What a difference a year makes! This is not your neighbor’s 2022 housing market.
Gone are historically low mortgage interest rates and boisterous bidding wars flush with all-cash offers and no concessions that defined the pandemic market for two years.
These days, the market is quietly regaining a sense of balance with higher interest rates and lower inventory.
So, if you’re selling a home in 2023, you’ll need a new strategy to get the most equity out of your most valuable asset.
Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate the changing market alone. We’ve surveyed HomeLight’s top-performing agents nationwide and harnessed their collective expertise to create a guide on how to market your house for sale.
When you hire the right Realtor®, that professional will collaborate with you to develop a data-driven, marketing plan that appeals specifically to buyers in your area.
Understand the market
When it comes to market trends, mortgage interest rates are the elephant in the room. After two years of historically low rates, the Federal Reserve raised mortgage interest rates seven times in 2022 to combat inflation.
Today’s 6%-7% rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage pales in comparison to the 18.45% Americans paid in 1981. Still, high mortgage rates, inflation, home prices, and competition for properties have prompted many buyers to put their home search on hold.
According to HomeLight’s research, the market started showing signs of leveling off beginning in the summer of 2022.
In HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights for New Year 2023, 45% of top agents surveyed predicted the emergence of a balanced market in their area. While 34% anticipate a buyer’s market, only 12% expect to see a strong seller’s market.
As we continue in 2023, agents anticipate sellers can expect to enter a market with:
- A steady increase in inventory
- Open houses becoming less crowded
- Homes spending more days on market
- Fewer homes receiving multiple bids
- Home prices rising at a slower pace
- Price reductions to be more common
- Prices to remain flat or fall
- The return of contingencies as buyers refuse to waive them
- An increasing number of buyers pushing back on inspection items
- More requests for sellers to contribute to closing costs
- The possibility of revisiting offers they previously declined
Despite the changing market, Suzanne Macnab, a coastal Maryland agent with 39 years of experience, says 2023 is a good time to sell a home.
“While houses are sitting on the market a little longer,” she says, “prices have stabilized and inventory is low.”
Some agents expect inventory to remain low because pandemic purchasers who financed at historically low rates will likely hold on to that property. Those homebuyers may not be able to afford to purchase an equivalent or upper-echelon property because of increasing rates and home prices.
In addition, investors and sellers with the luxury of timing the market cashed out when rates were low and demand was high.
Since the field is less crowded, your home has space to shine and capture the attention of the right buyers.
Macnab says the market is optimal for sellers who are looking to downsize — especially those with enough equity to pay cash for their next home.
Because fewer homes are available, she says the market also favors sellers who have a well-maintained home with an open floor plan that is appropriately priced.
And, while there might be fewer buyers, they may be highly motivated. In HomeLight’s Insights Fall 2022, 32% of surveyed agents believe first-time buyers will find paying today’s higher mortgage rates preferable to spending more on rising rent, which has shot up 18% on average over the past five years.
Set a competitive price
According to a survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the typical home recently purchased was built in 1986, has 1,800 square feet and three bedrooms, and two bathrooms.
The NAR survey revealed only 12% of buyers purchased a new home. And, of the 88% of buyers who purchased an existing home, 30% chose a previously-owned property over new construction because they felt they received a better price.
In this new market, HomeLight agents report sellers still haven’t accepted that prices have stagnated or decreased. As a result, surveyed agents say nearly 75% of sellers had overpriced their homes, which commonly led to more days on the market and several price reductions.
You can have the glossiest listing in the market and still have a hard time selling if you don’t set the right asking price. Conversely, if you enter the market with an appropriately priced home, you may receive multiple — and higher — offers within a short time.
To quickly get an idea of your home’s value in the current market, you can fill out the short questionnaire on HomeLight’s free Home Value Estimator and receive a preliminary estimate in less than two minutes. Think of this tool as a starting point to get oriented with price trends in your area.
Follow up your estimate with a comparative market analysis (CMA) from your real estate agent.
A CMA takes into account the price of recently sold properties in your area with similar square footage, overall condition, and number of bedrooms and baths. The agent also factors in recent upgrades and unique selling points like water views or extra land.
Tip: If you haven’t hired a real estate agent yet, HomeLight would be happy to introduce you to some highly qualified candidates in the area. Our data shows that the top 5% of real estate agents sell homes for as much as 10% more. Get matched with a top agent today and ask about getting a free CMA.
Many agents consider pricing a house correctly to be the most important element of a marketing strategy. If your price is too high, your house could sit on the market too long and eventually sell for less. If your price is too low, you could undersell it and forfeit significant value.
Take professional photos
One study found homes with high-quality photographs sell 32% faster than those without visuals. In fact, imagery is so important most agents have photographers on their list of preferred contractors.
And, those photos need to pop in all formats. According to NAR, buyers typically conducted 60% of their search on a mobile device(s), and 34% on a desktop/laptop.
To get the maximum punch per pixel, listing photos need to be magazine quality.
“I insist upon taking exterior photographs of when the house is in its best condition, which is typically May through September,” says Andrew Robinson, a top real estate agent in Columbus, Ohio, who sells homes 52% quicker than the average area agent.
That tactic takes on special significance if you plan to enter the market in the winter of a region that’s snow covered for part of the year. “You want to take extra pictures when the pool is open, so people don’t have a question about what that looks like,” Robinson says.
The easiest way to get quality photos is to work with an agent, who contracts with a professional photographer.
DIY tip: If you have patience, time, a great eye, and a DSLR camera and tripod — because no iPhone is up to the job — see this HomeLight post to help develop technique and have a shot at producing passable photos.
Write an enticing listing description
After the photos draw buyers in, your description provides the imagery to amp up buyers’ excitement about seeing the house.
The listing description is usually about a paragraph long and appears alongside the images of your home.
Since buyers can see the number of beds and baths, room dimensions, and year the home was built appear in the data fields, this is your shot to tell your home’s story.
“If the house borders on a waterfront, golf course, or a nature preserve, and if it’s conveniently located to freeways or top-ranked schools, that needs to be in the listing description,” says Mary Jo Santistevan, a top real estate agent in Phoenix who works with over 81% more single-family homes than the average agent in her market.
You want to paint a picture in the buyer’s mind about what makes your house special. Maybe, it’s a mid-century modern with the original terrazzo floors or a craftsman cottage within walking distance of campus.
Stage and photograph a home office
Because they’re not moored to an office or the need for a short commute, remote workers have the unique flexibility to live anywhere in pursuit of a lifestyle change, better schools, and/or affordable housing.
According to the November Realtors Confidence Index (RCI), 85% of buyers purchased in a suburb, small town, rural, or resort area as opposed to a city center.
As housing markets in big cities or high-demand suburbs become more expensive, remote workers may be likely to move to mid-sized cities or small towns.
With the advent of remote work and hybrid office options, HomeLight agents have identified a home office as a top priority. Some buyers are seeking homes with multiple office spaces to support both partners working from home.
“Many adults are working from home,” says Robinson. “That has inspired many sellers to take a second bedroom and turn it into a second home office.”
Learn more: To make the most of your office, see our complete guide on staging a home office with suggested furniture links and organization tips.
Highlight outdoor features
Since the pandemic, Americans have embraced the outdoors like never before as a place to relax, gather, and entertain. Like the home office, outdoor living areas now rank among the top three homebuyer priorities.
So, it’s smart to take inviting photographs of your yard for your listing and consider drone footage or an aerial listing to showcase amazing outdoor spaces.
Mention energy-efficient features
As the cost of basic utilities such as power and gas increases, Americans are looking for long-term ways to save on housing costs. According to HomeLight’s research, 47% of real estate agents have noticed homebuyers prioritizing energy-efficient features in their home search.
Our survey found buyers are more interested in whether a home’s windows are ENERGY STAR certified than the status of thermostats, appliances, and water heaters. Buyers also appreciate energy upgrades such as sufficient insulation, LED or CFL lighting, and proper weather stripping.
In the Pacific, 54% of agents see solar panels as the biggest energy-efficient draw. No matter where you live, shining a light on your home’s energy efficiency could illuminate its potential for eco-conscious buyers.
Sell your location
While real estate listing sites often include a map to show where your property is located, your marketing should make it easy for buyers to learn what’s nearby and how convenient it would be to live there.
In the NAR 2022 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, buyers identified the quality of the neighborhood, overall affordability, and convenience to family and friends as the most significant indicators of a location’s desirability.
Other significant factors include:
- School district statistics
- Proximity to restaurants and shopping
- Parks and trails
- Quiet streets
- Convenient public transportation or freeway access
- Neighborhood association pool
- Golf course access or cart paths
Add a virtual tour or 3-D walkthrough
According to the NAR October Confidence Index, the lack of housing inventory, the fast-paced market, and the use of technology prompted 7% of buyers to purchase a home without stepping foot on the property. They based their decision and made an offer exclusively on a virtual tour, showing, or open house.
“We do 3D tours on $2 million houses and $200,000 houses,” Robinson explains, “because we want buyers to experience what it feels like to walk through the house.”
But, 3D’s advantages don’t translate to all demographics. “If I were showing a listing to my mother,” he says, “it would be better for her to experience that house with the video.”
That’s why Robinson advocates a multimedia approach to marketing.
Post on the MLS and major real estate sites
To reach the largest audience, a home’s data, photos, and description are uploaded on the listing the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), a local or regional database cooperating real estate brokers use to share data and information about properties for sale.
NAR recently reported 86% of sellers listed their homes on MLS.
“When a home goes into the MLS, it’s syndicated to all of the other real estate websites,” says Santistevan. That means your agent’s public-facing MLS listing should populate on sites like Zillow, Realtor, Trulia, and Homesnap as well.
According to that same NAR data, 47% of recent buyers looked at properties online as the first step in their home-buying process. Nearly all buyers — 96% — used online tools at some point in the process.
Use social media to your advantage
Savvy real estate agents are well-versed in using social media channels for real estate to generate buzz and raise your home’s visibility in your area.
Macnab frequently places shareable images and videos on Facebook, Instagram, Nextdoor, and even TikTok to amp up the number of people who see her listings.
The Pew Research Center’s Social Media Use Survey shows 81% of U.S. adults have used YouTube; 69% used Facebook; 40% used Instagram. That doesn’t even include the usage of Reddit, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and others.
Complement your agent’s social media strategy with your own. Even if your network is small, it can be mighty.
Don’t neglect physical signage, brochures, postcards, and print ads.
These days, many print ad listings are part of packages that include a digital component such as Facebook or Instagram listings.
NAR statistics show 18% of buyers — and 36% of buyers over the age of 75 and 26% of those over age 66 — gathered information from newspaper print ads or magazines in their home search.
The same text and images you create for a digital campaign can easily be adapted for old-school marketing materials such as signs, brochures, postcards, and print ads.
A for-sale sign is a classic no-brainer to grab the attention of any passersby.
A well-timed postcard gives neighbors advanced notice that you’re ready to sell — and the opportunity to choose their new neighbors by sharing that listing with their friends and family.
Santistevan creates a professional brochure for every client’s home. “You don’t know how many homes buyers are seeing on the same day,” she says. “When they’re reviewing the homes later, that high-quality brochure triggers a positive emotional response.”
Host open houses and broker opens
After they fell out of favor with the pandemic lockdown and the rise of virtual tours, open houses may feel old-fashioned to some sellers.
However, besides giving the property more exposure, Macnab finds open houses offer the opportunity for casual exploration that turns into kismet.
“Sometimes, someone sees an advertisement and comes to an open house — maybe it isn’t exactly the kind of home they’re looking for or they’re not looking at all — because they’re curious,” she says. “Once they see the property, they end up purchasing the home.”
According to NAR, 53% of buyers used the information gained at an open house to make a buying decision.
Brokers’ open houses are another good marketing strategy. Shortly after your listing goes live, your agent hosts a gathering of select real estate brokers and agents at your home, so they can investigate whether your property is right for their clients.
NAR data shows 86% of recent buyers found their real estate agent to be a very or somewhat useful information source. So, it’s no surprise a broker’s open is sometimes more lucrative than a traditional open house because it can lead to more private showings and serious offers.
Engage an agent months in advance
Robinson says it’s ideal when clients contact him six months before they plan to sell.
It may seem early, but “now’s the time we can actually help clients put more money in their pocket,” he says, “because we can evaluate the home and give them a 90-day plan of action to economically get their house up to the standards for today’s buyers.”
Learn more about the role of decor
“Since homes have become kind of a sanctuary,” says Robinson, “buyers want to make their homes a place where they can work, work out, and entertain.”
Beyond basic functionality, the design provides a powerful — and sometimes polarizing — element in marketing: One buyer’s ‘70s kitschy kitchen nightmare is another buyer’s retro dream.
Just like there are classic features that never go out of style, there are other elements that are destined for the dustbin of design history.
Robinson reports decor that discourages buyers includes:
- Carpet in a bathroom: “I don’t know why that was ever popular,” he says.
- Dated wallpaper in a room: “It just sends a message that there’s going to be a high investment to get that off,” Robinson says.
- Different types of hardwood flooring in adjacent rooms such as having an oak floor in the dining room and cherry in the kitchen
- Jacuzzi tubs in bathrooms
By contrast, agents nationwide report buyers are impressed by kitchen designs featuring:
- Light or calming color palette
- White color scheme
- Mixed materials
- Gray/greige palette
- Earth tones
- Light wood
- Black or matte black and
- Bold colors.
Buyers were also delighted to discover bathroom amenities that include a:
- Double-sink vanity
- Modern lighting design
- Rain shower or dual shower head
- Vanity with extra storage and
- Soaking tub.
With those preferences in mind, it might be tempting to pursue a remodel before your listing.
Nationally, HomeLight agents estimate a light kitchen remodel costs about $10,512 and results in an additional $17,865 in resale value. On average, a light bathroom remodel costs about $5,924 and is likely to garner approximately $9,780 at resale.
However, because many buyers prefer to save money on the purchase price and adapt the home to suit their own design aesthetic, Macnab advises homeowners to “avoid over-improving the home.”
Instead, she advocates repairs and improvements that offer a high return on investment such as punch-list items (see below) that typically cost $300 or less and add an additional $1,000 or more in value.
Declutter and take care of deferred maintenance
Never underestimate the appeal of a decluttered, well-maintained home.
“If a buyer sees deferred maintenance in one area,” he says, “it overshadows their decision to invest the highest amount and the offer price.”
That may be more important than ever since HomeLight agents say millennials are likely to comprise the largest group of purchasers. As a generation generally disinterested in family heirlooms, it’s no surprise they’re unwilling to inherit major problems from previous property owners.
Agents nationwide estimated a deep cleaning could add $3,731 on average to the sale price of a home, and decluttering could add $6,523.
Avoid the biggest blindspots for overconfident sellers
You never get a second chance to make a first impression — particularly with brokers and buyers. So, before hosting open houses or broker opens, it’s important to make sure your house shines.
Eighty-six percent of agents surveyed thought that because of the recent hot seller’s market, some of their sellers are now overconfident with their listing and slack on basic home prep items.
In HomeLight’s Insights Fall 2022, the surveyed agents report the biggest blindspots for overconfident sellers are:
- Deferred maintenance
- Excessive clutter
- Low curb appeal
- Stained carpet, scratched hardwood, or other flooring problems
- Tired/worn/dirty interior paint
- Lack of staging
- Dirty/unsanitary interiors
- Major problems with HVAC, foundation, or other home systems
- Faded/dingy home exterior
- Old/faulty appliances
- Bad odors
Conversely, agents find moderate improvements that add value include:
- Painting tired walls and dated cabinets
- Replacing old carpet, dated countertops, and cabinet hardware
- Installing new light fixtures, a kitchen backsplash, a smart thermometer
- Adding shelving and storage inside the home, backyard elements (i.e., seating and firepit), a deck or patio
Learn more: See HomeLight’s Seller Resources page for more expert tips on how to prepare your home for sale.
Request a pocket listing for privacy
This method of marketing a home for sale is different from all the others mentioned here so far, and it only works for sellers who value privacy ahead of maximizing the exposure of their listing.
Essentially, a pocket listing is an agreement between a real estate agent and seller to market a home through private connections rather than advertise it publicly.
The key distinction is: The pocket listing does not appear on MLS. Instead, the listing information is retained within a brokerage and shared on an individual basis with clients who may be interested.
When a seller wants to shield the sale from public knowledge for personal or legal reasons, that’s when a pocket listing may be an attractive option.
However, the benefits should be weighed against possible trade-offs, such as difficulty in finding a buyer and accepting an offer below market value.
Tip: If privacy and speed are crucial to your home-selling objective, HomeLight can connect you to the largest network of cash buyers in the U.S. through our Simple Sale platform. You can receive a no-obligation cash offer within a week, and close in as little as 10 days.
Ready to market your listing?
In a shifting housing market, it’s more important than ever to cover essential home-selling steps such as competitive pricing and home preparations. Consider ways you can help your listing stand out with professional photos and staging a home office.
That said, every home is different. The best marketing plan will be tailored to your unique selling points and market. Consult with a top local real estate agent for access to digital tools, a professional network, and expert opinion on what buyers are sure to love about your home.
Header Image Source: (Point3D Commercial Imaging Ltd. / Unsplash)