Selling Your Home in a Recession

With short sales, foreclosures, and desperate sellers flooding the real estate market, how can you make your home stand out from the crowd? It’s not enough to simply hope that special buyer will see your home’s true value shining through. The true value is contingent on what the market demands, not what you feel your home is worth. And if every other home in your neighborhood is selling for 250k, then you can’t realistically price your home at 325k and hope for the best. So how can you get it sold?

Here are some simple, cost-effective ways to make your home sparkle next to a glut of real estate inventory.


Sounds simple, but you’ll be surprised at how many home owners fail to scrub down counter tops, trash bins, bathrooms, walls, floors, and even the front door and windows of their home before an open house. Clean every square inch you can and open all the windows. Even if they’re closed during an actual showing, a release of fresh air will help your home feel airy and fresh.

Assess the market value

There’s no harm in dropping in on a few open houses in your neighborhood to see what a comparable home is selling for. And if they’re offering a lower price, make sure your higher priced home holds up to the scrutiny. What can you offer that their home doesn’t? An updated kitchen, larger bedrooms, more storage?

Proper staging

Staging seems to be all the rage these days. But it can be overdone. Don’t strip down your home until it’s void of all personality. Leave out a few personal items that give your home a special touch, but make sure your furniture doesn’t overcrowd a room. Go ahead and put the rest in storage for your new home. Sellers should also get rid of dried flowers, cheap yet sentimental keepsakes, and clutter. You don’t want anything to suck out the life of your home when potential buyers are looking.

Think back

Why did you buy your home? Was it because it had a beautiful rolling yard, high ceilings, or an airy family room? Play up those assets and make sure they’re the main attraction.

Think like a buyer

You may love the bright orange trim on your house, but would a buyer? Consider putting down hardwood floors over that old tile, touch up the trim, repaint the porch, add some shrubs, or change the cabinet pulls and battered doorknobs. Do anything you can think of to freshen up the look of your house.

Offer incentives

Don’t be shy about offering to fix up the basement, cover closing costs, or flexibility on the price. In this market, buyers want to know they’re getting a good deal. If they’re not, they’ll walk over to the open house down the street.

Take the pets with you

No matter how gentle you may think your cats and dogs are, do not leave them unattended at an open house. Barking dogs, hissing cats, and shedding hair will not entice a buyer. Even if your pets are truly docile, you may have buyers that are allergic, afraid, or disturbed by the site of pets. They may feel animals bring odor, excess dander and hair, and unforeseen damage to your home. And you risk not knowing if your kitty has decided to leave a calling card in the middle of your bedroom until you get back. It’s also very annoying for buyers to be instructed not to let the cat out when trying to see the backyard or front porch. It’s not their responsbility to look after your pets.

Put away the baby gear

While you don’t have to hide the crib and pretend you’re childless, you do need to put away the baby toys and make your home look like an adult lives there. Young buyers, even those who truly want to have a family some day, don’t want to see rooms brimming with stuffed animals, trucks, and dolls. They want their new home to resemble their current lifestyle, not a life full of worn blankies and stained bibs.

Post pictures

I can’t tell you how many homes I see for sale on craigslist, trulia, and on real estate sites with no photos whatsoever. I usually assume the seller or agent are too unmotivated to give buyers the courtesy to take a first glance. Buyers don’t want to drive all the way over to your house and then find out the style, size, or overall condition of your home is all wrong for their needs. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. It also may lead them to believe your home is in such bad shape, you can’t post photos without scaring off potential buyers. And the more pictures you can post, the better. This lets the buyer start seeing all the potential immediately. Once they’re in your home, they might see unexpected flaws, but can still rely on that potential they’ve already calculated.

Adjust the price at the time of listing

When you first list your home, do not price your home to reflect the market value of every home in your neighborhood. Instead, drop the price up to 10% to entice immediate home buyers. The attractive price puts your home on the very top of their list. And you’ll ultimately save money by not letting it sit on the market for months without a nibble. Too many homeowners want to overprice, saying they want to leave a cushion for when a buyer plays hardball. That’s a really bad idea. It only tells the buyer you’re unrealistic about the market value and will go to the next best offer.

Don’t blame the real estate agent

Some real estate agents are better at their jobs than others. But they’re not magicians. They can’t just pull a buyer out of thin air. They are more or less there to facilitate the deal and don’t typically have a rolodex of potential buyers waiting to pounce. Make sure your agent is diligent about showing your home and organizing regular open houses. But don’t forget to stay involved yourself. Don’t just wish your real estate would do something different. Don’t just hope you’ll get an offer faxed in that day. Put yourself out there and post flyers, send emails to friends of friends who might be looking, list your home on craigslist, think of ways to fix up your home on a budget, and brainstorm on creative ways to attract new buyers.

And remember that once you decide to sell your home, it’s not really your home any longer. It’s some lucky buyer that you need to attract by showing them that this house can be their very own. It’s also crucial to remember that selling a home is just like running a business. How do you conduct yourself at a place of business? You need flexibility to keep appointments going, a positive mindset, ability to make new contacts and network, a desire to put money into your product to make it the best it can be, and creative brainstorming. This is your home and you probably took great pride in it over the years. So illustrate that passion to show how dazzling and enticing your ‘business’ can be to prospective buyers.

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