Secrets of Swift Sales

by Rachel Kaufman
Published in Washington Post Express

BRANDON GREEN RESOLVED to try his hand at real estate after watching a late-night infomercial in 2000. Bored with his job in sales as an IT recruiter in Silver Spring, Green paid $19.95 for Carlton Sheets’s “No Down Payment” video, and applied himself. “My first project was a complete overhaul of a house, 727 11th Street, NE,” he recalls.

He financed his first purchase with a federal renovation loan. He flipped the Capitol Hill house for a tidy profit. He was 22, and he was hooked.

Brandon Green is now the principal broker at Brandon Green & Associates (; 2410 17th St. NW, Suite 200; 202-318-1623), a real estate firm affiliated with Keller Williams Realty in trendy Adams Morgan. Like the rest of the BGA staff, he’s young (31; the median age of real estate agents nationwide is 52) — and he Twitters. He counts his age and his tech saavy as an advantage.

“Many of my competitors are still strugging with e-mail.”

Brandon Green”We’re using Facebook very heavily,” Green says, “[and] LinkedIn. … Statistics show that the consumer expects a response [to an online question] within minutes. Not within hours, but within minutes.”

Clearly, the man is hustling to keep clients’ satisfied despite the recession. People are panicking, throwing property on the market and watching it sit for months. A sale takes 75 days on average, according to an estimate in November 2008, the most recent month for which statistics were available from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.

But this guy is still selling condos, many in Adams Morgan and Logan Circle.

“We’re actually up about 25 percent from where we were last year,” Green says. Part of his firm’s success comes from the team’s aggressive marketing approach — Green spends up to four hours per day calling prospective buyers and sellers.

Recruiting is only half the battle, however. At the end of the day, to make a buck, he still must actually sell the property.

Green sees his role as a seller’s teacher and advocate, “educating the seller on what is to be done to be successful. A lot of Realtors have not been upfront with people about how the market really is,” he says. “So, they list their house at a very high markup, and it doesn’t sell.”

Luckily, Green says, if your one-bedroom condo’s feeling a little too tight to hold you and Fido, you’re not trapped until 2010 or later — when some say the markets will finally turn around. It’s just going to be a little more challenging to sell.

We asked Green to spill some of the advice he gives to clients eager to help him sell their home.

You don’t need a huge budget
“The biggest thing we see is people have to do a lot of de-cluttering,” Green says. So, rent a storage unit, beg the in-laws for garage space, or give away whatever you can to make your place look empty. Clearing up need not cost a thing.

“You want to bring your house to the point where buyers walk in [and] they ask themselves, ‘Gosh, does anybody still live here?'” Green says. Cramming stuff into your closet doesn’t count. Besides, Green adds, “Do you want to pay to store and move all this stuff? Maybe now it’s time to get rid of it.”

Make small, inexpensive fixes
“One of the big rules is three items per surface — at most,” Green says. And look at small details: Make sure light-switch cover plates are consistent throughout; and check for light bulbs that don’t work, leaky faucets, off-kilter drawers and so on.

“De-personalize,” urges Realtor Magazine, the official magazine of the National Association of Realtors. Clear off the fridge, take down personal photos, and think twice about displaying your stamp/action figure/antique gas lamp collection in the open.

Clean thoroughly — then think about cleaning even more
“Complete that to-do list that’s been sitting on your kitchen counter for the last year and a half,” Green says. Consider new paint, new carpet and new light fixtures. Clean everything. And, Green adds, make sure the unit is easy for buyers to see.

“No appointments necessary — or [be available at] extremely short notice,” Green says. “No babies napping. If you have a pet, it’s best to move the pet out. In many cases, that’s best for the pet, too.”

Devote time (and maybe money) to the project
How long does all this work take? “A week minimum in most cases, and that’s working pretty aggressively,” says Green.

And — wait, don’t gasp — “It could easily cost $10,000 to bring the property up to sellable condition.” Staging and repairs add up. But if your condo’s going for $400,000, it might be worthwhile to invest 2 percent of the asking price back into the place.

“You used to be able to put a house on the market in any condition, and, gosh, that is not the case now. When there are so many selections,” Green says, “[a buyer] needs to come into a place and think, ‘I could feel good here.'”

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