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Anyone who’s ever sold their home can tell you that it isn’t an easy process—no matter how hot the housing market is. And unless you plan on selling your house directly to a cash buyer, it’s imperative that you make your listing stand out.
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And with so much competition from other sellers, the more creative you get, the better. These 9 creative ways to sell a house can help get eyes on your prize (literally, you can give out prizes!) and may even let you have a little fun in the process.
9 Creative Ways to Sell a House Fast:
- Test drive! Let potential buyers move in for the weekend.
- Get in touch with your neighbors. They might know someone.
- Make a game out of your home sale: host a contest — grand prize your house!
- Use Facebook and put a bounty on social shares.
- Throw in a freebie or two for incentives.
- Give buyers a virtual tour with Facebook Live or SnapChat.
- Sell your house faster at a property auction.
- Help out with the mortgage financing.
- Host a themed open house to draw more attention.
1. Let Potential Buyers Move In for the Weekend
When Debbie Rose and her husband wanted to sell their Stamford, CT home a few years ago, they quickly grew tired of “showing” their place whenever potential buyers wanted to see it. So when a coworker mentioned that she was interested in moving to Stamford, the couple offered up their home for a weekend getaway. Their guests loved the house and town so much, they made an offer on the home a few weeks later.
While it’s much easier on the mind if you actually know the people who are staying in your home, if you have a serious buyer who is waffling on their decision, an overnight stay might be just what they need to close the deal.
House swapping is kind of a trendy thing right now with people using apps like Airbnb to rent out their homes. Look at their “responsible hosting” page for ideas on how to let virtual strangers stay in your home without running into any issues. It’s also a good idea to let your realtor in on this idea so that they can help facilitate their stay.
Think about the features of your home and community that you love the most. Then highlight them. If your sunroom is a major selling point, make the room cozy for guests and put out a bottle of wine and some snacks. Or maybe your master bath is an oasis. Set out special bath oils or salts, along with a new bath pillow and a fluffy robe so that your “buyers” can get the full experience. Leave local magazines, take out menus or ads for nearby attractions by the front door so your buyers can meander around your town and imagine themselves living there.
2. Get in Touch With Your Neighbors
Nikki Ryan, a top 1% real estate agent in Reston, VA, once had a buyer who wanted a home in a specific neighborhood. None were available, so she began calling all of the neighbors to find out if anyone might be interested in selling. Sure enough, she discovered that one of the homes was sitting empty because the owner lived in Arizona. She sent him a letter with her business card asking if he’d be willing to sell. He was, her buyer made an offer, and the deal was done.
“I tell my buyers all the time, ‘If you like a certain area I will be happy to send letters on your behalf or call the area to see if I can find someone thinking of selling,’” says Ryan. “ There are a lot of people who will sell if they don’t have to go through the work of getting the house ready to sell and show it.”
While it might seem fruitless to cozy up to your neighbors just as you’re planning on leaving the ‘hood, this is actually an excellent time to connect. Think about it: they obviously have a vested interest in who buys your house and they may know people who want in on your block. Now’s the time to throw an “open house” for your neighbors. Put out some wine and cheese, announce that you’re moving and ask them to spread the word.
What if you don’t know your neighbors? In this day and age, it’s easy to remedy this. You can go the old school route and put an invitation in each mailbox or call them, as Ryan did. Or, enlist the one or two neighbors you do know to help get the message out there.
3. Here’s Another Creative Way to Sell A House: Make a Game Out of It
Who doesn’t love the chance to win a prize—especially if it’s a house?! A few years ago, an innkeeper in Maine named Janice Sage hosted an essay contest with a $125 entry fee. The prize: ownership of her inn.
Sage’s contest garnered more than 7,000 entries, netting her more than $906,000—roughly the value of the inn—and inspired countless other sellers to host their own contests. The owners of Bluebird Hill Farm, an organic farm near Raleigh, NC hosted an essay contest for couples with organic farming experience. A $300 entry fee, a 200-word essay, and farming experience could have won you the farm, valued at $450,000.
While this may seem like a fun and easy way to sell your home, it’s not without its share of headaches. Disgruntled participants in Sage’s contest filed complaints with the Maine attorney general’s office, which led to an inquiry (no improprieties were found) and there is a chance that you’ll need to refund the entries if you don’t get enough of them.
If you do decide to go the game route, visit the Facebook page Write2Win, which tracks current essay contests with real estate as the prize and provides tips on how to host your own. Curbed even has a guide that can help you avoid some of the pitfalls of hosting a contest.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind:
Double check the laws.
Contact your state attorney general’s office to find out the rules regarding contests in your state. (For example, Sage’s contest was considered legal in the state of Maine because it was a game of skill, not a game of luck.)
Do the math.
Use our free home value estimator to figure out the value of your home and work backwards to get a rough idea of how many entries you’ll need to break even.
Come up with clear and concise rules.
You might also consider hiring an independent judging panel or a trustee who collects the entries and removes any identifying details from them before the judging.
4. Use Facebook to Offer Up a Reward to People
Post your real estate listing on Facebook and let your “friends” know that you’re offering a monetary reward for any “share” that results in the sale of your home. This can be as simple as a Visa gift card, though you should make it for an amount large enough—at least $200—to peak people’s interest. In 2015, a Canadian couple offered a whopping $1,000 to the person whose share led to a sale.
If you’d like to try this, you’ll need to set the Privacy settings for this post to Public. You’ll find this at the bottom right of the post, next to the blue button that says Post. This will allow everyone to see your post, whether they’re friends with you or not.
If your kids or grandkids are on Facebook, ask them to share your post with their network as well. You could even run a few cheap Facebook Ads to spread the word to thousands of people in your area. You never know what might trigger the post and make it go viral.
5. Throw in a Freebie
When Gene Caballaro, co-founder of GreenPal, a site that matches customers with lawn care services, wanted to sell his suburban Murfreesboro, TN home to move to the city, he knew he wouldn’t need his car anymore.
So, he parked his two-year-old Nissan Maxima on his lawn with a sign that said “Car comes with house!” Needless to say, he sold his home within three days. “It was a unique idea that lured people to my house, and I was able to make more money selling my car as a bundle,” he says.
Transferring his car to its new owner was a simple process for Caballaro, who wrote the trade-in value as the purchase price on the title and signed it over.
If you don’t have a car to give away, think about other items that could sweeten the deal. Maybe you have a treadmill or home gym in your basement that a buyer has expressed interest in or patio furniture that might be more of a pain to move then it’s worth.
6. Give Buyers a Virtual Tour of Your House
Create a virtual open house or a 3D floor plan that allows buyers from all over the country (or the world) to see your home in real time. Or live stream a day in your house, so potential buyers can see what it’s like to live in your abode. After all, 77% of homebuyers say they start their search online when looking for homes, according to ABC News.
Here’s How to Get a Virtual Tour Set Up:
Your realtor may already have a preferred site for creating and sharing virtual open houses (and may even offer to do yours) but if not, visit sites like SharperAgent.com or Imagemaker360.com which can help you create a virtual tour.
Need tips on how to create a virtual open house, take all the photos yourself, and get the word out about it? The Balance created this simple instruction manual for managing the whole process.
Be sure to upload your virtual open house on YouTube and provide links on all of your social media pages. (Get your family members to do the same.)
How to Host Your Own Live Stream on Facebook:
First, you’ll need to activate Facebook Live in your account. In the same box where you’d post a status update, click the “Live” icon, which looks like a person’s silhouette.This will prompt you to give access to your camera and microphone on your device. Before you begin live streaming, you’ll have the option to make your video public to “Only Me” so you can practice a bit. Write a description of your video— “This can all be yours! A day in the life at our house” or something similar— then click the “Go Live” button. For excellent examples of how to create a live stream of your home, check out John and Melissa Steele’s Facebook page.
7. Sell Your House Fast at An Auction
Home auctions aren’t just for foreclosed properties or those seized by the bank or the police. Not anymore, anyway. These days, a home auction can be an effective way to sell your house fast. And if it’s particularly desirable, a bidding war can ensue, which can mean big bucks for you.
As with anything that seems too good to be true, it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into when you go this route.
First, check out the National Auctioneers Association to find an experienced auctioneer in your area who specializes in home auctions. Then, find out when their next home auction is in your area and go to it to get a feel for the process.
Pam Rose, owner of Pamela Rose Auction Company in Whitehouse, OH says that sellers should ask a potential auctioneer the following questions:
Q: How many homes have you sold through auctions?
A: You’ll want to go with an auctioneer who has more experience than less.
Q: What’s your marketing plan for each auction you host?
A: You’re counting on your auctioneer for a clear strategy for how they plan to advertise your property.
Q: What are your credentials for running the auction in the first place?
A: Most states require auctioneers to have a real estate license at the very least. You should also ask if they’ve completed a training program to become certified.
You’ll also want to ask for references. Talking to an auctioneer’s past customers is an excellent way to confirm their credibility.
Once you get the auction set up, get people in the seats, and put your house up on the auction block, you need to make sure the house goes for the highest possible price. The risk with an housing auction is that you can lose money on the sale if you’re not careful.
To play it safe, you could host a “Reserve Auction” which allows you to set a price (10-15 percent below market value is a good barometer) that must be met before your home sells. Only you and the auctioneer will know what this price is. Be sure to ask what the no-sale fee is, the fee you’ll owe the auctioneer if your home doesn’t sell.
Here are 3 Simple Things You Can Do to Ensure That Your House Sells at Auction:
- Make it an absolute auction. In this instance, there’s no reserve price, so your house will sell to the highest bidder. Generally, more people attend absolute auctions because they know the home will sell, which means more competition—and higher bids.
- Go with an auction company that requires bidders to undergo a pre-qualification process. This will ensure that your auction only attracts serious buyers.
- Don’t skimp on advertising. Sellers cover the costs of advertising their auction and this a crucial piece to its success. A good, experienced auction company will use social media, color flyers, radio and TV ads, and direct mailing to specific groups to get the word out about your property. (They’ll also itemize where they spent your advertising dollars.)
8. Finesse the Financing and Move the Home Sale Along
If you’ve found a serious buyer but they’re having trouble securing a mortgage or are quibbling about the closing costs, there are ways to appease them and make the sale. For example, you could offer them a rent to own deal, where they agree to rent your home for an agreed upon amount of time (usually one to three years) with the option to buy once the lease expires.
To assuage some of the buyer’s burden, Ilona Bray, J.D., a legal editor at Nolo.com suggests offering to pay for one of these items:
Title Insurance/Title Search Fees
This will usually run you about 0.5 percent to one percent of the purchase price
Offer to pay for the home inspection, which typically costs $300-400.
Buyers need to pay for a year’s worth of home insurance upfront. You could offer to cover this, though the cost may vary from $500-$1300.
Offer to obtain a warranty on certain appliances or mechanical systems in the house, which can cost anywhere from $300-900.
If it’s feasible to do so, you could offer to pay the buyer’s first mortgage payment. Or if they can’t put 20 percent down and are incurring PMI, you could offer to deflect that amount, usually several hundred dollars.
9. Set the Scene in Your Open House
Maybe you have a period piece of property, like a Victorian or Edwardian home, which would benefit from a little scene setting. Or perhaps your mod apartment looks like a set from Mad Men. Heighten the interest in your property by hosting an open house and dressing in period costumes. Invite attendees to have tea in your garden or attend a 60s era cocktail party (complete with martinis).
It’s hard not to despair when conventional selling practices aren’t getting you the results you want. There are other creative ways to sell a house to explore! As long as the risk is low (i.e. you aren’t going to lose money on the sale) there’s no harm in trying alternative ideas to close the deal. You may even have a good time and make money in the process. That’s what we call a win-win.
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