Marketing a Home for Sale

Stephanie Sills of Compass explains why investing in a
pre-move makeover is a smart decision.

Stephanie Sills, a realtor at Compass, believes that selling a house is both an art and a science. She approaches the process artistically by preparing the house in a way that creates a blank canvas for potential buyers to visualize their lives in the space. At the same time, Sills utilizes her 20 years of experience in tech to analyze market trends and employ data-driven analytics to sell properties. As a partner in Palermo Properties Team, she prioritizes using her technical skills while still maintaining a personal connection with her clients. Sills suggests that investing in a pre-move makeover is a smart decision for homeowners who want to increase the appeal of their property to potential buyers.

Stephanie has gained knowledge of buying and maintaining a home through personal experience. Living on the coast for almost two decades, she and her husband bought a home in Moss Beach in 2007. The house was previously a rental and had deferred maintenance, so they spent a year upgrading the home. In 2021, they decided to tackle another renovation, which included the kitchen, flooring, and interior paint. 

Using her real estate experience and a database of more than 200 service providers, Stephanie was able to complete the project efficiently and cost-effectively.

Stephanie spoke with August Howell from Coastside magazine about various strategies that homeowners use to sell their homes, such as Compass' home improvement loan program, and why it is still a good time to sell. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.


Can you provide some general guidelines or recommendations for preparing a house to sell effectively?
The initial step I take when helping a client prepare to sell their home is to determine their primary objectives. I prioritize identifying what matters most to them. Often, clients want to maximize their net profit while minimizing the hassle of the selling process.

Once we have determined their priorities, we concentrate on identifying the most impactful improvements that can be made within the necessary timeline to achieve their goals.

Usually, individuals comprehend that putting their home on the market during the spring season can attract more potential buyers and result in a quicker sale compared to selling in December, for instance. However, this may not be the best time for everyone. As a real estate agent, I take into account the unique motivations and constraints of each seller. Some homeowners have a tight budget but want to receive the best possible offer for their property. For such cases, I introduce them to Compass Concierge, a specialized program offered by Compass.

Can you describe your criteria for determining if a staging job has been done well?
Effective staging achieves several important goals. Firstly, it helps potential buyers visualize how a space can be used and makes it easier to imagine themselves living in the home. This is especially valuable for rooms with unique shapes or layouts.

Additionally, staging should enhance the appeal of the space by creating an atmosphere that is both inviting and luxurious. This can be achieved through the use of high-quality furniture, tasteful artwork, and carefully selected decorative elements. The ultimate goal is to create a feeling of relaxation and comfort that resonates with buyers.

Finally, staging is essential for producing high-quality photographs and videos that attract potential buyers and generate interest in the property.


Can the impact of certain aspects, such as decluttering or landscaping, on a home's sale price be measured? Can it have a significant effect, potentially changing the sale price by thousands of dollars?
Certainly. There are statistics available that show the return on investment for different types of home improvements. For instance, painting the interior of a house may cost $8,000, but it can quickly and easily transform the look of the home, and may have a higher impact than renovating a kitchen which can be expensive and time-consuming. The goal is usually to control expenses while maximizing the return on investment for the seller. Having a home that is well-prepared for the market typically leads to a faster sale and higher selling price.


What insights did you gain from the experience of renovating your home for the second time? 
Before embarking on our renovation project, we took time to interview several contractors to ensure that our savings were spent wisely. We learned a lot from each conversation, and ultimately chose a contractor who had the skills needed and was a good communicator. I also requested references from past clients of the contractor to confirm that they did quality work and were reliable. As a real estate agent, I’m constantly offering referrals to clients for various services such as electrical work, plumbing, landscaping, painting, and staging. These partnerships are valuable and critical in preparing a house for sale.

Can you provide an explanation of what Compass Concierge is?
Compass Concierge is a program that enables eligible clients to borrow a substantial amount of money, interest-free and without any hidden fees, for up to one year, from any service provider they prefer. The loan is paid back by deducting the amount from the seller's proceeds at the end of the escrow process. This program is an effective way to enhance the appearance of the property and attract more potential buyers at no cost to the seller. Essentially, it is a means of using someone else's money to improve the house's appeal.


Typically, how do sellers use the funds obtained through the Compass Concierge program?
The utilization of funds obtained through the Compass Concierge program varies depending on the home's current condition. Generally, the funds are used for tasks such as painting, flooring renovations, roof repairs, and enhancing the landscape to enhance the property's curb appeal. Additionally, cleaning services, inspections, and window cleaning may also be covered. The list of over 100 services that qualify includes the cost of moving companies and relocation expenses.

With the Concierge debit card, the seller can pay for goods and services directly, and the funds go directly to the provider. If a vendor only accepts payment by cash or check, the seller can file a claim and receive reimbursement within three to five days. The program is flexible and convenient, and the funds can be used for projects of any size, from a $10 box of light bulbs to a $10,000 garage door.

The Compass Concierge program is a beneficial asset for clients who need to conserve their cash, particularly when buying a new home. Unlike other programs that may require the homeowner to hire vendors enrolled in their program, this program has no project management fee or "pay-to-play" requirements for vendors. Clients have complete freedom to choose any vendor they prefer, even if they have been using the same vendor for 20 years.


And does this work for staging, too?
Certainly! Staging is a crucial aspect of home preparation for sale, and the Compass Concierge program can be utilized for this purpose as well. Even if the seller or tenant will still be living in the house during the selling process, there are providers who are willing to allow their furniture to remain in the home.


Are there any other common misunderstandings or incorrect beliefs people have about the process of selling a home in the current market?
The sudden spike in interest rates last year had a significant impact on the demand and supply of housing. Some sellers are waiting for a better time to sell when there are more buyers willing to pay the price, they think their home deserves. However, with low inventory and inflation, we may still see high prices even if interest rates stay high. Real estate agents want to advise buyers and sellers not to focus on the peak or valley of the market and feel like they lost value unless they were actually selling during that time.

Instead, they should focus on their current situation and how to leverage their assets to achieve their desired lifestyle.

I advise caution to homebuyers and shares stories of people who regretted not buying during a temporary rise in interest rates and softening of prices in 2018. I suggest that the current market feels similar to 2018 and warns buyers not to wait for a buyer's market with low interest rates and high inventory, as this situation will likely cause demand to spike and result in multiple offers and higher prices. Instead, the I recommend that buyers should shop when they need to buy and seek guidance from trusted industry experts when considering a property.

I want to dispel the misconception that people are too busy to buy homes during the holiday season. This is not true, and I have had successful sales during Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. You can sell your home at any time of year with a well-planned strategy and realistic expectations.


 What specific area of work do you and your team focus on? 
I excel in building authentic connections with others, which is a key asset in my role in the real estate industry. Before transitioning to real estate, I spent two decades working in the tech sector, honing skills such as utilizing technology, providing excellent customer service, creating effective marketing strategies, and analyzing data.


Could you explain what you’ve discovered during your second home renovation project? 
The homeowner’s family had already renovated most of their home when they moved in in 2007, but they didn't renovate the kitchen, which was redone by the prior owner five years earlier, to avoid waste. However, we eventually found the layout to be inefficient and lacking storage space, and the appliances started breaking down. So, we decided to renovate the kitchen and refinish the flooring and repaint the interior to be more efficient with our time and money. We’ve moved to a rental in Half Moon Bay for three months while a contractor oversaw the project. It was challenging to move our family twice within three months, but we’ve survived, and now we are happy with the outcome as our space is more functional and updated, making it more practical for our family's lifestyle.


Can you explain the significance of marketing in your profession, given that your website emphasizes the importance of top-notch production and design?
High-quality production, design, and marketing are crucial in real estate. Poorly presented listings, including bad photography, can quickly kill interest in a property. Quality preparation is key to creating an emotional response and inspiring potential buyers to take action. As humans, we all aspire to improve our lives, so it's important to deliver on that promise and create a feeling of inspiration. The ultimate goal is to make someone say, "Wow! I want to live here." Coastside





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