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Seller Savvy – First Impressions Count in Selling Your Home

Staging a room, or building a viewing platform on a lot for sale helps create a positive first impression

I can’t find the proper attribution, but the phrase, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” is one a prospective seller will undoubtedly hear from me. In my mind, there are at least three elements to the “first impression” that apply to getting your property sold “fast” (or within the time frame you desire), and for the highest price the market will allow.

  1. Online presentation
  2. Showing readiness
  3. Behind the scenes preparation

I put these elements in the order I did, because if your property is for sale, but no one knows it—or what the prospective buyer or showing agent sees turns them off—you won’t get showings. If you don’t get showings, you won’t get offers, and if you don’t get offers, you will not sell your home or land!

“Showing” Your Property Online

One of the benefits Hawai’i Life brings to its agents…and therefore to its customers and clients…is that unlike most real estate companies, our owners actually have expertise in marketing. Truthfully, I find they are brilliant at it. We have a Marketing Manual, online Direct Marketing System, and in-house seminars on topics like taking better listing photos. These guys make it their job to understand what works in marketing real estate…so I don’t have to guess.

Often, when I am talking to a seller whose property was previously listed with someone else, I’ll print out the description and photos. Was the first photo an attention-grabbing one? Did the description even say where the property is, so that someone who looks at the listing from their home on the Mainland knows this is Hawi not Hilo? I’m always interested in having a dialogue with a prospective seller about what attracted them to the house or location because that is likely to be something that will attract the next buyer. Then, the art is conveying that in pictures and words.

Although later, we might take fresh photos or add aerials, or change the wording in a listing description based on feedback from showings, it is when the listing is first released that it gets the most attention, especially from other Realtors. And yet, I still see listings released without a single photo…although not by Hawaii Life agents!

“Staging” for Showings

When a prospective buyer walks through the door of a home I have listed for sale, I want to hear one of two things. The best is, “Wow! This shows just as beautifully as the photos.” Almost as good is, “The photos didn’t even capture how great this is.”

I want the first impression in-person to be a confirmation of the first impression the buyer or agent got online. Remember, your prospective buyer is probably a real estate junkie. They are watching HGTV and reading Architectural Digest on the flight to Hawai’i. Their expectations of how homes for sale should look is influenced by the ubiquity of “staging” shows, advice, and tips.

A rental property or short sale or REO is most likely going to look a little tired, and the price will reflect that. Non-distressed sellers, on the other hand, want to get the highest possible price, and a home that doesn’t show well will be more likely to get a price that doesn’t sit well.

Katie Minkus pointed out in a comment on my blog post Tuesday that a home that is not de-cluttered and de-personalized is less likely to sell. Two of the listings we were invited to take over from other brokerages last year suffered from this problem.

Both were big properties with big ocean views, just what buyers were looking for, but both sets of owners were world travelers and avid collectors, so the homes were filled with beautiful and interesting “stuff.” Prospective buyers would remember the house as having a certain stunning piece of sculpture…or an amazing collection of Christmas decorations…and later ask themselves, “How many bedrooms did that house have?” “What was the pool like?”

It’s not easy to live like a visitor in your own home, but there is an important psychological factor that comes into play when you start packing your personal belongings, as if the home were sold and you were ready to move on. It’s amazing how often homes sell quickly once their owners become 100% committed emotionally, and staging can be part of that process.

The bottom line: you don’t sell your home the way you lived in it.

By the way, I also stage raw land for sale. If a buyer can’t identify the building site, can’t bushwhack through the chest-high growth, and can’t put themselves in the picture, they won’t make an offer.

Behind-the-Scenes Preparation

If you set an appointment with me to discuss selling your home, don’t be surprised if I walk in with a copy of the permit report on your property from the Building Department, a preliminary title report, and a printout from the Flood Hazard Assessment Tool. (I’ll also bring market comps and information on Hawaii Life, of course).

Our standard of practice is to surface all the information and any potential issues right up-front. If we need to get a permit closed, stake the property to reveal its boundaries, or order a pre-listing home inspection in order to make a positive first impression with a prospective buyer who might otherwise have doubts, that’s going to be money well spent in preparing your home to sell.

That’s a huge component of what we mean when we say, “We list property, properly.”

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Jeremy Stice, R(S)

March 3, 2011

Beth,
This is an excellent post, I really enjoyed it. You exude confidence and expertise, I love it. One of the other aspects of making helping a seller accomplish their goals of selling the house is being able to show the property on short notice. There is no question that there can be a myriad of impediments that prevent this from happening but my advice is to eliminate as many of them as possible. It is much easier to sell something you can see and feel.

Jeremy Stice, R(S)

March 3, 2011

Beth,
This is an excellent post, I really enjoyed it. You exude confidence and expertise, I love it. One of the other aspects of making helping a seller accomplish their goals of selling the house is being able to show the property on short notice. There is no question that there can be a myriad of impediments that prevent this from happening but my advice is to eliminate as many of them as possible. It is much easier to sell something you can see and feel.

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

March 4, 2011

@Jeremy, excellent point. So many of our buyers are here on vacation and have very limited time to view property. They’ll pick from the ones they are able to see.

Beth Thoma Robinson, R(B)

March 4, 2011

@Jeremy, excellent point. So many of our buyers are here on vacation and have very limited time to view property. They’ll pick from the ones they are able to see.

Claire K. Bajo R(S)

March 8, 2011

Great point Beth! Having the Sellers understand that the Buyers will not live the same way they did is a big perception that Sellers must accept as part of selling their property. The marketability aspect to a Seller may not be something they’ve thought about, so the way you educate your Sellers seems key to the success and quickness of a property selling.. very smart Beth! Mahalo for sharing!

Claire K. Bajo R(S)

March 8, 2011

Great point Beth! Having the Sellers understand that the Buyers will not live the same way they did is a big perception that Sellers must accept as part of selling their property. The marketability aspect to a Seller may not be something they’ve thought about, so the way you educate your Sellers seems key to the success and quickness of a property selling.. very smart Beth! Mahalo for sharing!

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