From Listed to Closed: A Case Study
Unlike a magician, we are willing to reveal our secrets (ok, maybe not all of them, we have to keep some of the magic secret!). In fact, we believe transparency is key to a successful sale. We want everyone involved to be on the same page and know what is supposed to happen each step of the way. Good communication is the key to every sale!
To help illustrate the intricate process of selling a home, we wanted to take a look what we did to sell one of our listings, 61 Sand Hill in Underhill, in just over 30 days!
Before we continue, we want to make sure everyone knows that each sale is very different. No sale is the same, each sale has their own timelines, contingencies, and factors that make it unique. In fact, a large part of our job is to help guide our clients through the uniqueness of each sale! This is the story of one sale, and while our methods are largely the same for each listing, every sale is different.
Step 1: A good ol’ fashion phone call
While texting (talk to text is our best friend), email, and messaging are the preferred communication methods these days, a phone call is still our favorite way to start the listing process. No matter how our clients find us (in this case the seller was referred to us, we love referrals!), we always want to start with a phone call.
The initial call allows us to discuss our clients goals and timeline, and in the case of sellers, learn more about the house. In the case of Sand Hill, we asked about the facts of the home, bedrooms, bathrooms, upgrades, and what makes it special. We learned about the incredible views, and made a note to be sure to highlight them in the listing!
During the call we also learn about the sellers timeframe for selling, which in the case of Sand Hill, our seller was flexible. Timeframe factors into many parts of the transaction, one of them being price. If the seller is in a hurry, pricing the property aggressively will help it sell faster. On the other hand, if the seller is not in a rush, they can price the property closer to true market value and wait for the right buyer. Higher price point homes ($450k+) do not have as much demand in our market as lower priced homes, so sellers should be prepared to wait for the right buyer.
Step 2: The numbers
Once we had the basic information about Sand Hill, we took a look at the market and comparable homes to determine the market value. Lets look at some of the numbers for Sand Hill.
We first start by looking at supply and demand for Underhill. This shows us how many homes are selling compared to how many homes are on the market. These numbers helps to give us a sense of how strong the Underhill market is and how quickly the home might sell relative to the rest of the market.
Next we look at comparable properties in Underhill, ones that have sold in the last 12-18 months, and ones that are currently for sale or pending. This helps us pinpoint a price for our listing. We want to make sure to give our seller an accurate price; too high and the home will sit; too low, and the seller has left money on the table!
Looking at the comparable properties in Underhill (based on square footage, bedroom & bathroom count, land size, year built, and other factors) we get a good idea of what the home could sell for, noting several of the comparables were on the market for a fair amount of time.
Step 3: House call
After looking at the market to get a sense of the property value, we visited the property to chat with the seller face to face and see the home for ourselves. The face to face meeting is a good opportunity to confirm our market analysis and to give the seller tips on how to prepare their home for photographs and showings. We also take the time to go over the process step by step so that there are no surprises along the way.
The prep work that goes into selling a home is one of the most important parts. A staged and prepped home really shines in photographs. While we do a lot of staging at the photo appointment (it’s by far the most invasive part of the selling process!), a seller can do a lot prior to the photo appointment to get the home ready.
Step 4: Picture day
Once the seller is ready (and has officially hired us!) we returned to the home to take pictures and notes for the listing. Typically we bring several people to the photo appointment to ensure the process goes smoothly and we are out of the seller’s way as quickly as possible.
Typically the listing agent and a member of our admin staff accompanies the photographer during the photo appointment. Our listing agents have been trained on the ins and outs of staging, and stage each room prior to the photographer coming through and taking photos. During the appointment, the admin goes through the house and takes notes and measurements for the listing. This division of tasks cuts down on the length of the photo appointment, ensures nothing is missed, and increases the quality of the listing.
At Sand Hill, we had another listing agent on our team join us to aide in staging due to the size of the home. Having another set of hands was incredibly helpful during the appointment, and the whole team was able to move efficiently.
We constantly look for new ways to improve our listings, and one of the most recent improvements has been the introduction of 3D tours. These give potential buyers a whole new perspective of the home that photos, no matter how great they look, cannot convey. Sand Hill was one of the first homes we created a 3D tour for.
In addition to giving buyers a whole new perspective, homes with 3D tours stand out more than homes without. Specifically designed to integrate with Zillow, homes with 3D tours have a special badge that stands out against other listings.
Step 5: The magic
After we get photos, we are ready to craft the perfect listing for the home. We want to ensure that the home is presented in the best possible way, and that starts with a thorough listing.
We gather information about the home from the seller (who knows it best), from the town. and from notes we take at the property. It is important to have the details of the home from the town to ensure accuracy. After the seller has officially hired us, we head to the town office to gather the necessary documents and add that information to the listing. From bedroom count. square footage, taxes, and much more, it is important to market the home accurately to prevent any issues down the road.
Once everything is ready, we take all the information from the seller, the town, and our notes to complete the listing and craft a description that is detailed and written as if the buyer were walking through the property. This is what we wrote about Sand Hill:
Welcome to your private Underhill hillside retreat! With stunning views of Mount Mansfield and 6 acres of varied land, this spacious home will be your sanctuary. You’ll love entertaining in the open living area, curling up with a good book by the fireplace in the den, or taking in the views from the deck. As you enter the home into the large tiled mudroom, you’ll immediately notice the nine foot ceilings on the first floor making the home feel open and airy. The spacious kitchen, dining, living area looks out over the deck and the large windows beautifully frame the fantastic mountain views. A glass slider in this space allows for easy access to the deck. The den, with a fireplace, pellet stove, and built-in bookcase, is off the living area. A convenient half bathroom, office nook, and access to a covered back porch with a hot tub round out the first floor. Heading upstairs reveals four rooms, including one with a large window perfectly catching the view, and a full guest bathroom. A private master suite complete with two walk-in closets and a 3/4 en-suite bathroom is also found upstairs. The basement features a family room, laundry room, unfinished storage space, and direct access to the oversized two car garage. A whole house generator provides power in case of an outage. Outside, take advantage of each season from skiing in the winter, to tapping the maples in the spring, to walking and enjoying the scenery all year long!
Between the photos, 3D tour, details, and description, we want to make the buyer feel like they have been to the property before even actually visiting.
Step 6: Blast off
We review a draft of the listing with the seller to ensure accuracy and that they are happy with how we have presented their home. Once the seller has approved the listing, we are ready to launch!
Once made “live” the listing is syndicated to hundreds of home shopping sites like Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, and Redfin. We go in and ensure that the 3D tour is published to the listing so that it stands out. The listing is also published on any real estate brokerage site that pulls data from the MLS and we create a listing on Craigslist. Buyers that are receiving updates about new listings will also get an alert when the home is listed if it fits within their criteria. This syndication ensures that the maximum number of buyers are seeing the home.
In addition to the web, we use other marketing channels to ensure the home is seen by potential buyers. We create an send an email to area agents marketing the home. Since over 80% of homebuyers are actively working with an agent, this helps the home get seen by more buyers. Our custom designed email provides agents with the important information about the home along with the description and 5-6 photos.
In addition to an email, we create a video slideshow that gets published on Facebook and Instagram. This video play automatically when people scroll by it, and we use targeted hashtags to expand it’s reach. We consistently reach several hundred to over a thousand people via social media.
We also create drone videos and photos for many properties to help highlight their unique features or location. At Sand Hill, we had drone photos taken to show off the land and incredible view!
Step 7: Show time
Once a listing is live, we usually start getting showing requests almost immediately. To ease in scheduling and organization, we utilize a system called ShowingTime. This system integrates with our MLS to allow agents to easily schedule showings and will contact the seller via their preferred contact method to confirm the showing request. ShowingTime has an easy to use interface that helps sellers keep track of the showings in a calendar format. All of our sellers have appreciated the organization that ShowingTime provides in the often chaotic first few days on the market.
During the pandemic, we have been taking extra precautions with showings. This includes requiring masks for all people entering a home, having buyers complete a survey prior to seeing the property, and having sellers prepare the house so buyers and agents don’t have to touch many surfaces. We ask sellers to leave the lights on and interior doors open prior to each showing. This helps cut down on the need for agents or buyers to touch many surfaces in the home.
The first few days of the home being on the market is usually the busiest, so we prepare our sellers for the possibility of being away from the home for long periods during the day. We want to allow as many showings as possible, as this might lead to more offers!
Step 8: Offers
After all the preparation and a few showings, we hope to receive an offer (or a a bunch of offers!). Once an offer is received, we will break down the details and go over them with the seller. We will discuss the pros and cons of each element of the contract and how it fits with their goals. We will discuss the potential risks/issues that could arise prior to closing and what can be done to minimize them.
If the offers are not quite to the sellers liking, we will also discuss negotiation points to get the offer more inline with your goals. Many times we can go back to the buyer with new terms and come to an amicable solution.
Once we have come to an agreement with the buyers and their agent, we are ready to sign the contract. We will send the contract to the seller electronically for their review and signatures so that they can sign from the comfort of their home. Once signed, the property is officially under contract!
Step 9: Contingencies
Depending on what was agreed to in the contract, there may be several contingencies for the seller to complete. Common contingencies for the seller include getting the furnace and chimney inspected, getting the septic pumped, and completing a fire/safety inspection (for multi-family and condos). After going under contract, we send the seller a list of the next steps they need to complete. We can help them find professionals to complete each contingency.
At the same the seller is completing their responsibilities, the buyer will also be completing their agreed upon contingencies. The buyer typically has a property inspection completed, as well as a radon and water test (if on a private well). We will work closely with the buyer’s agent to schedule the inspections and work out any issues that may be found in the inspection.
In many cases the buyer will ask the seller to make repairs based on the results of the inspection. We will work with the seller and buyer’s agent to come to an agreement on the repairs, and help the seller find and hire any professionals needed.
In the case of 61 Sand Hill, the seller agreed to several inspections along with a few smaller things agreed to after the inspection. Since the contract period was shorter (about 30 days from contract to close), we worked very closely with the seller to ensure everything was completed on time.
Step 10: Closing!
Once the contingencies have been met, and the buyers have completed all of their financing requirements (if obtaining a mortgage), we are ready to schedule closing! The buyer and their agent will typically conduct a final walkthrough the morning of or the night before closing. The walkthrough allows them to see that any agreed upon work has been completed and confirm that home is in good working order.
If everything looks good at the walkthrough, the property is officially ready to close! The attorneys work with the lender to prepare a Closing Disclosure (CD) for both the buyer and seller. The sell side CD shows the costs of the sale (attorney/Realtor fees, taxes, etc), any mortgage payoff, and the proceeds of the sale. We can review the CD with the seller to ensure that everything makes sense.
Closings are typically held at the buyer’s attorney’s office, and the buyer, their agent, their attorney, the seller, and their agent are in attendance. We do not recommend that the seller’s attorney attends. By closing, everything is pretty much figured out and the buyer’s attorney is just there to guide everyone through the paperwork, so the seller’s attorney is not really needed.
During the pandemic, most closings are conducted via Power of Attorney (POA) with the attorney’s signing on behalf of their clients to remove the need for in-person closings and limiting contact.
And that’s a wrap! As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes into selling a house, and while stressful, having the right team makes all the difference. We are here to help professionally and beautifully market and sell your home, please let us know if we can help!