How to Sell a Home in Northern Virginia; the Step-by-Step Process

Most Important First Step is Selecting a Realtor® 
Whether you’re a first-time home seller in Northern Virginia, or you have sold multiple homes in your lifetime, the process of selling a home can be involved and time consuming. It requires the help of an experienced real estate professional. The life change that brings a seller to the decision point to sell their home is as important as the process of selling the home itself. Both the seller’s decision to sell and the actual process of selling are integrally connected and require the utmost attention and care from the right real estate professional.

Selling a home doesn’t have to be difficult process for a seller. Instead, hiring the right agent can make the process easy, informative and one that fulfills a seller’s desired outcome in a professional and efficient manner. That’s why I believe interviewing and selecting the right real estate agent with the right skill set is by far the most important decision when a seller begins the selling process. It can be difficult for a seller to reach their desired outcome at the end of the process if they select the wrong agent at the beginning of the process.

The Step-by-Step Process to Selling a Home
The infographic below is straight out of my Listing Presentation and I’ve found it to be one of my best resources when I dialogue with a client about the selling process. The selling process can be simplified to five functional areas (1) hire an agent, (2) prepare the home to become show ready, (3) determine the selling price and list the home for sale, (4) receive and negotiate an offer, ratify the contract, and (5) complete settlement. However, this of course over-simplifies things and leaves out several crucial tasks and components managed by the agent as more fully described below.

Listing Taskline3

For sake of brevity, I’ll focus on three activities in the selling process that typically are the most important. The outcome of these activities have a direct impact on what’s usually most important to sellers – the offer price they will receive and how long will it take to get an offer. Sellers are shocked to learn that in Northern Virginia they can face a more than a 1-in-3 chance of failing to sell their home when listed. This failure is due to a variety of reasons, but almost always can be avoided by hiring the right real estate agent who can provide the right information and counsel.

Successful Selling Activity #1 – Showcasing the Home
The best advice I can provide to a seller during the time they prepare to showcase their home is to view everything through the eyes of the buyer. I ask sellers to go back in time to when they purchased the home and remember the conditions that captured their interest and made them fall in love with the home. These are the same buyer senses we want to touch when selling the home.

This can mean de-cluttering, painting, replacing carpet, fixing anything in disrepair, dressing the yard, making the home less individualistic, etc. Do everything you can reasonably do to make the home tidy, clean and fresh. Over 90% of buyers first react to a home through online photos. It’s these conditions combined with professional photography that appeal to the widest group of buyers and bring them to the seller’s door for a showing. These are the conditions that allow buyers to envision themselves living in the home and invites them to the possible emotional connection and falling in love with what they see. An agent who fails to be open and honest with a seller about a home’s condition can ultimately work against the seller’s objectives. My view is always be open and honest with sellers and let them decide how they use the information – home condition and improvements can be the most important factors in determining property value.

Successful Selling Activity #2 – Pricing the Home
When a seller is nearing the time to list the home, the scope of work that carries the most importance by far is pricing the home in the selling range. Sellers should receive a comprehensive Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) from their agent. The CMA should be accurate in terms of current comparable homes and equitable condition adjustments to arrive at a recommended selling price range. The recommended selling range should be in a reasonably tight band so it’s useful to the seller.

This is only the starting point of what I do for my sellers. I use my strong knowledge and experience in statistical and financial analysis to produce information that goes beyond a traditional CMA. The CMA is simply my baseline pricing document. I test the CMA against multiple valuation techniques to arrive at a consensus estimate of market value. I then perform supply and demand analysis by reviewing market conditions at the time of the listing, including absorption rates and inventory in the specific neighborhood and immediate surrounding areas. I analyze market seasonality of the listing time and past trends to determine if the listing is leaning into a relatively firmer or softer market – each month has its own set of seasonality statistics. I combine all of these techniques to produce an optimal selling price with the highest probability of achieving the ultimate seller goal – maximize seller dollars and minimize time on the market.

The preparation of my type of CMA and pricing strategy is a high value deliverable to a seller. Effectively pricing a home is a learned skill. It results from an agent who knows how to research, gather and analyze current and relevant information. This type of agent has a command of comp analysis, statistics and possesses a thorough knowledge of the dynamics of property sales. The agent is skilled at using the same valuation techniques as an appraiser and can present the data in a manner easily understood by the seller. If done correctly, the agent will facilitate the seller gaining tens of thousands of dollars in value, or equally as important prevent the same losses by not having the home languish on the market through mis-pricing.

Successful Selling Activity #3 – Marketing Your Home
Now that the home is listed for sale and open to the public, the agent is responsible for executing a customized and winning marketing plan for the home – a plan that specifically targets the type of buyers who match the home. My strategy is to over-shoot marketing efforts and cast the widest net possible to reach maximize market awareness. I do this using multiple marketing channels – traditional, digital and social marketing. The most effective marketing strategy is one that operates knowing the home only has one chance to be brand new to the market and attract the strongest offers. I use a marketing team when selling a home and my team produces geometric results when compared to a typical agent who only markets through their own efforts.

The agent highlights the home’s unique and differentiating characteristics against competing and perceived substitute homes. The agent constantly monitors showing activity and buyer feedback, as well as surveils changing market activity. Strong agents have effective communication skills and phenomenal follow-up. They report all information to the seller as it occurs so the seller can make adjustments, if necessary. The agent’s duty during this phase is to deliver a ready, willing and able buyer to the seller.

The most important first step in selling a home is interviewing and selecting the right real estate agent. Once that task is complete, seller and agent collaboration can begin to ensure the right selling path is identified and implemented to achieve the seller’s desired outcome!

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