No matter how amazing your home is, let’s be honest: Real estate is a drag-down, stops-out, winner-take-all competitive market. It can take some true ingenuity to steer prospective buyers through your front door.
Well, to help get your creative juices flowing, here are some offbeat sales tactics that some slightly daring homeowners and real estate agents have tried. And they swear they work!
Offer a cash reward
If you use Facebook or Twitter to stay in touch with friends or share photos, then there’s no reason why you can’t use it to share the news that you’re selling your home!
In order to sweeten the deal, one Canadian family decided to offer a $1,000 “reward” for any “share” that led to the sale of their home. There’s no word yet on how well it worked, but it makes sense: Why not take that split second to spread the word to your pals if cold hard cash hangs in the balance?
Have an over-the-top open house
“The days of the wine and cheese open house are over,” pronounces Alexander Ali, CEO of the Society Group. What’s taken its place are open ceremonies—basically, open houses on human growth hormones, complete with live entertainment, catering from In-N-Out Burger, mermaids in the pool … you get the idea.
These bigger and usually more upscale parties are often pricey, but they don’t have to be. The key is to make it all sound unusual and fun—all the better to cut through the open-house clutter. Just ask Wendy Flynn, a Realtor in College Station, TX, who spent a mere $200 to hire a snow cone truck to park in the driveway of a home she was trying to sell.
“Instead of the typical two to five visitors, over 50 adults and countless kids attended the open house,” she recalls. “Of those who visited, five demonstrated serious interest in the property—proof that creative marketing can help garner attention for a home.” Hey, who doesn’t like snow cones?
Create your own reality show
You turn on a camera, set up a channel, and let people peek into your home—all in an effort to help them imagine what it would be like to live there in the future. Crazy? Maybe. But live-streaming is a way to get prospective buyers to see the inside of your property without ever leaving their couch.
“Live-streaming video is a great tool: Facebook Live, YouTube, Blab, Periscope, and Meerkat are all emerging big time for real estate use,” says Ellen Cagnassola, social media manager for HouseMaster Home Inspections.
Feel a bit awkward being the “star”? Hold an event such as a live show, or hire local talent like stand-up comedians to do a short skit in your home that you can publicize. It’ll get your home in front of more eyeballs, honest! Keep the adult humor to a minimum, please.
Play the celebrity card
Does your home have a celebrity who once slept there? Or perhaps it served as the backdrop for a movie at one point? Or maybe it evokes a certain TV show or movie? Whatever makes your property special, use it to your advantage. And if you don’t have any celeb stories, then consider hiring actors to set the scene.
Jaisa Bishop, an associate partner at Partners Trust, did just that when representing a Victorian house in San Diego that wasn’t getting enough attention.
“I employed my family members to dress in period costume and be in character. They sat in the garden while a local artist painted and brought a few of his pieces to sell. It was a great success,” says Bishop. “Guests were able to sit and have tea in the garden and eat finger foods with the characters while taking in the home. ‘Downton Abbey’ meets real estate!”
Try a little magic
When all else fails, it might be time to call in help from the invisible fairies or forces you believe in. Kooky, sure, but it can’t hurt and it just might help. Just ask Ellen Shaikun, a broker associate with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Parks & Weinberg Realtors, who had heard that burying a statue of St. Joseph upside-down in your yard is supposed to bring a quick sale.
“I had a client who did it. When the house was still on the market two weeks later, my seller kicked into desperation mode and dug up the statue—having determined that it was buried in the wrong place for maximum impact—and moved it next to the mailbox. My seller was correct: We got an offer almost immediately. As we all know in real estate, it’s all about location, location, location!”
Even in the hottest markets, selling a house is by no means a transaction that happens overnight. Every step—from listing your house to getting an offer to closing—takes time. But how much time?
To help you pace yourself, here are the steps to sell a house, and how long each one typically takes so you can plan accordingly. Depending on where you live, you may need to settle in for a long ride!
How long does it take to list a home?
Answer: 3 to 5 days
It will take your listing agent a few days or a bit longer to gather all the necessary info on your home (e.g., square footage, special features, and photos). But once your agent has it all, things generally happen fast. Your agent will then upload these details onto the multiple listing service, which will make the listing viewable to agents. A shorter, consumer-friendly version of the MLS listing will also appear on sites like realtor.com®—and since this site refreshes its data at least every 15 minutes, your home will be in front of plenty of eyeballs in no time at all.
How long does it take to get an offer on a home?
Answer: 65 days
The current average age of properties on the market is 65 days. That said, this varies greatly by location and time of year, so there’s no one right answer to how long you’ll wait for that blessed first offer. Is your market hot or chilly? San Francisco residents might sell their house in a hot second, but if your place is rural, expensive, or unique, you’ll probably wait longer.
How long does it take to close after we receive an offer?
Answer: 50 days
Currently, there’s an average of 50 days between when buyers apply for financing and when they get approved and can close on a home. Yes, that’s a long time, especially if you’re selling and eager to get on with it. But buyers and mortgage companies need to do their due diligence—and you certainly don’t want any last-minute surprises before the buyer takes possession. Closings fail for a number of reasons, like contingencies (perhaps the buyer’s home didn’t sell, or the bank rejected her loan). Whatever you do, don’t be a pain and not fix issues that arise during inspection (assuming, of course, you agreed to fix them). Final walk-through surprises can delay closing even longer.
How long before I get paid?
Answer: 0 days!
Here’s good news: Your money should be available immediately after you sign on the dotted line. Cash is typically disbursed by the title or escrow company, which will wire the money to your bank account or cut a check on closing day with little to no lag time. Make sure to check with your attorney or real estate agent, though—they’ll be able to provide specific details on the process for your sale.
How long do I have to move out?
Answer: 0 days, except by special agreement
Typically, sellers are expected to move out by the day they close on the home so the new buyers can move in as soon as they’ve signed on the dotted line. Most people move out in advance of the close, but if you need more time, you can negotiate a rent-back agreement, which allows the new buyers to essentially become your landlords for a few months while you find a new place to live. But considering how long the home-selling process takes, odds are you’ll be chomping at the bit to get out!
Spring brings out home buyers en masse. But in these waning days of winter, many home sellers are still hibernating. Well, it’s time to wake up! Although technically the peak home-buying period is still a few months away, the time to get your home in shape to sell is right now.
“Put in the prep work before the season starts,” says Peggy Yee, supervising broker at Frankly Realtors in Vienna, VA. If you dillydally, you risk having to scramble to get your house ready to list. Even though it’s a seller’s market in many parts of the country, you still need to bring your A-game if you want to get the most value out of your home.
Moreover, “you want your home to be ready to list at the start of the spring home-buying season,” says Lisa Cahill, co-owner of Evolve Real Estate in St. Petersburg, FL. “If you hold off on getting the process started, you may not be ready to put your home on the market until the late side.”
So what can you be doing now? Allow us to elaborate so you’re ready to roll once that wave of home buyers hits.
Find an experienced listing agent
Before you start making repairs or updates to your home, you’ll want to enlist an expert who can guide you through the process; otherwise you could wind up wasting cash on things that don’t improve your home’s sales value. You can find potential agents through word of mouth or on an online database.
Cahill recommends interviewing at least three agents before settling on one.
“You want a local expert,” she says. “Someone who knows the area and knows how to price your home.”
To ensure you’re hiring a neighborhood specialist, find out how many listings the agent had in your area within the past 12 months—and ask about the average days on market for the listings.
“Just because someone does a lot of business in your neighborhood doesn’t mean they’re necessarily good at selling homes quickly,” says Yee.
Statistics show that the median home spends 65 days on the market, from the instant it’s listed until the day it closes. But this number can vary widely. Use realtor.com®’s interactive map to find out the median days on market in your area and other local data that can help you determine how well your own agent should be performing.
Spread the word
By finding an agent early on, that person can then start marketing your home simply through word of mouth to other agents, letting them know that your house will be listed in the spring. Doing so creates buzz around your listing—and may even lead you to capture a serious home buyer before your home hits the market.
Plus, you can do some early marketing, too—by telling your friends and family that you’re hoping to sell. Go ahead and post some pics on Facebook and see what happens! Maybe your own social network will deliver a buyer right to your door.
When making repairs, focus on the interior
Curb appeal is important, but it doesn’t make sense to do exterior repairs until bad weather is over.
“If you replace siding in the winter, it could get wear and tear before spring,” says Yee. So if you live in a snowy city like Buffalo or Chicago, wait until closer to spring to do exterior work.
Instead, use that time to make updates to your home’s interior based on your real estate agent’s recommendations. Go room to room with your agent and create a list of things you need to fix. Even small repairs, like fixing chipped paint or replacing a leaky faucet, are good to get out of the way during the winter. Also, “when you repair surface issues, buyers are less concerned about finding major problems with the home,” says Cahill.
It’s also a good idea to have your HVAC appliances serviced by a professional now—“that way you can tell buyers that you’ve checked the system and everything is running well,” says Yee.
Dig into decluttering
Clutter can be a huge turnoff to prospective buyers. But even for nonhoarders, a thorough decluttering can take months, says Yee.
“Getting rid of your stuff always takes longer than you think,” she adds. “Even decluttering just one room each week starting today will reduce stress later on.”
Depending on how many personal items you choose to keep (donate or sell the ones you don’t, instead of schlepping them to your next home), it may make sense to rent a storage unit for a couple of months.
Consider professional home staging
Over a third of real estate agents stage their listings, and the payoff can be substantial: On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than nonstaged ones. If your agent doesn’t offer staging services, ask for a recommendation.
Why do this in the winter? Because staging costs can potentially add up to thousands of dollars—staging for a 2,000-square-foot home, for example, would cost around $2,000 to $2,400, says Boca Raton, FL, real estate agent Crystal Leigh Hemphill. Knowing how much money you’ll need well in advance can help you develop a budget plan, since staging expenses are typically paid out of pocket, says Cahill.
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