It's been said in real estate a million times: Location, location, location.
But using your location to sell your house doesn't just mean just matching your asking price to recent sales in the area.
When considering selling your home, especially in a recessionary environment, look what your neighborhood has to offer besides good schools or convenient access to public transportation.
Think about what it means to live there, what kind of buyer you expect and how to market to them. Here are some ways to maximize value:
Know Your Location
"The first thing I do is drive around the neighborhood," says Cindy Lin, the owner of Stage4More, which stages, or prepares, homes for sales showings. Large lots mean young parents. "Or you might have a condo complexes geared towards young professionals." Based on what she sees and what she knows about the neighborhood, Lin then selects colors and furniture based on the expectations of what kind of people will want to live in that area.
For example: "San Francisco is more busy, more hip, more trendy," says Lin, who runs her business out of Burlingame, a suburban city 15 miles south of San Francisco, Calif. "Burlingame is a more casual, relaxed style." Lin suggests staging more modern furniture and sharper colors, like blues, in San Francisco, but in Burlingame you want furniture to be comfortable and colors to be warm, yellows and oranges.
Stratigize With Space
Also, for a two bedroom townhouse in Burlingame, where more families live, the second bedroom might be staged as a children's room or nursery. However, in a two bedroom condo in San Francisco's busy North Beach area, populated by younger professionals, the second bedroom could be staged as a home office.
Dona Crowder, a realtor from Pacific Union and former President of the San Francisco Association of Realtors, agrees that city versus suburban staging makes a difference. "If it's urban, you want to make it hipper. Places with density and noise generally appeal to people who want density and noise."
Play to the Neighborhood—But Not Too Much
While it's easier to differentiate between urban and suburban living, within these areas exist smaller divisions based on ethnicity and religion. While it might seem smart to give a place near Chinatown some Asian flair, Crowder warns, "if you walk into a place that's very Asian, you lose the other crowd."
Adds Lin: "I don't do Zen gardens or Chinese calligraphy as art work." She says to stay away from ethnic and religious pieces because targeting a demographic eliminates a large sect of the population.
Instead, Crowder recommends generally keeping everything neutral: "You want to make it clean, uncluttered and neat."
Turn the Lens Inside
Staging services can be expensive, generally running up into the mid to high thousands. But Crowder says staging is important, even if you can't afford a professional like Lin's services, because "an unstaged house does not photograph."
SAVINGS TIP: See if a full-service firm will consult for a lesser fee. For example, Lin offers, in addition to full staging, a consultation service where for around $500 she'll take a look at your place and make recommendations for you to stage or rearrange your furniture on your own.
Turn the Lens Outside
And don't just photograph your home. Showing prospective buyers what lies nearby can entice them to come see your property. "Today everything is marketed on the Internet with photographs," says Crowder. That marketing can include your neighborhood as well. Many listings now include photos not just of the property, but of the cute flower shop around the corner or the park down the street.
And in this economy, anything to get someone away from their computer and into your home is a good idea. Using your neighborhood is just another tool to get them inside. "Really you want to cast as wide a net as possible," says Lin. "You want to throw out to a large group of fish not just a small group of fish."