Home Selling Tips – Why Access is So Important

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Recently there were two homes for sale on the same street in a nearby coastal community here in San Diego. The owners of each took very different approaches to providing access to potential buyers, and the results were pretty stunning. More on that below. When you list a home, as a seller you typically have a lot of control over how you want the property shown. Let me give you an insider’s perspective on what access is, what it looks like in the real world, and its impact on how quickly your home sells and at what sales price.

What is Access?

By “access” I simply mean how easy or difficult it is for potential buyers to see your home. While some of this is dictated by logistical concerns, eg. Are you living there? Do you have a ferocious dog named Cujo in the yard? Do you run a business from your home? Do you have an uncooperative tenant? etc. Access also hinges on your approach to the sale, what you discuss with your real estate agent, and what you’re ultimately comfortable with. Part of my role as an agent is to help find solutions to some of these barriers to showing property. For example, if you have a tenant in place, sometimes waiting a short period of time for them to move out (after proper legal notice is given), can dramatically impact not only accessibility to buyers, but also the condition of the home during showings.

Home Selling Tips – Providing Maximum Access

At one extreme, your property might be vacant and potentially staged, and your agent may put the home on lockbox. When the agent lists the home in MLS, they usually specify what are called showing conditions / instructions. In this example, they might say “Go and show anytime.” This results in maximum access to your property. Agents can get into the property via the lockbox and show the home to their clients with minimal hassle. I have been out on showings with clients when they mention interest in a home that just came on the market, or a property that we just drove by. In cases where those homes were vacant on lockbox, I have often been able to spontaneously add a showing. For some buyers, that last-minute flexibility is the difference between the property being shown (and potentially sold to them) and not being shown at all.

Maximum access also means minimal control, so you’ll want to balance this after careful discussion with your agent. By providing maximum access, agents are free to show your home to buyers of all kinds. They might even show the home to someone that’s just curious about it and has no intention or financial ability to buy it. Assuming your vacant home isn’t filled with priceless works of art and family heirlooms, I believe that maximum access results in the greatest likelihood of a successful sale. With that said, you and your agent should still take precautions to maintain the security of your property, for example, making sure access is limited to licensed agents with their clients, and by making sure the property is secured between showings. Ultimately, showings sell homes. The easier you make your home to show (within reason), the more showings you are likely to have. The more showings you have, the better your chances are of securing a strong buyer.

Providing Minimal Access

At the other extreme of the access spectrum we find numerous barriers between a would-be buyer and the seller’s home. Having to schedule showings far in advance and requiring potential buyers to provide a pre-approval or proof of funds prior seeing the property are two good examples. In contrast to the spontaneous showings for homes that didn’t require an appointment, I have also had other instances where a buyer I was working with didn’t view a property because they found the showing requirements too oppressive or inconvenient. When I am representing a seller, one thing I try to nurture is a positive, constructive relationship with the buyer and buyer’s agent. Restrictive or intrusive showing requirements can sometimes creative an adversarial tone from the outset, and that’s usually not conducive to a smooth sale. All of these factors can lead to squandered sales opportunities.

There is a time to keep access to your house highly restricted - while you are selling it is not usually that time.
There is a time to keep access to your house highly restricted – while you are selling it is not usually that time.

In the case of the two properties I started off discussing, the seller of the less accessible property required a lender pre-approval / proof of funds to do a showing. The seller also reportedly wanted to know personal details about the potential buyers to “screen” them. While buyers in many markets are accustomed to showing a pre-approval or proof of funds once with an offer or once in escrow, many find the prospect of doing so as a condition of showing downright invasive. There can be circumstances where strict showing requirements make sense. For example, a celebrity selling a home might screen out all but the most serious buyers by requiring proof of funds and careful vetting prior to showing a property. In more extreme cases, the seller might even require an accepted offer before showing the home in-person. For most “normal” home sales though, minimal access usually equates to minimal showings. And minimal showings usually isn’t a good thing when you’re trying to sell your home.

How Access Worked Out in this Case

The home with restrictive access was on the market for 141 days, with just a small handful of showings according to an agent I spoke with that had clients willing to run the pre-approval gauntlet for a showing. That’s in a market where most homes sell in well under 60 days. Despite superior views and superior view potential (both properties are on an ocean-view street), the property with less access languished on the market. Buyers in a market with properties selling briskly had to overcome the psychological barrier of “It’s been on the market for 4+ months and no one has bought it, it must have something wrong with it.” After almost half a year on the market, the less accessible property sold for $175,000-$200,000 LESS than its list price.

What happened with the easily accessible property? Within 11 days on the market, it had ten offers, some of which were over asking price. The accessible property sold for $165,000 OVER list price (with it selling for higher than the higher priced property was listed for). Granted, there are other variables involved here (the easy-access home was priced lower initially and was larger), however almost all of its view was also obliterated by a huge home next door. Given the superior views and view potential from the other property, these two homes made a great case study for accessibility to buyers. Similar homes, on the same street, on similar lots, listed in the same market at the same time. One seller made things easy for buyers and was rewarded by a multitude of offers and an a sales price well above what they were asking. The other did not and spent far more time on the market than necessary, and likely sold for a weaker sales price than it could of with better access.

While maximizing access isn’t always in a seller’s best interest, it’s an important conversation to have with your agent prior to listing your home. If you have questions about listing your home, please feel free to contact me via the form below. I work directly with clients in the San Diego area, and I can provide referrals to fantastic agents throughout the United States and worldwide through Sotheby’s International Realty.

marc lyman san diego realtor

About Marc Lyman

Marc Lyman grew up in Silicon Valley where he was exposed to the nuances of the real estate business at a young age. He graduated from UC San Diego in 1995 with a BA in Political Science and a minor in Psychology. His studies were followed by the launch of multiple businesses, including a popular online home publication. The latter has made Marc a sought-after media personality and home expert.