How to sell your home fast in a buyer's market
As everyone should know by now, the housing market has tanked. The down market is discussed on the news, in our local and national papers, and is a popular topic for personal finance and investment blogs. A quick search of pfblogs.org returned more than 1,400 results for “housing market”.
Believe it or not, depending on where you live, it’s still possible to sell your home fast even in a buyer’s market. The trick is to make it better looking, easier to buy and easier to move into than anyone else’s home in the market. I’ve learned this through having our house on the market for more than 2 months now.
We are fortunate enough to live in one of the areas of the country where housing prices are actually still increasing in value. The market has declined like the rest of the country, but not near as much. Even better, our neighborhood is the hottest selling one in our area as well, averaging 2-3 sales per month. When we put our home on the market, there were 17 homes for sale. There are now only 11. Price wise, our house is on the low side.
Our house needs work??
One of the most frequent comments we received when we first placed out home on the market was that it required too much work. What?? Our house was lived in, but in my opinion didn’t require that much work. A few weeks later our real estate agent held an open house for other agents. The main feedback? Our house needed a lot of work.
See, in today’s buyer’s market there are way more houses available to sellers than there would be in a normal market. Therefore they have far more homes to choose from. After all, why buy our home which needed quit a few repairs when they could go right down the street and buy a similar home in immaculate condition for the same price?
Fortunately for us, we had some decent equity in our home and were able to use that along with some savings to make repairs. We did the following things to make our house more marketable, competitive and appealing:
- Replaced our roof – Our house had the original roof which was now 15 years old and it was looking like it was 25 years old. See, here in the south, we have this annoying mold that grows on north facing roofs. It’s black and spreads almost as fast as kudzu. It really made an already old and worn roof look horrible. Fortunately for us, we had a huge hailstorm a month or so earlier that caused a decent amount of damage to the roof. As a result, our roof only cost us our insurance deductible of $500.00.
- Repaired all rotten wood – We had a contractor come in and replace all of the rotten wood on our house. Unfortunately for us water had slowly seeped into our chimney and rotted it from the inside out. It was literally about to fall over the day the guys came to work on it. They pretty much rebuilt it replacing 80% of the wood. Fortunately the main structure was dry.
- Repainted the exterior – We had the same company that did the wood repair work paint the house. This included the shutters and cement floor of the front porch. Funny thing about exterior paint, you don’t really realize how bad it looks until you put some fresh paint over it. Total cost for repainting and wood repair: $6500.00.
- Repainted the interior – With the exception of our daughter’s room and our kitchen, my wife and I repainted the entire interior of the house. That included our double story foyer (I hate heights). Repainting made a huge difference. Per our real estate agents recommendation, we used all neutral colors. Total cost: $350.00. This included paint, drop clothes, brushes and rollers.
- Replaced the carpet – With 6 kids, our carpet had seen better days. Not to mention the color we had chose some years earlier was too light and showed dirt really bad. Not to mention, painting made the carpet look even worse. We chose a medium grade “light coffee” colored carpet and a basic padding. Fortunately Lowe’s was running a $199.00 installation deal for the whole house. Total cost for 1800 square foot of carpet: $5000.00.
- Power wash – I borrowed my father in-laws power washer and power-washed everything but my kids and our dogs. I washed our back deck, front walkway and driveway. Funny thing, you don’t really realize how dirty these things are either until you blow some high pressure water on them. Wow, what am amazing difference. Total cost: sore back and hands for a few days and cost of water.
- De-cluttered – We rented a self storage facility for about $100.00/month. We then went through the house top to bottom removing any and all personal belongings not absolutely necessary. This included family pictures, nick nacks, anything on the floors, furniture, boxes, storage bins, etc, etc. Remove some of the furniture made the house look bigger. Removing everything else just made it look cleaner, roomier and newer. Cost: lots of trips back and forth to storage.
- Minor repairs – Our house had lots of little things that weren’t working or halfway repaired. These were all repaired and completed. This included finishing up a storage area we had started, installing a few new interior lamps, replacing all light bulbs, installing a new vinyl floor in our laundry room, and repairing lots of molding that had been banged up over the years. Total cost: Few hundred dollars
- Cleaned and Cleaned – Once everything was repaired, the new carpet was in and everything was done, we cleaned. Then we cleaned some more. It’s amazing how much dust various areas in your home can collect over the years. We cleaned windows, windows sills, dusted, swept and mopped floors, scrubbed molding, tubs, floors, walls and even cleaned out the garage! It looks amazing now. The hard part with 6 kids is keeping it that way!
Doing all of this was expensive. All in all we put about $15,000 into our house just to prepare it to be sold. To compensate, we did raise the price by $10,000 to be in line with a few other listings that were comparable. My big concern was that we had put so much money into it and would get such a lower offer it might bite into our equity a little too much.
Doing all of this was very time consuming. We spent every weekend and many weeknights working on our home. My wife did a ton of work during the day too while I worked at the office. My Dad even came over one day and helped us paint. I’m not sure how many hours we put into it, but I would guess it was more than 80 all together.
Unfortunately for us, we finished up the repairs after school started. Once school starts the number of buyers goes down. Before school we had 3 weekends straight with people coming to see our home. Since school started we’re lucky to have 1. So far no offers, but the feedback we’ve received from the 2-3 people that have seen it since was very favorable. They all love the house, but for one reason or another, the floor plan just wasn’t what they wanted. Floor plans are a little harder to fix than I’m up for!
The only thing we haven’t done is offer incentives. Many sellers are offering to pay closing costs, pay for points, giving cash incentives, and even going to extremes. We haven’t done this yet and honestly I don’t think we’re going to need to. We spoke with our agent over the weekend and she is very confident our home will be sold soon and hopefully within the next 30 days. I’m not as convinced as she is, but I sure hope she’s right!
How to sell your home in a buyer’s market
So the big question is, how to sell your home in a buyer’s market? The answer isn’t really all that hard if you are in an area of the country that’s selling. Walk outside and stand in your driveway. Look at your home through the eyes of a buyer. Would you buy your home? If not, why not? Make a list and begin working on the list. You may have to put a decent amount of money into to make it sell ready as I did.
But what if you’re in a market that’s not selling? Well, unfortunately I have no wise words for you. Just make your house as sell ready as possible and be patient. The housing market will return…right?