A picture is worth a thousand words, and could be worth thousands of dollars when it comes to attracting the right buyers to your home.
Let’s face it, buyers form their first impression of your home based on the online listing. As they say, Web appeal is the new curb appeal.
If you are serious about selling your home, you have to take your listing photo shoot very seriously. If your photos don’t excite buyers, they may not step foot inside.
You should prepare for your photo shoot as much as you would for an open house or private showing. Work alongside an excellent local real estate agent, and follow these tips to make sure your home looks its best.
Never list your home online without photos
Today’s buyers get email and text alerts when a new home that matches their criteria hits the market. There is nothing more frustrating than to see the desired address come across as an alert, only for the listing to be incomplete.
Buyers (and agents) will punish you for jumping the gun. Will they go back later and look again, once you have the photos up? Maybe — but maybe not.
You’re adding an extra step for them, and it comes across like you don’t have your ducks in a row. That’s not a great way to start out with your future customer.
Clean, declutter, organize and remove
You should spend a good amount of time preparing for your photo shoot. This means that you fluff the pillows, put toilet seats down, put Fido’s bowl and toys away, and ensure the home is in impeccable condition.
People can zoom in, zoom out and play with photos in online listings. They’ll notice everything. If your photos don’t show your home well, it sends a message to the buyer that you don’t care, and that you are not a serious seller.
The buyer is your customer. You have a product for sale. Take the time to present it in the best possible light.
Poor photos won’t cut it
Images that are blurry, poorly lit, or distorted are not going to sell your home.
It’s a good idea to hire a professional photographer who will take high-resolution photos, and even bring extra lighting or equipment to enhance their work. They’ll also take dozens of pictures and work tirelessly to show your home in the right light and from the best angles.
Don’t skimp on the number of photos
When it comes to photos, the more, the merrier. You want to make it easy on buyers to get comfortable with and learn more about your home.
Not only are the listing photos their initial impression, but they serve to help orient the buyer after the first or second showing. Once they have been through the home in person, they are better able to relate to the floor plan and how it flows. Going back to the listing photos allows them to make connections and dig deeper. Encourage them to do so by posting plenty of photos.
Nobody’s buying homes between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, right? (Or are they?)
Home sellers often suggest to their agents that they should take their listings off the market during the winter holidays. Surely nothing happens between now and the end of the year, they ask? It’s best to wait for the spring selling season, right?
Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is: not necessarily.
Conventional wisdom used to be that you shouldn’t even try to sell your home during the busy holiday season. Potential home buyers were attending parties, cooking holiday meals, buying presents, or vacationing this time of year. With all that going on, there just wasn’t time to ride around with a real estate agent to look at properties.
But with the Internet, smartphones, tablets and our always-on lifestyle, that conventional wisdom isn’t relevant anymore. The reality is, the home-buying season is now year-round.
Here’s why you should consider listing your home during the holidays — or even in January.
Today’s buyers check the listings 24×7
These days, serious buyers are always real estate aware — and the holidays are no exception. They may check out the latest listings in a mobile real estate app before bed or while waiting for the bus. You know the drill. We can’t pull ourselves away.
Our hectic lifestyles also play a role. Many serious buyers today work hard. They don’t shift into holiday mode until the last minute. Even during the holiday break, they’re still squeezing in work. There’s no such thing for them as “going off the grid.” So why not continue to monitor real estate listings, too?
The inventory — your competition — is lighter
Despite our always-on lifestyles, many sellers still believe buyers stop looking come mid-November. At the same time, sellers who’ve had their homes on the market for months often take them off now to give the listing “a rest.”
The net effect is that the inventory for good homes often tightens this time of year. There’s less competition for sellers, at a time when motivated buyers are out there looking — and no doubt wishing there were more properties to see.
If you’ve been considering selling, are motivated, are flexible on timing, and have a salable home, consider listing right after Thanksgiving. There’s still a window of several weeks to get buyers into your home before the end of the year.
And those buyers swiping right will be excited to see something new and awesome hit the market. Buyers will be motivated to see your home, regardless of what the calendar says.
Update a slow mover
If your property has been on the market for months, most buyers and their agents will assume it’s stale, overpriced or that something is “wrong” with it, no matter how light the competition is.
In that case, it’s time to take action, and the year-end holidays can be a great opportunity to shift course. Dramatically reducing the price or overcoming some major obstacle that’s been preventing the sale might be what’s needed to sell your home.
If you received lower offers early on but weren’t ready to accept them, or you keep hearing there are issues with how your property shows, this is a good time to show the market you’re listening and are serious about selling.
The motivated buyers, desperate for good inventory, will notice you and take a look. Strike while the iron is hot.
You might even get a sale closed before the end of the year. But before you make any big changes, talk it over with your real estate agent, as always.
Plan B: List in January
Admittedly, the thought of keeping the house clean, holding open houses and vacating to accommodate last-minute showings during the holidays is a dealbreaker for some would-be sellers.
If so, consider listing your property after New Year’s Day. Traditionally, not much inventory comes onto the market in early January. Many areas are seeing cold weather, bare trees, and dead landscaping. Many sellers wait until the spring — a more conventional time to sell.
While January inventory is typically still very tight, the number of buyers may be growing. Often, new buyers — with their fresh New Year’s resolutions to stop wasting money on rent and buy a home — are ready to jump into the market as soon as possible. Some buyers are motivated to search for a home in January because of year-end tax planning.
Whatever the buyers’ motivation, for sellers it means one thing: Demand for homes can increase at a time when inventory is traditionally low. And that means if you’re ready to sell, you’ll have an even more “captive” audience during the holidays, all the way through January.
The savvy seller knows to get ahead of the game. Pest inspections, foundation assessments, mold testing — there are plenty of specialty inspections you can have done on your home while prepping it for sale.
Hiring these specialized inspectors can help reveal potential problems before you’re scrambling to close on your home sale.
Selling your home can be a frightening idea even if your market is booming. In particular, the home inspection can keep you up at night with fear.
However, a savvy seller knows to get ahead of the game. From pest inspections to foundation assessments and mold testing, there are plenty of specialized precautions you can take to prep your home for sale.
Here are 10 uncommon presale home inspections you should consider before listing your property.
1. Termites and other pests
Mice are the pests you see; termites are the ones you don’t. A proper pest inspector will get into your home’s crawl space and turn up any evidence of critters in your beams. They can also spot dry rot, which is caused by fungi and can lead to wood disintegration.
If your home was built before 1975, there’s a good chance asbestos is present in one or more of its building materials. Scary but true. It’s most commonly seen as thermal insulation in basements, but pre-1970s, asbestos could be found in anything from window caulk to attic insulation.
Asbestos is hazardous only when it begins to crumble. Bring in an inspector to assess the condition of any known asbestos; if they recommend removal, tackle that before listing.
If you live in an older home, the threat of foundation settling looms large. A bit of settling is expected, but when you’re heading into Tower of Pisa territory, that’s where the troubles begin.
Have a foundation engineer look for signs such as a cracked wall, twisted window frames, or horizontal cracks in the foundation itself — and then offer a timetable for repair. (Pro-tip: Foundations settle very slowly, and if a buyer plans to stay in the home for only a few years, they might not be as concerned.)
Homes go through many stages: a home business here, a couple of rental apartments there. That also means a lot of electrical rewiring, which can lead to code violations. Bring in an electrician you trust who’s also familiar with the neighborhood architecture and history so they know what problems to look for.
While that wood-burning fireplace is a major draw to buyers, prepare yourself for questions about its condition. A chimney inspector can make sure the flue liners and inside bricks are in good shape and that smoke is exiting the house properly.
If you have a nonworking fireplace with the potential to be reopened (another buyer draw), you might want to send someone to your roof to inspect the chimney exterior.
Just because lead paint was banned in 1978 doesn’t mean it isn’t still lurking in your home.
If you have any concerns — especially if your home will attract buyers with young children — bring in a certified lead abatement contractor. At the least, you’re doing the neighborhood a public health service.
Roof repair is one expense that makes buyers wish they had never entered the real estate market in the first place. Hire someone who specializes in your roof material (rubber, slate, etc.) to confirm whether damage exists, and get a firm estimate on the repairs or replacement so a buyer doesn’t overstate those costs later during negotiations.
If you live on a hill, you run the risk that soil could crumble in ferocious weather. Before you sell, a soil inspector can affirm your land’s stability. If you have a large plot that would captivate potential gardeners, an inspector can also test for soil contamination.
You’ve love that old chestnut in the backyard but have always wondered why its leaves grow so sparsely. Before pitching the idea of a treehouse to the next owners, bring in an arborist to test the tree’s long-term viability.
Tree care and removal are surprisingly costly, so buyers may be wary if those gorgeous and towering trees are unstable or otherwise unhealthy.
It’s not just for hypochondriacs anymore. The health dangers of mold are well-documented, and its threat is on the minds of real estate shoppers. A good mold inspector will ask you the history of the home, including past water damage, and then do a visual tour of your place before testing for various spores.
Think you’re ready to go on the market? If you haven’t taken care of this task, you’re not.
When it comes time to sell your home, you know you’ll need to spend some time cleaning the carpets, decluttering, and landscaping for maximum curb appeal. But there’s another key task to add to your to-do list: checking in with your local government to be sure it has accurate information about your home.
No matter the type or size of your home or where it is, your local municipality has documentation on it. Both the building department and the town assessor will have a record about your home. But those records may not match your home’s reality — and any issues you don’t resolve could hold up your sale or even kill the deal altogether.
What is the building department?
The town keeps records of every building constructed and every permit issued. It’s the job of the lead building inspector to be sure that any changes made to a home meet current codes, and that licensed contractors do the work.
Home health and safety issues are the primary concerns of the building department. Whenever someone applies for a permit, an inspector must be physically called out to approve and sign off on the work of the contractor, plumber or electrician.
Why should a seller care?
Once you make a deal with a buyer, they will go to the building department to do their due diligence. If there’s an open permit (meaning the permit was applied for, but the contractor never had the inspector sign off on the work to close the permit) or, worse, if there’s no record of your finished basement or newly renovated kitchen, they may not move ahead with the purchase.
Often, sellers find that somewhere along the line someone made a mistake — permits weren’t closed out properly when you assumed they were. These errors could have been the fault of a contractor, the previous owner, or even the building department directly.
Additionally, a homeowner may assume that the bathroom renovated by their Uncle Bob 15 years ago was up to code, but it may turn out that it’s not.
Both scenarios can pose a problem when selling. Once the home transfers, the new homeowner is on the hook for any illegal work, and no buyer wants to take on that liability.
What are assessor’s records?
The town assessor keeps tabs on the local real estate market to be certain that the town’s assessed value of your home (which affects property taxes) is in line with the market.
When the market slows down, she won’t proactively lower your assessed value, and most assessors regularly scrape the building department permits.
Why? Because if you’ve recently made a major improvement to your home, she will want to raise your assessed value, which means higher taxes.
It’s also very possible that your home is over- or under-assessed. If it’s the former, you want to attempt to grieve your assessment by providing the assessor some recent sale statistics and making sure that their records are accurate. Every municipality has a grieving process for homeowners.
Get ahead of any issues
Before listing, a seller should go to the town hall and check their property records. Most of the time, remedying issues like open permits or misinformation on a property is a quick fix. It’s better to get ahead of it than to have to react to a buyer’s concerns and jeopardize your deal.
If it’s a bigger issue, it’s better to hold off on listing your home for sale until you have resolved it. Getting your assessment down can impact your taxes, and that will be great news to your potential buyers.
Whether home sellers advertise underground sprinklers or underground storm shelters depends a lot on where they’re selling.
Home seekers in Arizona have a common concern about where to park their other home — the one on wheels. According to a recent analysis of Zillow data, you’re more than 450 times more likely to find the word “RV gate” in an Arizona listing than in any other state.
On the other end of the country, in Maine, listings are 143 times more likely to mention an attached barn. And not everyone can have a view of New York, but home shoppers seeking that skyline scenery are almost 500 times more likely to find one if they’re home shopping in New Jersey for the keyword “nyc view.”
Zillow analyzed last year’s real estate listings to find out which unique terms set apart each of the 50 states in 2015, and the results reveal some unique local trends and hobbies — and some hard truths about the weather.
For example, Minnesota listings are more than 40 times more likely to boast “in-floor heat” to keep your feet warm on those Up North mornings. In Florida, hurricane shelters are 125 times more common than in the rest of the country, but so are screen patios (26 times more common). Oklahoma listings reassure you there’s a storm shelter 114 times as often. In Montana, sellers are eight times more likely to advertise a rock fireplace when selling.
In Missouri, listings are more than 2,500 times more likely to mention a John Deere Room. Listings in Nevada mention casinos 14 times as often as elsewhere, while Utah listings are 53 times more likely to make reference to a ski resort, and Wisconsin listings are more than 20 times as likely to point out a bar in the rec room.
Check out some of our favorites from each of the 50 states below, and take our quiz to test your listing amenity smarts.
“Bottom-tier homes described as luxurious tend to beat their expected sale price by a whopping 8.2 percent,” write co-authors Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries. “Top-tier homes described as captivatingtend to beat theirs by 6.5 percent. That means, if your home’s estimated home value is $110,000, but your listing includes the key word ‘luxurious,’ you could pocket an extra $8,965.”
If one of the following words accurately describes your home, you might want to consider adding it to your listing.
As mentioned above, lower-priced listings with the word “luxurious” sold for 8.2 percent more on average than expected. “Luxurious” signals that a home’s finishes and amenities are high-end. This is a huge selling point, particularly in this price range.
Top-tier listings described as “captivating” sold for 6.5 percent more on average than expected. Unlike the word “nice,” “captivating” provides a richer, more enticing description for buyers. Plus, it’s less open to interpretation. Anything can be seen as “nice,” but “captivating” sets a high bar.
On average, listings in the bottom tier with the word “impeccable” sold for 5.9 percent more than expected. Like “captivating,” “impeccable” is a rich adjective. It also implies something about the quality of a home: The features are desirable and the home is move-in ready.
“Stainless” is typically used to describe kitchens with “stainless steel appliances.” It’s in your favor to talk up these features in your listing — especially if your home is in the bottom price tier. In our analysis, lower-priced homes with the word “stainless” sold for 5 percent more on average than expected.
On average, lower-priced homes with the word “basketball” sold for 4.5 percent more than expected. This may seem like an odd word to include in this list, but when you consider the context it makes sense. Among lower-priced homes, a basketball court — or even better, an indoor basketball court — is a huge selling point. While it may not stand out as much among higher-priced homes, it’s definitely worth mentioning in this price range.
It’s just as valuable to describe your yard as your house. In all price tiers, listings with the word “landscaped” sold for more than expected on average. The biggest premium was seen among lower-priced listings, which on average sold for 4.2 percent more than expected.
In the same vein as “stainless,” “granite” is typically used to describe countertops or another high-end home feature. Listings with the word “granite” sold, on average, for 1 to 4 percent more than expected across all price tiers.
Not only should you include high-end home features in your listing description, you should also mention features not found in every home. They’ll help your listing stand out, especially if buyers are searching for homes online by keyword. The data shows mid-priced listings with the word “pergola” sold for 4 percent more on average than expected.
Was your home recently remodeled? It may be worth mentioning. On average, bottom-tier listings with the word “remodel” sold for 2.9 percent more, middle-tier homes for 1.8 percent more and top-tier homes for 1.7 percent more than expected.
While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a beautiful feature like a view may be worth noting. Lower-priced listings with the word “beautiful” sold for 2.3 percent more on average than expected.
“Gentle” may seem like a weird adjective to have in a listing description. It’s typically used to describe “gentle rolling hills” or something about a home’s location. Top-tier listings with the word “gentle” sold for 2.3 percent more, on average, than expected.
You may think all homes are spotless when a buyer moves in, so it’s not worth mentioning in a listing. But when it comes to lower-priced homes, cleanliness isn’t always a given. In this price range, listings described as “spotless” sold for 2 percent more on average than expected.
Much like “stainless” and “granite,” “tile” is a great word when it comes to describing the features of your home. A newly tiled backsplash or updated bathroom tile not only indicates a home’s aesthetic value but also sends a message to buyers that the home’s been well cared for by the current owners. Bottom-tier homes with the word “tile” in the listing sold for 2 percent more on average than expected.
On average, lower-priced listings with the word “upgraded” sold for 1.8 percent more than expected. Most buyers will agree that upgrades are a selling point. They indicate a home not only looks nice but also functions well. Spelling out which features have been updated is a good approach, so buyers have the right expectations when they see your home.
“Updated” sends a similar message to “upgraded.” But in addition to speaking to the quality of a home, it signals that something old has been replaced with something new. This is a great fact to communicate to potential buyers, as evidenced by the data. Mid-priced homes with “updated” in the listing sold for 0.8 percent more on average than expected.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) just released their latest Existing Home Sales Report on Friday. Sales of existing homes rose by the largest increase ever recorded as they rebounded 14.7% over November’s numbers and now stand at 7.7% higher than a year ago.
While this is great news for the housing market, let’s take a look at one of the main reasons why there was such a large increase in sales.
As we explained last month, the implementation of the “Know Before You Owe” (TRID) initiative delayed some closings, pushing a portion of November’s would-be transactions to close in December.
“December’s rebound in sales is reason for cautious optimism that the work to prepare for ‘Know Before You Owe’ is paying off,” says NAR PresidentTom Salomone.
Lawrence Yun, NAR’s Chief Economist, had this to say about the surge in December sales:
“While the carryover of November’s delayed transactions into December contributed greatly to the sharp increase, the overall pace taken together indicates sales these last two months maintained the healthy level of activity seen in most of 2015. Additionally, the prospect of higher mortgage rates in coming months and warm November and December weather allowed more homes to close before the end of the year.”
The most important realization to come out of the report is the fact that inventory of existing homes for sale dropped dramatically from a 5.1-month supply in November to the lowest figure since January 2005, at a 3.9-month supply.
A normal market, where prices rise with inflation, is defined as having a 6-7-month supply of homes for sale. As you can see in the chart below, inventory levels in 2015 were at or below a 5.2-month supply for the entire year.
If inventory levels do not recover, this could be a challenge for sales moving forward as buyer demand remains strong and competition for the homes that are on the market continues to rise.
If you are considering listing your home for sale in 2016, now is the time! With inventory levels at their lowest mark in over 10 years, listing your home for sale before the busy spring buying season will give you the most exposure to buyers and allow you to get the best price for your home.