Savvy home sellers compete for customers

A Catoonah Street house currently on the market: Grounds should look neat and tidy, work that should be  done before the house is put on the market and photographed for the Web. —Steve Coulter photo

A Catoonah Street house currently on the market: Grounds should look neat and tidy, work that should be done before the house is put on the market and photographed for the Web. —Steve Coulter photo

Home sellers won’t get a second chance to make a first impression. And that makes staging and pricing important when selling a home in a market where the buyers have an edge.

“It’s not a seller’s market,” said Lonnie Shapiro of Coldwell Banker. “The buyers have more of an edge but it’s not as great as it used to be — their edge is slipping…

“Younger buyers are very difficult and very demanding in this market, so it’s important to have your house in absolute great shape before you put in on the market.”

Ms. Shapiro, who has written two books about home selling in Fairfield County, added that the first viewing of a home is on the Internet, making it essential for sellers to have their homes stick out online.

“The difference between a home that sells and a home that doesn’t sell in today’s market is how it shows online,” she said. “The old saying, ‘you don’t get a second chance at a first impression,’ holds true to showing your house online — it needs to be shown off in the very best light because buyers can look at photos online as long as they want and pick out flaws in and around the house.”

Ms. Shapiro recommends home sellers hire a professional photographer.

While Ms. Shapiro believes sellers should invest in staging in order to get top dollar for their house, other local Realtors say there are other methods home owners can apply without spending a fortune to improve their home before it goes on the market.

Laura Freed-Ancona of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty stresses her clients neutralize their homes so that prospective buyers see a home that is “not personalized” and is “decluttered.”

She adds that doing a lot of the work individually, without professional help, can help save a homeowner money.

“It might not appeal to a broad audience, but people can do their own work before their home goes on the market,” Ms. Freed-Ancona said. “The first impression is obviously most important, but there’s way too much money invested in landscaping and other areas of home improvement — landscaping can be personal. There’s no need to do major exterior renovations unless its completely necessary.

“Presenting the exterior of your house in the strongest and best light involves stuff any home owner can do — mulching, putting in flower pots, trimming the bushes and cutting the lawn.”

Jeanne Rowella, who owns the Gilded Nest in Branchville and teaches a class on staging, also believes neutralizing is a key factor when staging a house for a prospective buyers.

“Before the seller puts the house on the market, they have to neutralize everything — neutral floor, neutral paint color, neutral furniture,” Ms. Rowella said. “The buyers want to do the least amount of work possible and if they see something that they don’t like, they will move on to the next house.”

She believes spending money on staging is worth it for home sellers.

“The buyer’s eye is drawn to a house where everything is updated and fresh, because they don’t want to spend their own money to do the work,” she said.

As for furniture, Ms. Rowella says that homeowners don’t have to go out and buy new furniture to impress prospective buyers. A less expensive solution is to buy slip covers to freshen up what they have and maybe invest in decorations surrounding the furniture, such as pillows.

“You need to give your furniture an update and make it presentable because faded couches can undo everything you’ve done in other areas of the house,” she added.

Ms. Rowella said painting both the interior and exterior of the house is the “best bang for your buck.” She recommends light, neutral colors such as beige or light blue. She tells her clients to avoid yellows, reds and oranges, as well as any dark colors.

Ms. Freed-Ancona agrees that modest changes such as light fixtures,  and paint produce a large return on investment when a home sells.

Ms. Rowella said that 90 to 93% of prospective buyers look up houses online before physically walking on the property, which makes pictures very important. Realtors  can’t “turn around buyers once they’ve been turned off” by pictures they’ve seen online.

Ms. Shapiro recommends paying the cost for a professional photographer, but only once the house is ready to be put on the market.

“It’s almost impossible to reel back a prospective buyer and often times changing out photos is an extra cost that doesn’t yield anything in return,” she said. “Before you have photos taken of your house, get the staging and presentation work done first.”

Preparing a home for presentation is a “six-month process,” Ms. Shapiro said. The first step is to bring out an independent, professional stager to give the house an objective look, she said.

“A pre-home inspection before you do anything can go a really long way, because a professional stager will be critical of what you have and what you don’t have,” Ms. Shapiro said. “This way you know what your house’s flaws are and then it’s your choice on how to improve them or what to do with them.”

Ms. Shapiro, Ms. Freed-Ancona and Ms. Rowella all agree comparables — “what do houses that have sold have?” — are something every home seller should take into consideration before putting their house on the market.

Some of these features include: hardwood floors, updated faucets, granite countertops, roofing, and kitchen cabinets.

“Cabinetry is what separates the men from the boys,” Ms. Shapiro said. “You can’t really go wrong with a bedroom, but a lot of buyers are sold or not sold in the kitchen.”

One popular feature Ms. Shapiro has noticed in homes that have sold are kitchens than open into the family room without any wall or divider.

“Everyone wants their house to be open and bright, and this room can illuminate a lot of space,” she added.

When she shows houses, Ms. Shapiro said, the four most important rooms to prospective buyers are the family room, the master bedroom, the kitchen and the bathrooms.

She added that she usually stages the bedrooms with bedspreads and pillows, but sometimes uses an air mattresses in a vacant rooms so buyers can see how the room looks spatially.

While she acknowledges presentation is key to selling a home, Ms. Freed-Ancona believes that not every house needs additional accessories to sell.

“Staging is important to the process, but sometimes bringing in accessories and additional furniture isn’t what the prospective buyers want to see,” she said. “It depends on the condition of the house — I bring in additional help when it’s necessary, but that varies from property to property.”

Ms. Rowella agrees.

“You’re not selling stuff in a room, you’re selling real estate,” she said.

But what about pricing?

When the house is finally ready to go onto the market, Ms. Freed-Ancona says sellers must understand the market and where their competition is in it.

“There’s no one pricing strategy, but in order to price competitively the seller must be able to present well and know what they have to offer and how that differs from other houses in the same price range,” she said.

Ms. Shapiro is adamant that the seller still has control over pricing and presentation, even though it’s a buyers market. She added that sellers can’t control the location of their home and the state of the economy, but they do control the marketing process.

“Showing a house that isn’t ready to be shown is a crucial mistake,” she said. “But the most important part of selling a home is pricing. If the listed price is over the top, then that could really make all the preparation work be for nothing.”

Ms. Rowella adds that the first 30 days on the market is the most important for a new house and that, similar to Ms. Shapiro’s point, over-listing can ruin the whole preparation process.

“You have to have a product that gets both the buyer and the Realtor excited — you have to be able to sell to the Realtor first, because if you can’t entice them — then you won’t sell to the prospective buyers,” she said. “Price can kill an initial listing if you’re overreaching and not listening to professional advice. I’ve always taught listening to Realtors and listing property close to the number they recommend.

“Price is so key in the process — you always have to be thinking about the competition and what you’re home offers comparatively — the money you spend to prepare your house will go to waste if you mess up the pricing.”

About author

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© HAN Network. All rights reserved. The Ridgefield Press, 16 Bailey Avenue, Ridgefield, CT 06877

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress