Marketing teh Home You're Selling

Posted: May 22, 2008 6:36 PM


When Michael Lee looks at the housing market, he sees a major transformation underway, with positive results. Young professionals -- many first-time buyers from second-generation American families -- will soon start acquiring the spacious properties older people want to liquidate.

"A huge infusion of younger buyers -- well over half from immigrant families -- will begin entering the market in the next couple of years," says Lee, a veteran real estate broker and author of "Opening Doors: Selling to Multicultural Real Estate Customers."

Lee anticipates a fortuitous alignment of interests between people in their 50s and 60s who want to shed high-maintenance homes and those in their late 20s and 30s who dream of owning a spacious place.

"Most of these new buyers, whose parents came from other countries, grew up in rental housing. They'll be the first generation in their families to own a home," Lee says.

The trend toward a younger, multicultural market for real estate is underscored by the latest annual report of Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies ( The report cites immigration patterns and notes, "The demographic underpinnings of long-run housing demand remain solid."

The recent moderation in real estate values that's occurred in many neighborhoods has brought property within reach of more first-time buyers -- making them an excellent market for those seeking to pull out their equity and buy a smaller, more economical place.

"Many older people now look at their homes as a retirement plan," says Lee, a professional speaker who leads seminars on real estate marketing.

Young buyers seeking their first home are an especially good bet for sellers who want a deal on which they can rely. That's because first-timers don't have another home to market before they commit to a purchase.

"Whether they come from immigrant homes or are the children of baby boomers whose families have been here for generations, young first-time buyers can give you the clean, no-strings-attached offer you want," says Mark Nash, author of "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home."

However, as Nash notes, the home sellers most likely to capture the attention of young buyers are proactive in the way they make their property appealing to this age group. Here are several pointers:

Never price your place over neighborhood values.

Along with their younger brothers and sisters, those in their late 20s and 30s are extremely adept at using the Internet as a tool to navigate through life. So chances are they'll develop a knowledge base on home values in any area where they're searching, making them highly attuned to overpricing.

It's a truism in real estate that those who overreach on price at the beginning of a listing are ultimately punished. Usually their homes languish unsold for months before they must take a deep discount, yielding less than they could have gotten if they'd priced correctly from the outset.

Purge your place of older-generation items.

Do you remember visiting your grandparents' home as a kid? Can you recall how dated their furnishings seemed? If so, you can imagine how young people might perceive the decor of a home where you've lived for a long while.

Before you and your listing agent attempt to market your place to the younger crowd, Lee urges you to "empty the home of any furniture you don't absolutely need. Put the rest in a storage locker."

The first items to go, he says, should be upholstered pieces you've owned for years, such as an overstuffed recliner. In addition, he recommends that you remove boxy dining room or master bedroom suites that crowd the rooms they occupy. Also, take away all those family photos, especially the ones showing your offspring graduating from school or getting married.

Unsheathe your windows.

Unlike many older homeowners -- who've often spent hundreds of dollars on traditional, lined draperies -- younger buyers like minimal coverage for their windows.

"Remove your drapes and let the light pour in. This will definitely help you sell," Lee says, adding that "less is more when it comes to window treatments."

Homeowners who feel uncomfortable leaving their windows uncovered during the selling period -- especially bedroom windows -- can substitute inexpensive light blinds for draperies.

Remove carpeting if you have hardwood floors beneath.

Wall-to-wall carpeting was the favorite choice of generations of Americans whose homes were built after World War II. And homebuilders still install carpeting in many new properties because it's one of the least expensive ways to finish flooring.

But homebuyers of all ages -- and especially young people -- now express a definite preference for hardwood floors. They'd much rather use area rugs than wall-to-wall carpeting, according to Lee.

It's rarely worth the expenditure for home sellers to install new hardwood flooring in a property with wall-to-wall carpeting. However, Lee suggests removing carpeting if you already have hardwood beneath.

Neutralize your wall coverings.

Homebuyers of all ages are repelled by dated wallpaper and the bright interior paint tones Lee calls "saturation colors."

He strongly advises you to repaint your walls in light, trendy neutrals, such as off-white or the slightest hint of sea green. Want color ideas for your walls and accent items? Go to the sort of home decor stores young people favor, such as Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and Ikea.

Market your place as a "green" home.

Are you selling a nearly new home with energy-saving features such as extra insulation, double-pane windows or high-efficiency appliances? Or have you retrofitted an older home with these features? If so, Lee says you and your listing agent should be sure to highlight these items in your marketing materials.

"Most younger buyers like the idea of owning as big a house as they can afford. But they're also very aware of their energy costs and like to think of themselves as eco-friendly," Lee says.