If you’re thinking of selling your home in the Reno-Tahoe-Carson region in 2019, here’s what need to know.
Your first priority is to get an overview of what’s happening in your local housing market, whether you’re up at the lake or down in the valleys.
A primer on pricing.
You need to know how much your house will likely sell for to calculate your takeaway after closing for decisions going forward. Part art, part science, pricing correctly is critical.
Do not price it based solely on what Zillow says. Sure, go there to check because everybody does, but also crosscheck with other automated valuation tools to see their estimates because everybody’s algorithm is different.
If you’re in a housing development with very similar homes, sometimes these estimates can be close to actual value. So in Damonte Ranch or Spanish Springs, for example, these automated valuations might not be far off.
However, if your home has a lot of improvements, or if you’re in an older neighborhood or in an area of custom homes with lots of variation, these automated tools won’t likely be accurate for your situation. So in Incline Village or South Lake Tahoe, for example, you’ll get widely varying results.
At this point, you really need to contact a Realtor who understands pricing in your neighborhood.
A good agent will know why two houses that look the same sold for wildly different prices and be able to provide an up-to-the-minute overview of market dynamics in your particular area.
Headlines you see may not apply to your house.
You also need to understand the concept of price banding and how it affects your particular property in your specific neighborhood.
For example, in Reno, all you hear about lately is how tight the inventory is, how fast homes are selling, and how it’s an extreme seller’s market.
That’s mostly true in the under $400,000 price range. As of this writing, that range carries 2.7 months of inventory, indicating a strong seller’s market.
But if you’re in the $750,000-$900,000 price range, it’s a different story. There you have 6.6 months of inventory, which suggests more of a balanced market.
Month’s supply of inventory measures how much time would it take to sell every property at the current rate of sale, assuming no new properties came on the market.
Historically, in the Reno-Tahoe-Carson region, under six months is considered a seller’s market, 6-12 months is a balanced market, and over 12 months is considered a buyer’s market.
Go see your competition.
Once you understand the dynamics in your price band and know what the automated valuation tools are estimating, it’s time to look at individual properties vying for your buyer’s attention.
First take a cold, critical look at your own house through buyers’ eyes. Walk through the property like you’re going through it for the very first time. What’s good about it? What’s not so good? Make a list of pros and cons.
Then call up your favorite Realtor, get in the car, and go look at the houses for sale that would be your closest competitors. With buyers’ eyes, take a critical look and note how your house stacks up in its current condition.
Also, discuss pending sales and recently sold homes with your Realtor to understand what closed at what price after how many days on the market and why. That house in Montreux that sold for 10% above asking price in six days may have had gold toilets in every bathroom.
Essentially, you are gathering data to understand your odds of selling relative to the competition in today’s market.
Price it to sell, not to sit.
Price and time on market are correlated.
If you price low relative to your competition, your time on market will be lower and your odds of selling higher. If you price high relative to your competition, your time on market will be higher and your odds of selling lower.
Of course, everyone wants top dollar, but the trick is to price it not so high that buyers write it off as overpriced and don’t even bother to look.
If that happens, the property will sit, get stale and ultimately be subject to price reductions to get it sold. This often results in lower net proceeds for you.
Your Realtor will help you find the right balance between time on market and maximum price.
Prepping for success.
Once you’ve decided to sell, it’s time to prep your house for market. Before you begin, however, you need to adjust your mindset.
Stop looking at your house as home, and start seeing it as a product in the market competing with other products. If you’ve been in the car with your Realtor looking at the competition, this should be easier.
Honestly, this is probably the hardest thing you have to do. Our homes are naturally sacred places, extensions of ourselves.
If someone doesn’t like your home, it’s hard not to take it personally. But you need to sever this connection to successfully position and sell your home.
To get top dollar, your home needs to be in top condition. The following 12 tasks need to be completed to maximize your ultimate price.
1. Get a home inspection up front.
Especially if you’ve owned the house for many years, just do it. This way, you’ll know what kind of repairs are necessary prior to engaging with buyers who will haggle harder over surprises.
Buyers often forgo having their own inspection done if you have a recent one to show and if they’re free to contact your inspector with any further questions.
If you’re worried about the cost, just add it back into your price. Being proactive removes a lot of unnecessary anxiety wondering what skeletons the buyer may find when she orders her own inspection during the escrow process.
2. Make important repairs.
Discuss this with your agent because he or she, as a professional in today’s marketplace, understands what buyers are picky about.
Go ahead and make any minor repairs that will improve your chances of sale. Major repairs may or may not be practical, depending on your situation. Again, consult your agent.
A pre-inspected home that’s in good working order is always more desirable than a scary collection of unknowns that buyers will discount.
3. Upgrade strategically if you can.
A lot of this depends on the price range you’re in, your budget, and the homes you’re competing with.
Sometimes new paint in a neutral color will get you a lot of bang for your buck. Other times, new carpeting is all you need.
You may get a better return with just one countertop replacement in the master bath, or you may need to paint and retile a whole kitchen.
This is an area where a professional agent can really help because agents know what local homebuyers care about in the current market.
4. Conquer the clutter.
No buyer finds it easy to imagine themselves in their Reno-Tahoe dream home, faced with your hundreds of knick-knacks, family photos, stuffed animals, sports equipment, ski trophies, religious artifacts, excess furniture, dying plants and dog toy collection.
Plus, every personal effect on display tells a buyer something about who you are, which can be used against you in negotiations. A few neutral, well-placed accents are fine, but that’s it.
And if your garage is already full, empty it out and send your stuff to storage because buyers want to see what it is they’re actually buying, not your ten tons of personal treasure.
5. Organize cabinets and closets.
Serious buyers will open your closet and cabinet doors and drawers to see how much storage the house has. Nothing says small like blankets tumbling out onto their heads, so go through every door and drawer yourself.
Get rid of all the excess stuff. Neaten up the piles of towels, organize the utensils, make it look spic and span.
Because buyers who see neatness behind closed doors tend to believe that the house has ample storage and been well cared for, making it worth a higher price.
6. Clean it up, make it shine.
Hire somebody to do this if necessary because no buyer wants to see your dirt and cobwebs.
Shampoo the carpets, clean the fingerprints off the walls, scrub every surface of the kitchen, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Bleach the dingy grout. Mop the floors and get rid of the dog smell.
Have the windows professionally cleaned because people move to Reno-Tahoe to see the pretty views, not your icky water spots.
Get the dust piles off the garage shelves, really clean the litter box and mop the dirty snowmelt off the floor. Stack the woodpile neatly and get rid of any junk in the yard.
7. Stage it like a model home.
There’s a reason new home developers invest in staging because it works! A beautifully staged home will always look more expensive than a vacant or poorly presented home.
If you have decent furniture and a good taste, you can stage it yourself. Stay neutral, use judicious pops of color and take your visual cues from leading design magazines.
If decorating isn’t your thing, then hire a stager. They can come in and work with what you have, adding pieces as needed depending on your situation.
If you have an empty house, a stager can bring in everything to make the property more appealing to buyers. This is important because many people have trouble visualizing how much space furniture takes up when faced with an empty room.
Don’t make buyers guess what your house will look like all dressed up. Dress it up for them so that it looks worth every penny you’re asking for.
8. Make it pretty from the curb.
You want your home to invite people in from the moment they see it on the street. Painting can do wonders, but pick a palette that buyers look for and like.
In the summer, give your porch a pop of color with colorful floral plantings in attractive ceramic pots. If it’s winter, get a brightly colored pot and insert a bouquet of decorative branches.
Stick to one or two pieces of decor at the front door, a wreath or a bear or a pot with flowers, plus a new doormat, but don’t overdo it. Consider painting the door in an attractive accent color.
In the summer keep the yard neat and trim. In the winter keep the driveways and walkways shoveled at all times because if the buyer can’t park or get to your front door easily, they’re probably going to pass on your house.
9. Purchase a home warranty.
We recommend that you purchase a home warranty for your property right up front when listing it for sale.
It’s like going to a car dealer and purchasing a certified pre-owned car. You know it’s been serviced and that it comes with a warranty, so you feel better about paying top dollar.
Likewise, when buyers see that your home has been inspected, repaired and comes with a comprehensive warranty, they are more likely to pay a higher price for that peace of mind.
10. Post amazing photos online.
We cannot emphasize enough just how important professional photos are. In the age of Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr, mediocre photos are a huge drawback, a disability even.
Almost everyone looks online these days before deciding which homes to see, especially if they’re in the area on vacation with limited time.
Buyers make snap decisions in the blink of an eye. If your agent posts a bunch of amateur-looking photos online, people may actually pass on seeing your house.
You must post at least 25 amazing, light, bright photos of your home if you want more traffic and top dollar for your property.
11. Don’t be ordinary when it comes to video.
Yes, a standard virtual tour is nice and almost a requirement these days.
But to stand out, your agent needs to get creative and produce something that really showcases the lifestyle of the house.
Especially if yours is a luxury property, ask for professional videography, help your agent come up with a storyline, and consider speaking about your home and community on camera, or at least be willing to narrate what you loved most about living there.
Video can be a powerful tool for creating a connection with buyers. And the greater your property’s connection to the buyers, the more they’re willing to pay.
12. Say goodbye.
We touched on this earlier, but it’s worth repeating. Once you offer your home for sale, it becomes a product in the marketplace. If you don’t mentally let go, you’ll have a hard time selling it.
Take pictures for posterity, perform a little goodbye ritual with friends, and let it go. Whoever buys it will probably enjoy it and love it as much as you did.
Your next adventure awaits. So look forward, not back, to exciting times ahead.
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