Categories: For Sellers
(You’ll not likely hear them from any other Realtor either)
Everyone who has ever consulted with a Realtor, or watched one of those sales-shows on HGTV knows all the classic pieces of advice with regard to preparing a home for sale. De-clutter, de-personalize, yada, yada. Here are some real-life tips that are not always easy to hear or accomplish, but that will make a huge difference in both the time it takes, and the amount you’ll get when selling your home.
1. Make nice with your inconsiderate neighbors
I’ve seen countless instances where a buyer will walk away from an apartment that is otherwise perfect for them because they could hear children running above them, or because they could smell cigarette smoke through the walls. You might even be selling because your neighbor leaves strollers, toys, boots, pet products or other personal items in the halls making it difficult for you to pass. Maybe their dog barks like mad whenever someone walks by, or cries all day while the owner is out. Whatever the reason, it behooves you, as difficult as it may be, to talk to them. Beg them to take the kids to the playground or the dog to the park on days when you have open houses or appointments. Offer to pay for movie tickets or doggie day care to get them out if you have to. Ask the smoker to please smoke outside until your unit sells. Make sure they realize it is in THEIR best interests for you to sell your place for the most money possible. Your sale will be their comp when they go to sell. Helping you to sell high will raise their property’s value.
2. Make nice with your condo board too
The first thing a buyer sees when they come to your home for an appointment or open house is the building and the corridors leading to your apartment. If the lights in the hallways are dim, damaged or broken, or if there are stains on the carpeting, scuff marks on the walls and broken spindles on the banisters, then it doesn’t matter how beautifully you’ve staged your apartment. The buyers are already are walking in with a negative first impression. This can be especially tough for small condo associations that may not have a lot in reserve. You need to impress upon your fellow owners that it is in everyone’s best interests for you to sell high (see #1 above.) You can sweeten the pot by offering to do some things yourself like shop for new light fixtures or offer to clean (or even paint) the halls yourself. Yes, the halls are the condos responsibility, not specifically yours, but knowing that won’t make you feel any better if you get offers for tens of thousands of dollars less than you seek because the building has no curb appeal. Another thing – every morning, throw away those piles of supermarket circulars that clutter up the vestibule. Put the trash cans away that the garbagemen left strewn about, and when you get home, make sure the bags or trash are actually in the recepticles and that the lids are shut. If your building has a superintendent or a cleaning service, slip them a couple of extra bucks to do it for you. It may irk you to have to pay to get things done that should not be your responsibility, but you are the one that stands to benefit. And make sure there are flyers in the flyer box. A good Realtor (like me) will provide you with plenty so that you can replenish when stock is low.
3. Vote in ALL local elections (even the ones you don’t care about)
Here’s one that everyone should start thinking about and doing right now, regardless of whether you plan to sell in the near or distant future. Statistics show that only X% of Hoboken’s population voted in the last counsel person election and even fewer (X%) in the last school board election. The low turnout is due to three major factors: (1) Hoboken has a large renter population who don’t take “ownership” in what goes on around town. That also means that many of the landlord/owners don’t live in town and don’t pay attention to local elections. (2) People without a vested interest (like people without children for instance) don’t pay attention to issue that don’t concern them (like schools.) (3) People are lazy and local politics bores them.
The low voter turnout means that it takes very few votes to turn an election. Elections in Hoboken are often decided by hundreds (not thousands) of votes and sometimes fewer than that. I’ve seen elections decided by a dozen votes. These local elections DO MATTER, even if you don’t have kids, even if you don’t plan to stay in Hoboken for a long time and even if you don’t live in Hoboken at all. They matter because a good school system raises property values. That Hoboken is a charter school district is one of the driving forces that have changed Hoboken form a down-and-out neighborhood to one of the most desirable places to live in the entire tri-state area. They matter because rent control laws may matter to whomever wants to buy your place, even if you are an owner-occupier and don’t care. They matter because the local officials who decide what roads get paved and what parks get built may have a huge impact on your ability to sell. So get involved. Read about the issues. Ask questions. If you own a home, it matters!
4. Don’t be cheap, don’t be spendthrift
People frequently will upgrade a kitchen or bath in anticipation of a sale. Because I am a certified staging professional they often ask me for advice before doing the renovation, and when they are done they almost always say that they should have done the work sooner while they lived there and could enjoy it. So what are you waiting for? If your kitchen is dated and you plan to sell in a year or two, get it updated now. Paint the place. Put in a new tub. Don’t think “I’m going to sell the place so I don’t want to waste money fixing it up.” You’re going to want to spend that money anyway, so go ahead and enjoy it a little.
BUT (there’s always a “but”) remember that if your fixing the place up to sell, you want to think like a seller. Don’t spend thousands for a diamond-encrusted toilet seat. You’ll not get your money back. Don’t paint the walls silver and black because you love the Raiders. Not all buyers will share your eccentric taste. Spend a respectable amount for good, solid, timeless beauty and you’ll get $2 back for every $1 you spend.
5. Don’t hire your cousin Vinnie or your friend from your kid’s play group to list your place
I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me “I read your blog religiously. You’re the best Realtor I know. But I just listed my place for sale with my wife’s brother. I’d rather have used you, but it would be uncomfortable having Thanksgiving dinner with him if I didn’t use him.”
Really? So, you think it’s going to be comfortable having dinner with him if he does a lousy job and costs you tens of thousands of dollars on your sale? Are you going to be able to tell him that he is not doing a good job if that is the case? Are you going to be able to fire him, or go to his broker if he isn’t delivering what was promised? Here’s the easy way to handle it – tell him you’ve had bad experiences dealing professionally with friends and family and that you prefer to work with someone with whom you do not have a personal relationship. They’ll not be pleased that they didn’t get the listing, but if they love you, they’ll understand and get over it.
I’ve also heard “I want to hire you, but my husband wants to use his friend from the book club.” Many Realtors join clubs just so they can make connections with homeowners in town. Some are excellent Realtors. However, most sales (something like 95% of all sales) are done by a very small percentage (less than 5%) of all Realtors. The vast majority of Realtors are people who got their real estate licenses as a way to make money in their spare time while not really working. Chances are that’s who you are going to meet at your kid’s play group or the garden club. Do you really want to entrust the sale of the single most valuable asset you own with someone who does a handful of transactions a year (if that) because your spouse don’t want to piss off a friend? You’re moving away and will probably lose touch with them anyway. That’s not a smart way to conduct business.
I write this blog as a public service. I don’t charge anything and I don’t require you to register. I don’t advertise my own listings and I don’t plug myself too often. But trust me – I do this to create goodwill in the hope that it will generate business and I’m one of the very best Realtors in Hoboken. I live in, work in and specialize in Hoboken. I’ve made the Circle of Excellence for 11 straight years and I’ve sold more real estate each year than the one before in each and every one of those years. Good markets and bad, I get the job done. My background as a lawyer (couple with my husband’s experience as a CPA and my brother-in-laws assistance as an architect) makes the Turoff Team, by far, the most educated, experienced, qualified real estate professional team you’ll find ANYWHERE! If you’re thinking of listing your home for sale, don’t be a putz. Call us.