A few years ago a post like this would have been an afterthought. Perhaps it would have even been laughed at as overkill. The condo and cooperative markets were on fire as the prime entry points into a market in which a single family home was a out of reach for the vast majority of first- time buyers. The need to prepare and stage a unit was just not part of the picture. But alas, this is no longer 2005. It is now 2010 and we have an inventory overhang that is giving this market a hangover.
This overhang is, in many cases, due to overbuilding and that fact presents those who are on the resale market with a problem. Sellers are competing with an inventory that includes a large percentage of brand-spanking new – never lived in units. These are very, very tempting to the average buyer. Everything is finished, fresh and sparkling clean. These units are now being priced to sell and they are turn-key. No heavy lifting, no muss, no fuss. To add insult to injury, these new complexes are often chock full of amenities that put a pre-war cooperative and some older condo complexes to shame. From the stainless steal appliances and granite countertops they are tough to resist.
So how does a seller compete?
Toss the things that you have no intention or need to keep:
Condos and cooperatives have limited space. Buyers of these types of properties are very sensitive to the “space” and “storage” issues. If they see so much as a hint of clutter, they will run the other way. It is very important to clean out and de-clutter BEFORE you put the unit on the market. If you are like most people, moving is an opportunity to “purge” your life of the excess “stuff” that we all tend to collect. That includes knick-knacks, old files that are long “dead” and the things that we just mindlessly allow to accumulate.
Take it to the next level:
After purging the unit of the things that you are not intending to keep. Take a look around. Take down the personal items such as family photos, clear the refrigerator of magnets and your kid’s artwork. Although a lot of these items add personality, they are a distraction to buyers. The buyer needs to be able to picture themselves in the unit. That means the seller needs to depersonalize the space as much as is possible. Place those valued items in storage. Get rid of excess pots and pans and cooking utensils – particularly if kitchen space is tight. Take non-seasonal clothing and pack it away into storage. Think “Pottery Barn,” not Victorian trinkets.
Painting is pretty much an essential step. Nothing makes a space look fresh and clean and modern better than a fresh coat of paint in neutral tones. You may love bright orange or vivid pink, but here you have to play to the majority and keep ti subtle, soothing and neutral – but NOT all white.
If you happen to own a pre-war charmer rather than a modern amenity-rich unit, you can use the paint to great effect. What these complexes lack in amenities, they often make up for in terms of character. Many of these units feature higher ceilings, and unique moldings that give the space more personality. Make that work for you when you paint. Unique features should be highlighted proudly.
Everyone loves hard-wood floors – but they need to be in good condition. Some modern complexes offer them as a perk in the living space but these need to buffed and polished so they are like new. Wall-to-wall carpets need to be fresh and clean. If they don’t clean up well, replacement might be a viable alternative. Carpeting is not that expensive – so this is an easy fix. If there is hardwood under wall-to-wall carpeting – it is best to pull the carpets and show off the wood.
Older complexes often have unique wood floors. I had one unit where the flooring was very detailed and some rooms had the wood floors laid on the diagonal. Very unique and something that was highlighted. For someone living in a pre-war complex with old hard-wood floors – having the floors refinished and stained will do wonders.
The pictures above are an example of how carpets in need of cleaning need to be attended to and how plain white walls can leave buyers cold. The unique angles and character of the room are lost in a sea of white – as to the carpeting – no need to explain further – not only can this kill a potential sale, if it doesn’t do that it will certainly will be an issue in the negotiations. Not cleaning them is like throwing money out the window.
In today’s market, staging is really a must. I advised against it only once and that was a very unique situation. This is where hiring a stager works wonders. As previously noted, space is at a premium in any condo or coop. Therefore, the space that is there needs to be defined. Each nook and cranny has to have a function or it is defined as wasted space. Buyers need to see that they have defined areas to work with. Most importantly, they want to see a defined living area, dining area, sleeping area (not a problem unless it is a studio) a work area outside the bedroom if possible and enough storage.
The picture above is of a very nice space, but it is a tough space to define. Plain white walls and no furnishings prevent the buyer from seeing how their furnishings would “work” in the unit. This room is screaming for a good paint job and staging.
The photos above are of a well defined spaces. Note the excellent use of more than one neutral color on the left and particularly how a large open space was defined for specific purposes on the right.
It is often said that kitchens and baths sell a space. For those fortunate enough to have a modern kitchen and bath – FLAUNT IT! Make sure the space is decluttered, slick and clean. If you have granite and stainless steel – flaunt it. Great backs-splash – show it off. If the kitchen is newly redone -show it off!
For those who have a dated bath or kitchen – it is up to you to decide if you want to renovate. I have found that half-hearted efforts seem to backfire.
Putting in a new floor in the bath will do nothing if the entire room is screaming “gut me.” Ditto to adding a coat of paint. In the case of a very dated kitchen and bath there are two alternatives – do a complete renovation on both or price it to reflect that considerable work will be required of the new owner. There is no hiding or disguising the need for a total makeover. Making something “less bad” or doing a half baked renovation won’t help.
In a case such as this, it is best to concentrate efforts on the living and sleeping areas. Make sure those areas actually sparkle so that buyers see that these areas are move-in ready and that they can concentrate their energies on the dated kitchen and bath.
If your location is prime – say so. Use photos of the neighborhood and area restaurants and stores in the marketing. If your unit is just steps from the train station – that’s money in the bank. An easy Westchester to NYC commute can make a world of difference in the ability to sell. Easy access to an Metro-North station is also key. If the layout is open but well defined – emphasize it in the staging and photos. Often an older unit with more charm and a prime location will trump a slick modern unit because the location is prime and the layout is stupendous.
Sometimes no one wants to hear the awful truth. The truth is that your unit is probably not worth nearly as much as it was a few years ago or even a few months ago. But one of the unique aspects of living in a condo or coop is that there is generally less wiggle room with respect to price. The units are stacked on top of each other – so finding realistic comparables is pretty straight forward. No one is going to buy an overpriced unit. Even if you could get a buyer to pay an over-the-top price, the appraiser and the bank will provide additional hurdles for an out of whack price to jump. Banks will simply not lend to something that doesn’t appraise. Overpricing and “testing the market” are a no-go in this type of market. Price the unit to sell and not to sit. In this market, anything that sits loses value.
© 2010 Ruthmarie G. Hicks – https://thewestchesterview.com – Selling Your Westchester NY Condo or Cooperative
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