Airto Zamorano’s real estate game plan was solid: do a serious deep cleaning of his home every single time he had a showing. “The idea is that we wanted to project a fresh, clean feel,” says Zamorano, who lives in Marlton, NJ.
The tactic worked. Despite similar homes for sale in his neighborhood, within 24 hours the Zamoranos received a full-price offer. They even received several backup offers while they were under contract! “Everyone made a comment about the home being well cared for and how clean it was,” he says. “We take great pride in homeownership, and that was clear to people. I think having a fresh scent and everything vacuumed and wiped down right before the people arrived made a huge difference.”
Going head-to-head with your neighbors’ listing can make a complex process even more challenging. Here’s how to beat out the neighborhood competition to get your home sold first.
1. Focus on curb appeal
If your home is on the market during the spring — peak real estate season in many markets — you’re likely to be competing with your neighbors for a buyer. To draw buyers to your property instead of the house next door, invest in seasonal curb appeal: your landscaping. This tactic helped real estate agent Michael Kelczewski of Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty in Philadelphia, PA, sell a home that had been on the market for a year. “During the spring season, as comparable neighborhood properties came onto the market, we chose to completely re-landscape the property and hold large open houses,” he says. It worked! The home sold for close to full asking price in a competitive market.
2. Don’t skip staging
Staging your home for sale can feel like a luxury. But when you’re competing with your neighbors for buyers’ attention, staging your home can help sell your home faster. You’ll get better listing photos and make a better impression at a showing. This is especially true if homes in your neighborhood have similar floor plans and finishes. Great staging can make a space seem larger and really show off a home’s best features.
“Staging is always important,” says Pat Eberle of Raso Realty in Cape Coral, FL. “Reducing clutter allows buyers to see the features of the home and visualize themselves there.” But don’t just stage for your listing photos — keep the furniture in place for the duration. “You can stage a home for professional photos, but if buyers are turned off once they walk in the door, all that work staging and those great pictures go right out the window,” explains Dan Garrison of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Charleston, SC. “Spend some money and time going above and beyond to make your home perfect for a potential buyer for the first moment they walk in the door. That will make it easier to sell your home against the competition.”
3. Focus on photography
When your home is competing with a neighbor’s, those first impressions online matter even more. This is when a buyer considers whether to request a showing for your home — or your neighbor’s home. You want your house to stand out! If your listing photos are dark, blurry, or simply don’t make your home stand out, your home might not draw as many potential buyers. “Finding an agent that hires professional photographers is very important,” says Eberle. He recommends adding video or drone photography for an extra edge. “I also integrate drone video and photography into the virtual tours to go along with high-quality images.”
4. Enhance your home’s best features
Making strategic updates can help sell your home faster than your neighbor’s house. Get your house market-ready by focusing on the updates most buyers love, such as a kitchen remodel. This strategy can be even more powerful if your neighbors have cut corners for savings. It worked well for Anna Mirachi, whose Charlotte, NC, home was 500 square feet smaller than her neighbors’ house, with one fewer bedroom. “I moved some furniture out to make the rooms look bigger and staged the breakfast room,” she says. “But I also did a real kitchen renovation, while my neighbors only painted their cabinets.”
That new kitchen helped buyers overlook the smaller square footage — and clinched the sale. “I had 28 showings and two offers,” says Mirachi. “My neighbors ended up renting their home out because it wouldn’t sell.” Her former neighbor asked the new homeowners why they didn’t want the other, larger house next door. “Their response was, ‘Did you see the kitchen?’” Mirachi says.
5. Price it well
Overpricing can stall a home sale from the start — especially if your neighbor’s home is priced more competitively. “Don’t overprice,” says Matt Vos of Atlas Real Estate Group in Denver, CO. “In a hot market like Denver, if you overprice and the home sits on the market for even as little as a week, people start to wonder if something might be wrong with it.”
Meanwhile, an appropriately priced home gives you an edge on the neighborhood competition. Some agents even recommend underpricing your home slightly to encourage interest and fast action from buyers. “Price is always the largest driver in any market,” adds Eberle. “Today’s buyers are more educated than ever. Buyers know what’s on the market, how long it’s been on the market, how many price reductions the seller has made, and what the competition is listed for.”