Susan Strawgate Code, an associate broker with Houlihan Lawrence for the past 20 years, often uses the skills she learned as a psychology major when working with her real estate clients.
"Selling a house is very stressful. People have a strong emotional attachment to their home," says Code, who lives and works in Briarcliff Manor.
When listing a home for sale, she works with the homeowner to make sure the house shows in perfect condition. "I help the seller see what they can't," Code says. She spends a lot of time walking through the house creating a punch list of everything that needs doing. She also provides lists of professional stagers.
Buyers today are looking for homes in perfect move-in condition, she says. If they can't find a home they like in one community, they'll look in surrounding towns. Few buyers are interested in houses that need work. "They will pay more for a house that doesn't need anything done," she says, "Especially since mortgage rates are so low." Renovating a house after purchase can end up costing more and financing can be difficult to obtain.
A quick sale often results in higher prices, too. According to Code, homes that are priced well initially average 125 days on the market, from date of listing to date of closing contract, and sell for an average of 96 percent of the initial asking price. A home that has at least one price reduction spends an average of 388 days on market (list to close), and the sale price drops to 78 percent of the initial asking price.*
First and last impressions are key. A house with great curb appeal promises the buyer an interesting, well kept home, says Code. And similarly, the last impression -- often the basement or garage -- must be equally satisfying since that is what the buyer remembers.
A well staged home that is priced correctly can even sell above asking price, Code says. 15 Dalmeny Road in Briarcliff Manor, which closed in Jan. 2012, was listed for $719,000 and sold quickly for $726,200 after multiple offers. "The house was in mint, move-in condition," Code says. "The paint colors flowed, the floors sparkled. People who saw the house all felt they could live there."
*According to Empire Access Multiple Listing Service, Westchester County, single family home, between July 1, 2009 and Sept.30, 2011.