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HOW TO SELL HOMES IN A "SELLER'S MARKET"

You might  think that’s a stupid thing to write a blog about, I mean, it’s a seller’s market, homes are selling fast, and that’s right, they are.  For example, this is a recent statement from a realtor: “I list my properties and in a few days I have multiple offers, sometimes over list.”   “That’s great.” I thought to myself, then I went to their website to see how soon it would be before the private jet was on order.   Lo and behold, there were only two homes listed at that website and they were both listed as contingent.  You might think that is great, but what that tells me is that there is no active listing right now. 

In a market like this you are not competing for buyers, you are competing for sellers.  That’s right, in fact, I have personally received several postcards and letters in the mail asking if I’m planning to sell my home – I’m not, by the way.  You see, if you have nothing to sell, it doesn’t matter how many buyers there are out there, you’re not making any money.   

One realtor told me recently that the inventory which normally is enough to last several

months now is lasting 10 – 30 days.  In other words, there just aren’t enough properties to sell.  There are almost more buyers than there are properties.  But you know what else can be said, there are almost more realtors than there are properties. 

So, the question is, why would someone list their home with you.  After all, they probably only have one home to sell, maybe two if they have a vacation rental. It’s very important to them to get every last penny they can out of their property.

How do you get your listings?  Now some of you work with a builder or developer and have a steady stream of homes to sell, but for those realtors who rely on existing home sales – I have a question, how do you get your listings?   Probably one of two ways: marketing and referrals. 

Let’s talk first about referrals.  Are your previous clients your biggest fans?  Are they sharing with their friends all the expert advice you gave them and all the experts you put them in touch with?  Are they raving about all you did to sell their home?  Or are they questioning the fact that since it sold so fast, maybe they could have asked more?  Are they saying “He just put it on the internet and put a sign in the yard”?  The biggest, I mean biggest complaint I hear about realtors – and believe me I hear complaints – is “He didn’t really DO anything to sell my house.”  How many sellers is that person sending to you?

When a seller is considering you as their realtor most likely they are going to visit your

website and view your recent sales.  Are they seeing homes that are unkept or worse yet, empty?  Or are they seeing homes that are professionally staged? No, I’m not talking about telling the home owner to “declutter” and “depersonalize” and “throw a blanket and tray on the bed”.  I’m referring to being professionally staged by someone trained in the art of guiding the eye with color, about scale and perspective, about furniture arrangement, about first impression and focal points and about creating those connection spots that makes a buyer say; “I can see myself here”.    What I see

when I go to your websites or view your listings on MLS is to me very sad.   I see potential money left on the table, I don’t care if it sold in hours and over asking, did you even bring in the right clients with the photos of vacant or unkept rooms?   Most sellers are willing to spend money to prepare their home for sale, they just don’t know what to do.  Not only is it sad for the seller, it’s sad for you the realtor, you are not excelling in your field, or boosting your professional reputation if you are not even suggesting a $250 professional staging consultation (yes that’s all I charge for a realtor referred consult).  It takes so little to take your business to the next level, but it could mean the world to you and to your clients if you do. 

Moral of the story – think of each listing as a precious gift because it is.  Someone is trusting you with their home, they are trusting in your knowledge and expertise.  Make sure you’re doing everything possible for them even if you know it will sell fast, make it sell well.

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOESN'T MEAN YOU SHOULD

Nobody likes some good chicken wings more than I do.  I’m happy to go to an establishment, pick up a basket of wings and some fries at the counter, sit on a hard wooden bench, and eat with my fingers.  Yum….. But, when my husband wants to do something special for me, he takes me to a nice restaurant, like we did for my last birthday.  We pulled up in front of the entrance, got out of the car and handed the keys to the valet, walked inside and was greeted by a well-dressed maître d’ who led us to our table.  He held my chair as I was seated.  The lighting was soft, enhanced by the candle flickering on the table.  There was music playing quietly and everyone spoke in hushed tones.  The linens were crisp and neatly placed all around the sparkling stemware and china.  When our food came it was plated beautifully complete with garnish.  The wait staff was very attentive, making sure our beverage glasses were always full and warm bread was always available.  They even cleaned crumbs off the table so as to keep our surroundings looking pristine.  When the desert was served there was extra strawberry compote under my cheesecake to enhance the presentation.  When we were about to leave they called ahead and our valet had our car waiting.  We paid about 10 times more for that meal than we ever would if we had gone for wings, although we probably didn’t eat any more, maybe even less. Why? The experience, the surroundings and the service made the occasion extra special.


What does this have to do will selling real estate?  I’m so glad you asked.  People buy houses everyday, people buy chicken wings everyday.  Nothing wrong with either, you can throw chicken wings in a basket and a lot of people will buy them.  You can throw a house on MLS and there are people who will buy it.  But just because you “can” doesn’t mean you “should”.


As a realtor you may have many homes to sell, the more you sell the more you make, so you may look at your business like a wings business.  But think about what you could have.  You could be the premier home seller, making the occasion extra special.   Sure it’s going to take more time, it’s going to take more effort and attention to detail but it’s all about the experience and how you want to feel about your business and how you want others to perceive it.


Think about other agents, are they going to take their clients to tour homes that are presented like chicken wings in a basket or are they going to your listings because they are always served with the best presentation?  Do they want to waste their client’s time as well as theirs or are they going to show your listings first.


Think about the seller, how many homes do they have to sell?  Do they look at their property as a chicken wing or a five-star meal?  Do they want an agent who is going to throw it in a basket or serve it on fine china?  Do they get the attentive wait staff or do they get the “pick up your meal at the counter” service? 


And finally, think about the home buyer, are they going to walk into your listing and say “eh, just like the house down the street” or are they going to say “this is something extra special”?  It’s about the experience.  It’s about how they feel when they visit your listing.  


Stop and think for a minute, all of the candle light, soft music and table linens did nothing to change the food, neither did the presentation on the plate.  But I’m still talking about that meal almost a year later, and, as much as I like wings, I can’t tell you the last time I had some or where it was.  There’s a lot of wings places out there, you can get ‘em on a moment’s notice, but a five-star restaurant has a waiting list.   There’s a lot of agents out there…

Are you afraid to hire a stager or redesigner?

It’s ok, you can admit it, we won’t tell anyone. Many people have a fear of the unknown. Doing something never done before takes us out of our comfort zone. My hope is that you will feel a little more comfortable after reading this.


Why people fear staging or redesign:

  • Lack of knowledge about the process
  • Lack of history and experience working with a stager or designer
  • Worry it will take too long and cost too much
  • Fear of losing control

Allow me to ease your fears. At Linda’s Elegant Staging and Redesign, we start every process with a consultation. For the purpose of staging, the client is involved in determining what items will be used and what items will be “prepacked” for the move. Because many clients live in their homes during the selling process, and people don’t live in staged homes, careful consideration is made to ensure the family is able to function normally during this time. Many times, after the consultation the homeowners are able to take our suggestions and complete much if not all of the staging themselves. However, if our services are utilized, we are conscience of time and budget.


When it comes to the design process the consultation is even more important because the design process is collaborative. Once goals and expectations are clearly understood clients are walked through a step-by-step process. Projects can be broken down room by room and services are charged for in a clear-cut way. Clients are completely in control and are able to schedule projects as time and budget allow.


At Linda’s Elegant Staging and Redesign our goal is to help you love and make you more comfortable in your home even if you are in the process of selling. We also endeavor to make the process comfortable.  

See, now don’t you feel better?

“Furnished” Doesn’t Mean “Staged”

Did you ever experience someone, maybe a friend or family member, after they’ve bought a new house or simply acquired new furniture, they move the items around several times until they decided where they should be placed to function properly and still look pleasing? When you think about the fact that the vast majority of people cannot visualize furniture placement in an empty room the idea of people moving couches and tables around several times isn’t surprising. What is surprising is after witnessing something like this first hand real estate agents will still list an empty house. Now it isn’t difficult to explain “this is the dining area” or “this is the family room” and many times those distinctions are obvious, but not always.

 

Furnishing a room is important, especially when a space’s use isn’t as clearly defined. It also is important to give the room dimension and scale, especially in photos.   But furnishing a house isn’t enough. Why is staging necessary? Let’s talk about what staging actually is.

 

Where else in life have you heard the word stage? Well, it’s probably when you went to see a play or a concert. Items are placed on the stage to set the mood. For a rock concert not only are instruments and speakers set up for optimal sound, but visual effects are placed, a back drop to identify the band and many times a light show to enhance the experience.

 

Now let’s think about a play. Items are placed on the stage to set the scene. You wouldn’t set up a street scene with street lights and store fronts if you wanted the audience to picture a family sitting in their living room watching a movie.  You also wouldn’t create a castle backdrop with stone walls and suits of armor if the play takes place in 1960’s San Francisco.  In other words, the way the stage is set communicates a great deal non-verbally.

 

Now let’s apply that to the house you are attempting to sell. The way the stage is set communicates a great deal non-verbally. This applies to both positive and negative perceptions. Let’s say the 4th bedroom is being used by the homeowners as a walk-in closet. OK, people do that, but chances are somebody touring a 4 bedroom home is looking for a 4 bedroom home, so that makeshift closet needs to be staged as a bedroom, or at least an office with a day bed. The makeshift closet also conveys to the buyer that there isn’t enough closet space in this home. Lot’s of non-verbal communicating going on.


We agree, then, that furnishings communicate quite a bit about a home, but how is staging different? I’m glad you asked. Furnishings say “anyone can use this room as a family room”. Staging says “this is where I can sit with my honey and watch a movie.”  Furnishings say “Oh, look, this kitchen has a breakfast bar”. Staging says “I can picture my kids sitting here at this bar helping me decorate cookies, or talking to me while I make dinner.”

 

This is why it’s important to have the home professionally staged. Professional home stagers are trained and experienced in helping the homeowners rearrange, declutter and maximize appeal by “setting the stage” in the home. Why leave it up to chance? Work with a professional home stager to provide guidance and resources for your clients so they can get the greatest return on what is probably their biggest investment, their home.

Why Stage a $200K Home?

One word – competition. That should suffice but that would also suffice in making this the shortest blog ever, so let me explain. At a recent networking meeting I was talking with a real estate agent who said most of her listings were 2 – 300K and there’s not much of a call to stage those homes, the clients really don’t have the money to stage. To that I replied – oh contrare.


First of all a client who is selling a home in that price range probably has a smaller margin for error, in other words, they need to get every penny possible out of their property. We know from a 2007 Home Gain Survey of over 2000 realtors that sellers who invested in staging services recovered over 343% of that cost in the sale of their home. They are also probably in a situation that they can’t afford to have the property sit on the market a long time. According to a National Association of Realtors survey, homes that sold after four weeks on the market sold for 6% less than ones within the first four weeks!


Second thing to consider – there are a lot of homes bought and sold in that price range and if an agent wants it to be their listings that are the ones selling the agent needs to ask themselves “what am I doing to make my listings stand out from the crowd?”  I did some research yesterday, 3/24/2017 and went to Realtor.com, searched for the Asheville NC zip code and pulled listings for recently sold, then I filtered by price range. This is an exercise you can do any time for any zip code. These were the results:


$0 – $250K          750 – 49%

$250 – $400K     455 – 30%

$400K – $600     205 – 13%

$600K – $900K   79 – 5%

$900K – $1.2M  27 – 2%

$1.2M – $3M     15 – 1%


Almost half of the homes recently sold were $250K or less. How many of those properties were your listings?

Third and final point that I want to make is – you may have several listings in your business, but chances are, a client selling a home in the 2 – 300K range has only this one property they are selling. To you, it’s not a big hit to reduce the price $5K, $10K or even $20K to get the property sold, but to the property owner even a $5K reduction is a really big deal. How much better would it be for you, the real estate professional to say, “Hey, let’s do this, your home has been on the market a while, before we are forced to reduce the list price to get it sold, why don’t we consult with a professional home stager, we’ll take some new photos and generate some new interest. “   A consultation for that type of property would cost less than 1/10 of 1% of the list price and a full staging could cost as little as 50% of the first price reduction*. Keep in mind that stagers often have a wide range of services that can fit into even the smallest budget.  Staging just a couple rooms can make enough of an impact to attract buyers. The best case scenario is to have the home staged before it’s placed on the market but it’s never too late to make improvements.


Suggesting a staging consultation to your client adds to your credibility. It demonstrates extra effort on your part and it’s even been known to happen that a bidding war takes place and the property sells for above listing.  How big of a hero would you be in that case?


Linda Harris

Linda’s Elegant Staging and Redesign

*For a complete list of services and fees, contact us @ 724-712-8824

People don’t live in staged homes.

Think about that for a second…..People don’t “LIVE” in “STAGED” homes. It’s important for a homeowner to understand this so they are not offended when a real estate professional suggests that some changes need to be made to the home before it’s placed on the market. That doesn’t mean that the home owner doesn’t have good taste. Many times home stagers will use items already in the home. In that case all that needs to happen is items need to be rearranged. What works perfectly for a person living in the home does not always photograph well. Professional stagers understand scale and color and how it can affect the photos in the listing. In a consultation with a professional stager the homeowner is instructed what to do with their own furnishings for the best results.


Staging doesn’t mean simply “depersonalizing”.  It is true that what makes a house “homey” for the home owner will not always connect with a prospective buyer, but removing all those items can also have a negative effect. Taking personal items out without replacing them can make the house feel “cold” and “sterile”. A professional home stager knows what items to use to place the warmth and heart back into the home.  After the initial consultation, a professional home stager can either suggest items to add to the décor, or can actually provide shopping service to acquire the needed items.


Here are some DO’s and DON’T’s regarding home staging:


DON’T have photos taken before a consultation with a stager. Did you know that according to the National Association of Realtors over 95% of homebuyers are ONLINE looking at photos of the homes FIRST, before they decide to drive by and visit? A certified professional home stager can optimize the appearance of every room and not only recommend the best angle and arrangement of furnishings for the photo, but can actually take the photos for the listing.


DON’T assume home staging is expensive. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average staging investment is between 1 and 3 percent of the home’s asking price, which generates a return of 8 to 10 percent. In a 2007 Home Gain Survey of over 2000 realtors, it was discovered that sellers who invested in staging services for their home, recovered over 343% of the cost in the sale of their home. According to a National Association of Realtors survey, homes that sold after four weeks on the market sold for 6% less than ones within the first four weeks!


Don’t be in a position where you have to lower your price. Have the house staged first!


Don’t list an empty house. USA Today reported in a Coldwell Banker survey of over 2800 homes that the staged homes, on average, sold in half the time that the non-staged homes did. Only 10% of home buyers can visualize the potential of a home and without furnishings there is nothing to give perspective and dimension to a space.


DO work with a certified professional home stager. There are some stagers who do this as a hobby, but you can only be assured of the best results from a certified professional home stager.