Are you thinking that you might want to sell your home in 2021? If so, you may be wondering how Covid-19 will impact the marketing and sale of your property. It’s stressful to sell in normal times, but during a pandemic it’s a whole new level of concern.
How hard will it be to sell your home in 2021?
The short answer is that it’s a lot easier to sell a home for top dollar right now because there’s a dire shortage of inventory. I know, we’ve been saying that for years, but it has only gotten worse since 2013 when it started feeling scant. The odds are that it will stay that way for at least the next six months or so, and perhaps longer. The months of inventory is a rock solid statistic that displays how quickly the inventory of available homes is absorbed. (If no new inventory were to come on the market, but sales continued at the same pace, how long would it take for the available inventory to all be bought? That’s the question being answered.)
The flip side of this, of course, is that if you are planning to sell one home and buy another, it’s no slam dunk since there are many multiple offers. But for the selling half, it’s amazing.
Here are the numbers from 2014 to now:
I did spot check pre-2014. Our numbers go back to 2003 on the MLS. Except for November 2017, no other Novembers were below 1 month. November 2007 was the worst at 9.8 months of inventory.
In other words, it doesn’t get any better than this in terms of the odds of selling.
Sell your home in 2021: price, condition, access are all key
Getting the price right is Job #1. If you have a price which is too high, all the marketing in the world won’t get your home to sell. You’ll know the price is correct if you get at least one offer within 2-3 weeks that’s close to list price. This is where it matters a great deal whom you hire to help you. When interviewing potential listing agents, ask about how they compute the probable buyer’s value. (When I’m doing it, I try to come at the likely sales price from several angles. Unless your home is a cookie-cutter condo, forget price per square foot as the only metric. Most homes have too many variables for that to work. It’s ok as one data point, if the home and lot sizes are similar, as are the age and condition.)
The importance of property condition that inspires confidence in buyers
“The confused mind says no” is an oft heard adage in real estate. Buyers need to feel certain that they aren’t signing some sort of blank check on repairs with their As Is sale. Getting good inspections is key to instilling buyer confidence.
To boost confidence, fix what you can before a buyer or inspector ever sees your home. This means taking care of both cosmetic issues and also needed repairs that you are aware of (think peeling paint, neglected landscaping, doors and windows that don’t work, stove burners that don’t come on, light bulbs that are out) before an inspector calls them out.
If you are selling a condo, you’ll probably just need a pest and home inspection.
If you are selling a house, then it’s pretty typical here to do a pest, home, and roof inspection (the home inspection will touch on the roof but it’s not as in depth and will not provide pricing or a guarantee after work is done). If you have a pool, it’s wise to also get a pool inspection.
Got a surprise from the inspections? Fix anything health and safety related. Buyers who are afraid of rodents in your attic, scary electrical issues, a heater spewing carbon monoxide, or mold in your bedroom may be worried about what it will cost to remediate these items. If you fix them upfront, buyers will know the home has been cared for and they will be far less apprehensive about proceeding with a strong offer.
In addition to repairs, of course, there are positive things you can do, such as certain upgrades, for improving your return on investment also.
Having solid, professional photos should not even need to be discussed. Bad or missing photos will result in less interest by the buying public. A note of caution: with photos there can be too much of a good thing. Unless you’re selling a 10,000 square foot estate with out buildings, having 100 photos on the MLS is actually not helpful. Home buyers do not want to see 10 photos of the front of your house, driveway, lawn angles 2 – 4, and several of the front porch and door. Get on with it – they want to see the inside of the house!
One of my clients told me a few years ago that he wanted to see the master bedroom suite within 10-15 clicks. He didn’t want to spend 20 minutes shuffling through pics to view the room that apparently mattered to him the most. Since then, I’ve seen the number of photographs explode so that many homes have more than 50 images. In most cases, that probably doesn’t help.
Another couple of caveats are around misleading views of the home from super wide angle lenses or over-flashing the home. It does need to look like the same place when home buyers do visit in person. I’ve seen some real distortions of fact when flash photography has been overdone or wide angle lenses seriously distort the size of the room or yard.
That said, during this pandemic I do think that having a readable floor plan available and a 3-D walk through is helpful. Most of the 3-D walkthroughs in use do not have easy to follow floor plans, but I’ve been working with a company called iGuide that provides the layout with measurements in each room as well as a total square footage together with the images from every angle of the property. This is like having an “open house” (not allowed here now) 24/7. Even the appraisers have been able to use the room dimensions and not have to re-measure, which makes it easier and safer for them, too, as they don’t have to linger in the home. There are several companies doing various types of floor plans for real estate, including a low cost alternative at Home Depot, surprisingly enough.
What about drone or other specialty photography? This is appropriate for some homes, areas, and price points. If your property is a townhouse surrounded by mobile home parks, or your house backs to a grocery store, drone imagery may be counter productive. If you have a beautiful pool, twilight photos may well add a big dose of elegance to the marketing effort. This is something that has to be evaluated on a case by case basis by you and your real estate agent. More isn’t always better, especially if the result is too many photos, making it harder for interested buyers to get through all of them easily.
The main thing for marketing is good images with wide exposure via the MLS and getting it syndicated to as many sources as possible. During COVID, I believe floor plans are imperative.
The next question: where will you be staying when the property goes on the market?
Another issue to consider is making it easier for buyers to see your home so that they can fall in love with it and then bid enthusiastically on it. With the Coronavirus, an important question for you when planning to sell your home in 2021 is whether you will live in the home while you’re selling it, if you will move out temporarily when it’s being shown (before it’s under contract), or if you will be living in the property throughout the process.
Living in the home when it’s being shown is challenging for everyone (it’s hard to work from home if you have a steady stream of home buyers and agents, and it is frustrating for buyers and their agents to have highly restricted showing hours). It’s harder when there are kids. And doing so during this global health crisis is risky.
When possible, I encourage my clients to move out and professionally stage their home. Not only will it eliminate the pressure of having to keep the home immaculate (not easy with kids), it will relieve some of the concern of contracting the virus from people who have lingered in your house or condo. Staged homes photograph better (in almost every case), that drives buyer traffic, and usually fully staged homes sell for significantly more than non-staged homes, far more than the cost of staging in most cases.
That’s not feasible for everyone. Another option is to take a vacation for about 10 days so you are fully out for showings or to stay local but move into a hotel or vacation rental for that first 10 days or so. If your home is well prepared and well priced, you should be able to get an acceptable offer within 7 to 10 days. At that point, once it’s sale pending, it would be fine to move back in. There will be some visits between then and the closing, but not nearly so many.
Covid-19 sale practices
Finally, homes on the market are supposed to have sanitizing wipes and disinfecting lotion available. Many listing agents don’t do it and instead put something in the MLS to the effect that the buyer’s agent needs to bring those items, but that is skirting the requirements from the health department. Do make sure that they are available at your home, whether you provide them or your listing agent does.
Want to discuss selling your home in 2021? If you are in Santa Clara County or very nearby, please reach out to me and we can have a no-obligation conversation.