I share my proven tips and strategies to help you achieve real results.

by Mallie Messri
2
CONTENTS
The 10 Proven Strategies to Make Your House Sell Faster and For More
Money
INTRODUCTION
PRE-MARKET STRATEGIES: APPEARANCE
1. The Look: Stage it.
2. The Feel: Get Rid of Clutter
PRE-MARKET STRATEGIES: IMPROVEMENTS
3. “Green” Upgrades: Energy Efficient & Environmentally Friendly
4. Make-up for Your House: Fresh Paint, Flooring, & Roof
5. First Impressions: Fresh & Young Landscaping
6. Gourmet Kitchens and Beautiful Bathrooms
MARKET STRATEGIES
7. Easy Sells: Make it Easy for Buyers to View
8. Marketing: Maximum Exposure, Maximum Interest
9. The Buzz: Event Pricing
10. The Deal: Skilled 3rd Party Negotiation
3
TOP-DOLLAR
The 10 Proven Strategies to Make Your House Sell
Faster and For More Money
4
INTRODUCTION
Selling your house for top dollar is not about luck or gimmicks or fancy marketing. No
matter how you market a mud pie, it still is going to taste like mud. Getting the most
money for your house requires a strategic, proven approach.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about how a homeowner can best get top
dollar for their property. There is also often a trade-off between getting top dollar and
what I call the “hassle-factor.” Netting the most money in your pocket will often
require extra inconvenience, extra out-of-pocket expense up front, and being open to
ideas that may require adjusting some of your expectations.
This book is designed to educate and guide you on some of the different things that
you may want to do to get the most money out of the sale of your property. While
there are no guarantees that you will get as much as you want for your house, these
are proven strategies that will maximize the value of your home and help you protect
your hard-earned equity.
First we want to define what exactly is “top dollar” for your house. Top dollar is the
most money a qualified, motivated buyer is actually willing to pay for your property in
the current market.
It’s imperative to understand that “top dollar” has nothing at all to do with how much
you paid for the property, how much you want for your property, how much you owe
on the property, or the cost of improvements you’ve made to the property.
A house’s value is almost totally comparative in nature…meaning its value is based on
how it compares to other similar properties that have sold recently and to a lesser
extent to properties that are currently on the market. An appraiser will use the three
most comparable recent sales to establish a current opinion of value as of the date of
the appraisal, but at the end of the day, if there is not a buyer willing to pay that
amount for it, then the appraised value really doesn’t have any meaning.
In today’s market, buyers are more educated than ever because of the internet. They
are also busier than ever, meaning they are more interested than ever before in
turn-key houses (properties they can buy and move into immediately without have to
5
do any cleaning, repairs, or updating). And if they are interested in a property that
needs some work, they expect a steep discount for their trouble (i.e. sweat equity). A
general rule of thumb for “as is” sales is to expect to discount your property two
dollars for every one dollar of needed updates or repairs. It can be more or less,
depending on many factors, but that gives you a general starting place.
There are three basic ways to increase the selling price of your property.
1. Appearance Appeal. These are steps that make the home show better and or
make it more visually and emotionally appealing to buyers. Steps one and two fall
into this category, and are key in today’s market if you want top dollar for your
property.
2. Physical improvements. This is by making upgrades or changes to your property
that will cause the average buyer to be willing to pay extra. Not all physical
improvements will give a positive “return on investment.” Some improvements
simply bring the property up to marketing standard.
3. Positioning. How the property and price and terms are positioned and presented
to buyers in the market. Steps seven through ten are strategic steps that will
position you and your house for getting top dollar.
The following 10 strategies are simple, powerful, and proven action steps to get
buyers’ attention and cause them to be willing to pay the most money for your
property.
6
PRE-MARKET STRATEGIES: APPEARANCE
1. The Look: Stage it.
In a way, you could say today’s Buyers are spoiled. In the 1900’s staging was much
less important than it is today. As long as the house was clean and nothing “weird,”
there was little benefit that staging offered. Today, things have changed. Because of
the internet people are used to seeing gorgeously staged homes, and so their
expectations have become much higher over the last decade than they were
previously. Bottom line, making your home show at its best has never been more
important.
A good professional stager makes good money for good reason. They know how to
make a house look it’s best to the largest number of people…and to the people that
matter the most…BUYERS. What a skilled staging professional will do is help you
make the house look fantastic in a way that is still “neutral,” which helps it appeal to
potential buyers with widely varying styles and tastes.
Even homes that have been expertly decorated by an interior designer, will still often
benefit from staging, because an interior designer customizes the look of the house to
match the current owner’s tastes. It may or may not be a look that will create the
maximum appeal to the largest cross section of Buyers.
You can find lots of do-it-yourself staging ideas on-line for free, that will give you some
great ideas on making your house show at its best. However, here is an important tip
that will help you understand the psychology of today’s Buyer.
When a potential Buyer walks into your home, how they FEEL about the property is
very, very important. Or to say it a different way…how the property makes them feel.
Here is the question to ask yourself: When buyers walk into my property, is there
anything about it that could keep them from feeling at home?
Once Buyers have identified the key criteria of their purchase (such as price, location,
size, condition, etc), they will ultimately buy based on emotion. How does the house
make them feel? So if a Seller has “eccentric” tastes in paint colors, flooring, furniture,
7
or decor that does not “feel” comfortable to the Buyer, the Buyer simply can’t “feel at
home” in the house.
Granted this can be an annoying process, because you may tend to say to yourself,
“Hey, if they don’t like the way I’ve decorated my home…and they can’t see past
it…that’s too bad. I’m not changing it.” And you have every right to take that
approach…because after all, it is your house. However, keep in mind that the goal is
to make it NOT be your house. AND…to get top dollar. So, take a deep breath and be
willing to de-personalize it to make is most appealing to Buyers.
Here is huge tip that is not so much about physical staging of the property as it is a
way to position your home in the market with a higher perceived value. Provide a
“Home Warranty” on your home. Anything pre-owned feels better if it comes with a
warranty. Then, make sure you highlight the warranty in your marketing as a
value-added benefit for the buyer.
In addition to the marketing value, having a warranty already covering the house
benefits you because it eliminates many post-closing issues caused by a brand new
home warranty that does not go into effect until closing. The problem with that is that
the home warranty company may exclude issues for the buyer calling them
“pre-existing.” Consequently, the buyers may come back to you seeking for you to
pay for sometimes costly repairs. You might call a home warranty a “virtual” staging
feature that makes your home “show” better and with more value from the buyers’
perspective.
8
2. The Feel: Get Rid of Clutter
Most of us have way too much “stuff” in our houses. In fact, it’s one of the most
common reasons for moving. We need more space.
An over-stuffed (for lack of a better term) house makes it look smaller. Second, it
makes a home look older, because it presumably takes time to over-fill a living space.
And third, it makes the space feel disorganized and sometimes even uncared for.
Because of this, it has a negative effect on the Buyers’ emotions.
Why? Because clutter creates stress. Emotionally clutter is not peaceful or relaxing.
We become accustomed to our own “clutter” because it tends to increase gradually
and we know where everything is, so it doesn’t feel like chaos to us. However, to
someone looking at a house they’ve never seen before, clutter is the ultimate
distraction. It’s like not being able to see the forest for the trees. The clutter simply
gets in the way of them seeing or feeling the house as if it were theirs.
So what is the best way to deal with clutter? Here are some ideas that may help. First,
go through your closets and take all your clothes that you haven’t worn in over a year
and donate them to charity. You’ll feel great about it after you’ve done it, and your
closet will magically grow!
Second, any furniture that is not going to your new place, get rid of it now. Sell it or
give it away. Big furniture and/or too much furniture makes any room look smaller.
Obviously, if it is still your primary residence, you want to keep enough furniture to
keep your home livable.
Third, go ahead and box up everything that you will not need or use in the next 6
months and put it in storage. Again, the goal is to de-clutter. I know this is a hassle,
but trust the experts…it will be worth it. Two especially important areas are you
kitchen countertop and your bathroom counter space. This is the law: the fewer items
the better.
TIP: Take a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to go look at some brand new homes that
have been professionally staged. Remember, there is proven strategy behind what
they do, so your goal is to make your house look like those houses.
9
One final warning, relocating clutter from the room to the closet or garage is NOT
de-cluttering. That’s called “stuffing” or “stashing,” and it ain’t pretty! Now your house
feels like it has no garage and no closet space. Yikes! Bite the bullet and rent a
“PODS”® or storage space.
10
PRE-MARKET STRATEGIES: IMPROVEMENTS
3. “Green” Upgrades: Energy Efficient &
Environmentally Friendly
One of the bonuses of creating a home that’s friendly to the environment is that it also
makes your house worth more! Of all the improvements and upgrades that you can
make to your home, it has been shown that “green” improvements often deliver the
most “return on investment” in terms of dollar-for-dollar added value to your home.
This chapter contains an overview of some of the best “green” upgrades you can
make.
Let’s start with a very simple, no-brainer maintenance item that should be done
regularly whether you’re planning to sell right away or not, and that is to replace the
filter(s) in your central heat/air conditioner. It’s amazing how many sellers neglect this
simple and inexpensive item. Not only does it save you money on your utility bills and
make your HVAC unit more efficient, it also gives you cleaner air to breath. Plus it tells
the buyers that you take care of routine maintenance items in your home.
Your heating and air conditioning system (HVAC) is likely the largest consumer of
energy in your home, so it makes sense to have it functioning as efficiently as possible.
Make sure the outside unit of the air-conditioner is in prime condition, that the fins are
straight and unobstructed. It can easily become clogged with grass clippings, spider
webs, or dirt. A good power-washing will do wonders for the efficiency of your outside
unit, not to mention making it look nicer and newer.
Next, check the ducts in the attic that they are sealed, insulated, and that the air flow is
unobstructed. If a smoker has lived in the house or a lot of pets (especially cats),
sometimes it pays to have the ducts professionally cleaned. This improves the flow of
air and also the quality of the air by removing potential allergens.
One final tip for greening an older, existing HVAC unit is to install a digital thermostat
with programmable timers if you have one of the old mechanical thermostats. A
thermostat ensures the heating system installed in your house works optimally. This
gadget can be set to turn your heat/air on or off at certain times, and to what
temperature the heat will rise or fall. A thermostat can be your partner in lowering your
11
energy bill. When shopping for a new thermostat make sure you select one with an
ENERGYSTAR symbol.
A newer arrival (the last 10 years or so) in the line-up of green, energy efficient
upgrades are tankless water heaters. They heat water on demand and can easily
supply immediate hot water in a normal family home. The benefit is that you are not
wasting energy keeping 50+ gallons of water hot day and night. It also takes up a lot
less space than the traditional water heater tank. You can now reclaim that water
heater closet for other uses!
If a house has old single-pane windows, installing energy efficient double-pane
windows can make a huge difference in maintaining a comfortable home. Plus, new
windows look so much better than old windows, which also adds value.
Adding insulation in the attic lowers utility bills and keeps a house warmer in winter and
cooler in summer while dramatically reducing heating and cooling bills. Properly
installed weatherstripping around doors and windows also will make a big difference.
Especially in older homes, anywhere there is a draft or air coming in from the outside.
Ceiling fans are also a great “green” feature. They circulate the air in the room which
makes it feel cooler in the summer. This allows you to keep the thermostat set two or
three degrees warmer in the summer without feeling warmer because of the air
movement, so your air conditioner runs less. Many homeowners do not realize that
even in the winter ceiling fans can be useful and actually keep you warmer. How? In
the reverse setting at low speed, they circulate the warmer air (which always rises to
the ceiling) down the walls to the floor. The result is that your heater doesn’t have to
generate as much heat in the winter.
Adding more natural light is a great feature that almost every buyer will love. You may
look at adding a skylight or sky-tube, or enlarging windows which can be fairly
expensive. Or you can do something as simple as replacing light-inhibiting window
treatments (such as large, dark drapes) for newer window blinds or curtains that allow
more light in. That can make a huge difference. Light and bright makes a home look
more welcoming, pleasant, and bigger all at the same time.
When it comes to electrical lighting, going from incandescent lights to fluorescent or
even LED lights makes another significant difference. LED and even fluorescent lights
reduce heat production and lowers energy consumption. The initial investment will be
higher, but the longer life of the lights and the drastic reduction in energy consumption
12
will make them pay for themselves and then some. And, of course, they generally
make a house look more modern and up-to-date. If you’re on a budget, you can do
something as simple as just replacing the incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent
bulbs, which can often be purchased very inexpensively.
In addition to all of the energy and aesthetic benefits of greening your home, there are
sometimes government credits for making certain “green” upgrades to your home.
Take advantage of these potential rebates and incentives which may be available for
items such as:
Water-conserving appliances and low-flow plumbing features.
Adding solar panels, insulation, or efficient windows and doors.
Replacing grass with native/drought-tolerant landscaping.
Here are some websites that have more information about energy rebates and
incentives:
United States: http://dsireusa.org
Canada: http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/efficiency/housing or http://ec.gc.ca
Now it’s time to champion your energy efficient, environmentally friendly property to
buyers. Once you’ve done all this “greening” of your property, make sure that is
highlighted in the marketing of your home. Depending on how much greening-up
you’ve done, these upgrades may or may not necessarily be a headliner item, but they
are definitely features that grab buyers’ attention and may fetch you a higher sales
price.
13
4. Make-up for Your House: Fresh Paint, Flooring, &
Roof
Repainting the interior and exterior of a house is one of the most common update
items that can give you a great return on investment when you’re planning to sell.
Replacing flooring can be slightly more costly, but can also make a big difference,
Finally the condition of the roof is more than just a cosmetic issue, it’s also a significant
structural component of your property. This chapter will focus mostly on painting
simply because it is typically the most cost effective improvement to consider.
Just like you may get dressed up to go out, you want to “dress to impress” when it
comes to presenting your house to the market. Fresh paint on a house has been
compared to putting on make-up for a lady. It’s inconvenient, but the result is simply
worth the effort. Fresh paint makes the house look nicer, newer, and more attractive.
A recent paint job also makes your care for your home obvious. If there are obvious
maintenance needs such as painting that have been deferred, buyers and buyers’ real
estate agents will automatically wonder what less-obvious items have been neglected.
Exterior paint is much more than a cosmetic item on a house. In addition to making
your home look better, the outside paint job also protects your house from the
elements. If the existing paint job on your home is cracking or peeling at all and is
showing exposed wood on your eaves or windows as an example, painting the exterior
may be a lender requirement for many banks to be willing to give the buyer a new loan
on the property. Paint that is showing these signs of wear is considered “deferred
maintenance,” and if not addressed will allow moisture to penetrate and damage the
structure of the home over time.
Of course, masonry sidings, such as brick and natural stone normally do not need
paint at all. And repainting exteriors such as stucco or hardi-plank is typically not
required for protecting the exterior from the elements so much as just making the
home look good. And properly-installed vinyl siding should not need painting at all.
What color paint should you use? Aaah….what a great question. For the exterior it’s
generally best to go with a color that is fairly conservative and that fits in with other
homes in the neighborhood. There are always exceptions and there are a lot of
options, however earth tones are usually a safe bet. If you are just not sure, this could
14
be a great question for a professional decorator. And you can probably get a safe
recommendation from them just by having a conversation with one.
On the interior, there are a lot more options to think about, such as using different
colors in different rooms or two-tone color schemes, etc. Again, go conservative and
stay neutral. If you’re repainting the entire interior just for the purpose of getting your
home ready to put on the market, one or at most, two colors will generally work great
for the entire house. There are exceptions to this. For example if you have a luxury
home with extensive trim work or textured surfaces, paint choices can be a little more
complicated. It an interior decorator designed it to begin with, it is probably a good
idea to consult with them on any changes. However, in most cases, a simple solution
is to simply stay with the existing colors unless they’re obviously outdated or hideous.
Even if your interior paint still looks like new, but is a unique color, you might want to
consider neutralizing any colors that are really loud (such as yellow or lime green) or
intense (like a dark red or purple). Again, this would be a good conversation to have
with an interior decorator or stager or your real estate agent. Another great option is to
visit model homes of new home builders in the area and see what colors they are
using.
If your interior pain is fairly recent and still looks fresh, you can often get by with just
touch ups. However, make sure that the touch up paint is a true match with the
existing paint. Touch up paint should be invisible once it is done. If you can tell where
the touch ups were made, it is really bad news. Re-paint. Nothing looks worse that a
shoddy touch up job.
Your goal is to make the property look appealing and attractive to the largest
cross-section of potential buyers, so you want it to look clean and fresh. The goal here
is typically NOT to make a statement or be distinctive with your color. Go for pleasant,
not loud. Remember the goal is to make a sale, not to make a statement with your
colors.
FLOORING
Here are the most common reasons to replace flooring. First is carpet. If it is
outdated, stained, or anything other than a neutral color, it will cost you. Replacing it
with a nice, neutral-color carpet that is appropriate for the price range of your home
can make good sense. Two things to keep in mind. A better quality padding makes
15
the carpet feel much nicer, so avoid low quality padding. Also, you want an installer
who knows what he is doing.
A trend in a lot of areas is more hard-surfaced flooring such as hard wood, tile, or even
high-quality laminates. Even in rooms that have traditionally been carpeted, such as
bedrooms, hallways, and dens, more people are opting for hard surfaces. The two
main benefits are that hard surfaces can last longer and they are more friendly to
people with allergies because they are easier to keep clean. Whatever decisions you
make on flooring, it pays to do your research and consult with experts before you start.
ROOF
The most important issue with your roof is really more functional than cosmetic. Its
main job is to protect your house. Replacing the roof can be quite expensive and
should really be considered only if it is necessary. There are exceptions to this, but
they are really beyond the scope of this book. The first and usually the simplest step is
to call your insurance agent and have them send out an insurance inspector/adjustor to
check the insurability of the roof. If they say it is in good shape, you should be in good
shape.
16
5. First Impressions: Fresh & Young Landscaping
Curb appeal is the most powerful first impression a buyer gets when they first pull up in
front of your house. And as they say, first impressions are lasting impressions. Having
well-maintained and attractive the landscaping in the front yard makes a house look
happy and loved. If a nicely manicured front yard makes them want to come into the
house, a cleanly landscaped backyard makes them not want to leave. This is the
one-two punch that you’re looking for.
What if you have landscaping that is more mature? Even if it has been
well-maintained, older, larger bushes and shrubs make a house look older. This is
especially true where you have bushes that have grown so high in a flower bed next to
the house that they cover the windows.
Some people consider this a benefit because it screens the windows and can give
extra privacy. While this may be true for the homeowner, it is also true for home
burglars who look for cover and love to come in through windows that are shielded
from street or neighbor’s view by huge shrubbery. However, the main consideration
for selling for top dollar is simply the aesthetics.
Before you rush out and start digging up the old overgrown bushes, do a little more
research and look at all your options. Landscaping, especially buying new shrubs and
trees, can get very expensive very fast. Remember the goal is return on investment
with any money you spend to improve the landscaping.
As a general rule, younger shrubs and plants make a house look younger and
accentuate the home itself. Planting flowers is always a good idea, because they give
great color and life to a property and make it come alive.
This is not to say that mature tree and shrubs need to go. In fact mature trees give
character to a house and can be an extremely valuable feature both for shade and
aesthetics.
One thing to consider and pay attention to with large trees, especially fast-growing
trees, is the affect roots can have on foundations and underground plumbing including
sprinkler systems and sewers. Many times builders will plant fast-growing trees,
because they look better faster and because they tend to be less expensive. The
17
problem is that these species of trees tend to be more susceptible to disease and
insects, and more vulnerable to storms because of their rapid growth.
A large tree planted close to the foundation can hurt the foundation in 2 ways. First is
from direct pressure of the tree or its roots pushing up or against the foundation of a
house or driveway or sidewalk. Second is that roots can grow a long ways under a
house and can pull the moisture from the soil, cause the soil under the foundation to
become too dry and contract which can lead to possible structural problems with the
house, especially if the house is built on an expansive soil such as clay. Check with an
experienced landscaper in your area, or better yet, consult a structural engineer.
Native, low-maintenance landscaping is becoming very popular. In addition to
requiring less water and maintenance, it can look really awesome. You just want to
make sure it doesn’t look overgrown or un-cared-for. There is a huge difference
between native landscaping and a “natural weed-patch.” The goal is to make your
yard look clean and environmentally friendly, not overgrown and neglected.
Before you do anything, take the time to drive by some of the nicer new homes or
newer homes in your area. Notice the landscaping. Notice the shrubs and bushes and
flowers especially. Notice that the plants for the most part look young. It’s clean and
does not look overgrown. Visit a local nursery or two and talk to the staff there. You
may have to talk to two or three people to find one with some real landscaping
expertise, but that can be a very worthwhile conversation. Finally, your best bet is
always to consult with a professional landscaper. You can probably get a great referral
from your real estate agent or stager.
18
6. Gourmet Kitchens and Beautiful Bathrooms
There are two rooms in a house that are consistently the most important to buyers.
The first one is the kitchen, and the other one is, you guessed it, the bathrooms. This
is especially true for women. And when a couple is looking at your house, the woman
is virtually always the primary one that must be impressed with the house.
Consequently, the kitchen and bathroom are the two rooms where you generally get
the most “bang for the buck” on upgrades. This does not mean that every
improvement you can make in kitchen or bathroom will pay for itself, but in general
these are rooms to pay special attention to. A knowledgeable real estate agent, stager,
or interior designer can give you advice specific to your situation. However, this
chapter will give you some helpful suggestions and guidelines.
Step one is to de-clutter walls and counter tops in both the kitchen and bathrooms. As
mentioned in Chapter Two, clear, uncluttered counters make your home look cleaner
and the space larger. Plus this step is very simple and costs nothing to do. Granted it
may be an inconvenience to put your toaster or blender away off the counter every day
for a while, but it makes a big difference in the “look.” I know it’s a pain to have to
unplug the hair-dryer and curling iron and put them away, but it will definitely make
your home show better and be more attractive to buyers.
Remember, the way people live in a home, is NOT the way they look for a home when
planning to buy it. Clean and uncluttered is the order of the day for your kitchen and
your bathrooms. Hide the toilet brush and plunger that live behind your toilet. And the
basket of vitamins and supplements or other odds-and-ends sitting on your kitchen
breakfast bar…yep…they gotta go. Endure the inconvenience for the short-term to get
the better result in a top-dollar sale.
Once you get beyond cleaning and decluttering, now the bigger decisions begin.
Should you update the kitchen and/or bathrooms or not? It doesn’t take long to spend
a lot of money in these two rooms, so again before you go all out, get some expert
advice.`
Some homeowners make the mistake of thinking that the more upgrading and
remodeling they do, the more money they will make for their house. They watch a
19
remodeling show on television and decide they need to do a major remodel to get
more money for their house. Keep in mind that return on investment is what you’re
looking for. It doesn’t make sense to do a $40,000 kitchen remodel that only adds
$20,000 to the value of your home. Having said that, here are some typical
improvements that you may consider for your kitchen and bathrooms.
First, going back to Chapter Four, strongly consider repainting. If you have wallpaper
(which is mostly out of style with some notable exceptions), you may check into
removing it and replacing it with a nice paint job. Again compare cost benefit before
you start ripping off the old wallpaper.
Next, consider your appliances. In the kitchen, appliances vary widely in their energy
efficiency and looks. If they are old (10 years or more) they are also going to likely be
unappealing to buyers. Upgrading to new appliances can make a huge difference in
the marketing and sale of your home.
The refrigerator is the second highest energy consumer in the average home, second
only to your HVAC. If your refrigerator is old (and ugly), consider an upgraded stainless
steel refrigerator/freezer. Depending on the price range of your home and the area,
you have a lot of options here. In some case you may opt to not include a refrigerator
in the sale of the home at all. Just make sure that your real estate agent makes that
exclusion clear to potential buyers, otherwise you may get stuck unintentionally leaving
your fridge or buying a new one.
TIP: If you decide to stay with your existing refrigerator, at least clean it (including the
top) and remove all the refrigerator magnets and “stuff” that occupies the outsides of
many refrigerators.
Cabinets, counter tops, and fixtures are the next thing to look at. These are listed in
order of expense to replace. Replacing cabinets is one of the most costly
improvements you can do in any room in your house. Unless the existing cabinets are
in pretty bad shape, it is often best to leave them and consider refinishing or repainting
them.
Upgrading from formica or laminate countertops to granite or synthetic hard surface
countertops has become a fairly common improvement when updating kitchens. It
makes a big difference in appearance and is not as expensive as one might expect.
20
Again, there are countless options and qualities of granite, marble, or synthetic hard
surfaces with widely varying price points.
Updated plumbing fixtures and light fixtures can be done on a tighter budget and can
add pop to kitchen and bath. There is a wide range of options and price ranges.
Plumbing and lighting fixtures not only serve to make your home look newer, but also
have the added benefit of being energy efficient.
Aerated sink faucets and water-saving shower heads are cost-effective ways to green
your bathroom while making it look better at the same time. LED Lights or even
Fluorescent light fixtures provide the same dual benefit of updating the look and saving
energy.
Another option “green” option to consider in the bathrooms is to install
water-conserving toilets such as dual-flush toilets. In some areas, water-conserving
toilets are even becoming mandatory as a point-of-sale item (meaning that when a
house is sold, if it does not currently have water-conserving toilets, the municipality
requires them to be updated when the house is sold).
Finally, if your kitchen appliances are old or really outdated, consider updating them.
An upgraded stovetop, oven, built-in microwave, vent hood, and dishwasher along with
the refrigerator will transform a kitchen. Again, the cost/benefit of these upgrades can
vary widely depending on the age and price range of your house and what other
competing homes in the market have. It also depends on how much of a negative the
existing appliances are. Are they obviously outdated and ugly or just not the latest and
greatest.
Energy-conserving appliances and upgrades improve the look and functionality for the
next gourmet chef to own your home. It also comes with a price. Check with your real
estate agent, stager, or decorator to get some great insights on what’s right for your
property and your situation.
21
MARKET STRATEGIES
7. Easy Sells: Make it Easy for Buyers to View
When it comes to selling your property, keep in mind that the target here is real
buyers, not “tire-kickers.” Also (and this is crucial) never forget that the aim is
getting the property sold for top dollar, not making things easy and convenient
for yourself. So…at least for a few weeks your goal is to accommodate the
buyers’ convenience, not yours.
Here are a couple of the key things to understand about today’s buyers. First,
people who are in the process of buying a home are making a huge, life decision,
which naturally carries with it a large amount of stress. Consequently, buyers are
typically feeling a lot of stress as they go through the process of shopping for a
new home. It’s good stress with lots of excitement, hopefully, but it’s still stress.
Second, people today are busier than ever, so they are trying to make this big
decision and pick the perfect house with the least amount of inconvenience.
Consequently, buyers will often resent special showing restrictions or
instructions that make it a “pain in the neck” to view your house. In some cases,
they will literally completely eliminate a property from their list of homes to look
at because it is too much of a hassle. It sounds crazy, but even when there are a
shortage of available homes, buyers will often conclude, “if the sellers are going
to make it that difficult for us to even see their house, they must not really want to
sell it.”
The reason for this seemingly irrational response from a buyer is the third key to
understanding the psychology of today’s buyers…and that is that buying a house
is above all an emotional decision. Once their budget is determined and the
must-have size and location criteria have been established, the rest is all about
what they want and how they feel about a house. And this can be much more
powerful than people imagine. So now, when you combine the stress-factors
inherent in buying a new home, and combine that with their already hectic lives,
you want to make the prospect of buying your house as hassle-free and pleasant
as possible.
22
If seeing your home requires extra inconvenience compared to the other homes
they are viewing, buyers easily get irritated or annoyed about your property. This
adds to their stress which they now attach to your house as a negative vibe. And
yes, it is that important. So how can you position your home in the market to
make your property feel like “home, sweet home” from the moment they are first
aware of it? By making it easy for them to see it. So here are some tips to
making the buyers feel great about your home before they even get to look at it.
Most of the serious, best buyers look at homes during the day, not in the
evenings, and they are just as likely to be looking during the week as they are on
the weekends. Weekenders (such as people who come to open houses) are
much more likely to be unqualified non-buyers who are just window-shopping
and wishing. The most serious and highly motivated buyers are “in the hunt,” and
are out during the week searching for the perfect place to call “home.”
If your home is not readily available to be seen by qualified buyers on week days
and on short notice, it will reduce the number of motivated buyers who will
actually look at your house. It also adds to the buyer’s stress factor because of
the inconvenience. Making it available to be seen on short notice and being
willing to accommodate reasonable showing requests will always play in your
favor. This is a significant benefit of having your home listed with a full-time real
estate agent who uses a Supra lockbox which allows licensed agents to show
their buyers without you being there.
If possible, keep your security alarm off on days when showings are happening.
A security alarm that must be dis-armed by the buyers’ agent, is stressful for
buyers and creates anxiety in buyers at the very moment you are wanting them to
be feeling “at home” in the house. And, heaven forbid, if the alarm goes off,
forget about it…the buyers are done at that house. Their first association with
that property is a piercing siren, causing a sudden rush of adrenalin kicking in the
fight-or-flight syndrome, and that does not leave the buyer with feelings of
comfort and “home sweet home.”
Let’s talk about pets. Pets are a sensitive issue because, if you have animals,
they are probably a part of the family, and after all this IS their home too. The
problem is that you want the buyers walking through to feel like this is their own
home, not a growling dog’s territory. A room, garage, or backyard that’s
off-limits to buyers because of an animal (or sleeping person for that matter), is a
23
big-time negative for the buyers. They are not trying to make it personal, but it’s
virtually impossible for them to feel this house as being their home because the
presence of your pet is a living reminder that they are an intruder on someone
else’s turf.
I love cats. Unfortunately, if you have cats, their presence is a real negative when
your house is on the market. A lot of people these days have allergies, especially
to cats, which makes this a super sensitive issue to them. Even if the cat is gone,
they know the dander remains. And if they are not pet owners, many buyers
detest the presence of animal hair which seems to fill up every nook and cranny
of a house where pets live.
Unfortunately, there is no convenient solution for this, but if at all possible,
consider finding a place for your pets to stay while the house is active on the
market. If you have a pro-active, skilled agent, that should not be a long period of
time. Also, do everything possible, in terms of cleaning and deodorizing, to
remove all signs of animals living in the house especially any hair and odors.
In summary, here are the key tips that make a house easy to show:
1) House can be seen any time (within reason) with minimal notice.
2) Security system off.
3) Use a Supra lockbox.
4) No pets at the house.
These are simply guidelines that will help make a house easier to show and sell.
If you have special concerns or issues, discuss them with your agent and he/she
will work with you to figure the best solution. Remember the key point is being
willing to endure some inconvenience in order to get a better result.
24
8. Marketing: Maximum Exposure, Maximum Interest
Even if your property is a show-stopping, jaw-dropping, gorgeous, model home with
no apologies, it won’t bring top-dollar if it’s not properly exposed to the right buyers.
Let’s look at how you can get the best exposure for your house.
Ideally you want lots of “action”…fast and furious, right? High buyer interest creates
urgency that causes kind of a buyer stampede. Buyers see lots of interest in your
home as an indication that this is a desirable property, making them much more likely
to submit an offer faster and for more money.
WHAT MARKETING MATTERS?
Obviously to create this type of action, you want to make sure you property is exposed
to ALL the buyers in the market and to the BEST buyers in the market…all at the same
time. Because of the internet and technology, this is actually much simpler than it
used to be, provided it is being exposed through the best channels that hit the best
buyers. Let’s look at what matters most.
First, who are the best buyers for your house?
#1) They have the funds and financing to purchase your home now.
#2) They are highly motivated and serious. Which means they are not casually looking
at homes. They are focused on finding the right home and they want to make sure
they don’t miss it.
Second, where are ALL of these best buyers really looking for homes?
Answer: Online and with an agent. That is why you want to market your house where
all the best buyers are shopping.
Let’s say I’m a qualified, serious buyer. Which is what you’re looking for, correct? I
need to buy a house now. I don’t want to waste my time or miss the perfect house. I
have two options:
Number one, I can get a newspaper or look on internet, find some houses for sale, and
then use my own car, my own gas, and my own energy and go look at a limited
selection of houses, not really knowing what I’m going to find when I get there. And
25
then do all the work myself and hope I find a house I like…and stumble through writing
an offer and getting financing and hopefully being able to close on the house.
Or number two, I can find a professional buyer’s agent and their access to all the
homes on the market. Plus I get use their car, their gas, their expertise, and their
knowledge of the market to find the perfect house at a fair price without the hassle,
and have professional guidance through the entire process. And that is what almost all
motivated, qualified buyers do.
There is a reason that 90% of residential sales are properties listed on the Multiple
Listing Service used by licensed Realtors. Agents who have the buyers rely almost
exclusively on the Multiple Listing Service and other agents to find properties for sale.
It puts all the homes in one central place. It provides complete and accurate
information for the agent. Plus, they know that sellers who have listed their home with
an agent are serious about selling, so they are not going to be wasting their buyers’
time.
THE “FOR SALE” SIGN
A sign in the yard is incredibly important for obvious reasons and for some
not-so-obvious reasons as well.
It announces that the home is for sale to people who are coming to see it and to
people who just happen to be passing by your house. People who live in your
neighborhood may even have someone they know who is interested in living in their
neighborhood. They are not looking for a house for sale in the neighborhood, but when
they see your for sale sign, they immediately are calling their friend or family member to
let them know. Also, buyers who are active and motivated still drive neighborhoods
looking for the perfect home. You want to make sure they don’t miss yours if they’ve
missed it online.
What if we don’t want a for sale sign? Consider this…
There is a psychology of customers that every retailer and manufacturer with a product
to sell knows: The easier it is for the customer to find your product, the more likely they
are to buy it. Therefore, you make the product you want to sell easy for the buyer to
spot, and they are more likely to buy it. The same is true with home buyers.
It goes back to the power of the buyer’s emotion in the buying process. You want
buyers to feel only positive emotions about your house when they come to see it. It’s
part of the critical first impressions they have about your house.
26
When they are driving down the street to come see your house, the sign in the yard
announces, “HERE I AM!” It’s easy to spot and welcoming and they feel good about
that.
But, when there is no sign, the buyers and their agent are having to search for your
house for sale by looking for a set of tiny numbers pasted on your house to distinguish
it from all the other houses next to yours that are not for sale. Or by trying to spot it
from the pictures they have seen.
I know it sounds crazy, but this causes confusion (“Which house is it?”) and then
frustration (“Why don’t they have a for sale sign? They must not want to sell that
bad.”). It may sound minor, but that negative thought affects the way they look at your
property.
There is another reason a sign matters. A prominent for sale sign draws the focus
straight to your home, which is where you want them focused.
On the other hand, if there is no sign, if forces them to pay attention to all the other
houses around yours as they scour house numbers looking for yours. The last thing
you want them doing as they drive up to your house is looking at the other houses.
“Wow, Honey, look at that gorgeous house! Is that the one?” “No…it’s this next one.”
“Oh rats! I wish that house was the one for sale.” Oops. Now they are wishing they
could buy your neighbor’s house. Not exactly the outcome you were going for, right?
Sound farfetched? I’ve seen it happen multiple times. And, at the exact moment you
want them falling in love with your house, they are wishing they could have another
home next to yours. They lost interest in the very house you want them to buy at the
very moment you want them falling in love with your house.
Remember, the goal is to get your home SOLD. Maximum exposure maximizes
interest, which generates more demand thereby increasing the odds of a better offer.
If you have real security concerns or about having your house on the market or
personal reasons for not making the marketing of your house public, discuss it with
your real estate agent. He or she should be able to guide you and work with you in a
way that serves your best interest.
27
9. The Buzz: Event Pricing
Everyone likes new stuff. They don’t like stale, unwanted items that have been sitting
on the shelf too long. This is true with milk, with bread, and with homes for sale. That
is one of the major reasons to avoid pricing your property in a way that causes it to sit
on the market and become stale. Just like a loaf of bread, homes on the market have a
“shelf-life” too.
That is why strategic “Event Pricing” can be very powerful. Strategically you want your
price to accomplish something. You want it to create urgency in the mind of the
buyers, not resistance, because the buyer’s sense of urgency is what will help you get
get more money.
As we have already discussed, buying is an incredibly emotional decision for buyers.
This is why it’s important to understand the Buyer’s perspective, because what they
see, BEFORE they see the house, is the price. Do you want buyers to come see your
house emotionally eager and excited about your house? Of course. A great price
makes them want to be excited about the house when they see it.
A high price makes them guarded, because they they don’t want to over-pay. The
unintended consequence is that prospective buyers actually try to find reasons to NOT
like your house because the price is higher than the competition. They are emotionally
afraid to fall in love with your house just because of the price.
One of the most common (and biggest) pricing mistakes many homeowners make is to
price their home high with the idea that “We can always come down.” Today’s buyers
are much more market-savvy and knowledgeable than they used to be. They look at
comps and at the competition and they know before they see the house if the price is
realistic or not. Unrealistic prices can actually make buyers not look at all.
On the other hand, if your home is correctly priced it will make buyers feel they need to
snap it up before someone else does. This creates urgency and buzz about your
house, which increased the perceived “demand” for your property.
Think about it this way. There are two things that you want buyers to be excited about:
Number one, is your property. Over 90% of the time, they will see your property online
before they will see it in person, so it is important that you have great quality pictures
28
of your home on the Multiple Listing Service and on the internet. This is the first
impression buyers will have of your home. If the pictures are not excellent, they may
not even want to see your house. This is also the reason having your house show at its
best is important. When they show up, you want them falling in love with your
property. As the saying goes, you want your house to “sell itself.”
The second thing buyers must be excited about is the price. If they love your house,
but feel like the price is high, they emotionally put up resistance to liking your house
because of the price. This is the last thing you want. First, because it may cause them
to not make an offer at all. And second, because even if they do decide to make an
offer on the property, it causes them to be hesitant. They tend to think about it longer
and look extra hard at other properties on the market (your competition) because
they’re trying to find a way out of liking your house. The result is offers do not come in
as quickly, and some will not come in at all.
On the other hand, when your property looks awesome AND your price is attractive to
buyers, they flock to your property like moths to a flame. Best of all they come to see
it wanting to fall in love with it…looking for every reason to justify why they should do
whatever it takes to get that house. Now, your house is “THE BUZZ.” In any market,
the best way to get top dollar for any house is to hit the market with a price that
stimulates demand for that house. The result is the most interest, the most traffic, and
the most offers, which (when coupled with the right negotiator) will always result in the
highest price.
When a home is over-priced it actually ends up selling for less, because it sits on the
market too long and becomes stagnant. And then, after weeks and weeks on the
market the “WWWTH” Syndrome kicks in….”What’s Wrong With That House?”
You want someone who will fall in love with your house, because that is the buyer who
will pay the most for it. The irony is that pricing it high will actually KEEP buyers from
falling in love with your house.
Here are 4 Common Myths about Selling for Top Dollar:
MYTH: If a home gets an offer quickly it was probably priced too low.
REALITY: The day your home goes on the market, there are already qualified, motivated
buyers in the market whose criteria matches your home. Often these are buyers who have
already made offers on other homes and got beat out by a competing offer, so when your home
hits the market there are often multiple buyers interested in your home. And when it’s priced
29
and marketed correctly, these buyers will act quickly because they don’t want to risk losing the
house to another buyer.
MYTH : If we are willing to wait long enough we’ll get more for our home.
REALITY: There is a correlation between time on the market and the property getting top value,
but not the correlation many sellers think. Generally, the longer it takes, the less the seller
makes. Why? Because of the “WWWTH Syndrome” (“What’s Wrong With That House”
). If a
property has been on the market for an extended period of time, buyers begin to wonder why no
one has bought that house. The result is often lower offers or no offer at all.
MYTH : Better marketing of my home will get me a higher price.
REALITY: The reality is that marketing does not make your home worth any more. The
importance of effective marketing is to put your home in front of the highest number of qualified
buyers to get full market value for it.
MYTH : I will just wait until the right buyer comes along who is willing to pay the price I
want for my home.
REALITY: It is statistically proven that the longer a house sits on the market the lower the
offers it will generate, whether it has price reductions or not. When new buyers come into the
market, they want the fresh inventory, not the stale listings that all the previous buyers have
rejected. Your home becomes a “been there, done that” property on the MLS, making agents
and buyers much more likely to submit low offers, or even worse, pass over it completely.
As you can see, pricing your home right from the beginning is simply the best pricing
strategy to get the most interest fast, the best offers, and consequently the best price
and terms.
30
10. The Deal: Skilled 3rd Party Negotiation
Of all ten strategies for getting top dollar for your property, this is very likely the most
important and the most under-rated. While this chapter is not a crash-course on
negotiations, it will give you some key points for negotiating the best offer for your
property.
Your home has been prepared to show at its best. It is being massively marketed to
the best buyers using the best marketing channels. And now you have interested
buyers who love your house and who want to buy it!
With the first communication from the buyer or buyer’s agent, the negotiations have
already begun. Is it possible to negotiate a higher price and better terms, even before
you get the offer? Absolutely. Even before that! But, unfortunately, most Sellers and
most agents and brokers, have no clue what to do next to maximize the value of the
property. “Are the sellers firm on the price?” “Will the sellers accept $X price?” How
an agent responds to those questions can make a huge difference in determining the
type of offers you receive. Here are a couple of key negotiating strategies pre-offer:
First, being a highly motivated seller is a plus, not a negative, IF (and this is a big “IF”)
you or your agent knows how to communicate that you are motivated without
compromising the value of your property. The secret here is that an extremely
motivated seller, when properly positioned, can almost create a feeding frenzy
mentality with buyers. This is what you want. Some sellers mistakenly believe it is
best to act like they are not really that motivated at all. Playing “hard to get” is a fine
line. A strong negotiator can communicate high motivation without giving the
impression of desperation. That’s what you want…motivation, not desperation.
The one, two, three punch that increases demand for your house:
1. A great property.
2. A motivated seller.
3. An attractive price.
31
When positioned and negotiated correctly these three elements are a powerful
combination to attract a feeding frenzy of motivated buyers and strong offers that will
result in the best price and terms for you in the sale of your property.
You get the call from your broker or agent. Hurray! We have an offer! Or even better,
you have multiple offers! What happens next? This is where it pays to have an agent
that understands negotiating strategy.
Do they understand how to represent you and the value of your home well when a
potential buyer or another agents asks, “Will the seller take less?” or “How much
flexibility does the seller have on their price?” An agent skilled in negotiation will know
how to answer that question simply and honestly in a way that does not give away one
dime of your equity, AND at the same time does not make the other party feel like they
are being stonewalled.
These are not skills that the average real estate agent will possess. One of the
mistakes many sellers make is hiring an agent simply because they know them or they
live in the neighborhood, or because they are friendly and nice (or even worse, because
they’re cheap). While any of those reasons may have some advantage for you, the real
keys are their knowledge and skill to effectively represent your best interest in a
complex and large transaction.
It’s important to remember that IF TOP-DOLLAR is your goal, choosing the right agent
has to be made as a business decision, not as a personal decision just because you
know someone. The key here is simply to keep in mind your ultimate goal of getting
top dollar for your house.
Some sellers wonder whether hiring an agent justifies the commission you pay. Think
about it this way. There is a reason that highly-paid celebrities and professional
athletes virtually never negotiate their own contracts in their respective fields. Just like
in a real estate transaction, they use “agents,” because they know and understand the
value and leverage of having a skilled third-party negotiator representing them.
Having a third party negotiator has several significant advantages. First, they have
knowledge and skills that enable them to negotiate from a stronger position. Second,
they are more objective and can keep emotions out of the equation. Third, they
provide a communication buffer between the parties that allows you to respond more
strategically.
32
However, an agent who does not understand the importance of skilled negotiating, can
be more of a liability than an asset when it comes to getting top-dollar. In fact, in terms
of value, an agent’s negotiating skill and understanding of how to close a transaction
seamlessly is more more critical to your bottom line than their “marketing plan.”
CAUTION: Many agents will come into your home and all they talk about is what
they are going to do to market your home.
Beware of an agent that thinks their main job is marketing. You need someone to
REPRESENT YOU in getting the best RESULT. The marketing is only the front end of
an agent’s responsibilities.
With the internet and technology, marketing your home has actually become one of the
simplest things an agent does for you. Think about it, are you hiring an agent just to
market your home…or to help you get top dollar? You want the result, right?
Another word of caution. When you put your home on the market, you are selling one
of your most valuable assets, right? Don’t go cheap. There are times when it’s OK to
cut corners, and there are times when it pays to invest in quality, competent
professional representation. We’ve all heard the saying, “You get what you pay for.”
When it comes to hiring skill, you get what you pay for. Every agent has the same
state-issued license, but they most definitely do not have the same skill level to get
YOU the best result.
One agent only cares about getting a commission check as fast as possible, and they
will always follow the path of least resistance to get there. “Get the deal done,” is their
modus operandi. This is not only true of many newer agents. It can be just as true of
agents who have years of experience, but have never invested the time and resources
to become truly skilled at negotiating.
An unskilled agent or one just wanting a commission can cost you tens of thousands of
dollars of your your valuable equity by not knowing how to position your property to
get the best offers or how to negotiate in a way that protects your hard-earned equity.
And the worst part of it is that you will never know how much hiring that agent really
cost you.
So how do you identify a skilled negotiator? It is really very simple. Ask them two or
three questions regarding how they will handle a couple of possible scenarios we have
just discussed.
33
QUESTION #1: “How will you respond when a buyer or agent asks you if we’ll take
less than full price for our property?”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: A comfortable, honest response from the agent, that does not
give away any of the value of your property, and at the same time does not repel the
buyer or the buyer’s broker/agent. A skilled answer will sound something like this,
“That’s a great question. The sellers are very comfortable with their price, and if you’ve
seen the recent, comparable sales, then I’m sure you’re already aware that the house
is priced very well… Have you (your buyers) seen the property yet?” Notice the
response does two things. First, it answers the questions in an effective way. Second,
it turns the conversation towards the buyers’ situation. The skilled agent will now
leverage this conversation to gather information about the buyers and their
qualifications and motivation. Watch for a response that indicates the agent uses
these interactions as opportunities to gather information, not to posture in a way that
pits buyer against seller. That only creates resistance.
QUESTION #2: “If we receive multiple offers, how do you typically recommend that we
respond to each of the offers? Do you recommend we counter all the offers, or just
negotiate the best ones first?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: An agent who has a clear response strategy that honestly
leverages the fact that you have multiple offers. The agent should understand that
multiple offers have a short life span. Buyers and their agents become disinterested
and frustrated very quickly if they feel they are being stalled or their offer is being
shopped. Every offer is a good offer, even if it is a ridiculously low offer, because it
gives you added negotiating leverage with any other offers.
The best response is one that gets all buyers to submit their highest and best offer
AND that simultaneously keeps all buyers interested and at the table while all the offers
come in. As a seller, it is critical to make sure you do not get greedy at this point. The
time span is very short before buyers get frustrated or give up and walk away from the
negotiating table. And the first round of offers is almost certainly going to be the best
round because your property is new to the market and that’s when it has the most
excitement.
A strong, experienced negotiator will have a strategic response for all the buyers that
will look something like this:
34
“The seller is currently in possession of multiple offers. The Seller respectfully requests
that all interested Buyers submit their best and highest offer by 5:00 PM, _____.” (a date
two or three days later)
Of course, there is more that a skilled agent will do. The key thing is that a strong
negotiator understands there is value in having more offers (the more the better), even
“bad” offers are good because they give you leverage. This type of response keeps all
buyers feeling they are being treated fairly and they have a shot at the property, so they
will all stay in the game and come with their best offer to the table.
The worst response is any response that can cause any offers to be removed from the
table, or that could make buyers frustrated or stressed. Giving no response at all is an
even faster way to lose a buyer. Prompt and respectful communication keeps buyers
interested. Slow response or no response leads to irritation often in only a matter of
hours. Negative emotions cause buyers to lose interest very quickly. A good
negotiator keeps the ball moving and does not leave the buyers and their agent in the
dark.
QUESTION #3: How will you recommend we respond to a ridiculous, low-ball offer?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Any offer is a starting point to a conversation. A skilled agent
will tell you to respond to EVERY offer as if it is a legitimate offer that could result in
satisfactory terms. See, the reality is that you have no idea how much someone is
willing to pay for a property based on their initial offer. They may be a cheap-skate
who is unrealistic and dreaming. Or they may be willing to pay whatever they have to,
but they want to know how low the seller will go, so they start very low to see how you
will respond. It is almost never a buyer’s intent to offend you, the Seller, so don’t take
any offer personally. A skilled negotiator will suggest a strong counter that forces the
buyer to get more realistic without muddying the waters and make the buyer walk from
the negotiating table.
These three questions will tell you a lot about an agent’s skill and preparedness in
dealing with different negotiating scenarios. The key thing to look for is their
confidence and certainty in the way they respond to your questions. If they appear
uncertain or reluctant to communicate to you a pro-active negotiating strategy, let that
be a red flag. And if they come across as adversarial or as if they are ready to go to
battle against the buyer and the buyers’ agent, that can be even more ineffective at
securing the best result for you.
35
A skilled negotiator makes everything sound easy and communicates confidence
without coming across as cocky or trying to play the hero. You don’t want a hero, just
a skilled, competent professional who knows how to deliver results. And when you
find that person, not only will they protect your equity and maximize your cash, they
will make the process much less stressful for you.
36