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Let’s Talk Listings – Better Yet? Let’s Talk Gettin’ ‘em Sold

Since the beginning of last year, how long has it taken to sell your listings? I’m not talkin’ about those priced at half the median value in your market. I’m talkin’ about a traditional seller who simply wants you to sell his real estate. Why do a few listings in every market sell faster than the rest? Let’s set aside the obvious go-to answer, price. Let’s also agree that unless you’re pricing your listings below the market, there are other significant factors involved in market time.

But what are they?

My firm is now on its third generation, and to gain respect at the dinner table, you must be a listing agent. Doesn’t mean you eschew buyers, not even close. It also doesn’t mean we don’t hold buyers’ agents in the highest esteem, cuz we do. In fact, we adore ‘em. They’re the main reason we can leave town for extended periods, doin’ deals while applying the sunscreen. ‘Course, I gave up that luxury when I left my hometown market almost a decade ago.

It’s taken about six years, but San Diego’s real estate investors, especially the regular folk, are finally realizing there’s real estate life outside of Paradise. :) If I’m correct in this supposition though, how will I sell their properties quickly and for market value?

BawldJapan strikes again!

I have no false pride when it comes to doing what puts cat skins on the wall. Since I come up with precious few original ideas myself, to survive, I’ve learned to steal like a cat burglar. :) Sometimes I leave well enough alone, sometimes I tweak a little here and there. I’ve learned through experience that my clients are influenced more by one factor than all the others combined: Obtaining the results for which they hired me.

Funny how that works. It’s why most marketing folks keep their distance from guys like me. I’m constantly measuring their efforts with the ‘R’ word — RESULTS.

Serious minded sellers are obsessed with results when they choose an agent to list their property for sale. They universally like the marketing plan we employ. 98% of property owners (a number I picked outa the air just now) have never seen anything like what we show them. But, as much as I’d love to be able to claim credit for it, I can’t. I do claim the credit for at least being bright enough to have recognized brilliance when it was right in front of me — then putting it to use.

All of the credit goes to Greg Swan. His overall marketing plan for selling listings is maybe the most unsung, underrated stratagem for selling residential real estate I’ve seen in my nearly 43 years as a licensee.

Here’s a link to the plan in it’s entirety.

Though we don’t use all of it, the vast majority is adhered to almost slavishly. As I said earlier, I usually take others’ ideas and add my own tweaks. Gotta admit though, Greg’s plan was so completely thought through, there was only one thing I thought was missing.

An experienced interior designer familiar with the real world.

What do I mean by real world? I don’t in any way mean that interior designers aren’t real with what they do. I’m referring to what so very often makes the pivotal difference to buyers. If you’re in a market where a huge segment, maybe most of your personal practice, is made up of homes 10 years old or less, this additional listing ‘team member’ might be unnecessary. Floor plans are far friendlier than they were in 1965. Or 1985 for that matter.

But the professionally trained and experienced eye can almost immediately see where half a dozen simple ‘tweaks’ can combine to make a home literally pop! when buyers walk through. This is particularly true when they’ve already seen the nearby competition.

We’ve used our own designer not only in San Diego, but in a couple other states as well, and with solid results. We’ve even used her ‘long distance’ with clients selling their rental homes or 2-4 unit properties. Even then it’s worked like magic. Most of her design modifications don’t even need a permit, though a large minority do. A contractor, or sub-contractor is used if that level of expertise is required. Quality results is always the measuring stick.

I wrote about this listing long ago. But it still sticks out as the epitome of what’s possible. It was a rental home that had had the same large family as tenants for over eight years. Outside of the medium sized kitchen remodel, the client/seller had done nothing inside for those eight years. The property was about 35 years old, give or take.

Here’s what we had the seller do, based upon the interior designer’s inspection and recommendations. It probably helps to know the house itself was in a nice middle class area with prices at the time, about 10-12% or so above the county median. Basically a typical American neighborhood.

1. Added 3′ X 4′ alcove in the main hallway bathroom. Took that space from the entry way coat closet. Killer addition to the bathroom — no big loss in the entry way. They weren’t gonna be hangin’ their fur coats there, right?

2. Her female side came to the surface in the master bathroom. The unavoidable view from the shower (no tub) was the commode. Surveys have shown conclusively that’s not the preferred view of wives when enjoying their morning shower. :) She had the offending commode turned 90 degrees left. Then had a 4′ pony wall built behind it. Now his better half can only see his head.

3. The backyard patio and its cover was about 50-60% of the home’s width. It paralleled the entire living and dining rooms. The house side of the cover was attached at the level of the eaves. She hated that. She had it detached and repositioned it on the roof. The difference was more than a little surprising. It made everything look airier. It also allowed much more sunlight into the living and dining rooms, which had given the feel of being cave-like before the modification.

4. This was the most effective in my view. She had the last 18-20″ of the dividing wall between kitchen and living room removed, floor to ceiling. This opened up the floor plan such that you didn’t feel squeezed when coming from the entry way or the hallway. It gave the home more of an open feeling, instead of being segmented, almost like a prison. Made a very obvious difference.

5. Except for the kitchen, she had the rest of the house re-floored. It was an eye-opener for me. A very smart move.

6. She had the client’s handyman drywall the entire garage interior. Relatively cheap, and much mo betta appearance.

7. The entire interior, sans kitchen, was painted. Her colors, her guy. Fantastic improvement. Anyone would’ve painted, but it was the color choices and quality of the painter that made the difference.

No changes were made to any of the landscaping, as the client had kept it in excellent condition, using a professional a couple times monthly. We just ensured he had the guy come by weekly during the listing period, and while we were preparing the home for sale. The exterior paint was in good condition and tasteful. The curb appeal was pretty nice, especially compared to the competition listed at the time. It was inviting.

Again, this home was nothing special. We simply made it the best it could be without spending gobs of money. A real facelift woulda run over $30,000 easily. Our client’s outa pocket was around $15,000 or so. At the time, the market was as horrible as I’ve seen it in my career. It was 2009.

Sean Purcell was going to create a killer for sale sign for us, as per Greg’s plan. It wasn’t to be. The home hit the MLS on a Friday after lunch. It went into escrow the following Tuesday or Wednesday. It sold for more than any comparable in the neighborhood at the time. We had to adjust to the appraisal, as it was a brutal buyers’ market then. The adjustment was around 3-4% if memory serves.

Go to the linked list, and do what it says. Give the interior designer addition a whirl too, if you think it would be effective. This plan will easily cut your marketing time, while increasing your expected sales price. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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  • 10 comments

    10 Comments so far

    1. Eric Estate May 11th, 2012 4:24 am

      It’s all about lifestyle. Getting the home to look like the lifestyle the buyers want to have. Small updates make all the difference, you just have to know what to do.

    2. Tom Smith May 11th, 2012 7:28 am

      Hey Jim,

      This is in response to “Let’s Talk Listings”. I’m one of the top listing agents in the Fredericksburg Area. I’ve noticed the under pricing situation in my market as well. There are some that under price by 20k or higher. My 8 year old can sell in one day with no advertising. I think I may understand the reasons why they are creating a disservice to their clients. They are setting up for a multiple offer situation, multiple lead response or just plain lazy. I’m a straight shooter from the start. I price based on the market and work hard to get my sellers what the market provides. These under seller agents are now leaving low sale comps in my market to bring down appraisals.

    3. Ray Smiley May 15th, 2012 8:51 am

      Great article and post! You do have to pay close attention to detail when selling a house. If you don’t go through all the points you mentioned you’ll have a tough (and costly) time trying to sell your house. Thanks for the info!

    4. Jim Whatley May 16th, 2012 6:07 am

      It just like a recipe, Being a former Chef. You can give a recipe to anyone but if they can not execute it, it’s a waste of time money and effort.

      Half a recipe never works. As my wife always says “If your going to spend the time doing it why would you do it correctly”

    5. Dylan Darling May 16th, 2012 11:46 am

      You mean you don’t just throw a sign in the yard and put it on MLS like most??? Thanks for pointing out Greg’s list. I hadn’t seen it before, and agree with almost all of it. The only thing I don’t agree with is Amateur Photography. In most cases and agent should hire a photographer to take professional photos of the whole home. You’ll be amazed at how many more buyer leads you get, and your number of showings will most likely double. I was a real estate photographer, so take my own photos, but if you don’t have the equipment and knowledge you should hire a pro. I think that photography is the number one selling tool in todays market.

    6. Johnny Brooks May 16th, 2012 12:43 pm

      When homeowners are attempting to get top market value, they should make as many improvements as possible without spending lots of money. Some improvements do not give you dollar for dollar return

    7. Greg Swann May 16th, 2012 1:02 pm
    8. Tom Smith May 16th, 2012 3:04 pm

      I totally concur in regards to great photography. I actually witnessed trash left on counters in photographs placed with listings on MLS. This is bad business. Those are the homes my clients passed by. If only the sellers had hired a great realtor, they would have sold the home. On the opposite side of the Spectrum, don’t make the photographs appear better than that of real life. This creates disappointment. I was using fish eyes, making rooms appear twice the size and adding saturation to bring in color. I’m now just giving my audience the exact picture to real life.

    9. Gabe Sanders May 25th, 2012 1:49 pm

      Some great tips here. All are spot on.

    10. Minerva June 9th, 2012 4:15 pm

      Great post! home improvements for the purpose of selling must be done in details but make sure it’s all covered in the budget plan.