Real Estate

Real Estate: John M. Lee

Preparing for the Spring Market

By John M. Lee

2021 is here. In any other year,  people would be preparing for the big push in the spring real estate market. However, COVID-19 has changed our real estate cycle, and it is anyone’s guess as to what lies ahead this year. 

Activity in the first two months has been decent, with good buyer demand and still very little inventory. A few more properties came onto the market after the Super Bowl weekend, and they went into escrow fairly quickly. Properties in the Richmond and Sunset districts, if priced right, are also expected to go into escrow very quickly.

I am seeing more properties coming onto the market, and I am preparing for a good spring selling season. People seem to be more optimistic with the downward trend of the coronavirus. And while the rollout of the vaccine has been problematic, it has been effective and has offered a positive outlook for most people. I’m sure everyone is looking forward to the day when we can go back to our normal lives.

If you are preparing your home for sale during this time, there are many more factors to consider. Have you ever wondered why some homes sell at higher price than others? The answer lies in pricing and emotional appeal. This column will discuss how to prepare your home to obtain the highest possible price. Purchasing a home is a very emotional process and usually creates a very stressful time in the life of the purchaser. Many times, buyers are making the largest financial commitment of their lives and are unsure of whether they are getting the right deal.

Thus, when other people are offering on the same property, the multiple offers reassure buyers that they are making the right decision because others feel the same way about the home as they do. 

As a seller, how do you create these emotions so that your property will sell quickly and for the highest price in today’s market? Preparing a property for sale is especially important because people today are busier than ever. They are often looking for homes which are in move-in condition.

There are many inexpensive preparation projects which will bring returns many times over for the seller. 

First of all, unclutter the house. It is amazing how much stuff accumulates over the years. By removing large items of furniture and putting belongings away, it makes a home show larger than it is, and gives the impression that the home is spacious and well cared for.

Painting always helps. Freshening up the back yard can be inexpensive, and yet provide the impression that a home is well maintained. Refinishing the hardwood floors will do wonders for showing off the house.

If you want to go further, staging companies are available to bring in complete sets of furniture to complement the age and décor of the house. I have found that this adds tremendous value, makes your home show like a model, and separates your home from others on the market. As Richmond and Sunset district homes are selling for $1 million or more, the staging expense is becoming a smaller percentage of the selling price and thus make more economic sense than ever before.

Buying is an emotional process. When a buyer walks into the home, I have a good feeling about whether he or she will buy that house. In order to obtain the highest possible price, buyers need to feel comfortable and know that this is the right home for them.

Marketing during this COVID time is also important as the rules prevent people from visiting the property unless absolutely necessary. So virtual tours, with photos and videos, are more important than ever. Online presence plays a bigger role with most buyers deciding whether or not to go visit a property based on the internet presence. 

From a buyer’s standpoint, you must not only look at the staging or furnishings in the home. You must be able to stand back and look past the décor and imagine how your furniture will fit in the space. Because after all the surface finishes are removed, the rooms will just be bare walls and you will have to decorate it the way you want to live. Buyers are sometimes disappointed in homes they have purchased after all the staged furniture is removed – unless they purchase the staged furniture along with the house!

I always recommend to buyers that they close their eyes and visualize the rooms empty. Then mentally place their own furniture in each room and imagine how it feels. That way, they won’t be as distracted by the staging and will focus more on the home itself.

Buying and selling a home is a stressful and emotional time in one’s life and even more so during this pandemic. This year should be a good one as many people are making important decisions about their living quarters. And that’s when good advice is necessary from a professional in helping to make that buying and selling decision as easy and painless as possible!

John M. Lee is a broker at Compass specializing in the Richmond and Sunset districts. For real estate questions, call him at (415) 465-0505 or email

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