By Ozzie Jurock
Oh my. Oh my. The market is turning. The market is crashing, the depression is coming, terrible things will befall us. That is the content of some email I am receiving. And ... yes the market is turning, yes pre-sales and the whole new condo market has stalled, yes listings are higher and sales are down 28 per cent.
Percentages matter not. So, the sales volume is off by 28 per cent. So what? The key in any market - good or bad - is to get your property placed into the 72 per cent which sell now. There is no good nor bad market, only a good or bad deal you personally make. All good marketing efforts begin life as a sound, basic plan and then evolve to fit the particular property and situation. Cut from whole cloth and then tailor-made, such a plan will incorporate innovative new ideas and "rearrange" old ones.
Here then, are a few of these ideas:
1. Most important: Interview and select a quality Realtor, from two or three recommended ones. Have them make a market evaluation - in writing - and an action plan on how best to market your property. Go see all the comparables used in the evaluation. Pick the Realtor whose comparables and action plan makes the most sense to you. Get somebody who knows your neighborhood intimately and who's enthusiastic about your home. That also means someone other agents want to work with; someone who's too abrasive or who isn't trustworthy won't help your cause. Insist on weekly contact ... even if there is 'nothing happening'. BE the squeaky wheel.
2. Ensure your home is listed on the Multiple Listing Service. The more exposure, the better. Make sure your home is on the agent's tour/agents open house asap. Make sure you are on mls.ca and the Realtor's website.
3. Price your home right. Yes, we all need and want the best price, as in the highest price, for our abode. But be realistic. Ask yourself: "If I were the buyer, would I pay the price I am asking for this place?" Real Estate is cyclical and we are at the end of this cycle. If you want to sell ... price it just below the competition, not what you 'could have gotten last year'.
4. Create a "Benefit and Feature" sheet for your home. List every good point, every benefit that your property and your neighborhood enjoys. Create a "Pick-Up" Box and augment the realtor's "For Sale" sign with it. Like an open-topped container filled with the above mentioned feature sheets for pick up.
5. Stage your home! Have a professional come in and help. Stand in the doorway to find each room's focal point, and use furniture placement to highlight that. The back of your sofa shouldn't block the view of the fireplace, for example. Remove any extraneous pieces of furniture. "Re-position" them into another room ... or into storage altogether. A wingback chair that's crowding the family room might help create a nice reading nook in the master bedroom.
6. Declutter and then declutter again. Depersonalize and neutralize. The first items that should go in those packing boxes: family photos, collections and just about anything else that says "you." Show the home from its best possible side. Have people see how they would feel if they owned the home. Developers have show suites and show homes for a reason.
7. First impressions do count. Fix up your home but do it with "resale" in mind: take care of the eye-catching areas and don't waste the effort (and money) on the rest. Fix the porch or entrance, that wobbly front step or squeaky door. Repaint the front door, bathrooms and kitchen. Use general (but modern) neutral colors only. Again, don't spend a fortune on the remodeling; you won't get your money back. If any remodeling is done - spend it all in the kitchen and baths. Clean like a fiend. Q-Tip clean!
8. Get rid of the junk. A bright Place is a Happy Place. Clean up the basement areas. Ditto for the stairwells and closets. If you've got too much junk and other indispensable basement stuff piled up, have it stored off-site during the selling period. (It's inexpensive.)
9. Sell the sizzle. Rather than building a suite in the basement, paint the (clean) basement floor and paint the lines of where a bath, an extra bedroom could potentially go. Let the buyer's imagination do the rest. Add lights along the walkway, put big brass house numbers up and a brass mail box on your door. Kick up the curb appeal. Garden gnomes are a no-no. Front landscaping is what the buyer sees first.
10. Have a note on the for sale sign: Call this Number 000-000-0000 for a taped message for price and features of this home. The answering-machine ad lets you list all of the features of your home before stating the price. In turn, offer people who leave their name and number a reason to do so. You'll mail them interior shots of your place or arrange a private showing or something similar. State the date of the next open house.
11. Be with it. Use craigslist.com ... or insist that your realtor uses craigslist.com to market your property. It is the most used bulletin board in the world. Two of our Action Group members used craigslist.com to market four condos they owned in Calgary and had not sold in two months. Craigslist.com found buyers in 48 hours. Also be on any local Internet board available. Most are free. People today surf! It also might attract that foreign buyer.
(For 10 more things to do go to Jurock.com - 21 ways to make your home sell faster.)
Always remember: This is YOUR house we're discussing. You have the right to demand an attentive, professional, upbeat realtor, a person who creates a solid, comprehensive action plan (in writing) and does so in a measurable way (number of showings, numbers of interested buyers, etc.).
A good realtor keeps you informed all the way. A poor realtor won't. Look around you and ask for the best possible result ... but be realistic. Don't demand the impossible. You also have the right to expect that this professional will sell your home as quickly as possible, for the best price in the given market conditions and with the minimum amount of inconvenience.
The realtor has the right to ask you for your help: clean up the yard and space, tie up the dog and hide the dirty laundry (please!).
Insist that your realtor be focused. But be equally as focused. There is no such thing as accidental success. It's always earned and always comes with a price. The price of doing the work of being prepared with a good measurable plan of action is nothing as compared to the maximum price you get for your home.
Finally, to all of you kind people that write to me about the market... Don't worry about the market, worry about your sale or purchase. The best deals are made in tougher markets. As a seller - make sure your property is worked professionally ... and it will sell. As a buyer - we have said it before ... be smart but don't buy under any circumstances without a 'subject to the sale of my current house' clause. You may be stuck with two houses for a while and the pressure will hurt.
Published in The Vancouver Sun, Thursday, June 26, 2008
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