While the recent stock market rout will undoubtedly make prospective home buyers feel a little bit poorer, lower gas prices and cheaper interest rates may have the complete opposite effect.
Regardless of what happens to the economy, chances are that those who are planning to buy a home this year, will, assuming they can find one that suits their individual needs.
If you happen to be selling a property in 2019, conditions might be a little different this year than in past years.
Let’s talk about that and some potential home selling tips to help you get top dollar if you decide to list.
1. It’s Still a Seller’s Market for Most
Similar to talk of the low mortgage rates going away, which kind of finally did, only to return again, we’ve been told year after year that the seller’s market is coming to an end.
Sure, it will at some point, but my expectation is another solid year for home sellers, perhaps with some leveling of the playing field, as mentioned in my 2019 predictions post.
The difference this year might be fewer bidding wars and a little normalization in terms of what home buyers are willing to spend.
In other words, expect fewer offers, and perhaps more days on market before an offer arrives. Same goes for how many of those offers go above asking, if any.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t list at a desirable price point and still get bids above that level. It’s just that the natural expectation for that all to materialize should be a bit more muted.
2. Know Your Buyer and Appeal to Them
Along those same lines, if you’re selling a home in 2019 you’ll want to ensure it is well-maintained and on point design-wise.
The types of homes you see sitting on the market these days are consistently not updated and often not priced to take that into account.
If there are doilies everywhere and silly curtains on all the windows, younger buyers (namely Millennials) may not be able to look beyond that.
In my mind, if these properties simply got a fresh coat of paint and underwent some minor tweaks, perhaps a little modern staging too, they could command the price being requested.
Heck, even the addition of a Nest thermostat and other smart home gadgets can get otherwise disinterested buyers excited.
Same goes for little touches like new wall outlet plates, faucets, knobs, and other finishes that can make old fixtures look new. Cheap but effective.
Of course, it will all depend on your unique property and individual housing market.
Properties in the first-time buyer category will likely remain hot, regardless of whether they’re updated or not because there will always be more eligible buyers in that category.
More expensive homes may sit longer unless the seller (and agent) really take the time to determine what a prospective buyer looks like in their area and caters to that.
3. Photos and Staging Matter, More Than Ever
Real estate is very emotional. While economists talk numbers, home buyers and sellers lead with their hearts.
One of the most important things you can get right (or very wrong) is photographs. Ultimately, unless you or your real estate agent is a photographer by trade or serious hobby, you’ll need to hire a pro.
The good news is it should be a small price to pay for a very meaningful return. After all, buyers can now peruse listings online or via their smartphone, and pictures pretty much take the lead.
An appealing cover shot will stand out in the crowd. A professional photo taken with the right camera, right lighting, and right angle/composition can work wonders.
Conversely, a poorly-lit photo that’s crooked or out of focus (and complete with a timestamp) could sink your listing even if the house itself is great.
One actionable tip is to make your best photo the featured one, even if it’s the kitchen. It doesn’t need to be the front of the house. It could be a sitting room or family room too.
Really, whatever pops the most. Because some prospective buyers may not bother clicking through to see the rest if they don’t like the first.
The same goes for home staging, which can make an enormous impact. It’s all about perception. Two identical houses can look completely foreign thanks to staging alone. Or simple decluttering. Or even cleaning!
Because the real estate market might be more lukewarm than hot these days in some parts of the country, the seemingly small details matter more than ever.
4. Steer Clear of Discount iBuyers
Because it remains a good time to sell, there’s really no sense in using a discount iBuyer like Opendoor, Redfin Now, or Zillow Offers. You know, the companies that can apparently sell your home in a week or less.
If the housing market is strong, why resort to a veritable fire sale? Sure, it might take a little longer to sell via traditional means, but it can be well worth your time and energy to do so.
You shouldn’t feel desperate in today’s climate, though I suppose there are always going to be situations that might warrant a very fast home sale.
If you can, going the conventional route should be the way to sell a home in 2019.
5. But a Discount Real Estate Brokerage Might Work
On the other hand, it might be worth looking into a discount real estate brokerage, those that charge less than the typical 2.5-3% listing fee.
A few examples include Redfin, which charges just 1%, but you’ve also got the buyer’s agent fee to worry about, and REX, which charges 2% total by eliminating the buyer agent commission entirely.
There are many others, including some that charge a flat fee or nothing at all, with the latter requiring that you use them on your next real estate transaction.
This is always a controversial topic because full-service real estate agents will argue that they provide more for very little cost that is often recouped via a higher sales price.
In other words, a full-service agent may sell your home for more money and their higher commission is essentially absorbed, but whether that actually happens isn’t guaranteed.
Just know what you’re getting and if you do decide to go it semi-alone – you’ve got to know what you’re doing and know your property and real estate market really well.
6. Consider Pricing Below a Key Threshold
This should go without saying, but you constantly see homes listed above certain tiers. For example, should you list at $405,000 or $399,000? While it’s perhaps debatable, you’ll probably get more eyeballs on your listing if you list below $400,000.
This is partially to do with how filters work on popular home listing websites, and partly to do with how the human mind works. At the end of the day, the final price could be well above $405,000, even if you list a lot lower.
Also note that buyers are keenly aware of things like Zestimates and Redfin Estimates, whether accurate or not. So listing below these numbers might also boost buyer appeal.
Just be sure you get enough interest to sell above list if you desire that higher sale’s price.
You could argue that listing low is risky, but the same can be said about listing high, then having to reduce the price after the fact.
7. Vet Your Real Estate Agent
If and when you decide to list, vet your real estate agent and ask them what the game plan is.
A year or two ago it may have been a no-brainer to list and get top dollar, but things are beginning to even out, and perhaps tip to buyers in some markets at certain price points.
So you’ll want to know the exact approach the real estate agent plans on taking to get your property sold quickly (if you want it sold fast) and for an optimal price.
Are they going to list low and hope it becomes a “Hot Home” on Redfin, or hold their ground at a higher price point and be patient?
You should discuss all these particulars early on before you list and have regrets. Getting these details right matters more as the real estate market normalizes.
8. Find Out How Home Prices Will Fare in Your City
It’s one thing to work with a good real estate agent, and another to be an informed home seller. Do your own research on your local market to see how home prices will fare in 2019.
Take a look at your city and metro too, along with national home price projections. Get a feel for the market temperature so you can set a realistic listing price with your agent.
Don’t just take their word for it. There are plenty of websites that offer up free home price projections, including the usual suspects like Zillow and Redfin, along with state Realtor groups, NAR, and private companies like CoreLogic and First American.
Pay attention to the news, but also keep an eye on comparable sales in your neighborhood. Fire up Redfin to see what sold nearby your property recently. Check out how long it was listed, what it sold for versus the list price, and how it compares to your home.
You might even gain some valuable insights into what your home lacks that can be easily remedied before throwing it on the market.
If a nearby home sale did particularly well, determine how you can emulate it.
9. Make Your Listing Exclusive
I’ve seen this done – and it worked beautifully. The real estate agent held a single open house. Just one. The property was packed that day. It felt like a circus and created a lot of buzz.
If you’re a prospective buyer and you see other potential buyers inside the very home you’re thinking about bidding on, emotions run high. And fear of missing out runs even higher.
It can be a successful strategy if the property is in a desirable area and meticulously updated. The one example I mentioned ended up going under contract in a few days and went something like $100,000 over asking.
In reality, the property wasn’t all that amazing or unique, but the agent created a feeling of exclusivity.
The same effect can be delivered by deferring any showings to a particular date and time, with only qualified buyers who are represented by agents allowed to view the property.
The goal is overlapping buyer traffic and hopefully multiple offers all in the same small window, which could result in a bidding war.
10. Wait for the Right Time of Year to Sell
Another important consideration is timing. We’ve got another 350 days or so to list properties in 2019. Not all days are created equal!
Conventional wisdom says to list a home in spring if you want to fetch the highest sales price for your home. Day of week can also matter.
However, this can and will vary based on your market and property type. Zillow has a handy feature for sellers on the owner view of their website.
Once logged in, you can scroll down to “Best Time to List” to find out when they think you should sell, based on their data crunching.
It will tell you which month has been best historically based on seasonal patterns of similar properties.
Of course, if you’re also buying a home at the same time, you’ll have to factor that in too, as the best time to buy a home might be in late summer.
11. Expect to Make Concessions
While your home may go under contract at a great price, don’t be surprised if you have to make some concessions when all is said and done.
Perhaps sellers could get away with unloading properties “as-is” back in the day, but that might not fly in 2019.
Once inspections are conducted, the buyer might make a request for repairs. And those repairs could be sizable if you haven’t maintained your property over the years.
This will often be an issue for those who didn’t touch their property for 30 years and are now looking to sell at new all-time high prices.
You can conduct your own inspections prior to listing if you want to know where your property stands, and also to tidy things up before you sell.
12. Be Prepared for Your Next Home Purchase
A common, yet tricky move at the moment, is selling and buying a property concurrently. It can be especially difficult thanks to the lack of inventory that continues to plague the market.
And because mortgage lenders aren’t as liberal as they once were, getting a home loan, or floating two at the same time, can be a deal breaker.
One thing I’ve seen people do recently is sell before buying a replacement. This makes their property a little hotter because there are fewer contingencies, or negotiating chips available for the buyer.
But it also means finding a new house quickly, assuming their temporary digs aren’t ideal.
Another alternative is to ask for a rent-back from the buyer where they allow you to stay for a month or two until you find a new home to purchase.
Of course, selling contingent on finding a replacement isn’t out of the question if the property/market is hot enough, but most will try to avoid it.
The property aside, make sure you’re pre-approved for a mortgage and ready to go on the financing front.
You should have a good idea of what the sales proceeds will look like and how much you’ll be able to afford on the next purchase. Begin looking at homes immediately as if your property has already been sold.
In summary, I believe 2019 will be another good year for home sellers, though perhaps not as good as recent years.
But when you look at how strong the housing market has seen since bottoming, it still says a lot.
Home prices are projected to rise yet again and mortgage rates may fall or remain at their new low levels, removing any financial headwinds that surfaced in 2018.
There has been plenty of pessimism and talks of slowing in recent months, but I still feel like 2019 will usher in another strong housing market.
Sure, it’s not an absolute guarantee that your home will sell for top dollar anymore, but if you do your homework, focus on the seemingly small details, and take the time to do things right, it should pay off.
Read more: 11 home buying tips for today’s market.