By most accounts, 2019 is shaping up as a complex year to sell a home. Inventory is still at historic lows and demand remains strong, thanks to continued job growth, but financing conditions are worsening, making for a less predictable market.
"With the possible exception of the mid-2000s, our current moment could be the most interesting time in decades to follow housing in America, as longstanding approaches toward housing development and land use face new challenges.," said Trulia Chief Economist Issi Romem, looking at stresses between those looking to development to keep home prices reasonable (sometimes called the YIMBY movement, for "Yes, In My Back Yard") and skeptics who say the approach has failed. According to a Trulia survey, 29 percent of people think 2019 will be a better year to sell than 2018, a gentle drop from that year's 31 percent. If you plan to sell this year, here are tips from real estate professionals to maximize profits and streamline the sales process.
WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED REALTOR
Rather than go it alone, engage a professional who understands your particular housing market and can help with pricing the property appropriately and managing offers. According to Zillow, 85 percent of sellers list with an agent. (About 20 percent attempt to sell on their own, with only 10 percent ultimately selling without an agent's assistance.)
RESEARCH AGENTS BEFORE DECIDING ON ONE
You don't have to go with the first real estate agent you find, said Zillow Senior Economist Sarah Mikhitarian. Go online and see if there are any reviews of the agents or ask friends for referrals to agents with whom they've had positive experiences. Use online search tools to find an agent based on listing activity, area of expertise and reputation.
LIST IN THE SPRING
Spring is peak home buying season, and listing a home during the season allows sellers to take advantage. Homes put on the market in early May sell 13.5 days faster than average and for 1.2 percent more than average listings, according to data from Zillow. In 20 of the country's 24 largest metro areas, the best month to list is either April or May. Homes in Seattle, Sacramento, Portland and Denver, saw the largest seasonal boost during early spring. Sellers in each of these markets typically end up with between a 0.6 and 2.4 percent higher final sales price.
FIGURE OUT WHAT MATTERS MOST TO YOU AS A SELLER
Before listing your property, think carefully about what's most important to you, Mikhitarian said. "Is it a quick closing so that you can purchase another home? Or trying to maximize profits?" she explained. "Or is there a sentimental attachment to your home, which would make you care more about who you pick as a buyer?" Determine an answer to these questions before posting the "for sale" sign out front.
UNDERSTAND PRICING BEFORE YOU START
New home sellers often get information about their home's value from all the wrong sources, including friends who aren't real estate experts. "This problem can be exacerbated by bad real estate agents that will tell the seller what they want to hear just to get the listing," says Marty Basher, home organization expert from Modular Closets. Instead, find an accurate price with the help of a licensed appraiser. It's also smart to have a well known agent do a comparative market analysis.
BE PREPARED TO SPEND MONEY IN ORDER TO SELL
Selling a home is not simply about raking in the profits. It costs money to sell a home. From closing costs to basic home prep projects such as cleaning and staging, homeowners can spend anywhere from $10,000 to upward of $55,000 to sell a house, depending on its location, says Zillow. Nationally, U.S. homeowners spend an average of $18,342 on extra or hidden costs associated with selling their home.
ENGAGE A FRESH SET OF EYES FOR NEEDED IMPROVEMENTS
After living in a home for years, it's difficult to see the forest through the trees. "We start to lose sight of the things that no longer work well, aesthetically," said Justin Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency. "This means you'll need a fresh set of eyes to look at the house and tell you what sticks out as items to be fixed." Prospective buyers make a decision about buying in a matter of minutes, he added. Ask a home stager (not a friend) to provide a list of recommended changes or repairs.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL HOUSE CLEANER
FOCUS ON KITCHEN AND BATHROOM UPGRADES
DON'T OVERLOOK THE IMPORTANCE OF PAINT
Invest in painting where there is wear and tear and cracks, says Paul Wood, a licensed agent specializing in Brooklyn and DUMBO. "It returns the investment because painting gives the appearance of one-hundred percent move-in readiness. Paint light colors that accentuate the space, and don't distract the eye."
REMOVE THE CARPETING
Carpeting can be a deterrent for home buyers, says Sacha Ferrandi, CEO and founder of Source Capital Funding, a San Diego-based real estate finance company. "When a potential buyer comes to see a home that's still covered with carpet, instead of noticing all the great qualities of the room, they often get stuck thinking about how much it's going to cost to remove it all," Ferrandi said. "Carpets are often immediately associated with being dirty and filled with various allergens." Bottom line — invest in modern, hardwood flooring to avoid a bad impression.
SCALE DOWN YOUR BELONGINGS
Remove extra clothes, countertop clutter, and toys that fill the rooms and closets in your home. In addition, reduce the amount of furniture in your home, finding somewhere to store big, bulky items that take up a lot of space. "The house should look just barely lived in because it's ready to be moved into," Wood said.
HIRE A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER
The value of hiring a professional photographer to photograph your home cannot be overstated. "Photographs for the listing are the main gateway to your home," said Bill Golden, an agent with 30 years experience who works with RE/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside. "Virtually all buyers at this point have looked at your house online before they step foot into it. The pictures, while also being accurate, need to convince a potential buyer that they should come see your home."
YOU ARE A SMALL BUSINESS OWNER WHILE SELLING A HOME
When marketing their house, sellers should consider themselves small-business owners who have one product to sell, said Riordan, of Spade and Archer Design Agency. It's also important to understand that the buyer is the customer. "And in order to make a sale, you must make the experience comfortable and easy for the customer," Riordan said. "It can be little things like leaving the heat or air conditioning on in the house so that your buyer is not freezing or burning up while they are in the space."
KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
It's also critical to understand the dynamics of where your home is located, said Lucas Machado, president of House Heroes. "For example, adding a fourth bedroom to your home when you live in a college town might not increase value at all. Luxury finishings in a regular neighborhood can appear out of place. Installing a poolin a popular rental neighborhood or in a multi-family might scare off prospective landlords," Machado said. "Prior to fixing up a property, look around the neighborhood to see what renovations fit in."
PREP WORK IS THE SAME FOR A BUYER'S OR A SELLER'S MARKET
Depending on where you live, you may be in a buyer's or seller's market right now. But the prep work required to sell a property is the same, Riordan said. "A buyer's market and a seller's market are no different from each other when it comes to preparing your home for sale. If you want the most the existing market will bear, the house must be prepared and priced properly." Riordan suggests such key tasks as fixing or repairing all glaring defects, replacing or updating out-of-date finishing, and professionally staging your home.
PRICE SLIGHTLY UNDER MARKET TO ATTRACT MULTIPLE OFFERS
After properly preparing your house, have a real estate professional provide a comparative market analysis, including a suggested price range for the asking price, Riordan said. Then choose the lower end of the range your real estate professional recommends. "Like starting a feeding frenzy for sharks, one must place some bait in the water. Your slightly under market asking price is just the thing to do the trick," Riordan said.
DON'T LET YOUR EMOTIONS GET IN THE WAY
When you've lived in a home for years or put a lot of money into renovating a property, it can be hard to remain emotionally unattached during sale price negotiations with prospective buyers, said Fred McGill, an agent and co-founder of SimpleShowing. "You put in blood, sweat and tears," McGill said. "You remember what the home was like before and the amazing difference today. Buyers however, don't have this same perspective." Buyer's see what the home looks like today and will compare its price and features to other properties.
MAINTAIN YOUR SANITY
Between the constant cleanup; negative comments from prospective buyers, and offers that fall through, selling can be a stressful process, said Basher of Modular Closets. "Perhaps take a little break and head to a local hotel with the family for a staycation during an open house weekend," Basher suggested. "Or keep clean-up simple and easy by adding decorative baskets, bins and storage benches that allow for quick pick up of shoes, toys, books, athletic gear, electronics, and other items without having to find a specific spot for each item."