Thursday, January 20, 2011


My current opinion about the local housing market is that there are two types of homes that are selling:

1) Beat up dogs, heavily discounted, and…

2) The nicest homes in a price range, with spotless interiors, quality finishes and great curb appeal, which still must be reasonably priced.

Beat up dogs, usually bank-owned rehab projects, account for about 10 to 15% of the market, and the turnkey beauties also account for 10 to 15% of the market. For the 75% of homes in the middle, it’s a tough road right now.

So how do you get your home to sell in this environment? The answer is obvious – you have to win the beauty contest while being willing to compete in the price war.

As part of my listing services package, I bring a stager in to look at every new listing I take. And based on her feedback, I will often have my sellers spend several days (and sometimes weeks) cleaning, decluttering, updating and polishing the finishes of their homes. New paint and carpet do wonders, as do clean windows, new fixtures and fresh towels. Removing as much as one-third of a seller’s personal belongings can create space and give flow to a previously cluttered home, and buyers will still pay for space and cleanliness.

In a good market, staging will put money in your pocket by raising the value of your home above the cost of improvements and cleaning. In today’s market, where half of the homes listed for sale in the Denver MLS never sell, it may not be as profitable (although it sometimes is), but it will get your home sold when others linger on the market for weeks and months.

Not everyone wants to stage and not everyone wants to clean. But then, not everyone is going to successfully sell their home, either. In this market, sellers have to outwork their competition, and that means doing what is necessary up front so that when a buyer walks through the front door, there are no objections and the feelings are all positive.  Clutter, dirt, and deferred maintenance create confusion in the mind of buyers, and the confused mind will always say no when there are other alternatives available.

In my opinion, you have to focus on the first 21 to 30 days of market time as your one and only window to sell for a “retail” price. If you don’t move it in the first month, staleness sets in, and in this market, many buyers will carve you up on price once you have gone stale.

If you’ve got 21 to 30 days to capture that retail buyer, your home simply cannot be a “work in progress”. It needs to be a finished product, polished and ready. Buyers today want quality or value… anything in the middle just won’t do.