is being covered up when there is an overabundance of “Apple Cinnamon Berry" Yankee Candle smell”.
Remove or secure valuables and prescription drugs.
Add Lots of Light. Open the windows and buy additional lamps at Target, HomeGoods or West Elm. Address 3 levels of lighting in a room - ambient, task, and accent lighting.
Contemplate Curb Appeal. Trim back anything that’s overgrown, cut the grass, add fresh mulch, plant fresh flowers, paint the front door. Add a new welcoming doormat.
Consider Fresh Interior Paint. If it’s in the budget, a fresh coat of paint inside your home will do wonders. Not only does it help neutralize odors, but it’s a clean slate for buyers when they move in. Don’t go too dark or too white with your palette. Colors that are too dark may make rooms look smaller and, conversely, a sea of white may feel sterile. If you still have 1990’s maroon on the walls, it’s definitely time for a contemporary paint job. Today’s paint flavor is grey or greige. Many of my sellers raise an eyebrow to this suggestion but grey is the new neutral.
Install New Carpet or Deep Clean Existing Carpets. Nobody likes anybody else’s dirt.
Think about Hiring a Professional Stager. This service can be as simple as getting an initial consult to advise furniture placement, or as extensive as bringing in furniture and props. Again, this comes down to budget, potential sale price, and overall goals.
Get a Pre-Listing Home Inspection (or Not)
"A pre-listing inspection, which is paid for by the home seller, provides a written report as to the condition of the property. It could uncover any concerns that might compromise a sale. Typically, home inspections are paid for by the buyer and performed with 10-15 days of a home contract agreement."
There are advantages and challenges when choosing this route...
No big surprises once you are under contract with a buyer. You’ll have the opportunity to correct or disclose any defects, as well as price the home accordingly. If you find out there is mold in your crawlspace, or that you have termites, you have the opportunity to bid out the work competitively and have it corrected prior to selling your home.
Conversely, when buyers discover the defect, everyone is under a timeline and you might not be able to get favorable contractors out for bidding.
If you’ve already corrected the defects, there is less chance that the buyer will terminate the contract based on inspections. Once a buyer bails, and you put your home active again, there’s a potential stigma attached to a home that’s been rejected.
- Cost of the home inspection/termite/radon will set you back $800.00 or more depending on the square footage of the home.
- You may discover defects that you’ll need to correct or disclose. Having cash on hand will be key. In Pennsylvania, a seller must disclose any defect that may have a significant financial impact on the value of the property or pose an unreasonable risk to people.
- From the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors:
- " A material defect is a specific issue with a system or component of a residential property that may have a significant, adverse impact on the value of the property, or that poses an unreasonable risk to people. The fact that a system or component is near, at or beyond the end of its normal useful life is not, in itself, a material defect."
- The buyer will probably still get their own inspection. The buyer’s inspector might uncover additional items, but more than likely your inspector has already uncovered the most concerning items.
- If you’re going to fix something, do it correctly. I once had a buyer purchasing a pre-inspected home that promised a new roof. The statement of work outlined the details of the roof replacement. When the buyer’s agent inspected the home, we discovered that the roof had not been replaced down to the decking and that a substandard shingle had been swapped in. That was enough for my buyers to distrust the sellers and terminate the contract. (btw, we asked the sellers to compensate for the inferior roofing job and they declined.)
- If you live in a particularly hot neighborhood, consider having an open house before individual showings start. This may help minimize the amount of interruptions you’ll have in the first week of being on market. (Please keep COVID restrictions in mind.)
- Be as flexible as possible with showing times. Serious buyers in a competitive market will want to get in fast, and usually at the last minute. Not optimal, especially when you are juggling careers, children, and pets. But denying the showing request risks losing a potential buyer to another home that is available for showing. You may want to hire a housekeeping service during this time to keep the home show-ready so that you can still live you life and not lose your mind.
- Have a plan for pets. Secure cat(s) in one part of the home with a note on the door to be mindful. Maybe hire a local petsitter to walk the dog during showings.
- Don’t forget Fresh Flowers and Food Bribes. There’s nothing more homey than the smell of fresh-baked cookies (Pillsbury Ready-to Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies are a 15 minute quick fix) or the pop of color and scent that fresh flowers add to a room.
- Encourage Feedback (and don’t get offended). I monitor showing feedback and then communicate with my sellers to correct anything that is fixable. We can’t correct location on a busy road but we can correct an array of other concerns such as odors and humidity in the basement.
Final word on selling your home - hire a professional who can coach and guide you through the process. Every home sale is unique and requires a plan that addresses your specific needs.
If you’re planning to sell (or buy) in the local 5 counties, I am available for a free consult and I have a no-pressure approach. I’ve lived in 4 of the local counties and my strategies are relevant regardless of location.
Melissa Walter, CRS, ABR, SFR, REALTOR®
Serving Montgomery, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties