It’s sellers’ month, but you can’t sell without buying first (well, unless you inherit something), so some of these posts are going to involve both sides. Part of the buying process is the possibility of selling down the line. If you are planning to buy something where you will live for the rest of your life, forever and ever, you may not have to consider these factors. But the average buyer is looking to hold onto something for 5-10 years, and a good agent will give you advice on the buy-side to help you figure out whether a place is both a good fit now, and something you can unload without issue in the future. Obviously we don’t know exactly what will happen, so there’s always risk involved, but working with good people will give you the best shot of having a great few years in a place and then making some $$ when you size-up or relocate.
Things that Don’t Move
Take stock of things that don’t move near your potential purchase. Highways don’t move, so if you’re next to the BQE you will probably always be next to the BQE. Above-ground subways don’t move. Government-sponsored housing projects don’t move (except for Stuytown). Anything loud or potentially intrusive, anything that will keep property prices stable in an area. And look at what doesn’t move WITHIN the apartment and building. Layouts don’t change, so that small bedroom will always be a small bedroom unless you go in knowing you can move walls around. Proximity to the elevator doesn’t change. Whether you face the street or the back of the building doesn’t change.
Things that Do Move
That apartment may have beautiful views today, but what’s going on in the next door lot? Is there potential for a tall building to obscure what was once a major selling point, reducing the value of your home? If you are buying somewhere like the Williamsburg waterfront, it is very important to be aware of any planned or potential development nearby. There are entire companies dedicated to researching and informing consumers of any possibility of view changes. Much like due diligence during the buying process, this isn’t a 100% guarantee of the future, but merely gives you the info to make an informed decision.
The more people your apartment appeals to, the larger the buyer pool, the higher the potential price (within the range of its value). For example, condos are generally more expensive than co-ops in part because investors are able to buy them, but they cannot usually buy co-ops. People who may have a lot of cash but a low-paying job could have trouble buying a co-op due to the debt-to-income requirement, which doesn’t exist in a condo. But there are other factors within building types as well. If you are looking to buy a very expensive apartment four flights up in a walk-up, know that it will limit the people who are interested. If the board is extremely strict about who they let in, you will have to consider that it will restrict your buyers, even if you get multiple offers.
You might love a dark bedroom, but a lot of people — even those who actually DO like to sleep in pitch-black — will have trouble coming to terms with something that isn’t so bright. The first rule of real estate is location, location, location. Maybe the second should be light, light, light. It makes photographing a space easier (and people are less disappointed when they walk into something that looked bright online but looks dreary in person). So keep in mind that those of us SAD (seasonal affective disorder) people need windows to stay alive, and realize if you’re buying something with zero views of anything besides brick walls, that may be a tough sell. But maybe you could advertise it to appeal to the overly-private? No one can see you sleep! Except the FBI guys turning on your laptop camera ;-).
Maintenance and common charges go up, but they rarely come down. Not only do you want your monthly payments to be going towards your mortgage more than they are going towards the building (build that equity!), you also don’t want them to be a sticking point when selling. Know whether your building is on a plot with a land lease, whether there is an assessment coming on in the future, know everything.
If you own or are buying in a building with a high flip tax, either know you may need to pay it or accept that it will turn some buyers off. If you own in an income-restricted HDFC building, know that the buyer pool is small because your income is capped at a certain level. Plus there will likely be a big ol’ flip tax included.
If you already own, since this is technically for sellers’ month, and your place has any one of these “issues,” there are ways to mitigate literally everything. If you no longer have the view you did when you bought it, you can’t advertise great views, but I’m sure there are other positives about the apartment. What’s going on with the location? Is it perfect for a specific consumer? Is the light still phenomenal? Are you still right by the pier?
If it’s dark, good lighting design can change everything. Have some soft, flattering lights installed in your not-very-windowed bedroom so that it seems high-end and sexy rather than….dark. Not-super-windowed doesn’t have to be a negative!
And STAGING! Staging is so important that I’m going to do a separate post about it, but it will make all the difference. It’s like spin/PR for your apartment, which is my speciality and something I love oh-so-much. Bedroom in the basement? Add some plants and wood and soft fabrics to make it seem less severe. Looks too much like every other white box on the market? Consult with someone on whether it makes sense to paint an accent wall or do the apartment in a soft grey instead. Weird layout? Figure out how to place furniture so that it looks like a positive.
Again, I really want to impress upon you the importance of working with agents who know what they are doing and do it well. If you get good advice from good sources you will be able to sell something no matter what — if you put your apartment on the market for $100 it would sell in a day. So be realistic on price, do the things I’m going to write about this week, and you’ll be able to sell your home NO MATTER WHAT!