Six essentials to get your home SOLD in a “buyer’s market”

Posted by P.T. Vineburgh on Thu, Nov 18, 2010

So you're thinking about selling your home, but you may have noticed a lot of negative press about the Boston real estate market recently, and now you're nervous.  Is it the right time to sell?  Maybe you have a pressing need to sell, and think you're going to get a raw deal.  Or maybe you may not need to sell, and you're thinking it might be better to just live in a less than ideal situation.  "I can deal with this for just a little longer..." you tell yourself.  Don't fret.  Most of the sellers I talk to are in the same position.  And I'm here with some good news...

First the truth: Is it harder to sell a home now?  Yes.  

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, the truth also is that many properties do sell (the Boston real estate market is not as bad as you'd come to believe from reading the papers).  But, unfortunately, many also don't sell.  Here, I am going to tell you how you can "beat" the market and get your home sold.

Based on my experience, observations, and expertise over the past 12 years, here are my six essentials for being able to sell your home or condo in Boston in a “buyer’s market”.

  1. Prepare

    Give a good product – Use the expert advice of those you elect to team up with, who do this all the time. Even if you still live there, “decluttering”, re-arranging, and staging will all help to best position your property and optimize presentation for both in person and online (critical) marketing. How a property shows, and portrays itself online is perhaps the single most critical variable in selling in today’s market. Examples of this are to look at the layout and realize that what the masses may want, may differ greatly from how you live.

    Maybe you couldn’t care less about that smaller 2nd bedroom looking like a bedroom, because you use it as an office, and your guests stay on the pullout couch in the living room. Well, if buyers can’t see that the room functions as a sufficient bedroom they may dismiss it as too small and this is a black mark on their buyer psyche. So, get a smaller desk, and a full/queen raised aero bed for staging, to show the dual functionality of a guest room/office. Remember, most buyers have no vision, and cannot conceptualize what they cannot see. This means you must prove what you already know, and show them!

  2. Pricing

    Be realistic with your pricing from the get go.  Do not be overly aggressive with your list price.  Know the competitive sold listings, how long they took to sell, and the asking price to selling price ratio (discount rate). The common misperception is that you need to leave “a lot of wiggle room” for negotiating. This is not the case. Most properties in the downtown neighborhood sell within 5% of the asking price, and many within 2-3%. You are far better served, positioning the property at the right/more attractive price and being “less flexible” when offers come in. The key is to put your home in the market position to get offers.

    Once people cross the emotional threshold of wanting and offering on a property, more often than not, they will pay for it, so long as it positioned properly. Overpricing is detrimental in the long run, as the longer a place sits on market, the lower the seller’s leverage becomes. Another essential concept to realize is the idea of “price points”. SO much of today’s marketing impact is online via automated searches. Many people cap these searches at round numbers like 400K or 500K. By pricing at 510K a whole slew of qualified buyers may not even see your listing, s their search caps at 500K. Positioning at $499,900 should lead to much higher visibility and more people coming through the door.

  3. Team

    Have a solid team on your side.  Use a real estate team who is committed to getting buyers through your property.  Utilize their marketing, networking, availability, and expertise to SELL your property. Work with your agent and your condo association/management company to get ALL information on your property, building, and association to be able to anticipate buyer objections and overcome them.

  4. Repairs

    Be prepared to make small cosmetic improvements to eliminate buyer objections. We all grow accustomed to little idiosyncrasies in our homes. The chipped paint, the loose door handle, etc. These are all minor things, but they can have major impact on how people digest a property. Enough of these little defects and buyers can develop a BIG negative perception of your home. For a few hundred dollars in touch ups, handyman hours eliminate as many of these little defects as possible BEFORE coming on market.

    I just took a listing where the guy was about to replace his water heater. There were no issues with it, and it works 100% perfectly. It is 8 years old though, and only had a 5 year warranty. So he was going to get a new one for $1,000.00. I told him to hold off on this. Any good home inspector will point this out, and most buyers will then say it is old and it should be replaced. He can then concede the 1K and get it replaced. The buyers will feel like they just got a “win” and my seller knows it was something he had planned to do anyways, and by agreeing to this he may very well have saved himself another 1K that the buyers would have tried to negotiate for something else, had he already fixed this. 

  5. Patience

    Be patient, but adjust to the market. Many properties will still sell at +-3-5% off the correct asking price, it just takes some time in this market, as buyers are choosy. The key here is to recognize the market reaction to your property. If 30 people have come through and there have been no offers, or legitimate interest, than the issue is likely pricing. A 95% score on a test is still pretty good, but that disparity translates into a substantial amount of real dollars (25K on a 500K place). There is no exact science to pricing, and a good broker should get you close, and properly position your property, but at the end of the day, it is the market that dictates the price. Sellers need to recognize and react to this based on feedback and activity level. Don’t wait 3 months to adjust the price if the market does not respond the way we hoped. Adjust after 20-30 days of solid activity as noted above, versus waiting 90 days.

  6. Negotiate

    Be prepared to negotiate. This is both in terms of price and repair give and take post inspection. Buyers today are all looking for the “best deal” and want to feel like they “win”. That is why not only the initial pricing is so critical, but also coming up with the rest of your strategy!!! A great tool as a seller is planning how to give a buyer the perception of a good deal, yet still accomplish your own goals. A good example of this is knowing about a repair that is needed (not aesthetic that they can see) and budgeting and planning to deal with it. The strategy though is to wait to deal with it until it comes up at inspection. This way it seems like you are making some big concession, when in reality it was something you knew had to be done, and/or had planned on doing anyways.

These are just a handful of concepts to help maximize the sale price of your home. Stay tuned for more tips and insight, and feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments at

Tags: Boston real estate, Boston condos, charlesgate realty group, selling, Boston, Boston, buyers