After at least two years of going gangbusters, the real estate market is finally beginning to show signs of slowing. Mortgage interest rates ticked up during much of 2022, dampening home buying enthusiasm for some. That reality, combined with concerns about a possible recession and home prices that remain relatively high, has slowed sales activity.
What does it all mean for those who hope to sell a house in the coming months and can’t wait for the spring sales surge? You’ll need to act quickly. Getting to the closing table sooner rather than later may require adjusting your expectations and approach to reflect the current market dynamics. Here are six steps you can take to sell your home before the new year arrives.
1. Set a realistic asking price
First things first. Experts say you’ll want to jump into the housing market with a realistic asking price that has the potential to stick. It’s important to price your home based on comps, not emotion. This part can be hard for sellers to wrap their heads around, since many want to “test the market” with a higher sale price, figuring they can drop it later. This approach, however, is a mistake, says Chicago real estate agent David Cahill. “If your home is priced too high, it can be very difficult to overcome, even when you eventually reduce the price,” he says.
2. Ask your agent for “first look” feedback
Homeowners hoping to unload their properties by year’s end will need to enter the market with their best foot forward. This means making your house easy to sell by keeping it free of glaring problems.
Michael Kelczewski, an agent with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in the Greater Philadelphia area, says you should ask your agent for feedback and carefully consider all of it, both positive and critical. It’s also a good idea to have your agent gather buyer feedback from people who tour your property, so you can understand what buyers love (and don’t love) about your home.
Your agent will be able to point out defects you’ve overlooked or gotten used to, like forgotten windows with cracked seals or your teenager’s wall-to-wall heavy metal posters. Or perhaps they’ll remind you that most people want to park their car in their garage, instead of using it to store boxes. Consider agent feedback carefully and implement their suggested changes to avoid potentially losing out on a sale due to a minor issue.
3. Clean, organize and declutter
It’s possible your agent will advise you to take down family photos and clear out your closets right away, but you should plan for a major cleanup regardless.
“Do everything within your budget to ensure your home gives a great first impression,” says Cahill. For example, give your front door a fresh coat of paint, trim back overgrown shrubs and keep your lawn in tip-top shape.
While your home is on the market, the interior should also be clean and ready for a last-minute showing at all times. Cahill says to start by removing clutter, taking down busy decorations and getting rid of any oversized furniture. “Rent a storage unit if you need to,” he says.
Stay on top of cleanliness by taking time to wipe down counters, sweep floors and touch up bathrooms every day. Nobody wants to buy a dirty house.
4. Consider hiring a professional stager
If you have the cleaning part down but need help making your home more visually appealing, you can also consider hiring a professional stager. Home stagers arrange (and sometimes provide) furniture, art and décor to make your home feel modern and increase your chances of a speedy offer — especially important for a home that feels dated.
Does staging work? Most experts say it does. In fact, a recent study from the National Association of Realtors showed that 82 percent of buyer’s agents said staging helped their clients envision living in that specific home. In addition, 41 percent of buyers were more willing to tour a home they saw online that had been staged. Also, 31 percent of seller’s agents said they staged all of their clients’ homes before putting them on the market, while 13 percent reported staging homes only if those properties were difficult to sell otherwise.
5. Spring for professional photos and videos
Whereas potential buyers used to peruse the local newspaper for new home listings years ago, most home marketing is done online now. This happens through multiple listing services, MLS, real estate websites, email marketing or a combination of all of these avenues.
Susan Bozinovic, a Realtor with Century 21 Town & Country in Troy, Michigan, says this is why high-quality pictures are crucial if you hope to achieve a quick sale. Hire a photographer to take professional pictures, and consider having your real estate agent’s office create a marketing video — drone photography might also be an important factor to sell a sprawling property with a lot of land or a ton of outdoor features, she adds.
Bozinovic also emphasizes the importance of social media marketing. “I’ve found that running ads on Facebook is superior to any other social media space, because the audience can be targeted very specifically,” she says.
6. Get a pre-sale home inspection
Never assume your home is in perfect physical condition; take the time to make sure. Paying for a home inspection upfront is optional, but it’s typically a safe bet. With prior knowledge of issues — like missing shingles on your roof or faulty electrical work, for example — you can fix the problem before it becomes a bigger problem.
Hiring an inspector to conduct a thorough inspection before you list your home may even “inspire greater confidence in your home’s condition among potential buyers,” says Cahill. This is true even though most savvy buyers will likely hire their own inspector as well.
Cahill also notes that, if you take the time to fix big problems discovered in an inspection before a sale is underway, the negation process could be “short and sweet.”
A speedy home sale could be in your future if you take steps to avoid common problems that turn off potential buyers. This includes simply making sure your home is tidy and clean, but it also means uncovering major defects or repair needs before someone else does.
There’s still plenty of time to get to the closing table before the end of the year. Working with an experienced real estate agent who knows the local market trends and can help you set a realistic price are key pieces to the puzzle.
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Holly D. Johnson