Some houses sell themselves. But in most cases, an experienced real estate agent knows what it takes to turn the typical home into a hot property. Top agents share the tactics they use to increase competition for their real estate listings and sell homes faster. —-
The events of 2020 created an action-packed seller’s market, and real estate agents across the country are finishing the year with a tidy stack of sold listings. While it’s been a surprisingly good year for the industry — though not without its logistical challenges — now is not the time for agents to get too comfortable.
In a seller’s market, there’s competition for your listings as soon as you enter the property into your local MLS. But what happens when the tables inevitably turn and market conditions stabilize, or even shift toward a buyer’s market?
Of course, as a client-focused agent, you want your sellers to receive the strongest possible offers no matter what’s happening with the real estate market at large. That’s why we spoke with two top agents to learn their best tips for driving up competition and wowing their sellers with great offers that hold up all the way to the closing table.
Let’s take a look at five ways to create competition, make your listings irresistible to buyers, and sell homes faster.
Start by setting the stage
Yep, we’re talking about staging the home. Even if it’s a hot seller’s market, staging your listings will help showcase each property’s best assets and increase the odds of receiving multiple offers.
In many cases, staging helps homes sell faster and for more money. According to a 2019 research report by the National Association of Realtors, 47% of agents indicate that the value of a staged home increases by 1% to 5%. What’s more, 53% of agents report that staged listings tend to spend less time on the market.
Staging your listing doesn’t have to mean shelling out thousands of dollars and hauling in a truckload of furniture; the effort can be a simple spruce-up to help make the home more welcoming.
“The ‘fluff staging’ is what I call it,” says Ann-Marie Sharp, a top agent of 14 years based in the Atlanta metropolitan area. “Bringing in flowers, lamps, blankets, pillows — things that add that warmth.”
Encouraging your sellers to declutter and keep the house in a respectable state of cleanliness will already go a long way in helping potential buyers to visualize the space as their own, but never underestimate the power of a strategically draped sofa throw.
“I just think, because this is the generation of everyone shopping for houses online, you really have to show it in the best light,” says Sharp.
“You only get one chance to make the best impression, so you want to do it right the first time.”
And the old trick with the freshly baked cookies on the morning of an open house? Well, that probably won’t hurt either.
Build anticipation before hitting the market
Humans are curious creatures. When we catch a glimpse of something we might be interested in, we want to learn more, and perhaps nowhere does this hold true more than when it comes to buying a house.
Creating a sense of anticipation is one surefire way to drive up competition for your listings — and this is before prospective buyers even set foot through the front door.
“About a week before listing, we’re getting the house prepared for the ‘coming soon’ launch,” explains Sharp. “Once we have the photos and we’re getting our marketing materials all prepared, we have the house as a ‘coming soon’ to generate interest.”
Sharp prefers to unveil her new listings on Friday afternoons, so Mondays are her target for “coming soon” reveals. During the days leading up to the active listing, other agents and potential buyers can see property photos and details in the MLS, but no showings are allowed.
Anticipation builds, Sharp’s listing status is updated to “active” just in time to appear in everyone’s Friday home searches, and voila, there’s an open house prepared for Saturday.
In Seaford, Delaware, top agent Dustin Parker uses a similar approach with his new listings, preferring to build anticipation for several days before officially launching the listing and welcoming walkthroughs.
“What we like to do, ideally on day one or day two, is hold an open house so all that pent-up interest kind of comes at once,” says Parker. “Our goal, really, is to create a multiple-offer situation.”
Get buyers and their agents all the info they need
A big part of effectively building anticipation and driving competition toward your listings is making sure that key information makes its way into the right hands. You want potential buyers and buyer’s agents to have access to everything they could want to know about that new home on the market, and these days, a flyer box in the front yard just isn’t going to cut it.
A listing management platform like Disclosures.io, which is owned by HomeLight, lets you assemble and showcase a comprehensive listing information package to ensure that interested parties have everything they need to make an informed decision. Providing details not just on the home itself, but also on the neighborhood, school districts, contractors, infrastructure, and more can help lead buyers to a faster conclusion that your home is the one for them.
Since few things are more frustrating — and likely to cause delays — than getting caught up in games of phone or email tag to ask and answer questions about a home, having a streamlined, user-friendly portal to disseminate information can increase competition and lead to faster offers and increased sales.
Don’t accept offers … yet
So your listing is finally active, buyers and agents have poured over the details, they’ve visited your open house (or scheduled their own walkthrough), and now they’re chomping at the bit to write a sweet, sweet offer.
How can you drive up listing competition from here? Don’t accept offers just yet.
In Sharp’s case, while she may welcome the first viewings on a Friday afternoon, she often won’t accept offers until later that weekend.
“So [the house] is popping up in people’s searches on Friday and they can see that we have an open house coming on Saturday, and we’re just really slow-playing it,” explains Sharp.
“We’re trying to eliminate the person who’s going to come in immediately and try to take it off the market.”
Understandably, sellers may balk at this strategy. As the expert, it’s your job to help them understand why the first offer may not be the best or only offer.
“So many times I’ve had somebody come in and say, ‘Oh, we got a full-price offer!’ and I’m like, ‘Slow down, we’re going to reach out to the other agents who are showing the house and see if they want to make us an offer.’ So many people get excited about the full price,” says Sharp.
Holding off on receiving offers gives your listing time to speak for itself. Particularly during these times of social distancing and heightened concerns surrounding hygiene, it’s very possible that not everyone who wants to see the home will have an opportunity to do so within the first day or two that it’s on the market. By being more accommodating with access, you’re also increasing your odds of receiving multiple offers.
“If we have a lot of confidence that we will have the type of interest to lead to a multiple offer-type situation, we’ll typically advise our sellers not to receive or review offers for the first three days to give us an opportunity to get a bunch of people through that house,” says Parker.
After a few days of patience, it’s time to let the offers roll in.
After the offers come in, raise the stakes again
If your plan has worked, you’ll likely have more than one offer to discuss with your (hopefully very impressed) seller. And you guessed it: It’s time to drive up competition even further.
“Once we receive those first offers, assuming there’s more than two, we’ll usually ask for all parties to submit their highest and best offer,” says Parker. “Many times this year we’re getting full price or above asking price. We’ve had as many as 11 offers on the same house, and I think it’s because we’ve drummed up that interest.”
2020’s real estate market may be exceptionally in favor of the seller, but that doesn’t mean negotiations should be a free-for-all. Sharp cautions against dragging out the multiple offer scenario for too long, recommending that agents set a deadline when inviting a highest-and-best turnaround.
“I’ll say something like, ‘Highest and best by Sunday at 8:00 PM,’” she says. “I don’t want to be disrespectful to the buyers who came in quickly because in this market, people know that if you’re serious, you’re not going to wait a week.”
Eager buyers aren’t likely to wait, but neither is an excited seller. This is where coaching your clients is key, helping them to see the benefits of reviewing all options on the table before making a decision on which offer to accept.
When in doubt, plan it out
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t always predict the future. You can, however, have a reliable plan in place to market your listings and create a level of competition that will delight your sellers and boost your own bottom line.
Parker teaches his sellers to look at the big picture rather than focusing on the listing price, and it’s often a winning strategy.
“We encourage our sellers to price the home very aggressively, and we follow our launch plan 99% of the time. We do get into that multiple-offer situation and the price gets driven up — sometimes even higher than if it were listed overpriced initially.”
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