The U.S. housing market is undergoing a rebalancing. Visit HomeLight’s 2022 Housing Trends Hub for information on how to navigate a shifting market — whether you’re a seller, buyer, or homeowner.
When home prices and mortgage rates fluctuate it can make your head spin, especially if you need to sell a house in a down market. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll lose money. You simply need to know which actions to take to get the best price.
To help you navigate a shifting housing market, we spoke with real estate agent Mari Slobounov, who is a business partner with the top-producing Lynn Holley Real Estate Group in Madison, Wisconsin. Combining Slobounov’s expert insights with our extensive research on home-selling strategies, this post will provide 17 tips to help you sell your home even in a down market.
1. Price your home right
Your home is likely your largest asset; if it’s not priced right from the beginning, it can quickly shrink with multiple price drops. The longer it sits unsold, the more likely buyers will start to perceive that something is wrong with the house. This is because, if no one is purchasing the home even as it becomes less expensive, buyers will make negative assumptions — deciding it needs extensive repairs or has undesirable characteristics even if nothing is physically wrong with your house.
Pricing too high can also make your house disappear from some online searches. For example, if your house would normally be in the $250,000 to $299,000 range, but you list it for $325,000 hoping to earn higher proceeds, the buyers who normally search that range may never see it. Other buyers who have a larger budget might expect additional amenities for the $325,000 price, and decide not to make an offer. An overpricing error can inadvertently make your home less visible or less attractive to both sets of buyers.
2. Know your home’s value
One way to price your home correctly is to know the market value by having a comparative market analysis (CMA) or a pre-listing appraisal done. By knowing details about the recent home sales in your neighborhood, you can make a sound financial decision that accurately reflects the current market conditions and price. One way to find a top agent in your area that can provide you with a CMA is to use HomeLight’s Agent Match platform.
Another option to find out your home’s current value is to get a pre-listing appraisal. This is when a certified appraiser independently tours your home and reviews your square footage, overall condition, and features, and compares that information to other houses in your area.
3. Get a pre-listing home inspection
When a market turns down, and the number of buyers decreases, knowing every potential issue that could affect the sale of your home can be important. Unlike an appraiser, who observes what they can without climbing up on the roof or going underneath your home, a home inspector’s assessment is a closer examination of your home.
A pre-listing inspection can reveal potential problems including missing shingles, electrical issues, or water leaks. Having a detailed report of your major systems ensures no surprises will catch you off guard when a buyer’s inspection is done.
One caveat regarding pre-listing inspections, state laws typically mandate that sellers must disclose known property issues to buyers. You’ll likely be required to disclose any major pre-listing inspection findings that you choose not to repair.
4. Know what’s happening in the market
Being aware of the real estate market trends, especially in your area, is important because buyers who are shopping for their next home are closely weighing their choices in regard to affordability.
When interest rates climb, many buyers are priced out of the market and may need to pivot to a rental or look for a less expensive home. Many times, even a quarter of a percentage point could determine if a buyer can afford a home. If new housing developments offer first-time buyer down payment assistance or a fixed interest rate, those options could lure buyers away. The more you know about the various incentives will help you compete in the market.
When Slobounov has an initial conversation with her clients, she sets realistic expectations of the current market conditions, which have changed since last year.
“The market is shifting a little bit. It’s still great, and we’re going to price it right. We’re going to do everything to prep your property, and make sure that it has its best foot forward. And you may only get one offer — though it might be a great offer — but just don’t expect to get multiple five to ten offers anymore.”
5. Use professional photos
Amateur photos that are dark or blurry are uninviting and won’t inspire your buyers to swipe right. Professional photos that capture the best features of your home, such as shiny wood floors, a bright sun porch, or a shimmering pool, will pique the interest of a buyer who will want to take a tour in person.
Professional photos that apply better lighting, expert composition, and clarity can significantly improve your home’s overall first impression. A skilled photographer will also be able to showcase desirable features of your property and capture a “homey feeling” by focusing on the areas that interest buyers the most.
6. Maintain a high level of curb appeal
Before potential buyers step over the threshold of your front door, they will weigh your home’s curb appeal from the outside. If your yard has bushy, overgrown, and unattractive foliage and looks like it hasn’t been touched for years, all the buyers will notice is the work they won’t want to tackle.
To increase your chances of a sale at the best price, it’s always important to keep the yard trimmed and pruned. But to really make the yard complement the home, adding pops of color using flowers or plants that are bright and cheery will help promote a positive impression.
7. Clean, shine and deodorize
From that first moment a potential buyer enters your home, you want them to feel like it’s clean and fresh. A dirty, smelly, or cluttered house will distract a buyer’s focus away from the square footage and upgraded features. Your home may have a gourmet kitchen, but a buyer may not see beyond the mess.
Sprucing up every surface, especially the flooring – your largest surface area – will make the biggest impression if it’s thoroughly vacuumed, polished, or mopped. However, if your flooring is heavily damaged, you may consider replacing it so the buyer doesn’t calculate the cost of new flooring into their offer.
8. Keep your home show-ready
Typically, it can take between 10 and 25 showings before your house sells. So when a buyer wants to suddenly drop in for a tour of your home, it has to be ready to go. Because that exhaustive last-minute scramble of shoving things into the nearest closet and hoping it doesn’t burst open at an inopportune moment is not a good strategy. Instead, consider these tips to ensure that every buyer who visits your home will have a great experience:
- Store away personal items – file away any bills or mail you don’t want to share
- Take out the trash – if a buyer looks under your sink, you don’t want them to see or smell trash
- Use neutral air fresheners – not too strong of a scent that implies you’re trying to mask a smell
- Vacuum high-traffic areas – if there’s time to vacuum, give the front room a quick once-over
Overall, the bigger cleaning projects should already be completed. Your goal for last-minute visitors should be to focus on those final touches to help diminish a cluttered or lived-in look.
9. Time your sale
If you don’t have to sell immediately, it can be profitable to ask, “What’s the best time of year to sell a house in my area?” One way you can find out is to use HomeLight’s Best Time to Sell Calculator. This free tool uses real estate transaction data from your market to identify the best and worst months for selling in your area.
Know when is the best time to sell a house if you want to make the most money, and which months are best to sell your house fast.
10. Get a top agent you can trust
Hire a top agent who really understands your market and has the experience to develop a winning strategy.
“Trust your real estate agent that they know what they’re doing, and that goes with picking a Realtor® who you trust. Make sure that you have some sort of connection with that agent. Because trust is everything,” says Slobounov.
HomeLight’s free Agent Match tool is a great place to start for getting your house sold regardless of the current housing conditions. HomeLight’s platform can connect you with a top-performing real estate agent in your market with a proven track record for better results.
11. Make the right fixes
When you are experiencing a down market, certain repairs and improvements are more necessary and the buyer will notice if they’re not addressed, especially if you have visual damage like a hole in the wall or exposed wiring. But even small defects can be a problem when buyers have lots of home choices.
“And really, it’s removing the objections for the buyer. So if a buyer comes into your property and there’s an objection for them they will find every reason not to write on your property. But if there’s no objection or something that’s going to divert their attention, then they’re not nitpicking on the home, they’re going, oh, I could really envision my furniture here,” says Slobounov.
In general, the top things you’ll want to improve include:
- Fix roof damage – because roofs will often determine if a house can be financed or not
- Wash the windows – both sides should sparkle to maximize the light shining through
- Change outdated appliances – that antique oven in goldenrod will not impress buyers
- Paint your house – painting the outside or toning down the inside could help your sale
12. Stage your home
Showcasing all the features of your home with the right staging will invite buyers and give them the ability to visualize themselves living in your welcoming space. Having your furniture and decor present a soothing environment will encourage the buyers to linger longer as they admire your homey aesthetic. Some ways to help your home have a good showing is to:
- Declutter the space – an open space free of extra stuff will be less distracting for the buyer
- Make it less personal – too many family photos on the wall can visually overwhelm
- Shed lots of light – brightening the room can make it feel less dark and claustrophobic
- Hire a professional stager – a staging expert can give your home a competitive edge
13. Know your competition
Every house that falls into your price range is potentially competing with you, especially during a down market. In addition to repairs and staging, it’s a good idea to look over their listings and see what features and upgrades they are highlighting in comparison to your home. If possible, visit an open house and see the improvements they’ve made, and the prices that buyers are willing to pay once it’s sold.
14. Sweeten the deal
Offering different seller concessions to potential buyers can help make your house stand out and give that extra nudge for a faster sale. Some incentives include offering a home warranty, making repairs, leaving desirable fixtures behind, paying closing costs, or offering to buy down the interest rate. However, it’s important to remember that the number of concessions you are able to offer can be limited by the buyer’s financing requirements.
15. Promote your home’s best qualities
Perhaps your home has a swimming pool in a desert community, a mother-in-law unit that could generate rental income, or energy-saving solar panels. These unique additions should be promoted to attract buyers and make your house stand out in a crowded marketplace, especially if they add comfort and long-term savings.
16. Use creative marketing strategies
While a top real estate agent will typically have a comprehensive marketing strategy, there are other creative ways you can get the word out about your home sale, including:
- Tell everyone you know – friends, neighbors, and coworkers
- Start sharing socially – promoting your home on social media platforms
- Go direct with marketing – feature your home and photos with a direct marketing campaign
- Post flyers around town – local coffee shops, gyms, community and business centers
- Market directly to investors – contact real estate investors who buy residential homes
- Drone on about your home – purchase aerial drone views that will show your entire property
17. Make your house move-in ready
More and more homebuyers today are searching for move-in-ready homes, also called “turnkey homes.” These buyers want to unpack and start living in their new house and not spend money or time on repairs or design updates. Some ways sellers are getting their properties ready to be turnkey homes include:
- Make sure all the HVAC and plumbing systems are functioning well
- Update kitchens and bathrooms with pleasing neutral finishes
- Upgrade floors, paint, and the yard to look well maintained and inviting
“I think right now, more than ever, it’s all about presentation. So, in our area, a lot of our first-time homebuyers are your millennial buyers who really do not want to do any projects. They want to move in. They want it to be ready to go. If they’re going to be paying a premium, then they want it to be ready,” says Slobounov.
Are you buying and selling at the same time?
In a down market, Slobounov recommends that sellers find their next home before listing their existing one, and choosing a home that has been on the market for over two weeks. This strategy can give sellers a better chance of having their contingency offer accepted.
“I personally just accepted an offer with a home sale contingency. So you’re seeing them out there now. I would just be careful not to be in a competitive situation.”
Slobounov explains that when a seller is given the choice between a contingency offer and an unconditional offer, sellers will usually choose the non-contingent offer because there is less risk.
How do I sell my house fast in a slow market?
Another option for selling a home in a slow market is to consider cash offers from iBuyers or We Buy Houses investors. Also, HomeLight offers a Simple Sale solution that can be a fast way to sell your home. Just answer a few questions about your home and receive a no-obligation cash offer in as few as 48 hours. If you accept the offer, you can skip showings and repairs and close in as little as 10 days without agent fees or listing costs.
Conclusion: Have a plan when selling a house in a down market
Price it right – don’t go too high or you’ll lose market exposure online and experience price drops
Know the value and condition – get a CMA, pre-appraisal, or home inspection before listing
Get your house show ready – deep clean, declutter, stage, and make your curb appeal pop
Expand your marketing – apply word of mouth, social media, or direct marketing options
Partnering with an upstanding and experienced real estate agent in a potentially down market is the best way to find success! To connect with a top-performing agent in your market, use HomeLight’s free Agent Match platform. Our data shows that the top 5% of agents across the U.S. sell homes for as much as 10% more than the average real estate agent.
Header Image Source: (Spacejoy / Unsplash)
- "Millennials and Gen Zers do want to buy homes—they just can’t afford it, even as adults," CNBC make it (June 2022)
- "How Higher Interest Rates Affect Housing Affordability," National Association of Home Builders (March 2022)
- "How to Wash Windows Like a Pro," This Old House (June 2014)
- "21 Clever Tricks to Make Your Home Look Bigger and Brighter," Bob Vila (March 2022)