Getting Ready to List Your Home – Now or Spring?

Getting Ready to List Your Home – Now or Spring?

Ken DeLeon and Michael RepkaSeptember 20, 2013
Palo Alto Daily Post

 

Just as the days begin to feel shorter and the deciduous tree starts to change color, the local real estate hits its autumn peak.  To avoid the soon occurring dried up inventory and seller hibernation, buyers go on the prowl for that last great buy to find that special place they can make nest.  After two strong spring markets, with prices soaring well over 10 percent in a matter of months, the buyers’ fear of another price surge is justifiable.  This frenzied real estate market leaves some homeowners deciding when they should list their homes for sale -- now or the following spring?  If the homeowners can prepare their homes by mid-late October, they may want to list them now, but if they cannot, then they should wait until next spring if possible.

Of those who decide to list next spring, very few utilize the extra time effectively.  Essentially, there are three things sellers must do before listing their homes: 1) agent selection, 2) home preparation, and 3) marketing.

1. Agent Selection

Some agents offer clients a substantial number of services free of charge.  While this varies between agents, these services may include “off-market” promotion, use of moving supplies, vans or trucks, interior designers, contractors, and other key personnel.  Additionally, most agents provide guidance regarding strategic improvements that can help unlock their home’s hidden value, leaving the home more marketable than originally believed.

Given that agents generally charge the same commission irrespective of when they get involved, sellers should engage agents in the fall, even if listing in the spring.  Some agents pre-buy prime newspaper ad placement, such as the back cover or inside front cover, because these spaces are often assigned based on the date of signing. This will give the home more selling advantage.

 2. Home Preparation

Good listing agents should handle gathering estimates for the seller’s preparation work.  To ease the stressful process, agents should recommend the work to be done and the contractors to trust, and the agents should stand behind their recommendations.  Oftentimes, agents, not sellers, should handle the contractors.  First, agents may receive better price quotes from contractors because they recommend large amounts of work to their preferred providers.  Second, contractors are often more responsive to the agents if something goes wrong.  It stands to reason that an agent who engages in 30 or 40 listings a year has more pull with the contractors than a client who repaints his/her home every five years.

If the sellers choose to list during spring, not everything must be done immediately.  Some projects should be completed in the fall, some in the winter, and others in the weeks before market listing.

Generally, large landscaping projects, such as planting shrubs and trees, hardscaping, and irrigation, should be done in the fall.  The cooler weather and rain will help the vegetation take root and leaves time for completing later tasks.  On the other hand, the fine-tuning of landscaping, such as mulch and flowers, should be done right before market listing.

Many of the larger projects can be effected over the winter, which includes structural changes, floor refinishing, and painting.  Typically, contractors may be less busy during winter and willing to negotiate fees. Your agent should be able to help you with the details.

Beside landscape touch-ups, other projects that should wait until just before market listing include: window cleaning, power washing, driveway resurfacing, and other cosmetic improvements.

3. Marketing

Lastly, marketing is the last element that must be done before listing a home.

Many sellers who wait until spring would still sell with the right offer.  Well-connected agents are often able to uncover these kinds of opportunities and will make sure to spread the word about upcoming listings in a way that is strategic and consistent with the client’s desires. 

Over the slow winter months, agents network in many ways, some informal, such as calls between top agents, and others formal, such as participating in organized “clubs,” including Producers Forum and Top Agent Network.  If done correctly, this activity can result in mutually beneficial arrangements.

Very high-end agents utilize comprehensive marketing programs that include hosted “infomercials.” These high-end videos depict a host or agent describing key details of the home or neighborhood over scenes of the item described.  These videos as well as print ads and multi-page brochures require a significant amount of time in order to be produced at top-notch levels.

As a whole, there are many reasons why clients decide to wait until the spring to list their home.  However, a wise seller will make sure to use that time efficiently, and in the end, it will prove beneficial to the seller.

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