Don’t just list your home—market it. Gorgeous photographs, video walk-throughs, perfect floor plans—buyers want it all. You need an
agent who can develop a full-blown marketing plan, including social media. “People are doing so much more research ahead of time,
going through listings online, and weeding out properties before they see them,” says Benjamin Beaver, an agent with Coldwell Banker in
San Angelo, Texas. That’s especially true of millennial first-time buyers, who have grown up with information on demand.
And a top-flight agent can help pay for himself. Redfin found that listings with photos taken by a professional got 61% more views, and
homes listed between $200,000 and $1 million sold for $3,400 to $11,200 more than similarly priced homes. A video tour including views
of the neighborhood (parks, restaurants, main street) is another great tool. “If your photos capture an interested buyer, the video can help
boost their interest,” says Rae Wayne, a real estate agent in Los Angeles. Plus, a video can help drive additional traffic to your listing.
Don’t “test” the market. Pricing right is an art these days. The last thing you want to do is accidentally list too high out of the gate. Not
only does it require cutting the price—in many cases to less than the estimated value—but it also means more time on the market. “It’s
not like the old days where you put in a 10% buffer,” says Jacquie Sebulsky, a broker with Cascade Sotheby’s International in Bend, Ore.
“People are savvier, and many agents won’t even show a house if it’s overpriced.” According to Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, a
house that is priced right will sell in about half the time of one that is overpriced.
Another reason to price right: traffic. In the first week a listing goes on the market, it gets four times as many visits as a month later,
Redfin found. Moreover, if you do end up dropping your price, says Richardson, it sends a signal to buyers that you’ll come down more.
“One agent described it to me as ‘blood in the water,’ ” she says.
To help you arrive at a price, your agent should show you up to 10 comparable active, pending, and recently sold (in the past three
months) listings and sales. The most recently sold and the ones that are pending are the best; six or even four months ago may not reflect
today’s market, says Brendon DeSimone, a broker in New York City and the author of Next Generation Real Estate. Automatic valuation
tools, such as from Zillow and Trulia, are definitely great sources of intelligence. They’ll show you how quickly houses are selling in your
market, how close they are going to asking price, and more. But data can tell buyers only so much. “The computer can’t see the inside of
the house,” says Ross, “and it can’t see if your house has a view.”
Go green. With homes selling at a healthy pace, you probably don’t need to make any major pre-sale upgrades. One that does pay off: the
front lawn. A 2012 Texas A&M survey found that curb appeal increases sales prices by up to 17%. “Green grass is huge, whether that
means new sod or just fertilizer and lots of water,” says Wayne. Sustainability and low maintenance are the top trends for residential
landscape projects, according to the 2015 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, so you might add simple native plants. You
don’t have to spend a lot. See what’s on sale at Home Depot. It only has to be green, not gorgeous.
Fix what’s broken. Paul Reid, a Redfin agent in Southern California, recommends getting a home inspection and fixing any problems
before you list the house, despite the out-of-pocket costs. “First-time homebuyers in particular don’t want to come in and do a ton of
work,” he says. “They’re making a huge financial commitment and don’t want a money pit. I’ve seen it time and again where a buyer will
get in escrow, have the inspection, and back out because the list is overwhelming.”
Go clean. Ten years ago it was mostly upper-end sellers (and maybe desperate ones) who went to the trouble to “stage” their home. Now,
the idea that you need to clean out your closets, clear off the counters, take down your photos, and pare down the furniture and
accessories is Real Estate 101. That said, you don’t need to hire anyone (though you may need to find someplace to store all your junk).
Two areas not to forget: the entrance (that expression about not getting a second chance to make a good first impression is true) and the
bathrooms. “I like to say that big, fluffy, white towels can add $10,000 to the price of a house,” says Sebulsky, from Redfin. Families want
to be settled before the new school year begins). And if your home is still sitting come Labor Day, think twice about keeping it on the
market into the fall. “By then a lot of people have made their choices, and if your house has been on the market for six months, people
automatically assume something is wrong,” says Sebulsky. Every market is different, of course, but winter may actually be a better option.
There’s less competition from other sellers, as well as some pent-up demand after the holidays. Bonus: Anyone trudging through open
houses during the winter “tends to be pretty serious about finding a house,” Sebulsky says.