Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How to Sell Your Home: Interview with Bill Golden, Atlanta Realtor

This is the first post in a new series about what you need to do to sell your home in this market. In virtually the entire country we are currently facing difficult times for sellers. The situation was enough to compel me to write a book about how to sell your home in this economy--and still make some money.

I decided to reach out across the country to get first-hand knowledge of the real estate situation and have had many realtors, designers, stagers and other professionals in the business share their experiences with me.

Bill Golden is a Re/Max Realtor in the Atlanta Metro Cityside region. He has been in the business for 22 years He can be reached at bill@billgoldenhomes.com and 404.634.7728. The following is our interview. Please feel free to post any comments to either Bill or myself on this blog and either of us will respond.

1. How would you describe the market in Atlanta on 1/23/09?
The market here is definitely slow, though it varies according to area and price range. The prices in most areas haven’t really dropped, but they have not appreciated as they have in the past.

2. What is the average length of time a house sits on the market before it is sold?
This too, depends on the area, but in the “intown” Atlanta market in the last 6 months, a single family residential home has sat on the market for an average of 76 days.

3. How does that compare to 5 years ago?
Five years ago, that number was most likely more like 45 days.

4. How does that compare to 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, the market was very strong here, so I would say it was closer to 30 days.

5. What is the average price paid for a home over or under the asking price?
In the same market for the last 6 months, the average List Price/Sale Price ratio was approximately 93%, which is definitely down. That number is usually around 96%.

6. When you list a home, do you make suggestions to seller on things they can do to improve home to sell it?

7. If so, what are common recommendations that you make?
Usually a lot of de-cluttering, cleaning, fresh paint/carpet if necessary, freshened landscaping, staging if necessary.

8. What are some of the biggest mistakes people make when putting their home on the market?
Number one mistake people make is overpricing. Many times homeowners try to justify that by saying they’re not in a hurry. Unfortunately, that logic doesn’t work. If the home sits on the market a long time, you generally end up getting less than if you had priced it right from the start.
Of course, one of the other mistakes some folks make is trying to sell their home without a Realtor, or using a cut-rate service. In this difficult time, sellers need a professional marketing their home more than ever.
Another common mistake is spending money on “improvements” that they then want to recoup in the sales price. Before you make any improvements to sell your home, it’s best to contact a Realtor who knows the market and can tell you accurately what changes are worth making, and which ones aren’t.

9. Are buyers asking about green features in homes? (Solar panels, Energy Star rated appliances, programmable thermostats, sustainable wood floors, etc.)
I don’t see it that much in the market I work in, which is mostly comprised of older homes. I’m sure it has more of an impact on new homes.

10. Do homes with green features sell for more?
Unfortunately, no. At least not in my market. They may, however, help your home sell faster. In other words, a buyer may not pay more for those features, but they may choose a home with those features over one that doesn’t have them.

11. As a Realtor, do you point out green features (or are they written on the sell sheet)?
Absolutely, I will point out any green features of a home, and they should also be written on the flyer/brochure for the home.

12. What are the most popular features people are looking for in homes today?
As has been the case for a long time, kitchens and baths seem to really sell homes. Even if they’re not totally renovated, if they are clean and move-in ready, that’s appealing to a buyer. Also, most buyers like a floor plan where the kitchen is open to the family room or some other space where folks can gather.
Most buyers today prefer hardwood floors over carpet, and also a low-maintenance yard.

13. What are the most unpopular features?
Most buyers don’t want choppy floor plans where rooms don’t open to each other. They also don’t like laminate floors, stippled ceilings, or bathrooms with outdated “gold” fixtures.

14. Do people prefer carpet or wood flooring?
Definitely wood flooring.

15. What is the favored type of flooring?
Real wood floors.

16. Do beige walls really sell?
Not necessarily, but definitely when compared with strong colors.

17. What colors do you recommend on walls?
I generally recommend light, muted tones, in the khaki/green family, depending on the furnishings of the home. Also, white or very light moldings and trim.

18. Do you like particular colors for different rooms? For example, a yellow kitchen?
No. Each situation is different.

19. Do you think staging works to sell a home?
In some cases, absolutely. If a home has all fresh paint and gleaming hardwood floors, it may show just as well vacant. Staging definitely helps in cases where the home has an odd floor plan, or oddly shaped/sized rooms. It helps define those spaces. If a home is decorated in a very specific style, it may help to neutralize it somewhat, so a buyer is able to picture their own style in the home.

20. What elements of staging are most successful?
See above.

21. Do you think Feng Shui helps to sell a home?
I’ve never had it come up!

22. What elements make a home feel good?
Cleanliness and a pleasant smell.

23. What elements make a home feel bad?
Dirt, messiness, and bad odors.

24. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Only that in this market, where there is so much competition, a seller needs to make their home stand out, either with the presentation or the value. Or better yet, both!

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