Selling? How to Prep and Price Your Home for a Fast Sale

In real estate, we often hear what matters most is “location, location, location.” There’s another element about finding a home that buyers care about very much. Price. If a home is priced beyond their budget, they won’t even take a look.

Thus, one of the questions I get asked most often is “What is the best price to list my home for sale?” Should we price it below market value in the hopes it will sell quickly? Start out higher and drop if no buyers bite?

My answer? It depends. Getting a great price for your home requires a sound strategy, customized to your situation. It also requires careful preparation so that your home is in tip-top shape before going on the market.

Data and decluttering

My best advice is to plan to work with an experienced realtor, one who has an in-depth understanding of the current market. A recent client, Patrik J., of Rye, said receiving current market data and objective advice was tremendously helpful in preparing and pricing his home for sale.

“We had a laundry list of things to do to prepare our home for the market,” he recalls. “Fiona went through our house and gave us a to-do list, including changing out the countertops and a major decluttering. It was a comprehensive list to make the house presentable. When you’ve lived in a house for a long time, you no longer have a critical eye. So Fiona’s advice was critical. Well, we accomplished most of what was on the list. I have to say, the newer look was much nicer, fresher, cleaner.”

My recommendations put my client way ahead of the competition. While Patrik working on his house, I was analyzing comparable listings, pending sales, active listings, and other relevant real estate data. I presented the information to Patrik and his wife and we discussed strategy. Their objective was to price the house well — and to price it to sell. We did our homework and set an attractive price that reflected the home’s value and the current local market conditions.

After the house was updated and refreshed, we set an optimal price and listed their property.

“We had three bids in the first week,” Patrik notes. “Our accepted offer was close to the asking price. We trusted Fiona’s recommendations and that really worked out well for us.

“What’s great about working with Fiona? She is a pro. She knows what it takes to sell a house and will tell you what she thinks. She had a really good understanding of the market and how to prepare an older house for sale. I don’t know any other brokers who are that hands-on.”

Interested in selling? Contact Fiona for a consultation.

Fiona Dogan Recognized in ‘Best Real Estate Agents 2021’

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or ready to downsize and sell your family home, working with successful real estate professional who’s ahead of the curve really matters. Look no further than Fiona Dogan, who was just recognized as a Westchester Magazine Best Real Estate Agent in 2021.

This recognition is the latest in a series of accolades received by Dogan, who was ranked among the top 3% of all William Pitt Julia B. Fee agents and ranked among the top 1.5% of all real estate brokers nationwide.

“It’s wonderful to be recognized for doing what I love to do,” says Dogan. “Of course, the real reward is getting to know my clients and helping them to achieve their goals — whether it’s finding the perfect buyer or a home that’s just right for their family.”

To select agents for the list, Westchester Magazine partnered with DataJoe Research, which conducted research and administered peer and consumer surveys campaign to identify agents. As a primary benchmark, agents had to generate a minimum of $12.9 million in sales revenue during the period of October 2019 through October 2020.

In the peer survey, real estate agents were asked to provide sales volume ranges, and also to nominate their peers; consumers and recent homebuyers were asked to nominate agents who exemplified excellence. Finally, DataJoe analyzed performance data for agents in their respective firms.

As real estate decisions are among the most important financial and lifestyle decisions people make, it’s vitally important to work with a cutting-edge professional who stays on top of the latest real estate trends and technology and who understands the marketplace.

Fiona takes the time to get to know her clients in order to understand their needs and customize the experience. “That means every single client is getting a personalized approach,” she explains. “I’m very hands-on, and will guide you through every aspect of the process which includes research, pricing, preparation for listing, marketing, negotiations, inspections, and more.”

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Rye Couple: Fiona’s Strategy Sold Our Home

Helen and Bill are savvy business professionals. Helen, a marketer, and Bill, who works on Wall Street, are self-described “information-driven and analytical types.” So, when they decided to put their Rye home on the market amid the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, they sought data to help them understand the real estate landscape. And they turned to Fiona Dogan.

“We relied on Fiona to provide a framework for us,” explained Bill. “I sell stocks and bonds, and she sells houses, but the principles are similar. She arrived at our first meeting armed with facts and figures.” 

Fiona also gave the couple a profile of potential buyers and what would appeal to them. Says Helen, “She had data, but also had her finger on the pulse of what people from New York City were looking for — the intangibles.”

A long relationship

The couple had actually reached out to Fiona a few years prior, when they first started thinking about selling their home. Fiona gave them a two-year plan to prepare their home for the market, which included minor repairs and renovations. After becoming empty nesters, they decided to take the plunge. 

One of Fiona’s recommendations was to stage their home for sale. 

“She told us what to fix, what we could leave alone,” says Helen. “Having her handle the preparation and staging was the biggest bang for the buck. We gave her complete control and it was worth it.” Helen continues: “Painting, decluttering — she had the buyers in mind and she made it all happen. She helped us get the house ready for buyers, and she helped us get ready to sell, too.”

The strategy

Initially, they thought their home would appeal to Rye residents looking to upgrade, but Fiona had other ideas. She recommended focusing their marketing on buyers located outside Westchester County. The couple trusted her recommendations on pricing and how she handled the negotiation after an offer was made. 

“She knows how to position a house in any market — in a pandemic or otherwise,” notes Bill.

The couple says they felt well prepared for the entire process, from marketing the home through the offer, sale and closing.  “There were no surprises,” adds Helen. “It can be so emotional and anything can happen. But she did a good job in screening buyers and that helped.”

The couple says they recommend Fiona’s services highly.  “Fiona gives you an accurate lay-of-the land. She works with clients in a way that’s comfortable, yet customized, down to her communication style. We had good information from her and were able to make the best decisions for us,” says Bill. 

Helen adds: “Fiona feels like your smart best friend who gives you the best advice and gets it done. She’s charming, a straight shooter, and she’s always accessible. The experience with Fiona left us with a good feeling.” 

Do You Need to See a House Before You Buy It? Maybe Not.

In 2020, I helped a Rye family sell their home to a couple moving to the area from California. They toured the home virtually and the purchase was completed with the couple never having had to set foot in the house. 

Purchasing a home sight unseen is a trend on the rise nationally. Nearly two-thirds of people who purchased a home last year made an offer on a property they hadn’t seen in person, according to recent research by Redfin. That figure is up 32 percent from the previous year. 

What I’m seeing in Westchester and Rye is that purchasing a home sight-unseen is happening out of necessity. This trend is on the rise among all buyers because of several factors: low inventory of homes, which promotes bidding wars; COVID travel restrictions or pandemic-induced health concerns; and people are becoming more comfortable with technology enabling virtual walk-throughs. Not seeing a home prior to purchase used to be more common among international buyers, investors, or the ultra-wealthy, when an agent might handle the purchase to preserve the anonymity of the buyer.

Is buying a home sight unseen a good idea for you? It might be  — but the key is to be working with a seasoned real estate professional to guide you every step of the way.

How it works 

Traditionally, prospective home buyers will tour a house, get a feel for space, measure rooms, assess appliances, fixtures, and the neighborhood. Sight-unseen means that the buyer has looked at photos and videos online. Additionally, they may have had a live video walk through with their agent.

Working with a professional real estate agent is critical. An experienced local agent will be someone the buyer has engaged through the process, starting with the video tour. The agent will serve as the objective “eyes,” look for areas of concern, and identify any issues upfront. She will also help with due diligence, including researching the property, facilitating the offer process, and securing and reviewing the home inspection. If you have the help of an experienced real estate agent, the process can go off without a hitch.

Pros and cons of buying a home sight-unseen

The pros? As a buyer, you won’t sweat the small stuff. Loose door handles or peeling paint won’t become deal breakers because you tend to focus is on the bigger picture. But, buyers should work with their agent to ensure there are no big-ticket “surprises” not revealed on the virtual tour. A possible con is a lack of understanding the neighborhood vibe: the external noise, style of the other homes, and other intangibles. 

Purchasing a home is likely the biggest financial transaction you’ll ever make. If you are a nervous first-time homebuyer, sight unseen may not be a good idea. However, if you’re a buyer in this hot, competitive market who has lost out on other homes; you are comfortable doing online research; and you are working with an experienced, local agent who can help you feel confident about the home’s location and value, sight unseen may work well for you. 

Whether buying in person or sight-unseen, purchasing a home can be a long, draining, and emotional process.  Your agent will be there to guide you, support you and manage every detail — big and small — throughout the process. 

From the Upper West Side to Rye: Fiona Led the Way

Pregnant with her second child, Bettina was looking for more space for her growing family. But she was in no rush. The Upper West Side two-bedroom apartment she shared with her husband and first child was convenient for their jobs and social life. Then Covid hit and her husband’s and her offices closed. The apartment became confining.

“Our five-year plan became our ‘now’ plan,” says Bettina. 

A family friend who knew the area referred Bettina to Fiona Dogan, whom she knew for real estate and Rye expertise. When Bettina met Fiona, she felt an instant connection. “Fiona was thoughtful and she made an effort to understand what mattered to us and what would inform our real estate decisions. I felt like she would lead us down the right path.”

Not knowing the area, Bettina’s challenge was to learn all she could about Rye — the community, the landscape, and the housing stock. Fiona organized several tours for Bettina and her husband, designed to showcase varying styles within an array of budgets. “I trusted Fiona because she’s walked in my shoes. It was the most thoughtful way for us to get to know the area,” Bettina notes. 

Throughout the process, Bettina gained a thorough understanding of the both the rental and buyer’s markets, while looking at new construction, contemporary, and older homes within their price range. Fiona also educated the couple on the art of home pricing and what Rye offered to young families. 

“Fiona educated us on all that Rye has to offer, she gave us a great sense of the neighborhoods and helped us to feel comfortable here. Rye has so much family-oriented activity, from the beaches and nature centers, to golf, Playland, and parks. It felt like a really great place to raise a family. It checked off all the boxes,” she explains.

Contacts and connections 

When Bettina and her husband first walked into the home in Rye’s Midland neighborhood, it “felt like it was home,” says Bettina of the stately stone Colonial that was built in 1925. After their offer was accepted, the contract and closing phases were seamless, even with Covid restrictions. Fiona understood the health guidelines and helped them to navigate the whole process remotely.  

Then it was time to do some work on the house. Fiona’s experience and network of contacts served as an excellent resource for the new homeowners. She referred them to painters, electricians, and contractors to assist. 

“Fiona is such a great contact to have because she stays in touch. She is helpful on everything and helped us to settle into our new community. We are so grateful for what she is doing to help.” 

Prep for Market Key to 3 Offers, 3 Weeks After Listing

When the Covid pandemic hit last March, Susan Watson decided to quarantine with her life partner to avoid traveling back and forth from her own home amid the uncertainty of the novel coronavirus. As she learned that more and more families were looking for space outside of New York City, she knew it was a good time to rent her vacant home on Central Avenue in Rye. But she’d have to clean it out first. Susan had moved into the house seven years earlier, consolidating the effects of a large home and a smaller city apartment into one space. Despite several New Year’s resolutions, the attic and the basement were still full and the thought of getting her home ready for the market was overwhelming.

“I’ve bought and sold homes nine times, so I knew there was a lot to do to prepare,” she explains. “I talked to Fiona, who is so knowledgeable and confident in her approach. I’m smart enough to know when I am getting expert advice, so I followed hers to a ‘T’,” Susan said. 

Fiona provided her with a guide to decluttering her home and a roster of contacts for painting, window washing, landscaping, and more. With Fiona’s to-do list in hand, Susan secured a dumpster and emptied the house of older, heavy furniture and clutter, made minor repairs, changed light fixtures, and improved the landscaping. “Fiona has experience in building and construction, so she really understands the ‘bones’ of a house and what improvements needed to be made. She also had all the contacts I needed to get everything done.” 

‘An expert by my side’

As Susan was looking for a long-term tenant and wanted to better understand who the potential renters might be, she turned to Fiona to educate her about the rental market, as well as landlord and tenant obligations. Fiona also advised her on the appropriate price, and, after the offers came in, guided her through the review of each potential renter’s financials. When renters made demands, Fiona gave her confidence to be able to say “no” to the ones that wouldn’t work for her.

“Being a businesswoman myself, I could have figured all of this out. But I knew I had an expert at my side. Things went a lot faster with Fiona at the helm.”

Three weeks after the home went on the market, there were three competing offers. 

“That put us in a great position, because we were able to negotiate,” noted Susan. 

Susan said she had a lot of choice when it came to realtors she could work with in Rye. She selected Fiona because of her expertise and professionalism. “Fiona approaches real estate with real business acumen. It is not a hobby for her. It’s business. It’s her profession.”

Let Fiona help you sell or find your dream home. Contact Fiona at 914-414-5147 or email her directly.