This year is turning out to be a great market for home and condo owners. Despite the consistent rise in home prices across the nation (prices saw a 5.8 percent increase in 2017), buyers are still rushing to take advantage of the lowest mortgage rates in history.
If you have been thinking about selling your condo, now may be the one of the best times. Take it from me; I was able to get the right offer for my apartment in just 21 days. Here are the key strategies to keep in mind when selling your condo.
1. Review the DOM range for comparable condos
Short for “days-on-market,” DOM measure the days that a real estate property is on the market before a seller accepts an offer from a buyer, or the agreement between real estate broker and seller ends. Search online for real estate agents specializing in your building and look for a listing of the units that have been sold and are currently in escrow. That list will include the DOM for each unit.
Look at comparable condos to yours (similar square footage, floor location, and type of unit) to determine a reasonable time frame for your condo to sell. The definition of fast sale varies from property to property, but this range will provide you a better benchmark.
2. Decide what improvements are worthwhile
It takes money to make money. Before officially listing your condo, you’ll need to prep it. Depending on the condition of your unit, it may just need a fresh coat of paint, or it may need a total makeover. There are several ways that you can go about deciding how much money to put into renovations.
First, attend open houses of comparable units, also known as “comps,” currently listed in your building and review the listing pictures of comps currently in escrow. This will give you a sense of what caught the eyes of buyers and what type of inventory you’re competing against. Put yourself in the eyes of potential buyers and think of improvements that will make your unit stand out from the competition or compensate for less desirable features (perhaps there’s no ocean view, but your unit is the only one with new cabinets).
Second, review the 2017 Remodeling Cost vs. Value report from the National Association of Realtors to find out the average value that a renovation project adds to properties in your region. In 2017, a minor kitchen remodel recouped a national average of 80.2 percent of its cost while a bathroom addition only recouped 53.9 percent. Choose projects that don’t break your budget and have a higher chance of boosting your asking price. (See also: How Much Are Pricey Home Upgrades Really Worth?)
3. Gather documentation and review any HOA rules
The more you know about your condo, the more prepared you’ll be to address questions from buyers. For example, the presence of asbestos in the popcorn ceilings in older buildings can be more common than you think. However, your building’s homeowner association (HOA) may have already done a study to find out the percentage of actual asbestos in the ceiling. If the survey reveals that the actual percentage of asbestos in the ceiling falls within acceptable standards, you don’t necessarily have to remove it and can include the survey in your disclosure statement to the buyer.
Also, HOA rules can help you determine what improvements are worthwhile. Let’s imagine that you have a wooden floor with partial water damage due to an open window during a storm. You’re trying to decide whether to replace the floor entirely, lay down additional flooring on top, or leave the floor as is. Depending on the rules of your building, you may or may not be required to also soundproof your wood floor, which can add hundreds to thousands to your quote. Always check with your HOA before starting any work on your unit.
4. Look for ways to minimize listing costs
Skipping the standard real estate agent’s commission of 5 to 6 percent sounds like an awesome idea in theory. While pocketing an extra $15,000 to $18,000 on a $300,000 condo is enticing, make sure to understand just how much easier a real estate agent can make the selling process. Even worse, you may dramatically reduce the number of potential buyers by going the “for sale by owner” (FSBO) route. Many buyer’s agents won’t show your property to their clients at all or strongly discourage those clients from making an offer, citing the risks of closing without a professional representing you.
Still, there are plenty of ways that you can save on listing costs while working with a real estate agent.
Ask if the commission is negotiable. Don’t assume that a 6 percent commission is the default. With the rise of low-fee real estate brokerages, such as Redfin charging only a 1 to 1.5 percent listing fee, some agents are more open to negotiation in some markets.
Stage your home yourself. According to Realtor.com, a staged property sells an average 88 percent faster and for 20 percent more than one that hasn’t been staged. But professional staging can be expensive: Realtor.com estimates an initial design consultation with a professional stager ranges from $300 to $600, and actual staging ranges from $500 to $600 per month per room. Staging is one area in which going DIY can help you keep costs down. (See also: 8 Ways to Stage Your Home Without Hiring a Pro)
Your real estate agent can be a useful resource to shop around for contractors for small fixes. In case a buyer were to ask for proper grounding of electrical outlets, replacement of broken faceplates, or other type of work, your agent may be able to hire a contractor at a much lower rate than one you’d find on your own.
5. Screen the clauses in your buyer’s initial offer
Receiving your first offer is very exciting! Still, take a step back and thoroughly review the clauses included in that buyer’s offer. Here are some things to keep an eye on. (See also: 9 Things Sellers Should Watch Out During Escrow)
“Acceptable to buyer” prorations and closing adjustments. If you were to submit a counteroffer, request to delete such verbiage from the offer. “Acceptable to buyer” adjustments are subjective and can open the door for a buyer to include unnecessary items or requests.
Tighten the time frames for any buyer’s obligations. The longer that an escrow process takes, the higher the chance of the sale not going through. So, shorten review times, such as review of seller’s disclosure and inspection after completing buyer’s contingencies requests, whenever possible.
Watch out for additional addendums. Here’s where knowing your HOA rules comes in handy. Depending on when certain work was completed on your unit, some work may not have required a permit or certain additional requirements. Going back to the example of the wooden floor, if the floor was installed before the year in which the soundproofing requirement went into effect, you wouldn’t have to remedy the situation. Pay close attention to addendums requesting to remedy unpermitted work or allowing the buyer to submit a repair or credit request for repairs.
6. Understand your BATNA
Short for Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, BATNA is a key concept in any negotiation. Here’s why: This is the price point at which you can’t do better than accepting your buyer’s offer. When listing your home, you’ll have to decide on the initial price. Most of the time, you want that first price to be above the lowest price that you’ll accept for your condo. That way, you’ll be more willing to lower the price to make a sale happen.
Pricing your home too close or exactly at your BATNA will work against you because you won’t have any wiggle room to work with a buyer. Unless you’re in a red-hot seller’s market, you can’t take an all-or-nothing approach to your condo sale. Would you be willing to go down $1,000 in price to sell your condo today, or stick to your guns and wait an extra three months? Once your condo has been on the market for a few months, your agent may ask you to lower the price. Knowing your BATNA will help you negotiate your condo sale more efficiently and potentially lower the DOM of your unit.