Back to School
Although I have been out of college for over 40 years, I still think of September as the beginning of the new year. And in the real estate brokerage business September really IS the beginning of the season; it tends to presage what the next four months will be like, and Labor Day still kicks off one of the significant listing and selling cycles in the calendar year. So how do sellers and buyers best prepare to achieve their aims during the fall season? Here are a few ideas:
• Sellers should reduce their prices. If your listing has been available for a few months, and there has been no significant action, then a price reduction may be in order. Discuss it with your agent. And remember, you can usually tell within a month or two if an aspirational price is going to result in a deal or if you have to adjust. Once you know, acting so that this new season opens on your new price is smart business.
• Buyers should make sure they have their financing ducks in a row. As the fall season heats up, it’s very hard for contingent buyers to compete with those with cash or approved financing. So hook up early with your mortgage banker and make sure you know what you can borrow and that there are no red flags in your application. There is nothing worse for everyone than a last minute discovery of bad credit or uneven cash flow which makes getting a loan impossible.
•Sellers should declutter and, if necessary, stage. As agents we run up against a lot of resistance to this simple but imperative step. Sellers don’t want to spend the money, they don’t have the time, they have no place to store the things we want to remove – we hear a great many reasons why improving the curb appeal of the apartment is inconvenient or impossible. Cleaning up and (when appropriate) staging transform a property’s appearance and thus its value. Cleanly painted, simply furnished, not sinking under the weight of an excess of bric-a-brac, a property acquires the non-specific appeal which allows it to impress a variety of different prospective purchasers. Most buyers lack the ability to see beyond shabbiness, loud colors, or a plethora of possessions.
• Buyers should sequence their needs. Almost no-one, regardless of price, ever finds everything they want. So it is particularly important for buyers to prioritize. What qualities make it or break it? This question elicits different responses from everyone: some really care about space, some light, some location, some views. Once your agent knows your top tier and second tier priorities, she can sequence the available properties and decide where to push her buyer’s comfort zone a little.
• Sellers should be ready to go when the right buyer turns up. It’s a waste of everyone’s time to “test the market.” Don’t place your property on the market unless you mean to sell it and unless you are ready to move when you do. The only exception to this rule is if an agent or a buyer approaches you and asks if you would consider selling: then feel free to reach for the moon. Who knows – you just might get it!
The fall market this year promises to be active. Whichever side of the fence you are on, start preparing now to make sure you get the deal you want.