Selling in the off-season

Samantha Strong, broker and owner of Metamorphosis Realty, advised this seller to remove children’s toys, relocate the television to a less prominent spot and add fun accents to the mantle. The seller accepted an offer — over the listed price — in under 48 hours. Photo by David J. Turner.

You don’t have to be afraid to sell.

Spring and summer are considered the best times to put your house on the market, but getting a good price in the colder months is possible if you’re willing to put in the extra work.

A current shortage of quality property for sale in Minneapolis makes your odds even better.

Here are 10 tips for making it happen.

1. Ask: Do I need to sell now?

If you want to sell your house quickly and for a good price in fall and winter months, you have to be ready for the challenge.

Samantha Strong, broker and owner of Metamorphosis Realty, said it’s a real estate agent’s job to work in the seller’s best interest. First consider if selling is the right move, Strong advised.

“Selling a home is stressful, so if it’s unnecessary then let’s not do it,” Strong said.

Arne Johansson, broker and owner of Johansson Reality Inc., said the best time to put your house on the market is between the months of April and July. If you can’t wait to sell, however, you have to be in the right mindset.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t get a good price. It doesn’t mean there won’t be buyers. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sell your house. But it’s definitely something to think about,” Johansson said.

2. ‘Work with the best’

Real estate agents should be experienced, empathetic, available and social media savvy.

“It’s just like anything else — there are good plumbers and there are guys who shouldn’t have a license,” Johansson said. “You have the choice. You don’t have to work with your cousin just because he’s your cousin. You can work with the best, so work with the best.”

Part of being the best is picking up the phone, said Maribel Garcia, a veteran real estate agent with Keller Williams.

“Realtors need to answer the phone,” Garcia said. “When you choose a realtor, make sure that they’re available on the phone, email and text. Otherwise they might miss your buyer.”

Because of all the money, competition and emotion wrapped up in selling a home, real estate agents do more than set up open houses and sign documents.

“You’re paying for the guidance, the resources and the therapy,” Strong said.

3. Work hard

Buyers want to feel at home — not like they’re in your home.

In order to stand out, you will have to invest a significant amount of time, energy and even some money getting ready to put your house on the market.

“Don’t underestimate the process. It takes a while. It’s all about the preparation,” Strong said. “But you’d be surprised by how a little elbow grease goes a long way in this industry.”

In other words, this is how you make the big bucks.

“We still have a seller’s market. There’s still going to be demand for homes, but you’re just going to have to work harder,” Johansson said. “If you’re not ready, if you’re not willing to do all this stuff, you’re not going to get a very good price.”

4. Clean

Cleaning is the best thing you can do to make your house more appealing to buyers.

“You’ve got to clean your house. That is like the No. 1 return on investment,” Johansson said. “If you do anything, clean. You want your house to kind of be like a hotel room: fresh and clean.”

De-cluttering and depersonalizing are essential, Strong said. One element of this process is eliminating the funk.

“You get used to your house — you walk in and you don’t notice the smell,” Strong said. “It’s all about those visceral reactions. The house should smell fresh, but not overly scented.”

As important as smell is, light is important, too, Garcia said.

“Clean means different things to different people. Clean should mean that you’d be OK moving in,” Garcia said. “And clean the windows. The windows make a huge difference. If the windows are clean, the house is brighter and seems cleaner.”

Cleaning is key to the appeal of this bathroom. “White tile should be white,” Strong said. The sellers also painted the ceiling a brighter white to reflect more light. The property received multiple offers within 12 hours. Photo by David J. Turner.
Cleaning is key to the appeal of this bathroom. “White tile should be white,” Strong said. The sellers also painted the ceiling a brighter white to reflect more light. The property received multiple offers within 12 hours. Photo by David J. Turner.

5. Get an inspection

The city requires a Truth-in-Sale of Housing (TISH) evaluation before you can start showing your house.

“Pre-inspection is good because you know what you’re getting into,” Garcia said. “If you have a pre-inspection, you know what’s going on with the house, you know what an inspector will say and you’ll know what the buyers will want.”

Strong said sellers should get the inspection early on in the process. This gives time to make any necessary fixes, be re-inspected and get a TISH certificate of approval before putting a house on the market.

“Pre-inspection makes the buyer more comfortable,” Strong said. “Plus, a clean certificate of approval from TISH gives the impression that your home is well-maintained.”

If you don’t make repairs required by TISH, the buyer will have to sign an Acknowledgement of Responsibility and complete the repairs within 90 days of closing.

“Buyers are wary, and they don’t want to spend their money on boring things like furnaces,” Strong said. “If people find out there’s something wrong, what do they do? They come back and ask for a price reduction. Beat them to the punch. Get it done.”

If the fix is too expensive or you don’t want to deal with it, you’ll have to adjust your asking price accordingly, Strong said.

6. Fix the small stuff

It’s time to get handy and take care of that squeaky door and the pipe that’s leaking in the basement bathroom.

“Your house will never be more done than right before you sell it. All those things you said you were going to do one day — that time is now,” Strong said. “Don’t expect people to adapt to the funky things you’ve adapted to.”

This step is essential, because most buyers are looking for properties that are move-in ready.

“All those tiny items that get put off, those need to be fixed because buyers will see that stuff, and it probably only costs a couple hundred to fix, but the buyer’s going to want like $1,000 off. It creates doubt in the minds of the buyers, so do anything that eliminates doubt in the mind of the buyer.”

These should be minor fixes. You can’t guarantee a return on investment on remodels or big-ticket repairs, Strong said.

Easy things to do include painting, updating light fixtures, matching all your light bulbs for consistent lighting, updating faucets and rearranging furniture make the best use of space.

7. Get outside

Don’t forget about curb appeal.

“No one wants to come inside if your yard is junky,” Strong said.

Mow the lawn, weed the garden, paint the fence and put some seasonal plants in pots by the door.

“Curb appeal makes a huge difference,” Garcia said. “A little bit of mulch can change the curb appeal entirely.”

8. Be picture perfect

Pictures are key to a successful marketing campaign for your house.

“You get one chance to make a first impression. Now, because of how people are looking, that impression is photography online,” Strong said. “You’ve got to get them from the photography to request a showing. Bad photos equates to no showings.”

As great as the iPhone camera is, this is one of those times when it’s worth bringing in a professional, Strong said.

It’s important that the photos are representative of the space. Once the pictures are up, you have to maintain this near-perfection until the property sells, Garcia said.

“If people walk in and the house isn’t as nice as the pictures, they will be disappointed,” Garcia said. “And it needs to be ready and available anytime — you never know when your buyer’s coming.”

Other ways to generate interest in your listing are to include video in your photo gallery, share your gallery online and make your open house an event, Johansson said.

“It’s all about getting people excited about the property,” he said. “We’ve had food trucks at open houses. It gets people in the door. Having 30 people at your open house compared to none makes a big difference.”

This is also an opportunity to show off all the hard work you’ve put into your home.

The sellers cleaned, decluttered and made sure all the light bulbs matched in this kitchen. There was a full price offer in less than a week, “which for condos is great” Strong said. Photo by David J. Turner.
The sellers cleaned, decluttered and made sure all the light bulbs matched in this kitchen. There was a full price offer in less than a week, “which for condos is great” Strong said. Photo by David J. Turner.

9. Know the market

Price your house appropriately.

“If you overprice, it’s not going to sell,” Garcia said. “If you price it right, it’ll sell really quickly.”

Even if you love your home — even if you’ve done everything your real estate agent told you to do to prepare — you have to price your home based on similar properties in your neighborhood that have sold in the month before you list your house, Strong said.

“If you list it too high, you’re not going to get the buyers, the showings, the offers,” Johansson said. “If you list it too low, you might not be able to drive it up.”

It’s important to consider supply and demand. Although there are fewer homes on the market in Minneapolis, there are also fewer people willing to move in the winter.

“Once you put it on the market, your house is no longer a home. It’s a product,” Strong said. “Do not be greedy, especially if you’re selling in the off-season. It’s not the time.”

Finally, don’t try to sell your house near Thanksgiving or Christmas. It probably won’t work, Strong said.

10. Don’t freak

Sometimes, it takes a while for someone to make an offer.

“Getting an offer is the biggest hurdle. You’ve just got to get an offer, so you’ve got to work hard,” Strong said. “It only takes one buyer.”

But in this market, it shouldn’t take too long to sell.

“Right now we have very low inventory, so houses are moving really quickly,” Garcia said.

If you clean, stage and market your house, you might even get offers above asking.

“If you do all this stuff, you should get multiple offers. And multiple offers is the whole point because it can drive up the price,” Johansson said. “Everybody wants what they can’t have.”