What do the formula for Coca-Cola, the subject of Carly Simon’s classic song “You’re So Vain,” and selling a home have in common? They all involve secrets. Although we don’t have the inside scoop on the first two, we did manage to find some real estate agents who are happy to share some trade-secret real estate tips. So read on — but shh, don’t tell!
1. Staging changes from season to season
The concept of staging was once a secret. That cat’s been out of the bag for a while now, but the practice of staging homes continues to evolve — and it can be much more complicated and elaborate than simply creating a cozy conversation area in a living room. For instance, did you know that it’s better to use shorter furniture during summer months? “It makes the room feel bigger, longer, and in the potential buyer’s mind, a better fit,” says Brian Pickler, president of Nadeau – Furniture with a Soul. Another staging secret is to play soft background music during showings to make a home seem cozier.
2. People love a healthy lawn
Who can resist the smell of freshly cut grass? Apparently, buyers can’t. Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPal, knows one Nashville, TN, real estate agent’s secret: “She uses our platform to order last-minute lawn mowing before every showing. I’ve seen her get one home’s lawn mowed three times in one week.”
3. Pricing-strategy bands are important
Setting the right price so your home will sell is not a secret, but have you ever heard of pricing within “bands?” Don Tepper, a Virginia real estate agent, explains: “Buyers who want to spend $340,000 on a property may look between $325,000 and $350,000. If that’s the seller’s target market, then pricing a home at $351,000 will result in a lot of potential buyers missing the listing altogether.” So what’s the secret solution? Tepper says to price the home at $349,000. If you price it at $351,000, you’ll get people looking at the band between $350,000 and $375,000. “Those buyers probably want something fancier or nicer than a $351,000 house,” he says.
4. You can negotiate your agent’s commission … but should you?
It’s still a secret to many sellers that they can negotiate their agent’s commission. But it might be a mistake to do so just because you can. “Often it’s the bad [agents] who offer to discount their commissions. They are doing this to try and win the business,” says Thomas Miller, a Washington, DC, real estate agent. In other words, as with many things in life, you get what you pay for. “A truly excellent [agent] who executes the transaction quickly and flawlessly and sells the house at a good price is worth every penny,” says Miller.
5. Black holes exist in real estate listings
People can’t see black holes; no light gets out, making them invisible. If your listing falls into a real estate black hole, no one will see it either. “Most cities have listing black holes — times when listings get lost to weekends of sun, family vacations, and nonbusiness topics,” says Matt Parker, a Seattle, WA, real estate agent. If you list right before people go out of town, such as before Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, your listing may get buried before potential buyers see it.
6. Exaggerations in listings only disappoint
People on dating sites often fudge their age or post a photo that makes them look more athletic than they really are. This works in the short term to capture attention, but when the face-to-face meeting happens, those exaggerated online claims often lead to disappointment. The same happens with real estate listings. “If your home is located near a tiny pond, don’t describe it as if it’s this huge, luxurious waterfront lake desirable to all,” says Chantay Bridges, a Los Angeles, CA, real estate agent. “Take what you do have and describe the best features of it. Otherwise, buyers may be turned off and disappointed.”
7. A listing can’t sit too long
In a hot market, “too long” for a house to sit unsold is three to four weeks, max. “That’s a sure sign [the house] is overpriced,” says Miller. If you don’t want to appear desperate by dropping the value, price the home realistically from the start. “It’s much better to be in a position where the seller has multiple offers than to get greedy trying to obtain an unrealistic price — only to reduce it later,” Miller adds.
8. There is a home-buying month
Many real estate agents mark February’s Presidents Day weekend as the unofficial start of the housing season, which runs through September. There is then a steady decline in activity until the next year. But there’s one month during housing season that consistently performs better in sales than all the others. Can you guess this secret month? If you answered June, you would be correct. Housing sales in June are typically 29% above average.