Getting into the Minds of Today’s Buyers

I would describe today’s real estate market for most of our area as ‘transitional.’   That is, we’ve shifted from a very strong buyer’s market back towards a more balanced, healthy level of activity.  Tax credits and low interest rates have spurred high buyer activity.   But very low inventory has created frustration amongst those ready, willing, and able buyers.  After all, the real estate market is like any other market: supply vs. demand.

But today’s buyers, despite having less negotiating leverage than they did just a year or two ago, are very different than the buyers of 2005, or even the buyers of 2000; they are jaded.  They’ve seen a lot: They’ve seen friends take the plunge and lose tens of thousands, or even more, in equity very quickly.  They’ve read for years now about people getting swindled in their mortgage terms and losing their homes.  They’ve read about money pits.  And they aren’t going to make the same mistake.   They want the perfect house, and they want it in perfect condition, at a fair price. So how can sellers get into the heads of today’s changed buyers and get their home sold quickly without breaking the bank?

This was the subject of Moving.Com’s article “How to Think Like a Buyer When Selling Your Home.” The tips are basic, yet critical and the underlying theme is the same: Try not to think of the property as your ‘home’ anymore…it’s an asset that you are trying to sell for the highest price, in the shortest amount of time, with a minimum amount of hassle. Realtors are skilled in helping you think this way (why do you think we always switch from calling it “your home” to “your property” after it’s been listed for sale?)

I’m quoted in the article a few times for some of the ideas I practice with my sellers (depending on the situation, of course.)

It’s so difficult for a seller to put themselves in a buyer’s shoes. I always encourage my sellers to go with me to view the ‘competition’ – buyers are going to be comparing their home against similar ones nearby, so they need to see first hand what’s out there. Still, sellers often think “but my house is different” so one thing I recommend in that case is to hire a third party for their opinion—not theirs, and not mine as the agent’s. For example, have a pre-inspection so that an inspector can calmly describe what will be seen as defects in the house, and have a pre-sale appraisal for an independent fact-based presentation on what the home is worth versus its competition. Finally, having a professional stager brought in to describe how to ‘neutralize’ the house so that a buyer can envision themselves living there is key

If you’re thinking of selling your Northern Virginia or Washington, DC, home, and you need advice on how to get the highest price, in the shortest amount of time, with a minimum amount of hassle, call us.
More Resources:

Choosing a Listing Agent

Marketing Your Home

Automated Reports: How Much is My Home Worth?

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What Do I Need to Do To Get Ready To Sell My Home This Spring?

Spring is coming early to the DC area. Buyers are out there! Low prices, low rates, and the imminent expiration of the $8000 first time home buyer credit have them circling and looking for the right property, in the right condition, for the right price. And for those properties that are positioned and marketed properly, this could be your best shot at a smooth and quick transaction.  But putting your home on the market takes a significant amount of preparation.

The first 30 days your home is on the market is absolutely critical, because those buyers who are circling will come look—once—and if your property is not exactly right then they will just continue their circling, and likely will never return to your property. You will anxiously watch the days on market tick up, and the price tick down.  Buyers ARE buying, but they expect a property to be in pristine condition right out of the gate.

To catch the biggest buyer waves, typically you should plan on putting your home on the market in March or April. This year, however, I think there’s a very strong argument to go out early for the reasons outlined above—buyers ARE out there.  However, you can’t just throw your home into the MLS and expect the buyers to pounce.

Here’s a short list of things you should be doing now to get your home ready:

* De-clutter. I can’t stress this enough. If it’s not something you use every day, get it out of sight. Put away out of season clothing. No collections of knick-knacks, no personal photos, no college degrees or awards. You want the buyer to be able to imagine themselves in the property, and trust me, buyers are easily distracted by your personal items. Don’t pile things into closets and cabinets—buyers look there too. Get things out of the property and into storage if you have to. Same for extra furniture pieces. Less is more.
* Paint & Clean. A fresh coat of paint does wonders, and is cheap. And clean like you’ve never cleaned before, especially the kitchen and bath.
* Make all minor repairs. The buyer is going to make you do them anyway and it will be cheaper for you to do it now.
* Start monitoring the market, both broadly and in your specific neighborhood. Pricing is absolutely critical, and you need to be realistic. Work with an agent to start getting property updates now.

When you’re ready to put your home on the market:

* Consult a stager. I hire both an interior stager and an exterior landscape consultant for  my listings. They look at your property with fresh eyes and have extensive training in how to create a neutral, yet welcoming canvas for buyers.
* Photos, photos, photos. Buyers start their search on the internet, and if you don’t have photos they will skip your house completely. Use professional photographers, or at a minimum, a wide-angle lens if you (or your agent) insist on taking them personally.
* If your home has unique features, consider how to best market them. For example, if the house has an unusual floorplan or is bigger than it looks, consider including professionally drawn floorplans in with the photos. (I do this for some of my listings.)

If you’re interested in hearing more about how to get your home ready, or want to learn more about the home selling process, contact us for an appointment.