As real estate professionals it is our job and duty to put our best foot forward and help sellers sell their homes and buyers find their dreams. We are often called upon and expected to give our expert opinions on how a seller can best sell their property. There are very specific details that can set you as a seller apart from the competition.
I have outlined what we feel are the 11 most important things you can do as a seller to achieve our common goal...selling your home.
Pricing: BE REALISTIC when you price your home. Do your research and then ask several qualified agents to give you their professional opinion. We always ask our clients, "Do you really want to sell?" We ask this because many times sellers think that they want to sell when they are really just "fishing". Therefore, we offer three prices to sellers; the quick sale price, the fair market value price, and a fishing price. In our opinion, a "quick" sale price is one that is at least 25% below market value. Fair market value is the price that other comparable homes are selling for in your area. Fishing, more times than not, should really be called dreaming because people tend "fish" for double the real value of their property and in today's marketplace, that is a dream. If a seller is asking more than $40,000.00 over the real value of their property, then we will not take the listing. It is never our goal to offend anyone, but I cannot waste the buyer's time, the seller's time, or my time trying to sell a property that is overpriced. So, it is our advice to try and not to get emotionally stuck on a certain price.
Curb appeal: After price, curb appeal is the most important part of selling your home. Know your competition and make sure that your home shows BETTER that theirs. If needed, retouch the paint work and spruce up the garden. In particular, make the front door and entryway welcoming. This is the gateway to a buyer's heart. If they don't feel welcome, then chances are they will not buy! The first impression is the only impression, so make it a good one.
No clutter: Once you decide to sell, the home is no longer "yours". Whether you and I agree with the notion or not, 99% of buyers want to see model perfect homes. Keep things basic and not too personal. Many professionals believe you should remove ALL personal items and photos, but I don't feel this is necessary. HOWEVER, an excess of anything is too much. If you have ten photos of the grandchildren, then take it down a notch to one or two photos. Take everything off the countertops in the kitchen to make it seem like there is more counter space. Remove any unnecessary furniture and put it into storage. Lighting is KEY so open all the curtains and turn on the lights. Make your closets feel bigger by removing the clothing you are not using. You want your house to appear as big as possible. The idea is you want the buyer to come into your home and make it their own! They must make that connection and get that feeling of being at home. Once they make that connection, they will mentally "move in" and start placing their own belongings in the house.
Make repairs: Any major issues with the property will be a big turnoff to buyers. No matter what the price of the home, they will automatically see money going out the door. Leaky roof? Repair it. Peeling paint? Repaint. Moisture, mold, and mildew on the walls or ceilings (common in Costa Rica due to the climate)? Clean, repair, and stop the issue, if possible. Anything that can cause instant dislike toward your house should be fixed, as long as it isn't too expensive. Go throughout the house and make a "honeydew" list of the small things that need fixing, as these are things that may be a turnoff to a potential buyer. Take the time to go around and fix those things one by one. If you noticed them, the buyer will too! Chances are these small things will only take a few days to repair and in the end it will make you feel better and help you achieve your goal of selling your home!
Staging: A well staged home will sell faster than a cluttered, messy home. As previously mentioned, you want your home to feel more spacious than it really is. Again, lighting is key. Not only will good lighting invite the buyer to come in, it will make your house look and feel bigger and brighter. There are many great TV programs about decorating and real estate out there. Take the time and turn on HGTV. Try to emulate what the experts do to stage a house. Remember, you are selling the "dream" of a tropical, Costa Rican paradise.
Professional photos: We cannot stress enough how important it is to have HIGH QUALITY, professional photos of your home. This is something you as a home owner should have done and then offer a CD to all the agents who are listing your home. Here in Costa Rica, exclusive listings are not common like they are in the United States, Canada, or Europe. Most agents in Costa Rica will not invest money in taking professional photos of your home without the "guarantee" of the exclusive contract.
Commissions and incentives: Offering bonuses is a good way to motivate agents and buyers. Don't try to negotiate on real estate commissions either. You want a motivated agent to help you sell your home. Cutting their pay will not help you achieve your goal. We have had clients in the past say, "We won't pay 5% commission because we don't feel you work hard enough." Our response is always the same, thank you, but NO THANKS. We don't take these listings! We know the value of our professional services and we will give you your money's worth. Ask yourself this, if your competition (similar properties) is paying 5% commission and you are offering 3%, then which house do you think we as professionals are going to show and sell first? Also, it's wise to sweeten the pot for they buyer. Offer the house TURN KEY with furnishings and a car when possible. This works wonders in a foreign country were the buyers are often unfamiliar on where and how to set up their new home.
Use the web: The web has changed the world in many ways. Be proactive in selling your home. Rely on your agent, but remember that you too can help to sell your home. Use online venues and social media sites such as Craigslist, Facebook, and Twitter to help sell your house. Post flyers around town both in Spanish and English. Tell friends and locals alike that your home is for sale. Remember, word of mouth is one of the best forms of advertisement and it's free!
Hire a qualified professional: Having an experienced, professional agent to help sell your house will make all the difference. In sales, as in other professions, experience in the field is KEY. Having a licensed agent with 16 years experience on your side compared to that of an unlicensed, inexperienced agent who has just hung out their shingle, will be the difference in your home selling or not. Your house is one of your biggest assets, and this is no time to do someone else a favor. Call a local real estate office and ask for their top salesperson. Interview a few agents and ask them to tell you what their marketing plan is for your home. Use someone who understands the power of the internet, the importance of good photos, and an overall marketing strategy for your house.
Showings and open houses: When you are having a showing or open house, LEAVE! We say this with LOVE because our goal is the same as yours - to sell your house. There's nothing more annoying than having the homeowners in a house when a buyer is trying to look at it. A buyer needs to make a house their own, and with the homeowner around, they cannot be themselves or be honest about the property. Opinions, unnecessary comments, and negativity from a homeowner can kill a deal faster than anything! Also, if you have pets, take them with you. We are animal lovers, but not everyone is. Many people are afraid of dogs and will not even leave the car to see a home when dogs are present. Plus, pet odors are a MAJOR turn off. This will run a buyer off quicker than anything. Again, make sure the house is perfectly clean so that it shows well. Finally, consider baking cookies before a showing, or lighting one of those cinnamon roll candles. These are small, inexpensive details that will make a buyer feel at right at home!
Easy access: Here in Costa Rica we do not have a MLS (Multiple Listing Service) or lock box system. In the United States, lock boxes are the norm and allow for showings at anytime. In Costa Rica we must rely on owners, property managers or caretakers to give us access to properties. One more than one occasion, we have had owners who were "desperate" to sell their homes, but every time we went to show the property, we could not get access. Our suggestion for those who travel a lot is to leave a key with a designated person or persons to allow easy access to your property. Also, access to the entire property is necessary. If a potential buyer is going to view a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with storage shed, then they want to see all 3 bedrooms, both bathrooms and the storage shed!
Often times when a property has not sold, it is for one or several of the reasons outlined above. In most cases, you as the seller and we as the agents may feel that most of items above are petty. However, it is important for us to understand is that the buyers take these things very seriously. If we keep our eye on the prize and set our personal beliefs and opinions aside, it will make achieving our common goal that much easier. We are all human beings, so emotions can get the best of anyone. Our wish is to always put together a win/win situation and have a positive experience for everyone involved. That way everyone gets what they want; the owner sells their home, the buyer gets their dream, and the agent has happy clients who will do repeat business with them in the future...a win-win situation all the way around!
Costa Rica Realtors Chamber
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