My fiancé and I are trying to sell his co-op in this S-L-0-W market. It's the first time for both of us, and here are some things we’ve learned:
- There's such a thing as de-cluttering too much. Before we put the apartment on the market, I made my fiancé help me clean out the whole place. Anything that didn’t belong was donated or thrown out. Family photos, kitchen magnets and anything else personal was removed so our apartment was a blank slate that buyers could project their lives onto. Much to my surprise, our real estate agent thought it was too sparse. She asked us to put back “at least one painting on our living room walls" because she thought it would look more inviting to potential buyers. Now, I’m not so anal-retentive and I leave some personal (yet clean) touches when staging for a viewing or open house.
- "Interest" is not the same as "offers." We've had two open houses that were pretty successful in the sense that everybody said they loved the apartment. Our agent said 30 people came through and delivered accolades like “how gorgeous the renovations are," the apartment is “move-in ready," “it’s so quiet” or “wow, look at that view!” All 30 people agreed it’s a great space. We had priced the apartment $10K below our competitors, so we knew we were good on price. The result of the open houses? Zilch. Not a single offer.
- Some real estate agents are clueless. Around a week or so after the first open house, we received an email from our realtor saying someone had bid 16 percent below asking price. Given that we were already priced $10k below the competition, it was so low we didn't counter-offer. Our agent agreed and told us later the potential buyer's real estate agent (not ours) mistakenly told the buyer to bid a one bedroom price, even though we have a two bedroom. Nice.
- Be very afraid when the BFF shows up. One potential buyer LOVED the place—she examined every nook and cranny of our apartment for 45 minutes with her best friend and our real estate agent while I read a book down in the lobby. They came down and she emphatically said, “It’s absolutely beautiful!” They sat on the couches in the lobby to talk as I went back upstairs. An hour later my fiancé came home from work and we left again to go out to dinner. They were still on the couches talking. Good sign, right? No offer. Apparently, our poor real estate spent all that time trying to convince the BFF why it was a good buy. The potential buyer loved the apartment, the building and the amenities but the BFF talked her out of it. We forgot to ask what the BFF's problem was, but it didn't matter, because we never saw them again.
- Let fate take its course. In a slow market, all you can do is price your apartment fairly and then let go. What I mean by "let go" is you can't stress over every showing, open house, the second time a buyer comes back, etc.. You wreak havoc on yourself and your relationship (if selling with your partner). Our real estate agent gave us some great advice that also applies to falling in love: "It will happen when you aren't thinking about it."