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5 Tips for Selling Your Condo: Spotlight Your Unit, Emphasize Perks

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If you’re looking to sell a condo that’s not in an urban hotspot, you might wonder if you have a lot of lingering days on the market ahead. But Aaron Tobias, a top real estate agent serving the Columbus, Ohio, area who specializes in condo sales, says not to worry. Even in a highly residential area, condos appeal to a particular type of buyer: One who likes perks.

“When dealing with a condo, you’re dealing with a buyer who wants completely maintenance-free living, not just on the outside but on the inside,” he says.

Here, we break down 5 tips for selling your condo with advice on how to price your unique unit, highlight community amenities, and make key upgrades that attract buyers who’ve got tunnel vision for anything turnkey.

A view of several condos.
Source: (Martin Péchy / Unsplash)

1. Price your condo based on availability and your specific unit

As the price of single-family homes rises nationwide, condos are an appealing alternative. Condo buyers enjoy the advantages of ownership along with amenities such as lighter maintenance and easy access to shopping and transportation.

Plus, owning a condominium can prove more affordable than renting. Research from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that the national median sales price of existing single-family homes in 2019 was $274,600, about 5% more than in 2018 and 10.4% more than in 2017. Meanwhile, the national median sales price of condominiums in 2019 was $249,500 — a 6.5% increase since 2017 but still almost $25,000 cheaper than buying a house.

For someone who wants the accessibility and lifestyle that living in a metro area like Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, or Boulder brings, that price difference could be more than worth the potential trade-off in terms of square footage.

These factors may help you sell your condo fast and for all it’s worth, but setting a percent list price for a condo can be challenging.

Be realistic about how your unit compares to others in the building

You likely know that real estate agents look at the purchase prices of comparable properties to help set an asking price. Appraisers also review these properties to help assess your property’s value.

But with condos, pricing among comparable properties (or “comps”) can range widely. Even within the same complex or building, layouts and views can vary, which affects individual unit prices.

For instance, 52 Maspeth, a boutique five-story condominium development in the trendy Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood of East Williamsburg, recently advertised two one-bedroom, one-bath units for sale on the same floor. Each had 11-foot-high ceilings, a washer/dryer, and access to private storage. But the one with 503 square feet, including a 10×5-foot balcony, has a list price of $690,000 while the one with 577 square feet and no balcony lists for $725,000.

You need to think about whether your unit is in a desirable location in the building or the complex (not next to the trash room or the elevator) or whether you could ask for more (or less) depending on the view, balcony, or yard access.

Factor local condo supply and demand into your pricing strategy

If inventory in your area is scarce, “Don’t be afraid to price it based on demand,” Tobias says. NAR found that the available inventory of condos and co-ops nationwide dropped about 17% in December 2019 from December 2018, leaving about a 3.4-month supply, which is considered a “seller’s market.”

To be sure that pricing along the lines of previous sales doesn’t set you at a disadvantage, talk to your agent about what would be a fair but top-of-the-line price. “Chances are, somebody’s probably willing to pay more because you’re the only condo for sale in that particular community.”

A turnkey kitchen in the condo you can sell.
Source: (Jason Briscoe / Unsplash)

2.  Make sure it’s a turnkey property

Condos tend to attract people who aren’t interested in a fixer-upper, whether they’re young professionals or people in midlife who’d like to downsize. 

“Condos that are completely updated will sell above and beyond something that’s not,” Tobias says, noting that he’s seen condos in the same unit and cluster have about a $25,000 price difference because one has new flooring, trim, appliances, and countertops while the other does not.

“A condo buyer does not want to go in and replace flooring [or] paint walls. …They really would prefer just to move in.”

As opposed to a house, where renovations might not provide a full return on investment, Tobias says that these upgrades are worth the money when selling a condo.

New countertops

Whether you go with granite or quartz, either is a durable, chic and polished finish (and more modern than Formica). Quartz countertops cost about $125 square foot to install and are more environmentally friendly, while slab granite runs about $40 to $60 square foot — and granite tile about $5 to $15 per square foot. As for colors, try Stonemark Granite in St. Cecilia or Silestone Quartz in Pietra, both at Home Depot.

Fresh interior paint

Real estate agents recommend neutrals when selling your home or condo, but neutral doesn’t have to be boring.

Titan Painters, a painting contractor throughout the Chicago, Illinois, area, recommends several modern colors for apartments and condos, including Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace for a delicate but soothing and bright white that pairs well with soft grays like True Value’s Beach House.

For a light gray with a touch of sage that works well with warm wood tones, try Aloof Gray by Sherwin-Williams. As for cost, expect to pay about $1,200 to $3,600 to paint a unit that’s about 1,200 square feet, unless if you’re just painting a room, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

Quiet flooring

Although carpeting offers great soundproofing, a buyer might hesitate over how it will hold up under daily wear and tear. Plus, if other condos in your building have either hardwood or laminate flooring, your carpeted unit will have a lower value as the oddity, notes The Globe and Mail.

Opt for hardwood or laminate, which can emulate the look and feel of hardwood, and include a soundproof underlay. Try Style Selections allen+roth natural acacia engineered hardwood flooring or Pergo TimberCraft hand-scraped wood plank laminate flooring, both $2.99 per square foot at Lowe’s.

People riding bikes on a pathway near the condo you can sell.
Source: (Coen van den Broek / Unsplash)

3. Play up the amenities

Similar to living under the governance of a homeowners’ association (HOA), residents in a condominium complex have rules to follow and fees to pay, but those are in exchange for certain amenities.

So in your condo listing, be clear about what the fees are and what they include. The average condo fee in the U.S. is about $330 a month, but fees can range from about $100 to about $700, depending on the community’s location and the services included.

While most condo fees include a charge for exterior maintenance and upkeep, such as lawn care, some also cover utilities, such as:

  • Water
  • Heat
  • Sewer
  • Garbage collection
  • Electricity
  • Cable TV

So if your condo complex offers “free water,” you might pay $200 to $250 per month in condo fees, but you don’t have a water bill.

In addition to utilities, condominiums also provide lifestyle amenities. For instance, SkyPoint, a high-rise condominium complex adjacent to Tampa’s Museum of Art, advertises itself as an “exclusive urban retreat” that includes a fitness center, a palm-fringed outdoor pool and sun deck, and outdoor grill and bar, a lounge, billiards, and a concierge.

The units themselves include ten-foot ceilings, hardwood floors, open kitchens with cherry or maple cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and floor-to-ceiling windows offering panoramic city views.

A more moderate complex might include a clubhouse and a pool, meaning that buyers wouldn’t have to pay for a separate gym membership. Other fees might cover your own reserved parking spot. What’s the pet policy? Highlight such details to attract potential buyers.

Also, take note of the proximity to restaurants, recreation, the arts, and other activities, which appeals to millennials and people who enjoy a walkable lifestyle. Point out if your condo is near shopping, transportation, a restaurant or theater district, the library, or schools.

A living room in a condo you can sell.
Source: (Marc-Olivier Paquin / Unsplash)

4. Show off your condo’s size

The median size of “multifamily units” for sale and built in 2018, which includes condominiums, was 1,414 square feet, according to U.S. Census data. By comparison, the median size of a completed single-family home that year was 2,386 square feet — a footprint that’s nearly double.

That’s why it’s especially important to depersonalize and declutter your condo — even in the tiniest spaces — to emphasize how spacious it is. Add LED lighting that gives off a soft or cool light that’s bright without being overwhelming.

“In a house, I don’t get too caught up in making sure people declutter their closets, or declutter their pantry, or making sure their coat closet isn’t crammed full,” Tobias says. “In a condo, I highly suggest making all the nooks and crannies look as spacious as possible.”

If your condo has a good layout with plenty of usable space (not a long hallway that eats into the square footage or angled walls that might make arranging furniture difficult), be sure to highlight that in your listing photos.

A gym in a condo you are selling.
Source: (Mark Bertulfo / Unsplash)

5. Outline the incentives

Is there anything about your condo that would qualify as an incentive? Some high-end developers in New York City have offered incentives to buyers in new construction, such as paying “common charges” (management fees and operating expenses) for two to 10 years. Other complexes have offered one-year gym memberships or gift cards to a high-end department store such as Saks.

But incentives go beyond luxury gift cards and waived fees. Some buyers purchase condominiums as investment properties, so if your condominium association allows leasing, this is worth promoting. The Harbor Club Condominium Association, Inc., of Palm Harbor, Florida, for instance, allows owners in any of its 272 units to lease them no more than twice a year, with each lease being at least six months.

Financing is also a draw for prospective buyers, thanks to a new policy effective in October from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that makes some individual condominium units eligible for Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance even if an entire condominium project isn’t FHA-approved.

The FHA estimates that 20,000 to 60,000 condominium units could become eligible for FHA-insured financing on a case-by-case basis each year. Before the policy change, only 6.5% of the more than 150,000 condominium projects nationwide were eligible to participate in FHA programs.

Buyers currently can find FHA-approved condominium complexes through HUD’s online search page. Under the new guidelines, they can apply through an FHA-approved lender for approval to purchase a single unit in a complex that’s not FHA-approved but nevertheless meets FHA basic standards, such as having at least five units and not being currently under construction.

Although the lender usually works with the buyer and condominium complex to file paperwork regarding these requirements, you can talk to your real estate agent about whether this is an incentive worth advertising.

In short, when you’re thinking of selling a condo, it’s essential to work with a top local real estate agent who has experience in marketing and closing condo sales — and knows your local market inside and out. Talk with an experienced agent about your area’s availability and demand and discuss how to spotlight what your unit has to offer.

Header Image Source: (Bill Xi / Unsplash)