How to Get the Highest Price for Your Property
Thinking of Selling?
If you are like most sellers, the thought of selling your property can be daunting.
This booklet will give you some practical ideas to make the tasks of selecting an agent, working with your agent, and showcasing your property in its finest light, as easy and stress-free as possible.
When it comes to getting the highest price for your property, there are two things that, more than any others, will optimise your chances of success.
But before we get into those areas do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
Why are you selling?
Now before you go thinking that this is none of my business, I put it to you that this is a critical question that you should answer before you begin the selling process, and certainly before you go talking to a real estate agent.
You see, this sale is all about YOU.
Will your life improve as a result of the sale of your property?
You should be able to discern a clear and positive reason why you will benefit from this sale.
For example, you might be selling to:
- Upgrade to a larger home to accommodate a growing family
- Reduce financial pressure
- Downsize to a smaller and more manageable home
- Move to a retirement village
In all of these cases your life should improve once you make the move.
Human beings are goal-oriented creatures. We all need something upon which to set our sights.
If there is a benefit to you in the long run, the selling process will be much easier for you.
You should never put your property on the market with the thought “If I get my price I’ll sell” or something similar.
Without a clear goal you are wasting your time, emotional energy, and money.
Now let’s talk about presentation…
ADDING EXTRA SPARKLES
Giving your property that extra appeal.
You rarely need to spend thousands of dollars to make your home attractive.
Buyers are attracted by the appearance of your property and, when they inspect it, they are influenced by its atmosphere. The right appearance outside, followed by the right mood inside, gives you the best chance to get the highest price.
You rarely need to spend thousands of dollars in renovations or repairs to make your property attractive. All you have to do is pay attention to some obvious points, all of which can make a big difference to your price.
Falling In Love
Buying a home is emotional. The feeling of a home is more important than the price. If your agent has ‘qualified’ the buyers, they will not be ‘lookers’; they will be genuine people who can afford your asking price.
Their feelings will be the main reason they accept or reject your property. The word ‘love’ is common with home-buying – and even with land, when buyers report loving the location. Buyers say, “We loved that home and that’s why we bought it”. So make sure you present your property at its finest. Remove or fix anything that might ‘turn-off’ the buyers.
We are attracted to homes the same way we are attracted to people.
The first thing we notice is the outside. If the property is clean and neat and welcoming, we are interested. If it is scruffy or dirty, we are turned off.
Buyers often say they “just want to look from the outside.” They want to see if they are attracted by the appearance.
For this reason you need to be careful how your agent markets the property. Advertising an address, and opening for inspection a property that might not be attractive from the outside, can lose many buyers.
To make your home look its best, attention to details is crucial. When you live in a property, you can overlook its little faults. It is now time to have a fresh look.
Stand in the street and look at your property as if you were seeing it for the first time. Try hard to pick faults. It is better that you find the faults while there is time to fix them, than the buyers finding the faults.
Try to judge your property by the standards of the buyers, not by your standards – try to see it through strangers’ eyes.
The challenge is to make your property as attractive as possible without spending too much.
The Outside Appearance
First impressions create permanent opinions – so create a positive mood for all prospective purchasers.
Begin by sweeping the footpath in front of your property. Remove all rubbish from the gutters. Clear the letterbox of junk-mail. If you have a lawn, do your best to make sure it is not bone-dry. Green grass is appealing and a sprinkler does wonders to most lawns.
If you have a gate, make sure it doesn’t squeak. If your front fence needs repair, it might be better to demolish it. If the buyers see a potential expense, they either won’t buy or they will expect a reduction on your price.
Clean the paths and the outside of your property to remove dust and cobwebs (close your windows first.). And clean the windows so that they sparkle; few things are as ugly as dirty windows.
Make sure there is no paint flaking. You may not have to repaint, but at least scrape off any loose paint pieces.
Flowers do wonders for the front of a property; and the brighter the better. They create a homely look. You can get flowers for any season. Daffodils, pansies, petunias – go to the local nursery and ask for advice.
Buy flowers in pots if you don’t have much lawn, and make sure they are displayed in two places: near the street and near your front door.
You want buyers to fall in love with your property, so give it that loved look. At the front door, have a thick door-mat with ‘welcome’ on it. It sounds corny, but it feels good. It is friendly; it feels like home.
Make sure the screen door is working. Have a door-knocker or a bell with pleasant chimes. If you have a doorbell make sure it works. If people come to your home in the evening, have the welcome light on.
When buyers arrive, you want them to think, “This looks nice.” By the time they reach your front door, you want them to think, “This feels nice. I like it!”
Neat, clean and friendly are the first steps to making your home attractive from the outside.
Create an appeal that says, “Welcome. Come inside”.
The Inside Atmosphere
When buyers enter your property they should immediately feel at home. The inside atmosphere should be warm and appealing. One agent described it by saying, “A home should look and feel happily lived-in”.
Make the atmosphere natural and relaxed, even if it means changing (or improving) your living habits. Buyers are aware of gimmicks such as a coffee pot brewing, a cake in the oven or classical music playing softly in the background. False attempts to add appeal often have the reverse affect.
Genuine appeal is what wins the buyers. A radio or a TV – never too loud – is a natural part of home life. Well-made beds with warm quilts and lots of pillows really make a property feel like home. Home truly is ‘where the heart is’ and anything that increases the emotional feeling of comfort is something we all love.
Nothing turns people off more than bad smells, so be sure your property smells fresh. You can buy plug-in fragrances that remove bad odours.
If you have pets be careful, because their smell, while familiar to you, can be unpleasant to others. Take pets’ blankets and bowls outside. A dog that jumps up can be irritating and distracting, but not as bad as a savage dog that terrorises the buyers.
Wherever possible, remove your dog during inspections – take it for a walk. And always, be sure that there are no ‘doggie surprises’ for your buyers to step in while inspecting the garden.
Bright and Airy
Make sure the property is bright and airy by opening the curtains. Fresh air, if practicable, is always best.
If you have a fireplace and it is winter, an open log fire can be a big selling feature. At the very least, make sure the property is warm in winter and cool in summer.
Try to remove clutter so your property does not look smaller than it is. The time for a clean-up or a ‘garage sale’ is before you sell, not afterwards.
Most properties have some natural untidiness – a book beside the bed, a newspaper in a kitchen or slippers on the floor – this is acceptable and expected. What is not acceptable is dirt.
Make sure the bathrooms are clean to the point of sparkling. Fresh fluffy towels add a warm feeling as does the sound of a washing machine or the sight of clothes blowing in the breeze on the outside hoist. Atmosphere is everything.
The bathrooms and kitchen are especially important to a woman, who is usually the decision maker.
If there is any unfinished work inside the property – such as skirting boards that have been removed – fix these things. If there are any obvious minor repairs – such as door handles missing or broken hooks – fix these too. Repair all irritating things that are likely to catch the eyes of buyers.
Be very careful if you do any painting. Painting one dull room can suddenly make other unpainted rooms look dull too. Before you know it you have a major painting job on your hands; this could lead to replacing the carpets, even the tiles in the bathroom. Suddenly you are involved in a very expensive renovation.
The cleanliness and the mood are most important but all expense needs careful consideration. Will you get the money back?
Ask your agent’s opinion.
The best advice is to do all you can to make your property feel like a home. Make it sparkle without making it too immaculate or clinical.
Some sellers create a show-home. In doing so, they create a cold sterile effect. Homes with warmth are the most attractive and appealing.
During the Inspection
Although good agents like it if you can meet prospective purchasers – they say that this reduces the risk of buyers making low offers – when the inspection gets underway it is best if you (and your dog) are not home.
Too many people in a property can make it look too small – have you ever felt this at an open home for inspection, when hoards of ‘lookers’ are squeezing past each other?
If you do stay home, do not remain in the most appealing room. Buyers will be conscious of their intrusion into your life; they rarely feel relaxed when you are in the same room.
Genuine buyers take their time to inspect a property, so give them plenty of time to savour the best rooms in the property.
If you trust the agent, let the agent stay with the buyers. And don’t expect the agent to point out all the obvious features.
Some of the best salespeople are silent when buyers are inspecting a home. The time for most questions is after the inspection, or if the buyers require a second or third inspection.
The Value of Major Improvements
If you spend enough money in making the property more attractive, you will usually make it easier to find a buyer.
But you need to find middle ground. It makes no sense if the cost of the improvements is too high – often it would be more cost effective to reduce your asking price.
Most major improvements are personal and do not add the value you expect. An example is a swimming pool. If you pay $30,000 for a pool, the pool salesperson may tell you this increases the value of your property. But if buyers don’t want a pool you will not get back what you paid.
Most improvements often return only half their cost upon sale.
You may have to wait years to find a buyer with the same personal taste as you.
If your property needs major renovation, it may be better to avoid the expense of renovation and instead select a lower asking price.
Many buyers want to renovate a property to suit their own taste. While minor improvements can give you a great return on your selling price, major improvements are often a big mistake.
Either spend a little money to sell your property or spend a lot of money to stay there.
Focus on Features
Your property’s features are its biggest selling point; price is secondary. Sure, if there are two identical properties, then price becomes important. But most properties are unique and each has a special ‘feel’ that makes it more or less attractive than another property.
Even an apartment in a building of look-alikes can sell for a higher price if the owner gives it that special touch.
This is why it is so important to focus on the features your property has to offer. Why should someone buy it? Make a list of these features and make sure your agent knows about them.
But no matter how good a property may be, as the seller you should steel yourself for some negative feedback. Selling a property can be a cruel process sometimes.
You may be told by buyers, via you agent, that the property is too small or too big or too old or too new, or that it needsd too much work.
Buyers may point out negative features that you never considered, so it is vital that you give your agent ammunition to fight these negatives with a list of positives.
When people focus too much on the price of a property they tend to forget its features. And this means you have to reduce the price or the buyers will choose a similar home at a cheaper price.
Almost all buyers make their decision based on the features of the proeprty. It could be something as simple as a tree on the front lawn. Buyers buy properties they love first, and properties they can afford second. Features are more important than price. Focus on features.
Your Competition in the market
Any market involves competition and your competition comes from two areas: similar properties to yours that are for sale, and from agents who compete with your agent.
The presentation of your property and the skill of the agent can mean thousands of dollars to you in the real estate market.
Your agent has to persuade buyers to inspect your property and to buy it in preference to other properties.
Now that you have your property presented in its finest light, it is now time to speak with real estate agents.
CHOOSING & WORKING WITH AN AGENT
Choosing the right agent is crucial if you want to get the highest price for your property with the least amount of stress.
Buyers have a choice – your home or someone else’s.
Your agent should be skilled, selling the positives of your property and, when necessary, selling the negatives of properties that are listed with other agents.
This does not mean your agent should mislead people. It means that your agent works for you and not for the other home sellers or their agents.
Be sure your reason for selling is confidential. No-one, other than the agent you trust, should know why you want to sell.
If the buyers know you have a pressing reason for selling, this could be used against you.
It is enough for buyers to know only that you want to sell. The reason is your business. Revealing it could weaken your position when you receive an offer.
The best Agents will tell you how to give your property that special feeling that wins the hearts of buyers.
With the right agent, and with your property looking its best, you will always get the highest price.
The advice contained in this booklet may be contrary to the advice you receive from many real estate agents.
The greatest problem facing home sellers is lack of information. Some people only sell a property once or twice in their lives. Even those who sell more often rarely have the experience or the information to know how to get the best price with the least risk.
Following are some things you should consider when selecting a real estate agent. You will, it is hoped, notice that in none of these ways is it suggested that you select an agent based on who charges the lowest fee, or on who quotes the highest selling price to you…
This is the most dangerous way to select a real estate agent.
Insist on a Guarantee
The best advice to any person thinking of selling a property is to insist on an iron-clad service guarantee – one that gives you the opportunity to terminate the agent’s services WITHOUT PENALTY if you are not receiving the service your agent promised you at the listing presentation.
All agents will ask you to sign an agreement before you sell your property. But remember that you are being asked to sign their agreement. Many sellers bitterly regret signing that agreement with the agent.
The best agents will gladly GUARANTEE their services.
Avoid agents who do not offer a services guarantee.
Find an Agent You Trust
If you don’t trust the agent, don’t hire the agent. A major ingredient in any relationship, business or personal, is trust.
Before you choose your agent, ask many questions, check references, ask for a guarantee, test their negotiating skills and ask yourself the BIG question: Do I feel comfortable with this person handling the sale of (possibly) my greatest financial asset?
If your answer is ‘no’, do not hire the agent.
Once decided on an agent, give the agent your trust and confidence. Do not interfere.
Allow the agent to make decisions and get on with the job of finding the right buyer for your property.
If the agent later loses your trust, provided that you insisted he or she signs a guarantee, you can always dismiss the agent and find one you cant trust.
The best agents are worth of your trust. They won’t let you down.
Don’t Agree to Pay Advertising Costs
The way typical real estate agents advertise is a waste of money. Make sure it is not your money.
Many agents advertise to promote themselves, and not your property. In the past twenty years, real estate advertising has increased as much as twenty times. In most areas, the number of sales being made today is the same as twenty years ago.
Home sellers are often pressured to pay thousands of dollars for advertising. This is a needless expense because very few properties are ever sold because of advertising.
Be Reasonable About Advertising
Advertising will rarely sell your property. Too often home sellers make the mistake of demanding advertising for their properties.
The previous hint for selecting an agent advised you to not pay advertising costs, but this does not mean that you should make unreasonable demands upon your agent for needless advertising. Be reasonable about advertising.
Buyers who want to buy in your area know the area. It is the area that attracts them, not advertising. It is a waste of time, money and energy to place advertisements in publications that reach thousands of people who will not buy in your area.
The media your agent chooses to expose your property in is also important. Many buyers are now Generations X and Y, and these people do not read newspapers nearly as much as do ‘Baby Boomers’. Agents who rely on newspaper advertising are quickly becoming old fashioned.
Your agent needs to be an expert in Internet Marketing, and should not necessarily ‘follow the crowd’ by advertising heavily on third-party websites, either.
Here is what your agent should be doing to find a buyer for you:
- Your agent’s office should be open 7 days;
- Your agent should be sending email Home Alerts to thousands of buyers every week;
- Your agent should have large numbers of signs in the area;
- Your agent should be an expert at directing enquiry to his agency’s website.
This will bring the best buyers to your agent and your agent will then qualify the buyers and bring the right ones to your property. That’s how most properties are sold.
If your property is not selling there are usually only two reasons: the agent is incompetent or the price is too high.
If you keep advertising your property, people may start wondering what is wrong with it.
Choose Skill, Not Opinions
Some agents tell lies to win your business.
Be very careful that you do not choose the agent who tells you the biggest lie about how much ‘you will get’ for your property. This is called ‘buying the business’.
Unless the agent is prepared to buy your property, his or her opinion is irrelevant.
If you choose agents based on the selling price they quote you – their opinions – you may be badly disappointed, and may even wind up in financial difficulty.
If you suspect that an agent is attempting to buy your business with an inflated sale price estimate, insist they give you their estimate in writing.
Insist, also, that they charge you nothing if they sell for less than the price they estimated. This will identify the agents who are enticing you with false quotes.
Choose Skill, Not the Cheapest
Cheap agents get cheap prices. Be careful choosing an agent based purely on their fees.
If agents give their own money away what do you think they will do with your money?
It may be better to pay an extra one percent for a selling fee than to receive ten percent less on your selling price.
Good negotiators rarely give big discounts on their fees. If they get you the best market price, they are worth a fair fee.
Choose NEGOTIATION Skill!
If you have spent a lot of time interviewing real estate agents, you may have noticed that they talk endlessly about the advertising they do, but few talk about the one thing that is most important to you- their negotiation skill.
Poor negotiatiors can cost you a lot of money.
Negotiation skills are vital to ensureing you get the highest possible price.
A good negotiator can achieve up to an extra ten percent on your selling price. This can mean thousands of dollars.
If you have an attractive property you don’t need a salesperson as much as you need a negotiator.
Ask your agent to PROVE his or her negotiation ability to you. Most won’t be able to do so. These are the agents you should avoid.
Choose an Agent That Has Buyers Waiting
The best agents keep their records of buyers.
Most agents get dozens of enquiries from buyers each month. Some get hundreds. But most don’t keep records of these people- names, enquiry details, email addresses and phone numbers.
Usually these agents do not feel the need because their home sellers pay for the advertising.
When agents keep records of genuine buyers, there is less need for advertising.
Insist on an agent who keeps detailed and accurate records of genuine buyers. One of these buyers may be perfect for your property.
The more agents you employ the greater your chance of getting a lower price.
Do not place your property for sale with several agents. You may think this will increase your chance of finding a buyer, but it decreases your chance of getting the highest price.
All of those agents will be in a hurry to sell your property before someone else sells it. The sale will be most important. The price will be forgotten.
Buyers shop around. They will use the agent who can obtain your property for the lowest price.
Test this yourself. When you see one property with several agents, call them all and ask this question: “What is the lowest price I can get this for?” You will be told different prices.
The saying goes that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
It is hard enough when buyers shop around for properties, but do you also want them shopping around for the weakest agent too?
Is There Anything Better Than Auction?
Many agents will say, “NO!” but then again, they’re trained to say that.
There can be no doubt that auctions often get a high price, but can they guarantee to get the highest price?
Buyers Agents represent purchasers, and not home sellers. A Buyers Agent assists purchasers to buy cheaply. This is what one Buyers Agent ** had to say about auctions:
“I attend many auctions and bid for properties on behalf of my clients. At the majority of the auctions where we were successful, we had ‘money left on the table’ – that is, we spent less than our authorised limits.” **
**Patrick Bright – Buyers Agent & Author of “The Insider’s Guide to Saving Thousands at Auction”
No negotiation expert favours allowing competing parties in a negotiation to hear what another party has offered, yet this is what auction does.
A better alternative to auction is to negotiate privately using the Buyers’ Price Declaration.
Based on an idea developed by economist the late William Vickery – one of several ideas that earned him the Nobel Prize for economics – this negotiation tool is demonstrably better than auction for sellers, buyers, and agents.
With the Buyers’ Price Declaration, no competing party is privy to another party’s offer. This means that each buyer must offer his or her highest price without being influenced by what somebody else may have offered.
Ask your agent about negotiation with a Buyers’ Price Declaration.
If he or she still insists on auction, insist upon a price guarantee.
Hire a Specialist
If you follow the advice in this booklet you will seek out a professional salesperson – a trained negotiator – who uses the Buyers’ Price Declaration as a means to obtain the highest possible price for you.
You should understand, however, that few agents know this tool and understand how to use it.
This means that if you tell an ‘auction specialist’ (usually recognised by the fact that the salesperson ‘pushes’ auction to you), that you do not want to auction and then force that person to handle your sale by Private Treaty, you will have working for you a salesperson that is out of his or her depth.
A Private Treaty specialistt seldom does auctions. He or she is a specialist this does not automatically mean that he or she knows and uses the Buyers’ Price Declaration.
Ask questions. Discover whether your preferred choice of agent understands the principles of negotiation and the Buyers’ Price Declaration.
Weekly Price Review
Price is a major factor in marketing and it is important that you and your agent get it right.
Since all negotiation experts say that if you want to get the highest price you should start high and then come down until the right buyer is found, it stands to reason that price is a very important factor in effective marketing.
Every week you and your agent should meet to discuss:
- The week’s marketing – what has been done, and what enquiry did it generate?
- Discuss individual enquirers and what they had to say about the property. This includes those who talked with the agent about the property even if the discussion did not result in an inspection.
- Weekly Price Review – is the current price attracting interest? Have any offers been made? At what price should the property be offered in the coming week?
Try not to get too ‘hung up’ on price. In marketing, price is like bait is to fishermen – if one type isn’t working, change the ‘bait’.
To Open or Not to Open?
As mentioned earlier, open inspections can make property look smaller.
They also leave you exposed to risk of ‘games’ being played by prospective purchasers. There have been cases where a purchaser, who was interested in a property, spoke loudly and negatively about it during the open inspection in the hope of discouraging other purchasers.
Whether this tactic succeeded or not is irrelevant – why risk exposure to such tactics?
There have been cases of theft during open inspections and opinion is divided as to whether the home owner is covered by insurance in such circumstances – after all, the thief was invited into the home.
From a professiona selling perspective, only people who are qualified to purchase should have the right to inspect a property, and that should be allowed to do so at a time most suitable to them and to the home sellers, not the agent.
Although open inspections are more convenient for the agent, who only has to serve each seller for one hour per week, some agents believe in an old-fashioned concept called SERVICE.
If your agent is happy to offer you, and your potential purchasers, better service by taking buyers through one at a time, you may find this service leads to a higher price for you.
Should We have a Sign?
The buyers who are most likely to pay the highest price will specifically want your location. No sign can mean no sale.
A sign attracts these buyers. It is your 24 hour salesperson. It is often your best salesperson.
Be careful, however. Some people will knock on your door. Insist they call your agent. Trying to negotiate yourself could cost you thousands of dollars.
For Sale Signs also attract other agents, those who are too lazy to find their own properties for sale, and those who are unscrupulous.
If other agents appriach you, send them packing no matter how many times they tell you they have a great buyer.
These agents are the worst in the industry. If they will ‘steal’ other agents’ clients they will almost certainly deceive you. Do not speak to sleazy buyers or agents who approach you without being first introduced to your listing agent.
‘Open for Buyers’ Means an Open Agency
Closed offices lose buyers. Make sure the agency you choose is open seven days.
Many agents work ‘nine to five’ and close on Saturday afternoons and Sundays.
While this may be acceptable for a bank, you need an agent who is available to buyers when they want to go looking.
Weekends are especially important. This is when most buyers have the time for home searching.
You never know when the perfect buyer will come along. And that the buyer will buy from the agent who is open. The best agents offer a 7 day service. They are always prepared to work on your behalf.
Quote the Price You Want, Not a ‘Bait’ Price
It sounds good in theory – quote a low price to ‘lure’ purchasers in, and then work to get the price up from there.
Then why do NO negotiation EXPERTS favour this method?
Bait prices trap sellers as well as buyers.
Never allow an agent to use a low false price to ‘bait’ buyers. If you use a price range or guide or a ‘by negotiation’ strategy, you are encouraging buyers to offer you less. Your ‘bait’ price will ‘hook’ you more than buyers!
Sure, a lower ‘bait’ price may attract more buyers but it attracts the wrong buyers. The lowest price the buyers see will become the highest price they want to pay.
And never tell anyone – including your agent – the lowest price you will accept because that too can quickly become the highest price you will get.
Learn to love Early Buyers
High prices often come too early. The only problem with buyers who make good offers early in the marketing campaign is that their offers do not look so good when compared with the first, and current, asking price – which is always higher than the true market price.
American sales trainer, David Knox, said, “Sellers do not come down FROM Market Price; sellers come down TO Market Price.”
Ask your agent to tell you about the Endowment Effect, which was discovered by Havard University professor, Dr Max Bazerman. The Endowment Effect explains why sellers often expect more than their properties worth, but this expectation should not stop you from getting the highest price.
Your agent should give you an accurate estimate of the likely selling price of your property. Although this figure is likely to be less than you expected, the agent’s likely selling price range should be the TRUTH.
ALL negotiation experts say that if you want to get a high price you should start high.
We agree with this, but this creates a problem with early offers which, as was previously said, are often the highest.
The problem with early offers is that, although they are often the highest offers, they…
Look terrible when compared with a high first starting price.
Low prices often come late, so be careful – the buyers you reject when your property is first placed for sale may be the buyers prepared to pay the best price.
The longer your property stays on the market, the number of buyers for it usually gets lower, not higher. And your price will often get lower too.
So treat early offers with respect.
Here is how a good negotiator should work:
- He or she should give you an accurate truthful price estimate.
- You and the agent should agree on a first asking price, which should be high enough to guarantee that you do not sell the property too cheaply, but not so high that it ‘scares away’ the best buyers.
- You and the agent should have a Weekly Price Review. If there has been little interest in the property in the past week, you should lower the price for the coming week.
This is what great negotiators recommend – start high and then come down.
- Negotiation with all buyers should be done by way of the Buyers’ Price Declaration. This greatly increases your chance of obtaining the highest price possible.
Good luck with your selection of an agent. We do hope that these hints are of some assistance to you.
Although you might not follow all of the advice contained in this publication, please always insist that your agent signs for you a service guarantee, and one with meaning.