Spring is going to come early to the DC area.
No, not the weather (well, I hope so, but we'll see.) I mean the Spring real estate market. Buyers are out there, even now. Low prices, low rates, and the imminent expiration of the $7500 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 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. Your first chance is your best chance.
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, and if everything is crowded they thing there won't be enough room for their things. Get things out of the property and into storage if you have to. Same for extra furniture pieces. Less is more. Doing this right takes weeks (or for some people, months). Start now!
- 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. Don’t get stuck chasing the market down. 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 all of 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 you have photos of the exterior of the home during Spring or Summer, consider using them to show your yard in its greenest state.
- 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.) Using an agent that has worked with a lot of buyers might help in this area--they know what buyers want and how they react. (That's not to say that you should use an agent that engages in dual agency, that is, where they will represent both the buyer and the seller in a same transaction. I feel VERY strongly that using a dual agent is a TERRIBLE idea, but that's a subject for another post.)
If you’re interested in hearing more about how to get your home ready, or want to learn more about the home selling process, register for my free home seller class, or just contact me for an appointment. The market is still very volatile, and the story complex. Contact me if you're interested in an in-depth view of market conditions in your neighborhood.
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