(Updated February 2015)
As the real estate market continues its descent, home sellers are becoming more innovative. The days of just setting up a "for sale" sign are long gone. For people who have "selling home" on the top of their priority list, tactics like home staging and house trading are becoming useful.
Desperate times don't always call for desperate measures; sometimes, they just call for innovation and intelligence. In today's housing market, selling real estate takes a mixture of all three.
Two methods for selling real estate have been gaining popularity. The first is home staging, a tried and true technique that can be used whether you're using a realtor, or if your home is "for sale by owner." The second method is the increasingly popular alternative of house trading.
1 - Home staging: Let them think it's theirs
Marketing is all about perception. Whether your house is "for sale by owner" or listed by a realtor, you still need to develop a strategy for influencing a buyer's perception of the house. Home staging can help.
Home staging is the art of transforming a home's decor so that prospective buyers can visualize themselves living there. While not always popular with homeowners who have an emotional attachment to their dwelling, this methodology helps buyers see themselves actually owning the house.
The key to this approach is to remove both clutter and any type of personal belongings from the home. De-cluttering gives the house a neat, clean appearance, and makes it feel larger. You might even remove a few pieces of furniture from the main living areas and store them elsewhere to make the rooms feel more open and less.
By removing such personal belongings, you take the first step in transferring ownership. You want the potential buyer to envision themselves living in the home, not you and your family.
Take down family pictures or religious artifacts that you have in the house. Knicknacks, personal souvenirs, trophies, items reflecting team loyalties, political views, employment history, other affiliations - store them somewhere out of sight.
You'll also want decor that's very neutral, and doesn't feature one distinctive style. You also want to move old or worn items out of sight.
Think about how model homes or apartments are staged. They have a few well-chosen pieces of furniture, some inconspicuous artwork, the dining room table is often set with attractive place settings and there may be a few vases with flowers around. There are new towels in the bathroom. Everything is clean, tidy and tasteful.
Don't empty it completely
On the other hand, you don't want to show a completely empty house either. That may happen if you've already moved into your new home, or if you've inherited property from a relative and are trying to sell it.
Avoid the temptation to ship everything out. Homes that still contain a modest amount of furniture sell more quickly than ones that are empty. Even if you can only spare a few items to populate the rooms, a little is better than nothing. Depending on the price you're asking, you might even rent a few pieces of furniture temporarily. Again, the goal is to help the buyer envision living there - and that's hard to do in an empty house.
Sales kit in a can
One of the best selling tools at your disposal actually comes in a can - paint. While many people just assume it's best to let the new owner repaint the home as they see fit, a paint job can be a big help when it comes to selling a home.
For one thing, it makes the whole place look newer, cleaner and in better shape. Nothing gives a boost to a room like a new paint job. Second, you want to paint the rooms in neutral colors. Those bold reds and deep blues may have looked great when you tied it all together with your own fashion sense and decorating ideas, but not everyone will respond to those colors. Neutral tones allow a buyer to project their own vision onto the home - and that's what you want them to do.
2 - Trading houses: Swap instead of sell
As the housing market tightens, a new practice called house trading has become increasingly popular. Instead of listing your home on the market, you can visit a house trading website. These match prospective traders, not unlike the way a computer dating service works. To make a match, they take into account location, house style, and a variety of other preferences.
The matchmaking is an ideal way to remove a realtor's commission from the process. In many cases, the deal is simply worked out between the two parties. For a family who simply needs a change of venue, and doesn't want to go through the rigorous house selling process, this could be a viable alternative.
The real estate market is not for the faint of heart. Even industry veterans are reeling from the turbulent economy and the stagnant inventories. For the smart homeowner, alternatives to the traditional "for sale" sign are in order, and they include such breakthrough ideas as home staging and home trading. In today's market, only the smart will survive, and they'll do it by using these types of innovative tactics.