It’s unbearably hot outside. I had to run 5k this morning and then show multiple top-floor walkups, and I don’t think I’ve ever sweat so much. Nobody said this job was glamorous, but there are glamorous moments. For instance, when you get to list a new, beautiful property and hang out in A/C while the poor suckers (also known as buyer’s agents) brave the heat and come to you with their clients.
But what about when you list this beautiful apartment and no one bites? Your open house only has a trickle of people through, or it’s busy but everyone leaves underwhelmed and doesn’t follow up with an offer? What happens when it’s been sitting on the market for weeks and your client, the seller, starts breathing down your neck? What then, glamorous A/C-loving listing agent?
The New York value here is that the market will always be moving in NYC. While other parts of the country can become stagnant, this city has too much turnover for selling your apartment to be impossible. This doesn’t mean you can always achieve the price you want, or even a good price, depending on the location/age/layout/price point/how the market is doing at a given time. But you can always, ALWAYS, sell.
As I wrote a couple weeks ago, it is a buyer’s world right now and we’re just living in it. They have more negotiation power combined with lower mortgage interest rates than they have since 2008/09. Yes, rates have risen slightly, but . The advice? If you must list in a soft market — and there are many reasons you may have to — you absolutely can sell your place. But it’s complicated. I’ve broken down below the advice I’ve gotten from frustrated agents around the city.
Hint: it’s about price.
If you listed any apartment in this city for $100, it would sell within a day, for substantially more than $100 because people would bid it up. So anyone saying there’s no way to sell right now is being facetious. It’s like I said above: you can always sell your place, but you can’t always achieve the best price. Neighborhoods go in and out of favor; new buildings come on the market; your maintenance goes up and no one wants to pay the monthly $3k. There are plenty of reasons you may not achieve the price you want, so if you must list, here is the advice I’ve gleaned from actual experts (because I cannot yet claim that title for myself).
- Don’t necessarily go with the agent who agrees to the highest price. You can list your apartment for whatever you want. You could say you want $10 million for your Williamsburg studio, and you will find an agent somewhere to say “totally, let’s do it.” They know your place won’t sell at that price, but figure they may as well put their name on the listing and leverage it into other business that’s slightly closer to planet Earth. But if you, a seller, want the place to move, you should speak to your agent up front about how pricing will work, expectations, and a strategy for if and when reductions are needed. Go with the realist, not the person giving you whatever you want. They don’t have your best interests at heart.
- Look at what new development is going for in your area. As a resale, you want to be priced lower than the comparable new development. People will pay a premium to be the first to live in something, and regardless of how beautiful a renovation you’ve done, your home is “used.” As I shop almost exclusively at Goodwill (which is why I own a 99 cent Armani sweater) and grew up in a house from 1830, I love something old and beautiful. But you can’t price your pre-war apartment like the brand-spanking-new luxury building next door. It just won’t sell.
- Separate emotion. Unless you’re selling an investment property, this is your home. It’s where you have good and bad memories that often span years. You may have raised your kids there. You may have raised several beautiful dogs there. But that’s not what a potential buyer is going to see. They’re going to see potential problems, things that will need to be replaced or repaired, and wear and tear. Your agent may have to talk to you about price drops or issues they keep hearing from sellers, and if you take that personally it will strain the relationship. Data doesn’t care about your feelings, and as much as your agent probably does, they have to give you the cold hard facts. Your apartment is not you, as much as it may feel like an extension of yourself.
- Use the data, and acknowledge its limitations. Running “comps” to establish your apartment’s market value is a standard part of any agent’s process, but as a seller you should know that this information is always slightly outdated. When you are pricing you are looking at apartments that are on the market but have not yet sold (so it’s unclear if they are priced correctly), things that are in contract (so it’s unclear what price because it may not be ask), and things that were sold (so price is clear but they are based on a market from months ago, when the sale began). Should you still run comps? Absolutely — there’s no better way to know what your place is worth. But know that the data isn’t perfect, and just because your neighbor got $1.2 million six months ago doesn’t mean you will get the same amount now. The market is always moving, which is good, but it also means it’s always changing.
Thanks for reading, guys.