For home sellers, it's still time for celebration. In most popular neighborhoods, available properties remain in short supply. Tight inventories keep selling times short.
“About a third of all houses are selling in a week,” says Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, a national real estate company.
He forecasts that “prices will remain strong but aren’t going to be shooting through the roof as they did last spring or last fall.”
This trend should convince more people to finally let go and put their homes up for sale.
Until now, Kelman says, “it was hard to persuade sellers to put their homes on the market because they thought, 'If we wait one more month, we’ll get more money.'”
With a leveling of the playing field, sharp sellers are becoming more attentive to how they present their properties to the public. This involves a fuller awareness of the preferences and tastes of typical homebuyers.
“It’s amazing how superficial elements of home presentation can have a striking impact,” says Jeff Levine, a real estate analyst and architect in Washington, D.C.
Here are a few pointers for sellers:
-- Think paint colors when prepping your place for sale.
Zillow, a giant Seattle-based real estate firm, commissioned a study of 1,300 recent or prospective U.S. buyers to determine their favorite interior paint colors and how this influenced the prices sellers fetched for a home.
“Interior painting is one of the most common and impactful projects sellers take on,” says Amanda Pendleton, Zillow’s home trends expert.
For sellers, the survey defines several specific color choices that are viewed favorably by most buyers and that increase selling prices. One clear winner was a pale sky-blue bathroom, which increased the perceived value of a typical American home by a remarkable $4,698.
Buyers were also favorable to master bedrooms painted in “dramatic, moody tones” such as forest green or deep charcoal gray, according to the survey. But they liked light neutrals in common areas, such as living and family rooms.
Surprisingly, the trend toward bright blue accent walls and mint kitchens received negative reviews from potential buyers.
-- Consider hiring a home stager to make your place show-worthy.
Staging is the art of transforming a property so potential buyers can visualize themselves living there. Properly done, staging accentuates a home’s attractive features and minimizes its negatives.
Many agents are convinced that hiring a talented stager can increase the odds of selling a property promptly. Working under a full-service contract, most stagers will provide an array of services. They’ll remove excess furniture and personal items and rearrange the remaining pieces. Often, they also supplement the owners’ furnishings with alluring accessories of their own.
Unfortunately, the cost of hiring a professional stager for a full menu of services can exceed $500 or more, says Michelle Minch, the owner of a staging company called Moving Mountains Design (movingmountainsdesign.com).
But Minch says cash-constrained sellers don’t necessarily need the full range of services available through a stager. For a much lower price they can obtain an abbreviated consultation and receive pointers they can execute themselves.
“Tell the stager you just want the 10 top tips for making your house look better. For just an hour or so of consultation time, a good stager can tell you about furniture arrangement and also recommend mild, pleasing paint colors for your walls. You’ll get a road map for making your house move-in ready,” she says.
How can you find a competent stager to work on an “a la carte” basis? Minch suggests you visit the website of the Real Estate Staging Association (realestatestagingassociation.com).
Look for stagers in your area and make sure to check their websites for examples of their work before you give them a call.
-- Request that your listing agent promote your sale with other local pros.
Until recently, fairly priced properties in coveted neighborhoods practically sold themselves, and listing agents had relatively fewer marketing responsibilities. But in the current market, buyers are very gradually gaining power.
One key marketing skill your listing agent can use is to “talk up” your place to other real estate agents who have home-buying clients of their own.
“Strong agents will respond to your request to step up informal marketing of your place by spreading the word. They’ll make personal phone calls to other agents. They’ll also take flyers about your house to their professional meetings and hand them out. This way you should get more people over to visit your house,” says Lisa Atkinson, an agent affiliated with the Residential Real Estate Council (crs.com).
Your listing agent may have done this sort of one-on-one marketing for your property when it was first listed. But if your house has been sitting unsold for longer than you’d like, it might be time to ask your agent to do another round of this informal promotion.
“By alerting other agents to your property, your listing agent will enhance your chances of finding a buyer,” Atkinson says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)