Those around in the 80's probably remember the Paul Masson commercials with Orson Welles and that unforgettable tagline: "We will sell no wine before it's time." The practice of fully preparing a product for market was around long before Paul Masson gave it a slogan, but it still rings true.
One industry that sometimes forgets the tried-and-true practice of thoroughly preparing a product for market is the real estate industry. Understandably, agents are under enormous pressure to sign clients before competing agents swoop in and get the listing. The trouble though with a hurry-up (and list) offense is that performance often suffers due to poor preparation; and the outcomes can be costly.
The most frustrating aspect of our job as home staging consultants is trying to remedy a lame duck listing -- a property that was rushed to market before it was ready. Poor Mr. Welles would roll over in his grave if he could see some of the unprepared listings on the market today.
Those ill-fated listings hit the MLS and the initial flood of prospective buyers begins. Excited buyers and their agents arrive only to find a hot mess. Floors are dirty, walls are cracking, lights are broken, 1980's décor is all around, and pet odors assault the senses. Buyers waste no time in moving on to a market-ready property and their agents. . . well. . .their agents talk. They tell other agents and buyers of the property's need for repairs and updates. Then the listing begins to sit, and sit, and sit some more. As it sits, people start wondering what is wrong with it. The early surge of potential buyers has passed and what remains is a LAME DUCK!
In most cases, a lame duck listing is the result of a rush to market. A For Sale sign shouldn't go in the yard before the house has even been cleaned. Buyers should see the best example of your home the very FIRST time they visit. You wouldn't wear a t-shirt and shorts to an interview, then hope for a second interview so you can wear your best navy suit would you? Of course not. So why would you do that with the sale of your home? If you want to avoid being a lame duck listing, you must properly prepare. Here's how . . .
Clean. Clean. Clean. Before you ever hire a realtor, prepare for the sell by making needed repairs, declutter, and eliminate any issues that buyers may perceive as negative. But don't overdo it! Sometimes owners get so into the decluttering process that they throw out key furniture, lighting, and art items. Just get rid of the clutter like papers, trash, broken items, and unused things.
Hire a great real estate agent. Don't just go for the agent with the flashiest ads and best website. Interview the agent and seek referrals from people you trust. Your home is often your largest investment. Don't trust it to just anyone. Hire an agent with exceptional character; one who makes your interests their priority. If you feel excessive pressure or get a gut feeling telling you to move on, listen to it. Ask lots of questions and choose the realtor who best fits your needs.
Talk to a staging consultant. If your realtor does not offer staging services, ask for them to do so. Request a true consultant who will sit down with you and explain WHY you need to remove the 70 inch television from the dining room entryway. Let them help you develop a game plan for making your home as presentable as it can be. Don't just get someone to come over and start moving stuff around your home. Go with a staging professional with a proven track record of verifiable sales and quick turnaround.
Trust the professionals. Don't just have a staging consultant into your home to satisfy your realtor. Do what they recommend. The more willing you are to follow the staging plan from the outset, the better success you are likely to have. Buyer expectations have changed significantly in just the past five years and the professionals know it. Agents and staging professionals do not enjoy telling you your home smells like cats or that your collection of 10,000+ antique bells is too much. They tell you to make changes or remove items because it will sell your home. Trust them.
Price it right. If your home is over-priced and you are uncompromising, don't venture into the market. People view their homes much like their children. They don't often see its drawbacks and realities. Listen to your agent who knows the market. They want to get as much out of your listing as you do. It's how they are paid. The more money you earn from the sale, the more they earn. What you think is a low asking price is usually a thoroughly researched, realistic price designed to keep your home from being a lame duck.
Stick to the plan. After your home has been readied for the market, a good stager and real estate agent will provide you with a list of things to do before each showing. Do them! Remember showing your home is like an interview. It is the first and sometimes only chance you have to make an impression on buyers. Whatever the professionals have instructed you to do, this is the time to do it.
True, there are exceptions to these rules . . . but not many. You may have sold three houses in 40 years with the same cuckoo clock and velvet Elvis collections hanging on the walls, but most likely it 1.) didn't happen quickly, 2.) wasn't close to full price, and 3.) wasn't after HGTV began educating the house-buying public. Today's buyers are more educated and more sophisticated than ever before. Simply sticking a For Sale sign in your yard and expecting great results is poor strategy. If you want to sell quickly and for the most money, you must properly prepare. Surround yourself with true experts and do as they recommend. If you put the time (and a little elbow grease) into it, you can avoid being the next lame duck listing.