Oh my. Oh my. The market is turning. The market is crashing, the depression is coming, terrible things will befall us. That is the content of some email I am receiving.
Yes, the market is turning in some areas – particularly in small-town B.C. – and yes, listings are higher and sales are down 30 per cent in some areas.
What you need is a good marketing effort. All good marketing efforts start as a sound, basic plan and then evolve to fit the particular property and situation. Cut from whole cloth and then tailormade, such a plan will incorporate innovative new ideas and “rearrange” old ones.
Here then, are a few:
· Most important: interview and select a quality realtor, from two or three recommended ones. Have them make a market evaluation – in writing – and an action plan on how best to market your property. Go see all the comparables used in the evaluation. Pick the realtor whose comparables and action plan makes the most sense to you. Get somebody who knows your neighbourhood intimately and who’s enthusiastic about your home. Insist on weekly contact … even if there is “nothing happening.” Be the squeaky wheel.
· Price your home right. Yes, we all need and want the best price, as in the highest price, for our abode. But be realistic. Ask yourself: “If I were the buyer, would I pay the price I am asking for this place?” Real estate is cyclical and we may be nearing the end of this cycle. If you want to sell, price it just below the competition, not what you could have received last year.
· The more exposure, the better:
a) Ensure your home is listed on the Multiple Listing Service and on the agent’s website/tour/ agents open house ASAP.
b) Be with it. You or your realtor use your daily papers, The Vancouver Sun and The Province – in print and online – craigslist.com and kijiji.ca; the real estate section. People surf. Use Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter postings from time to time. Talk about one great feature of your home, don’t write a book. It also might attract that foreign buyer.
· Create a “Benefit and Feature” sheet for your home. List every good point, every benefit that your property and your neighbourhood enjoys. Create a “Pick-Up” Box and augment the realtor’s “For Sale” sign with it. Such as an open-topped container filled with the above mentioned feature sheets for pick up.
· Stage your home! Have a professional come in and help. Stand in the doorway to find each room’s focal point, and use furniture placement to highlight that. The back of your sofa shouldn’t block the view of the fireplace, for example. Remove any extraneous pieces of furniture. “Re-position” them into another room – or into storage altogether.
· De-clutter and then de-clutter again. Depersonalize and neutralize. The first items that should go in those packing boxes: family photos, collections and just about anything else that says “you.” Show the home from its best possible side. Have people see how they would feel if they owned the home. Developers have show suites and show homes for a reason.
· First impressions do count. Fix up your home but do it with “resale” in mind – take care of the eye-catching areas and don’t waste the effort (and money) on the rest. Fix the porch or entrance, that wobbly front step or squeaky door. Repaint the front door, bathrooms and kitchen. Use general (but modern) neutral colours only. Again, don’t spend a fortune on the remodelling; you won’t get your money back. If any remodelling is done spend it all in the kitchen and baths. Clean like a fiend. Q-Tip clean!
· Get rid of the junk. A bright place is a happy place. Clean up the basement areas. Ditto for the stairwells and closets. If you’ve got too much junk and other indispensable basement stuff piled up, have it stored off-site during the selling period. (It’s inexpensive.) . Sell the sizzle. Add lights along the walkway, put big brass house numbers up and a brass mailbox on your door. Kick up the curb appeal. Garden gnomes are a no-no. Front landscaping is what the buyer sees first.
Always remember: this is your house we’re discussing. You have the right to demand an attentive, professional, upbeat realtor; a person who creates a solid, comprehensive action plan (in writing) and does so in a measurable way (number of showings, numbers of interested buyers, etc.).
A good realtor keeps you informed all the way. A poor realtor won’t. The realtor has the right to ask you for your help: Clean up the yard and space, tie up the dog and hide the dirty laundry (please!).
Insist that your realtor be focused, but be equally as focused. There is no such thing as accidental success. It’s always earned and always comes with a price. The price of doing the work of being prepared with a good measurable plan of action is nothing compared to the maximum price you get for your home.
OVERSEAS BUYERS NEED SPECIAL CONSIDERATION
If your property appeals to overseas buyers, ensure your agent understands how to deal with questions of feng shui (literally “wind and water”). It’s the Asian philosophy in which a building’s exterior and interior elements, site placement and orientation, landscaping and so forth can and will deeply affect the building’s “luck.”
The agent should be able to identify – and take advantage of – benefits readily apparent to a feng shuiaware buyer. Benefits, such as the number “8” in a street address, a high vista and an interior which doesn’t have a clear line of sight from front door to back. (Any good fortune will flow right out the door.) Conversely, the agent should be aware of any potential problems, so they can be counteracted. For instance, the number “4” is to be avoided (it sounds disturbingly like the word “death”) and a home placed on the top of a T-junction is to be shunned. (Any bad luck in the neighbourhood will come howling right up the street and into the house.) Don’t smile. After all, here in North America there’s many a condo tower marketed and somehow built without having the “benefit” of a 13th floor.
Published in the Vancouver Sun, April 6, 2012