There is a perception among many would-be home sellers that it is likely to take a long time to find a buyer. While that is true in the general sense, it certainly isn’t the case for everyone, according to an analysis by RE/MAX of recent sales in the metropolitan Chicago real estate market.
In the Chicago area, for example, according to Midwest Real Estate Data, LLC, homes that sold during the first two months of 2012 were on the market for an average of 175 days before going under contract for sale, but a fair number of homes sold much more quickly. In addition, of the 9,247 homes sold in January and February, 3,342 homes or 37 percent had market times of 40 days or less.
What allows a home to sell so quickly? There is, of course, no single answer, so RE/MAX selected four examples of residential properties that have sold since last September and asked the listing agent for a brief explanation of why each home found a buyer so rapidly. However, in all four instances, there were a few common themes that stood out:
- The property was priced attractively so that it offered good value compared to its existing competition.
- The sellers listened to their agent’s advice about how to prepare the property.
- All work on the property was complete and all the marketing tools were ready to go before the home was listed on the local MLS.
Case Study No. 1: A classic brick two-flat apartment building in Chicago’s North Park neighborhood, this property had two six-room, two-bedroom, one-bath units, and it was a short sale. Listed by Christina Ezzo of RE/MAX 1st Class Realty of Skokie, Ill., in the $240,000-$260,000 range, it went under contract in 11 days for 4 percent above list, and the sellers were able to choose from among four offers.
“The sellers were relocating to take new jobs and wanted to sell quickly to avoid foreclosure,” reported Ezzo. “As a result, I suggested that we price the property a bit below market value in hopes of drawing multiple offers, and that is exactly what happened.” The final price was right in line with what Ezzo felt the building was worth.
The building was in good condition, with only a few minor problems, so all that was required to get it ready was to de-clutter the interior spaces and make sure the exterior was neat and clean.
“An agent who has experience with short sales is an important factor because keeping the process moving ahead and getting the sale closed after the contract is signed can be a challenge,” noted Ezzo. “The lender has to approve the sale, and that is a complicated process with lots of paperwork and constant monitoring.”
Case Study No. 2: This luxurious home in Chicago’s desirable Lincoln Park neighborhood offered four bedrooms, 3 ½ baths and three levels of living space. Emily Jeffries of RE/MAX Exclusive Properties was able to sell the home in 10 days for its full list price of more than $1 million.
The owners spent about three months preparing this house for sale, and during that time they remodeled two bathrooms, including the master bath. Although the home was owned by a professional interior designer and was quite attractive, the owners removed many personal possessions and some furnishings to create a more open feel, and they refreshed the landscaping with new plantings, according to Jeffries.
“Once it was ready to market, we gave the house a lot of exposure,” she said. “We held two open houses, one for brokers and one for the public, and we made use of professionally done photos and a video, along with a four-color brochure. We also distributed fliers about the house to the entire neighborhood,” she said.
“The house really competed well with other properties in its price range, so we drew a lot of interest and sold it at full price,” Jeffries noted.
Case Study No. 3: This three-bedroom, 3 ½-bath home in Lisle, Ill., was listed by Debbie Pawlowicz of RE/MAX Action in Lisle. Priced in the $320,000 to $340,000 range, it went under contract in nine days and sold for about 95 percent of its asking price.
According to Pawlowicz, the home was in a desirable school district, and was in good condition with a wonderful master bedroom suite. It also had a large backyard. However, there were many fairly comparable homes for sale in both Lisle and the adjoining sections of Naperville.
To get the house ready to go on the market, the owners followed Pawlowicz’s advice to refresh and restage some of the décor in key areas, such as the master suite, shampoo the carpeting, remove select pieces of furniture and other items from the rooms and closets to enhance the feeling of spaciousness, and repair anything that was damaged or not fully functional.
The most important part of the process, according to Pawlowicz, was for her and her clients to understand the competition.
“You have to study what else is on the market, see what those homes have to offer and price your home accordingly. If comparable homes all have a feature that yours doesn’t, you must adjust the price to compensate, or your home won’t sell,” she said.
Case Study No. 4: Offering two bedrooms and two baths, this ranch home in Round Lake, Ill., featured vaulted ceilings, hardwood floors and a living room fireplace. Kathleen Zirkelbach of RE/MAX Center in Grayslake, Ill., listed the home, and it went under contract in 24 days at 89 percent of its list price, which was in $170,000 - $185,000 range.
“We had to be sure the seller understood the current market and the home was priced competitively, which it was,” Zirkelbach explained. “The other challenge was that the home would be vacant while it was on the market. To give it the appeal needed to sell quickly, even while empty, we relied on getting excellent photos that accentuated its highlights, such as the wonderful kitchen, charming front porch and a nearby area of open space.
“That way, we could get potential buyers excited about the property before they even visited it. We wanted to make a great impression online, so that when buyers did walk through, they were only confirming their first impressions.”
Zirkelbach had the interior paint freshened and rugs cleaned after the seller left, then added some inexpensive but attractive items, such as new area rugs and hand towels in the bathrooms.
“We wanted to let buyers know that the home was still being cared for,” she said.
A final element that gets a home sold quickly, contends Zirkelbach, is that sellers are comfortable with both the list price and the sales price of their home.
“If sellers understand what a reasonable price will be for their property, then they won’t hesitate to accept a reasonable offer,” she said. “On the other hand, if they feel the home is being sold for less than its market value, there will be hesitation and things can fall apart.”