Photo courtesy of Sweeten. Learn more about Sweeten's work here.
So you've decided to sell your apartment. You did your research, met with brokers, and hired the agent that seemed most qualified to sell your home. The next thing you know, a photographer has taken pictures of your private space and, after some digital post-processing, you find your home has been virtually uploaded to the internet.
Now what? You know when your broker runs open houses, and maybe you get updates a couple times a week on the state of affairs. You don't see buyers directly, but you hear about them through messages relayed by your broker. Some guy has a strange question about your dishwasher. Someone else is asking if they can rip out that custom home theater you spent so long designing to perfection.
Time passes. Perhaps an offer or two come in the first couple weeks, but if your apartment is like most which entered market in the past year, it is likely to sit for a minimum of two months before the right buyer comes along.
For the uninitiated (we need not remind you veteran sellers), the whole process can prove exhausting rather quickly. And while you know your broker is a real estate professional, you're the one who's lived in the apartment for years. Who can really grasp the ins and outs of your home, and its potential value to a buyer, if not you?
We like to tell our clients that selling a home is a team effort. We emphasize this because while we know the market inside and out, we respect the fact that only our sellers can know the full value of their own homes. The best seller-broker relationships are a two-way street: the broker acts as a guide and buffer between the homeowner and the vast, unpredictable market, and the homeowner is the broker's guide to the apartment itself. Without this equal exchange of insight and information between seller and broker, many listings slide from an easy sale to a potential headache. For all these reasons, we've decided to use this week's email to compile four simple actions any seller can take to ensure their apartment is seen in the best possible light.
1. The "Soft-Opening" Open House
There are no secrets here; this is a classic broker's tactic to build anticipation and generate word-of-mouth for a new home on the market. But the potential benefits this grants a seller in New York City are enormous.
The "soft-opening" open house, as we call it, is simply a building-exclusive open house that occurs prior to the first publicly available open house. Consider suggesting to your broker that you'd like them to host an open house privately, without advertising online, and invite only the neighbors in your building (or, if you're in a co-op, your fellow shareholders). Have your broker contact your building's management too; maybe the managing agent will approve an email blast to notify the building's residents, or at least permit a sign in your lobby's notice board.
Feel free to brainstorm some ideas with your broker: catering, social ice-breakers, and distributing literature about the building are all great ways to spark a dialogue among your fellow residents. This gives your neighbors the opportunity to connect over their shared enthusiasm for your building, and creates a vivid impression of your home that they can communicate to any friends or family looking to buy in the area.
As simple as it sounds, this easy tip didn't occur to us until a seller asked us for a custom flyer she could pin to her building's notice board. After a quick conversation with our graphic designer and a trip to the printers, we had a unique flyer of our listing made and pinned to the building's internal announcement board.
Small things like this are easy to overlook, and your broker may not be aware of every venue your building offers for posting memos among residents. Even after years of living in your apartment, you may not know yourself. These venues could be electronic (think modern mailroom flatscreen TVs) or simple printouts posted in the laundry room, but exposure is exposure, and you never know which neighbor might be spurred to action by knowing your apartment is for sale.
3. Communicate with Management
You might be surprised by the amount of regulations your building has when it comes to showing your apartment. There may be limits on times when buyers can visit the apartment, or a limit on how many buyers may be in your apartment at a given time. Some buildings even require the listing agent to personally escort all visitors to and from the apartment.
Our advice is to nip any potential conflicts in the bud: keep management informed. Before the first open house, alert your broker to any rules your building has for showing an apartment for sale. Can visiting buyers view the building's amenities? The pool? The gym? The roof deck? In one instance, we were surprised to learn that a managing agent required a weekly update before every single open house was to occur. Though your broker will ideally know all these nuances beforehand (or be able to research them on their own), your status as a shareholder/homeowner may grant you a more direct line of communication with your building's management. Sometimes all it takes is an email to get the ball rolling. You'll spare yourself a hassle later on down the line, and both you and your broker will be left free to focus on the more important task at hand.
4. Declutter, or Affordable Staging
Little known fact: you don't need to vacate your apartment and spend thousands of dollars to stage your home. Buyers want to be able to project their lifestyle into your home, and you can accommodate them by simply decluttering and trimming the layout in your apartment. Professional stager and founder of Studio D, Gail Stempel Dunnett, put it best in our recent interview with her:
"You can [stage your home] at any price point because it’s really just scaling it back, and how you invest. If you’re someone with an empty place that wants to stage it, you can do it affordably with less expensive furniture and have it look nice, or use your own pieces and edit them. For those who use their own furniture, editing the design space and getting rid of items leads to the most dramatic changes. . . The problem with many of the places that are already furnished is they lack that cohesion in their styling, because oftentimes the furniture on display is a collection accumulated from living in different places and results in a clutter of objects with contrasting designs. My advice would be to edit, declutter, and get rid of anything that’s jarring, especially in terms of color. Usually it’s color that leads to a dramatic change in the way people perceive a living space – you want to keep a neutral palette. Art is also important, and while it doesn’t need to be expensive, it should flow and be subtle with interest in textures, fabrics, and shapes. In this way, even with a restricted budget, you can tailor a space to be cohesive, but also interesting."