Today’s Ask the Expert column features Patty McNease, director of Marketing for Homes.com.
Q: How can staging pave the way for a better sell?
A: Staging allows your clients to show off the unique features of their home that buyers can come to love. During the holiday season, staging can make a home stand out even more. The following staging tips will help buyers fall in love with their future home just in time for the holidays.
Is staging really necessary?
Many homeowners are concerned about the overall cost to sell their homes. One place they may look to cut expenses is staging. While some think it’s unnecessary, proper staging is crucial to selling a home since it allows buyers to imagine what living there could look like. In fact, according to a recent National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) survey, 77 percent of buyers’ agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as their future home, which decreased the amount of time it was on the market.
Which rooms are the most important to stage?
According to the same NAR survey, the living room, master bedroom and kitchen are most critical. This is likely because these are the spaces where future owners will be spending most of their time. When planning these rooms, space and functionality are important. Rooms that are cluttered or difficult to navigate will not appeal to potential buyers.
How should I stage a home around the holidays?
Keep in mind that buying a home is an emotional experience for both the buyer and the seller. Often, the buyer’s emotional connection to the home is what really solidifies the sale. The holidays are a sentimental time for many, as they bring back warm memories and allow younger buyers to imagine future celebrations. Enhance these emotional connections to draw buyers to make an emotional investment in the home.
That being said, it’s important not to go overboard. Since different types of potential buyers will be coming to visit, avoid including overly religious décor. Instead, opt for simple and classic. Also, consider burning a pine- or cranberry-scented candle for those buyers who come over for a tour.
My client is hesitant. How can I convince them to stage their home?
If your client is against staging, remind them that 86 percent of buyers believe viewing a property online is the most useful part of their home search. With so many different options, it’s important to capture their attention in this initial stage of viewing so that they want to see the home in person. If you’re still struggling, show your client a before and after photo from another property you’ve staged, and ask them which home they would rather see.
For more information, please visit www.homes.com.
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This year may be the most difficult in a decade to buy a home, especially for a first-time homebuyer. Prices are soaring in most markets, and for affordable starter homes, the price is rising faster than larger homes.* Supplies are suffering from a three-year inventory drought that also is hitting starter homes hardest. The number of starter and trade-up homes fell 8.7 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively, during the past year, while the inventory of premium homes has fallen by just 1.7 percent, according to Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s chief economist.*
There’s little leeway for mistakes in today’s marketplace. Discipline is essential, and the learning curve is stepped. Buying a home is serious business, and in most markets today, it is the most difficult step in the process for move-up buyers, as well as first-timers.
Here are five tips on house-hunting in today’s marketplace that will put you ahead of the competition and may spell the difference between success and failure.
Hire a specialist. If you had a serious medical condition, you would seek advice and treatment from a medical specialist. Real estate is also a large and complex field. Many brokers and agents specialize in delivering better service to their clients and customers. If you’re serious about finding a home today, hire a REALTOR® who specializes in serving buyers. Look for one with the designation ABR after their name. It stands for Accredited Buyer’s Representative and means that they are REALTORS® who have received specialized training from the Real Estate Buyer’s Agent Council (REBAC) and have experience representing buyers. Even if you don’t hire a specialist, you should hire a REALTOR®. Not all agents are REALTORS®; REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) who are licensed and abide by NAR’s Code of Ethics. Hiring a REALTOR® with an ABR designation won’t cost you anything, and a professional’s assistance could make all the difference. Above all, don’t try to go it alone today. Last year nearly 90 percent of successful buyers used an agent.**
Don’t start your search until you are ready. It’s a good idea to spend some time online surfing real estate sites and learning about real estate and checking out what’s available; however, you aren’t a serious buyer until you have done all you can to improve your credit, raised the money you need for a down payment, been pre-approved for a mortgage from at least one lender and hired an agent
Make a budget and stick to it. The amount for which your lender pre-approves you is not your budget. Your pre-approved amount is conditional and can change when you apply for a mortgage. Moreover, it does not include many of the other costs of homeownership, like taxes, home insurance and maintenance. Sit down with your agent, make your budget and stick to it. As a rule of thumb, economists recommend you spend no more than 30 percent of your gross income on housing costs. Make a pledge to yourself to stick to your budget. There are few heartaches worse than falling in love with a house you can’t afford or stretching yourself so thin that you are “house poor” for years to come.
House hunt every day. Looking for a house in today’s market is like having a second job. Financially, finding the right home may be even more important to you than a second job. The outcome of your search will determine where you live and how much you spend on housing for years to come. Be proactive with your agent to learn as much as you can about the home-buying process and conditions in your market. Spend time every day reviewing listings and learning about neighborhoods. Drive the neighborhoods in which you are interested and go to open houses to get a feel for the market and to meet listing agents who may have a home that meets your criteria. Check out “coming soon” listings to get a head start on the competition.
Use a selection of sites. Most buyers start their house search on one of the major national real estate sites like realtor.com®, Zillow or Homes.com. These sites have great features, research and how-to material. As you get more serious about finding a house, increase your selection of sites to include your local multiple listing services, if yours has a consumer site with listings (not all do). Also, bookmark several of the leading local brokerages in your market. Listings may appear earlier on a local brokerage site than a national site, and often updated information like contracts or price changes are posted first on the site of the listing broker who represents the property. Sign up for email updates of listings that fit your criteria.
Be flexible. You may find that you cannot afford to live where you would like, or you can’t afford the size or amenities you want. If those are deal-breakers for you, you may not be ready to buy in your market today—or you might revisit your plans and decide to live a little farther out from the city, buying an older house that you can improve over time. Starting out in a condo might be an acceptable alternative. Chances are prices in your market are not going to decline, and by buying now, you will begin to accumulate equity. Though mortgage rates have risen over the past year, they are still very reasonable by historical standards, which means that the odds are they will continue to rise, rather than fall, in the future. Expand the geography and price ranges on the websites you are using and see what you find.
Sweeten your offer. When you find a house on which you want to make an offer, ask your agent for a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine its value. Don’t rely on the estimated values provided by valuation tools on real estate sites. Knowing the value is important not just for deciding how much to offer, but also to anticipate how much the house will appraise for. CMAs are based on recent sales of comparable properties, similar to appraisals. Chances are you will be competing with other buyers, including investors who pay all cash. Sellers are not only looking for the best price; they also want an offer that will close on time from a buyer whose financing won’t fall through. Consider sweetening your offer by increasing your down payment and getting more than one pre-approval. Be flexible on considerations like renting back if the owner is a move-up buyer who may need time to find a new home. If you are a move-up buyer, sell your current home before you buy a new one. Most sellers react negatively to offers that are contingent upon a buyer first selling his current home.
Don’t lose your deal. About 23 percent of contracts on homes today have a delayed settlement, and 7 percent of contracts fail to close and are terminated. The leading causes for delayed settlements are issues related to obtaining financing and appraisal issues. Among contracts that were terminated, 25 percent faced issues related to home inspections, and 20 percent had issues related to the buyer’s ability to obtain financing.*** One way to improve your odds for financing is to get more than one pre-approval so that you are ready to talk to a second lender if your first application fails. Most appraisal issues result from appraisals that come in lower than the contract price and buyers must come up with more cash. One way to protect against a low appraisal is to know the value of the house before you make an offer and make a larger down payment than you have to.
Persistence pays off. Don’t despair if a seller selects another offer over yours. Learn from your experiences. A better home may come on the market tomorrow. Last year buyers searched for an average of 10 weeks and looked at a median of 10 homes**, but that’s just a national average for all buyers. If you are a first-time buyer in a hot market, expect your hunt to take longer. Don’t quit when the weather turns cold. Fall and winter can be good times to find a home. There are fewer listings than in the spring or summer, but there’s also less competition, and sellers are usually more motivated.
* McLaughlin, Ralph. (2017, May 22) Don’t Call It a Comeback: How Rising Home Values May Be Stifling Inventory. Retrieved from www.trulia.com/blog/trends/inventory-q117/
** 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. National Association of REALTORS®.
*** REALTORS® Confidence Index: Report on March 2017 Survey. National Association of REALTORS®. Retrieved from www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/reports/2017/2017-03-realtors-confidence-index-04-21-2017.pdf.
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It finally happened. Your clients have been viewing property after property for months, and now they’ve fallen in love. They found the house that’s perfect for them and they’re ready to make an offer. Since 25 percent of buyers turn to an agent for the primary purpose of getting help negotiating the price and terms of their purchase (2016 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers), this is your time to shine.
When your clients are ready to make an offer on a home, a number of things could go wrong and potentially stop the sale indefinitely. Here are three tips to help you assure your clients that they can move forward on their dream home.
Consider Your Loan and Lender
Before anything else, it’s critical that your buyers are pre-approved for a loan. Before they even begin looking at homes, be sure that they’ve gone through this process so both you and they have an idea of what kinds of homes they can afford. While you’re focusing on this step, also remind buyers that they should go through a well-known lender. Getting pre-approved by an obscure company doesn’t inspire trust, nor does it look good when it comes time for the seller to select an offer.
When your buyers are ready to make an offer, suggest that they don’t lead with the highest amount in their pre-approval. Not only does this leave them with nowhere to go if there’s a bidding war, but it also shows your buyers have no wiggle room. If something changes—interest rates rise, other offers bid more, etc. —your buyers will be stuck, since they’ve already maxed out their budget.
Write the Right Offer
Before giving your clients a figure, it’s best that you know the value of the home and the area. A comparative market analysis can help you review how much similar homes in the area have sold for, so you can calculate the best offer. This can ensure your buyers won’t be aiming too high or too low, meaning their offer will stand out from others.
Another way to use the CMA to your buyer’s advantage is presenting it as leverage. If your clients are making an offer that is lower than what the sellers requested, it may be a good idea to present a letter with the CMA when submitting the offer. This way, your clients can explain why they gave the offer they did in a non-threatening way. Sellers can be assured that it wasn’t anything personal; the data just showed that it was a better price than what was requested.
Create a Connection
In the end, buying and selling a home is an emotional process. Sellers are attached to their home because of the memories they made in it. Often, they want to make sure their home is going to buyers who will make the same kinds of memories. Because of this, it’s important for your buyers to sell themselves as the best option. Pointing out every flaw, nitpicking about the little details, and (worst of all) making negative comments about the decor are surefire ways to be ruled out. If a bidding war does break out, the buyers who hold the highest favor will likely win, even if their offer isn’t the highest.
While this process can be challenging, these tips can help you work through even the stickiest pricing situations. As the midpoint of the year approaches, it’s time to check in on your 2017 goals. Are you connecting with enough quality leads near you to meet your sales goals this year? Position yourself in front of buyers and sellers who are actively searching for properties in your local area.
For more information, please visit connect.homes.com.
For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.
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