Freshening up a stale house Ask a Broker

| 15 Jun 2015 | 05:20

How is it possible that some properties linger on the market for months while bidding wars abound, little inventory exists, and everything’s gone in a flash? Is the place jinxed? Is it the economy? Is it the market?

It’s the marketing, stupid.

It’s always the marketing. Bread sitting on the counter for a few days grows moldy. Old fish stinks. A home lingering unsold for a few weeks is deemed ‘stale.’ Serious bidders have rejected it as overpriced, flawed in some way, and in need of renovation or have found another a home.

But if moldy bread and the stinky fish get tossed, what does one do with a stale house? Refresh, re-energize and re-imagine the listing in five steps:

1. Adjust the Price and/or Seriously Consider a Low Offer

The best price to sell any home is the top price that a qualified buyer will pay. If the issue is price, reduce like you intend to sell. Be ruthless. Don’t hesitate to undercut a competitor’s price, and don’t fool around with nickel-and-dime reductions.

Similarly, if there are more than two offers at the same price point, the market is giving you a message: that’s what your place is worth. As difficult as it may be, wrap your brain around a seemingly low offer if 1. there really aren’t any others, 2. it’s a qualified offer, and 3. the offer gets you where you want to be and when you want to be there.

For instance, a client rejected a ‘lowball’ $1.9 offer on a $2.4 listing. That was two and a half years ago. Since then, there have been three other brokers, eight price reductions, no other offers, and now the home is listed at $1.699. Serious sellers need to think long term. If market conditions worsen, today’s low offer may look better in the rear view mirror.

2. Highlight what buyers want

Identify the target buyer who will pay the most for the home, and market to that person. Offer a rich, detailed description telling a story that sings. Explain how she will feel when she owns the property. Speak his language. Know where they hang out online, and be sure they can find your listing there.

3. Stage

“The cost of effective staging is less than your first price reduction,” says staging guru Anne Kenney. Stagers highlight property features, demonstrate benefits and camouflage flaws. They critically analyze how the home looks, smells, sounds and feels. Examine your home with a buyer’s critical mindset. What do you really see? Is it boring, ugly, taste-specific or cluttered? Closets too crowded? Dingy and in need of a coat of paint? Sparkly clean and fresh smelling? If not, what can be done? Wash the windows, buff the floors, re-caulk where necessary, reposition existing furniture, re-hang artwork. Too much to absorb? Then get a stager.

4. Shoot new pictures

Central Park’s winter wonderland in the dog days of summer? When you send off-season pictures, you tell everyone that your home didn’t sell. Use timely, professional photos. New pictures will liven the listing, potentially attracting those who overlooked the home the first time, or convincing others to revisit with an open mind. A picture is worth a thousand words, but professional photographers know that the right picture of your home may be worth several hundred thousand dollars.

5. Show when the buyers want to look

Be flexible about the viewing schedule, and be tidy at all times, willing to show at a moment’s notice. Is five minutes of junior’s nap schedule really worth staying another few months? If Rover hates people, send her to Doggy Day Care. People won’t buy what they can’t see. Open the door.

If the competition is selling and yours is not, clearly it’s the marketing and not the market. Toss out the moldy bread, stinky fish, and stale listing. Begin with fresh things.

Michael Shapot is a broker at Keller Williams in Manhattan.