Selling your apartment in NYC can be a long and grueling process, and if you are not in the right mindset, it’s easy to make costly mistakes.
Developing A Seller’s Mindset
Developing a seller’s mindset requires you to start looking at your apartment as an asset instead of your home. Learn to look at it objectively. This will allow you to identify problems that you have adapted to and flaws that you have learned to overlook. It’s an important part of empathizing with potential buyers and learning about their perspectives.
It’s also important to realize that taste is subjective, and buyers might not be willing to pay for your efforts and subjective taste. Even if you spent days building and decorating a beautiful nursery in your apartment, buyers without small children might only see it as a space that can be reconverted into something else. The high-end wallpaper you chose may not match the aesthetic sense of potential buyers, and they might simply replace or paint over it.
In contrast, there might be features in your apartment that you may not care about, but they can be very attractive to potential buyers, including its location, the amount of sunlight it gets, or amenities in the building. You can learn more about such features through research, your interactions with the buyers, and your agent.
You should also be ready to negotiate. Even if you have conducted diligent research before putting your apartment on the market and you believe your asking price to be quite close to its fair market value, the seller will still try to negotiate. They will leverage the flaws and weaknesses of the property that you have already considered when coming up with a fair asking price to get you to lower the price, and you should be ready to talk this out. If you simply concede to their lower price, you will be underselling your asset, and if you become aggressive in negotiations, the deals might fall through, so maintain a moderate approach.
Another important aspect of developing a seller’s mindset is to be ready, to be honest with potential buyers. But you shouldn’t give them ammunition. If you are too honest with them and point them to problems and flaws they might have overlooked or disregarded in their assessment, they may use it against you.
Lastly, be a pragmatist. Your instinct might be to turn your apartment into its best possible form before you put it on the market and you invest much more than you can recoup into its renovation. Or, you might be too emotionally involved in the home and don’t like to make any significant changes and want the buyers to buy it as-is. Neither approach will lead to a productive transaction. So take a pragmatic approach – change what you can and be ready to leave credit or lower your asking price for the rest.
Keeping Your Emotions In Check
You will need a lot of patience when selling your apartment and much more if you are going the FSBO route. An agent might shield you from many of the emotionally draining aspects of selling a home, but even when you are working with an agent, you should understand that there are factors that no one can control, like interest rates and market dynamics. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months to sell your apartment, so it’s important that you embrace the emotional virtue of patience.
You should start the process of emotionally detaching from your current apartment, and a good way to do it is to think about your new one. The new apartment/home you are going to represents a new start, and focusing on that may help you get over your emotional attachments with your current place, making the process easier for you. It’s especially important if you have significant positive emotional associations with the apartment, like your first job, marriage, children, etc. However, it doesn’t mean that you should emotionally detach from the process of selling. If you do, you will not make the full effort needed to sell it at a good price.
Another step in emotional preparedness is learning to accept criticism of your apartment. When you live in a place for a long time, it’s natural to fall in love with it and accept/overlook its many flaws, but that’s not how buyers will see your apartment. They would look at your apartment objectively, see its flaws, and discuss them with you. They will use any weakness your apartment has as a negotiation tool to get you to lower the price or leave money in closing credits. It might be emotionally challenging to navigate but try to see it from their perspective. They might be making the most substantial purchase of their lives, and they will try to get the best value for their money.
You should also be prepared to show your apartment to several different buyers and make peace with its impact on your privacy.
Researching The Process
The next phase of preparing yourself for the sale of your apartment is becoming as knowledgeable about the process as possible, especially if you are going the FSBO route instead of working with an agent to sell your home.
Even if you are selling with an agent, there are a few things you should know/research, starting with how to find the right real estate agent. You should look into the best practices associated with finding a good agent, like choosing someone that specializes in your apartment type (condo or co-op) and is familiar with your neighborhood. You should also look into their marketing style and previous listings to assess if they would be able to present your apartment in the most compelling light. Another thing to look at is their previous sales record, like the discrepancy between listing and closing price. If the difference is too significant, it means they might not have researched the “comps” (comparable properties) adequately, have a weak understanding of the current market, or their negotiation skills need work. You should also look for the days on the market for the properties they have sold (ideally, in both buyer’s and seller’s markets).
The agent may help you come up with a good asking price by working the comps, but as a seller, you should also familiarize yourself with what comps are and how to use them to come up with an asking price. Start with your own building and look into the most recent sales. If the apartment is similar to yours in layout and size and the market hasn’t changed much from the time of sale, it can offer you a strong reference point.
Lastly, even if you can’t understand the market as well as an agent that may have spent years honing their skills and gaining experience, you should at least know the basics of the real estate market. You may find it easier to wait several weeks if you know it’s a seller’s market and may learn how to handle a bidding war if you are selling in a buyer’s market and there are several offers on your apartment.
You should also research how to negotiate, how to assess buyers, and what the different kinds of contingencies are. If a financially weak buyer is asking for the removal of the mortgage contingency close, it’s a request that you might not even consider entertaining in a buyer’s market. The more prepared and well-researched you are, the easier it would be for you to coordinate with your agent. If you conduct this research before hiring an agent, you might have an easier time picking the right individual for the job.
Once you are satisfied with your own preparations, it’s time to prepare your apartment for sale. A few important steps are:
One of the main differences between selling an apartment and selling a townhouse or another freestanding structure in NYC is the scope of repairs. When you are selling an apartment, the scope of repairs will be limited to what’s within your walls. Everything else is the building’s responsibility. You can also sell your apartment as-is if you are willing to lower the asking price enough to make it tempting enough.
Still, it’s highly recommended to make any small repairs that may catch the eyes of potential buyers. Leaky faucets, squeaky doors/windows, marks on walls or doors, and dozens of other repairs might not even require professional involvement and permits. These repairs will not cost much, and even though most buyers might ignore the small stuff if they see the need for too many small repairs, it may give the impression of a neglected apartment. Major repairs, like fixing the floor, retiling the bathroom, or replacing a faulty appliance, are a different matter. You have to run the numbers on what would make more sense – leaving money for these things in the closing credit, reducing the asking price, or making the repairs before you put your home on the market. There is no universally right answer for sellers, and you should consult with your agent or do your own research to identify the best course of action for you.
Renovations are improvements that you might make in your property to make it more appealing to buyers. A complete gut renovation of the apartment can be a significant investment, one that you might not be able to fully recoup, but it varies from one apartment to another. If you have a run-down apartment in a desirable building where most of the neighboring apartments have been extensively renovated, a full renovation might pay off well. But an extensive renovation cannot make an apartment sell for more than its fundamental value, which is determined by factors like location, age of the building, amenities, etc., which are things you have no control over. So making renovations you can’t recoup doesn’t make sense. If you are considering major renovations other than gut renovation of the entire apartment, like modeling your kitchen/bathroom, it’s a good idea to evaluate how much Return on Investment (ROI) these renovations might offer.
Renovations like a fresh coat of paint or refinishing your hardwood floor may pay off well at the time of sale. Even if they don’t allow you to raise your asking price, they may help you sell fast.
Deep Cleaning and Decluttering
Before you put your apartment on the market, don’t forget to deep clean the entire place. You can do it yourself and make sure to cover every spot or outsource it to a professional service. Deep cleaning not only makes your property more visually appealing and ready for staging, but it may also reveal previously hidden problems that you can fix before showing your apartment to potential buyers.
Decluttering is another important phase of preparing your property. The easiest way to declutter is to get rid of some of the stuff you own to make the apartment look spacious and improve the airflow and natural light. But it requires proper planning. If you can’t get rid of any of the stuff you have, you may need to put it in a safe place like a storage facility or in the home of a friend. If you are moving into a smaller place after selling your current apartment, it may make sense to sell the stuff you don’t need, which will also help you with decluttering. You may even go as far as to sell your bulky furniture for some lighter/smaller pieces.
You can augment the process of decluttering by rearranging the furniture and other items to maximize the open space in your apartment. This makes it easier for potential buyers to experience the layout.
Depersonalizing and Staging
Depersonalizing is more than just about removing the pictures of your family from the prominent display. It’s about making your apartment look neutral so potential buyers have an easier time visualizing themselves and their families occupying this space. This may require getting rid of art pieces and decoration elements that reflect your personal affiliations.
The process of staging can fall anywhere on a wide spectrum. A simple DIY staging might include rearranging the furniture for better natural light or airflow, adding some simple decoration pieces, achieving a good color contrast, etc. Professional staging may even include moving existing furniture out, moving staging furniture in the apartment, patching, painting, and more, and costing you thousands of dollars. But if it can help you sell fast and at your desired asking price, it might be a worthy investment.
While your agent may be able to offer you great insights about what to change in your staging, it’s also a good idea to get another pair of eyes (ideally, critical ones) like a friend or a family member. Ask them to go through your property and evaluate it as potential buyers. They may offer you a fresh perspective and more information to improve your staging.
It’s important to understand that you can’t “prepare” your apartment into a different pricing tier. So while it’s important that you prepare your apartment before selling to the best of your ability and resources, make sure you have reasonable expectations about how these preparations will impact the selling process.