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To get into your home buyer’s wallet, you’ve first got to get into their head

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(John Bazemore/AP)

By Jonathan Fox

August 22, 2016

If you’ve been through the home-searching process at some point in your life, I don’t have to tell you how emotionally draining the experience can be. From open house to closing, there are many elements a buyer has to consider on top of a number of mini compromises that need to occur between all parties to make any deal work.

So as a seller, having a committed and invested buyer can make a real difference in the outcome.

As I’ve said many times to my clients: The real estate transaction is unlike buying or selling anything else because it involves lots of money and emotion, plus a very human element (on all sides) that can transform people’s motives and the outcome in a hurry. As a result, I learned early on in my career that approaching the home-selling process with a one-size-fits-all marketing plan is inadequate at best. That said, regardless of the advances in technology and marketing platforms throughout my career I’ve discovered some tips and tricks that can have absolute game-changing results when it comes to selling properties.

The bottom line is your property has a story to sell. Make sure it gets told, because if you do, you’ve just significantly tipped the scales in your favor.

Buyers are emotional. Market principles would suggest that having more buyers looking at your property is going to result in more contracts and perhaps more money. But having 30 lukewarm buyers is far less valuable (to a seller) than one enthusiastic suitor willing to lay it out on the line to succeed.

So I would strongly encourage you as the seller to critically think about who your likely buyer is and make sure your listing is the most appealing to that exact demographic. What I am saying is to go all in on who will be your buyer.

If you have a property in the city that is likely going to be purchased by a younger, probably single first-time home buyer — for instance, a one-bedroom condo — make sure a few things are done before listing. We all know first-time buyers are cash strapped given how tough it is to save money for a down payment. So I would make sure you have a turnkey property — one where that first-time buyer could move right in without changing a thing.

It makes sense, right? By spending the money up front to prepare your listing you are appealing to that likely demographic that may have just seen five or so other units that all needed work and therefore loved yours. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to also consider offering a one-year home warranty or include six months of the condo fees in your asking price. Believe me, a first-time buyer will absolutely love these considerations and pay you for them.

The same is true in reverse. Let’s say your single-family house is in Kensington, Md., and you figure a family will likely be your buyer. There’s no need to speculate who this might be if you’ve been paying attention. You know that the schools, parks and local shops are amazing and that the MARC train efficiently gets you downtown in 30 minutes, because you’ve had firsthand experience with all of them.

Even if a buyer has access to that information they may not know what to search for or to even look in the first place. I strongly encourage my sellers to make sure detailed information about what they’ve loved about living there ends up in the property for the open houses. Sometimes that could be a house letter, written from the seller addressed to the prospective buyers that states all the wonderful “family friendly” things about their community and the local shops and parks.

Make it easy for that buyer to envision their family living in your house because it will fit their lifestyle. Make it clear you have outstanding schools and parks, plus great places to dine within walking distance, and a farmers market on Sundays.

As a listing agent, I am limited by fair housing laws on what I can or can’t say. But it’s your house — leave what you want on the dining room table for the open houses.

Also in all cases, stage the property accordingly. Make a room in the house a “fun room” staged for kids, even if you never used that room in such a way before. It’s all about giving the buyers what they want, which ultimately is a house they can envision living in. How you set up your property come sale time will help provide the prospective buyers the needed vision and emotional experiences to fall in love with yours over the competition.

It’s going a step beyond the traditional “here’s-what’s-great-about-my-house” marketing campaign (just read 10 property descriptions in a row and you’d think all 10 are talking about the same house) and targeting your likely buyer with relevant and creative content that will appeal to their desires.

If you execute on telling your property’s story to that buyer transferring in from across the country, or even from down the road, you will effectively stand out from the rest and sell for more money in less time.

It’s getting the right information to your prospective buyer while engaging in a staging and marketing strategy that considers your target demographic first. I’ve seen it work for dozens of my own listings, so I know it’s a game-changing approach.

Jonathan Fox, a real estate agent and principal of the Fox Group with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage Dupont/Logan, writes an occasional column about Washington-area housing issues.