Ready to sell your house in Houston? Well, you genius, you couldn’t have picked a better time. Despite the walloping the city took from Hurricane Harvey, home sales of all types rose 3.5% last year. And 2018 is be gearing up to be even bigger.
“Buyer confidence is returning,” says Houston agent Renee Buckhoff who ranks in the top 1% for the number of single family homes sold in the area. Her prediction? “2018 is going to blow the roof off.”
What’s driving this spike in sales?
Houston is an oil and energy town, and oil prices are the highest they’ve been since 2013. And Houston is growing massively: It’s spent the last nine years as one of the top two fastest-growing cities in the United States. All of those new people have to live somewhere! Why not your old house?
Houston typically has three or four months of inventory during its busy selling season, but Buckhoff predicts we’ll see it go down to two this year.
So, how do you take advantage of that white-hot Houston real estate market?
We’ve talked to top Houston agents and drilled down into the data to find out how to appeal to buyers looking to buy a piece of the Bayou City. Here’s how to sell a home in Houston, fast.
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Was Your Home Affected by Hurricane Harvey?
First, the bad news: if you’re looking to sell because your home flooded during Hurricane Harvey, you’re going to take a big hit in price. “If water crossed the home’s threshold, that makes the value go down 20%,” says Buckhoff.
There are buyers excited to buy water distressed homes right now, but they expect to get a serious deal. If you’re not willing to compromise on price, your best option is to wait. If another big flood doesn’t happen in the next two or three years, being flood-proof will slip further down the list of buyer priorities.
What’s Your Houston Home Buyer Looking for? Depends on Where You Are
Let’s be real, Houston is massive. With over 600 square miles of real estate (and that doesn’t even include Sugar Land or The Woodlands!) there’s no one-size-fits-all buyer profile. What kind of buyer you’re looking for depends on where you are, and it pretty much breaks down to inner loop vs. the suburbs.
If you’re inside the loop, you’re more likely to be looking for younger buyers, single people or young couples, or even empty nesters who want to be closer to great eats, bars, and art. Buyers looking for houses for sale in Houston are into city life: close proximity to hip bars like Poison Girl and cool coffee shops like Blacksmith.
Flaunt your location in your listing, and be sure to mention your neighborhood’s hot spots.
You’re also more likely to command a higher price point: the median sale price in University Place last year is $756,304, versus $294,035 for Houston overall. Make sure you’ve nailed your pricing. Inner loop neighborhoods change in the blink of an eye.
Inner loopers are also more likely to embrace character and quirks. Buyers are paying a premium to avoid suburban sameness, so be sure to highlight your home’s vintage vibe, mature trees, or neighborhood flavor.
In the suburbs, it’s all about family life. House hunters in Houston are after great schools, bigger homes (four or five bedrooms, three or baths), at least a two-car garage, and a sweet yard. What’s the point of living somewhere with no winter unless you can grill all year long, right? So if you have a pool, hot tub, or outdoor kitchen, that’s something to play up.
Other nice-to-haves for further out Houston home buyers include:
- a three-car garage
- ground floor master suite
- media room
- home office
With sometimes-brutal suburban commutes, a space to work from home is a plus for anyone whose job allows it. Hype your extra space, extra parking, and fantastic school district to court these family-oriented folks.
Accessibility to the freeway is also a huge plus for both inner loop and suburban buyers: with an average Houston commute time of 51 minutes, cutting down on time in traffic is big.
Sell a House Fast in Houston: How to Stand Out in a Hot Market
There are some things Houston buyers are on the lookout for regardless of location, and smart sellers will play these to their advantage. Like MLS catnip, here are four things that will make homebuyers pounce on your listing.
1. An Updated Look
When you put your home on the market in Houston, you’re not just competing against the house down the block, you’re competing against new construction. Houston is the largest new housing market in the country, with 40,000 units being built every year.
If you want to beat out new construction for a buyer, your home’s look has to be current. “Trends change every ten years or so,” says Buckhoff. So if you haven’t done a refresh recently? Might be smart to do updates before you sell.
Buyers looking for houses for sale in Houston are especially set on quartz, granite, or marble countertops and backsplashes, open plan kitchens, high ceilings, and wood floors. “With carpet, buyers get a little snooty,” admits Buckhoff. And, according to Sara Gordon, a Houston agent who ranks in the top 2% for homes sold, you can skip bragging about your formal dining room: today’s buyers just see that as wasted space.
2. Brilliant Home Staging
Okay, so there are some things you can’t change about your home. Your closets are the size they are. You’re not digging a pool before you list. New bedrooms won’t sprout no matter how hard you try. But really great staging makes your house feel bigger, newer, and fresher than it is. And it doesn’t have to cost you a zillion dollars.
If you’re working with a top agent, they can bring in a professional stager to get your home scrubbed and decluttered. But here are smart, low-cost things to do until then:
- Never have anything on the floor of your closets.
Houston buyers expect Texas-sized closets, but even the biggest closet will look cluttered with stuff on the floor. This will make them look huge.
- Arrange your pantry like a grocery store.
Uncluttered, labels facing out, organized. Large, updated, open kitchens are a major plus for buyers in Houston, and adequate storage space is part of what makes a good kitchen great. This will make your pantry seem bigger than it is.
- Get some fluffy white towels for display only.
Everyone wants a spa-like bathroom. Make your bathroom feel like a spa with your fluffy towels. It seems silly, but it works.
- Use a professional photographer.
You’re asking people to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home. In a city the size of Houston, buyers will be shopping online before they schlep to an open house, so the photos you present are your first chance to snag—or turn off—a buyer. Your iPhone camera isn’t going to cut it. Again, this is something a top agent will arrange for you.
3. Play Up the Positives of Your Location
Wherever you’re located, there’s something desirable about it. Live in the loop? Bring up your short commute and hip neighborhood. Live near the freeway? That’s a shorter commute for your buyer. Live in a master planned community with an elementary school in walking distance? That’s also a plus. Near a green space or golf course? Excellent.
In a city the size of Houston, there is no “perfect” location. You can’t get both a short commute to downtown and a suburb-sized house. A big backyard and a hip condo. A short walk to the coolest restaurant in town and a super private lot. Sell your location for what’s great about it.
4. Make Sure the Price Is Right
Houston has a reputation for being affordable, and it is. According to the National Association of Realtors, 2017 median home prices in Houston ($233,900) were lower than Dallas ($249,000) or Austin ($296,400). 100% of Houston buyers polled said their top priority was finding a bargain.
So to sell a house fast in Houston, the pricing has to be dead on. And that means more than just looking at what the house down the block went for. “Comps are always good,” says Buckhoff. “But you need to look deeper than just the comps.” Top agencies have people that provide them with up-to-the-minute market analyses to help them find just the right listing price.
Ask for too much, and your home will sit. Ask for too little, and you’re leaving money on the table. “When you don’t talk to a realtor, you get pricing wrong,” says Gordon.
In price points below $200,000, she says, you’ll often see a lot of competition for a correctly-priced property. But according to a sales analysis by the Houston Association of Realtors, the strongest sales performance in December of 2017 was in the $250,000-$500,000 category.
This means that for sellers at most price points, there are huge opportunities. But to attract Houston’s price-savvy buyers, you need to make sure your asking price is on point.
When Should You Sell a House in Houston?
Houston’s “busy season” starts in early spring, goes through July or so, then takes a break during summer’s stickiest months. Another little burst of activity happens in the fall, then buyers rush to get closings done before the end of the year to qualify for a homestead tax exemption.
According to our data, if you’re looking to sell your house fast, the best month to list is May.
This gives you time to grab buyers with school-age kids, who will need to close by July to make it into their new home by the next school year. So if you’re planning to capitalize on 2018’s hot Houston market, now is the time to start getting your home in shape.
Why Work With a Top Agent in Houston?
Houston has over 25,000 real estate agents, some amazing, some not so great. “The Texas Real Estate Commission has made it too easy to get a license,” says Gordon, laughing. In a town where data-driven pricing can make or break your sale, it’s silly to rely on luck to find a great agent.
Not only will a top agent price your home to sell like hotcakes, they’ll bring a team of stagers and photographers to create the updated look that woos buyers away from new construction. Top agents in Houston sell homes in an average of 39 days, versus 71 days for all agents, and they get 101% of the asking price.
While you could go it alone, or take a chance on your cousin’s hairdresser who also sells homes, when it comes to making one of the largest financial transactions most of us will ever make, why take chances?
Ready to sell your Houston home fast? Get started with a top agent (and get decluttering.)
Header Image Source: (Vlad Busuioc/ Unsplash)