As the real estate market continues to improve, potential buyers are coming out in droves.
Low mortgage rates, a stronger economy and the spring season, when more homes are put up for sale, are helping to drive demand.
In some parts of the nation, demand now exceeds supply. And many homes are being purchased within days, if not hours, of going on the market.
If buyers aren't competing for your newly listed home, could it be that it's not dressed to impress?
"Boomers and older folks always have a much harder time selling their homes. It takes them longer because they're often not aware how much work a home needs to get ready for showing," says Barbara Corcoran, a host of ABC's Shark Tank, who parlayed a $1,000 loan into a $5 billion real estate empire.
Beyond getting a great Realtor with expertise in your area, competitive pricing and the much ballyhooed "staging" and removing clutter, what else can you do to make your home stand out from others for a quicker sale? Here are some lesser-known tips from the experts:
1. Price with round numbers
In reviewing a year of sales in the Houston area, Realtor Jim Mulholland finds that homes listed at or just above "00" sold in about 2-1/2 weeks compared with 4 weeks for properties with "99." His reasoning: "If I'm a consumer looking in the $300K to $400K price range, there's a good chance I will completely miss some very nice homes listed at $299K."
2. Don't skimp on photos
As the most valued feature of real estate websites, photographs of the home turn lookers into visitors. So make them count. "You can't have too many photos as long as they're great, but have at least six," says Corcoran. She suggests hiring professionals who specialize in photographing homes. "It's best not to have a Realtor shoot them," she adds.
The shoot should be done on a sunny day, after curtains are removed. You should also tell the photographer about your favorite views or your home's best features, suggests Patricia Pipkin of the National Association of Realtors. You'll want to review photos before they're posted, but they should include an exterior front, main living area, kitchen, bedrooms and master bath.
3. Storage space sells
Roomy closets and other storage space ranks among today's most desired features, especially with younger people who typically buy boomers' homes. "Problem is," notes Debra Carney-Schoepe, a Realtor in the Philadelphia suburbs, "many boomers live in older homes with limited storage space. So remove excess seasonal clothing from closets and 'color-code' what's left on the sides to make small spaces look larger and more organized — with empty hangers in the middle."
Shelving units or organizers in walk-in closets are a fast-growing must-have — and worth their $200 price tag. Also, pare down kitchen cabinets and remove drain cleaners and other products that may indicate potential problems.
4. Know the eight-second rule
In that time, many buyers decide whether they'll buy the home, says Corcoran. For better curb appeal, ensure that the lawn and entryway look neat and crisp. And plant yellow flowers. Studies show that yellow excites and stimulates buying, says Carney-Schoepe.
5. Get an appraisal and inspection
Two big reasons why deals fall through: A lender-required appraisal is lower than the buying price, and unexpected and potentially costly problems are discovered in a buyer's inspection. The inspection lets buyers know about potential problems "and what could be negotiated," says Pipkin. If these reports are positive, then showing them to prospective buyers can be a great marketing tool.
6. Painting pays
Fresh paint provides the best bang for your buck, so apply a fresh coat to walls and even ceilings. Bright white ceilings enhance perceived height and natural light. For wall colors, visit new neighborhood developments and see what colors and finishes are being used. Then copy those in your home, says Corcoran.
7. Offer a financial goody bag
Many sellers offer to prepay taxes or closing costs. But it may cost less to offer to pay for a year's landscaping, pool cleaning or maid service — before negotiations begin. "If you have a great garden, people respond to it … and immediately think, 'Oh, so much work,'" says Corcoran. "So remove any potential problem by offering up front to make that beautiful garden come with a gardener for a year."
8. Consider add-ons to stand out
If you're trying to sell in a competitive area, you could drop your price for a quicker sale. Real estate investor and professional flipper Mike LaCava, who founded the online House Flipping School near Boston, has another strategy. "To make a home stand out from the pack, I install features desired by today's younger buyers — such as a wall-mounted flat-screen TV and/or a wine cooler. It may cost about $1,000 or so, but for homes that are competitively priced, it often can mean a faster sale than your neighbor's house. And time is money — especially in real estate."
Sid Kirchheimer is the author of Scam-Proof Your Life, published by AARP Books/Sterling. He writes the Scam Alert column for AARP.
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