According to the latest data, homes are going under contract at their fastest pace in nine years, and there is not enough inventory on the market to fill the needs of buyers. Combining these two factors, you get a supply and demand relationship that could be extremely favorable for home sellers.
If you haven’t sold a house in the past decade, brace yourself. Today’s buyers are demanding. They’re savvier about market dynamics and data and want to see houses on their own schedule. Buyers want access to your house when it works for them.
Some things in your favor: Low interest rates are your friend too. Buyers know that rock-bottom mortgages can’t last forever. If interest rates start to tick up, there could well be a rush to buy. On the other hand, if rates go up too far, that will almost certainly dampen prices. As a buyer’s monthly payment goes up with rising rates, something’s got to give—and that’s likely your home price. In other words, sellers: If you snooze, you may well lose.
The dilemma most sellers face is whether to buy a new place at the same time. In general, it’s smarter to sell before you buy—there’s nothing worse than having to carry two mortgages at once. You may be able to rent your house from the buyer for a few months, or at least find a short-term rental elsewhere. The one thing you don’t want to do is try to buy a new place with the contingency that you have to sell your old place first. Nothing kills a deal faster, especially if you’re up against other Buyers.
Fix any problems before you list the house, despite the out-of-pocket costs. First-time homebuyers in particular don’t want to come in and do a ton of work. They’re making a huge financial commitment and don’t want a money pit. You don’t want the buyer to have the inspection, and back out because the list of repairs is overwhelming.
Pricing right is an art these days. The last thing you want to do is accidentally list too high out of the gate. Not only does it require cutting the price—in many cases to less than the estimated value—but it also means more time on the market. It’s not like the old days where you put in a 10% price buffer. People are savvier, and many agents won’t even show a house if it’s overpriced.” According to Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, a house that is priced right will sell in about half the time of one that is overpriced.
Another reason to price right: traffic. In the first week a listing goes on the market, it gets four times as many visits as a month later. Moreover, if you do end up dropping your price it sends a signal to buyers that you’ll come down more.
To help you arrive at a price, your agent should show you comparable active, pending, and recently sold (in the past three-six months) listings and sales. The most recently sold and the ones that are pending are the best. They’ll show you how quickly houses are selling in your market, how close they are going to asking price, and more. But data can tell buyers only so much. The computer can’t see the inside of the house and it can’t see if your house has a view.
Ten years ago it was mostly upper-end sellers (and maybe desperate ones) who went to the trouble to “stage” their home. Now, the idea that you need to clean out your closets, clear off the counters, take down your photos, and pare down the furniture and accessories is Real Estate 101. That said, you don’t need to hire anyone (though you may need to find someplace to store all your stuff). Two areas not to forget: the entrance (that expression about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression is true) and the bathrooms.
You need an agent who can develop a full-blown marketing plan. People are doing so much more research ahead of time, going through listings online, and weeding out properties before they see them. That’s especially true of millennial first-time buyers, who have grown up with information on demand.
And a top-flight agent can help pay for himself. Studys have shown that listings with photos taken by a professional got 61% more view. If your photos capture an interested buyer it can help boost their interest and help drive traffic to your listing.