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4 Ways to Prepare for Real Estate’s Black Friday

House hunters’ biggest shopping day comes right after the holidays. Will your listing be ready?

During the long weekend after the Christmas holiday, when families are together and looking to the New Year, potential buyers come out in droves to search for their dream homes online.

December 28th was one of the biggest days in real estate in 2014, according to Realtor.com. This year, we expect Sunday, December 27th to be one of the most heavily trafficked days across all real estate websites including ForSaleByOwner, Zillow and Redfin.

If you’re hoping to sell your home early in the New Year, there are a few steps you‘ll want to take before December 27th arrives. These tips will help you stand out from the competition and attract more buyers during their online search.

1. Price Like a Pro
For most buyers, the first step in a home search is filtering by price. House hunters tend to set minimum and maximum prices by round numbers of $50,000 or $100,000. Even if you’ve already done a Comparative Market Analysis, take a look at how recently closed sales in your neighborhood were priced. Now compare those sold prices to homes in your area on the market. It may be worth reducing your price from $350,000 to $349,900 or increasing from $499,900 to $500,000 set yourself apart from other sales and appear where more buyers are looking.

2. Let Your Pictures Do the Talking
The keys to turning a house hunter into a potential buyer are your listing photos.
While you can take desirable photos of your home on your own, it might be worth springing for a professional photographer to make sure your home’s ready for real estate’s big day. Homes with pro photos can sell 50 percent faster and for thousands more than those with non-professional photos. Arrange your listing photos in an order that takes buyers on a journey from the front yard to the back door in a way that allows them to understand the space.

3. It’s All in the Details
Capturing the story of your home means providing the details buyers are interested in. Tell them what makes your home unique. Is it the brand-new stainless steel appliances you just bought? The meticulous landscaping you do every year? The master suite’s stunning hardwood floors? Or the award-winning school district? Take buyers on a quick journey with a great listing description that matches the amazing photos you’ve taken. Don’t forget to list the basics like square footage if you have lots of space to offer.

4. Be Personal
If you’re a by-owner seller, this sale is more for you than just a commission check. You’ve repaired or renovated this home. Maybe you’ve gotten married or watched your children grow in this home. And this is a time of year when house hunters are surrounded by personalities and plans for the future. Don’t be afraid to share some of that story with buyers to help them see what makes your house a home. Let your personality shine through in the staging, photos and description of your home.

Once you’ve attracted buyers on one of the biggest days for house hunters, make sure your home is show-ready and you’re prepared for negotiations.

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Seller’s Market Favors By-Owner Transactions

Nasty winter weather across much of the U.S. has failed to cool the upward trend in home sales; as spring nears, buyers will continue to hunt a smaller pool of properties.

The numbers prove that this is great news for by-owner sellers.

Sales for the year just ended were the highest since 2006, and overall median prices grew steadily, according to figures compiled by the National Board of Realtors. Nationally, the median existing-home price for 2013 stood at $197,100 — an 11.5 percent increase from 2012’s $176,800.

The supply of foreclosures is also drying up. In its National Foreclosure Report for December 2013, financial and real estate analysts at CoreLogic point to 45,000 completed foreclosures, a 14 percent drop compared to December 2012. The analysts also note that the serious delinquency rate is at its lowest since November 2008.

Mirroring real estate industry optimism, CoreLogic’s Home Price Index Report for December 2013 shows home prices climbed 11 percent over the previous year.

Average mortgage rates remain relatively low, encouraging house hunters to act now. On Feb. 6, Freddie Mac reported mortgage rates lowered for the fifth week in a row. Thirty-year fixed mortgages averaged 4.23 percent, down from 4.32 percent in the previous week, and down from 4.53 percent at the beginning of the year.

If these warming numbers aren’t enough, the spring and summer selling season is about to add its own heat to the 2014 housing market. Schools will be letting out, families will be preparing to move, and getting to the closing table will be at the top of their to-do lists. Traditionally, data shows that more than half of all homes are sold during the summer.

Armed with this knowledge, for sale by owner (FSBO) sellers can take advantage of this flood of buyers.

According to Eddie Tyner, general manager of ForSaleByOwner.com (one of several online services that help homeowners bypass real estate agents as well as their 6 percent commission), by-owner sellers have distinct advantages in this landscape:

  • Even when represented by an agent, today’s home buyers use the Internet to find their ideal home.
  • An online by-owner listing lets buyers conducting their own home searches quickly connect directly to FSBO sellers to view and make offers on homes without relying on an agent.

“In a tight market like this, home buyers are aggressively using every resource they can to make sure they find the best house at the best price possible,” Tyner says. “Low inventory creates a great opportunity for home sellers. If sellers use all the marketing resources available to them to position their listings everywhere buyers are looking, they are more likely to sell without an agent.” Tyner notes that the reality is that in most cases, for sale by owner sellers reach the same amount of buyers with the same marketing resources and exposure that agents provide.

The worst thing a by-owner seller can do is become complacent, Tyner says. Prospective home buyers are more numerous now, but that’s no reason to skimp on the details. Tyner emphasizes that it’s still important to price your home realistically, stage and photograph your home so that it looks better online than competing properties, and to continue to insist upon pre-approved buyers (not merely pre-qualified) as a condition of showing your property.

Keep all of this in mind and you — and your bank account — will benefit from this rebounding housing market.