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If you are a Mad Men fan, then you know Don Draper went in for the product pitch fully prepared. He learned as much as he could about the product he was being interviewed to market, and he researched how to best appeal to the most likely buyers. Don’t forget that your home is also a product. You need to identify the strength of the market, the target buyer, and the best way to approach and appeal to that buyer. Much can be learned by utilizing some simple tools Mad Men style to position your home correctly in the marketplace. So here we go!

Like bringing any other product to the market, first we do a market analysis. We price your home right by looking at the comparables that have sold recently in a close radius – that’s looking at what has already SOLD. We also determine how much inventory is currently in your price range, how long it may take to sell, and what our competition looks like. We must keep in mind, of course, that there are many buyers who will look beyond a “close radius” of your home. For instance, a buyer may be looking in Decatur AND in Dunwoody – in Inman Park AND in Sandy Springs. While a prequalified buyer will know what they can afford, they may NOT have decided exactly where they want to live. But we do not let that overwhelm us. We start with what’s closest, since that is most immediately relevant. And we keep in mind that pricing and marketing homes is as much an ART as it is a SCIENCE.

One of the key indicators we look at is the ABSORPTION RATE in your particular market. Many sellers make the mistake of pricing their home relative to other homes that are CURRENTLY presented for sale. The problem with that is that the other homes currently on the market HAVE NOT SOLD (by definition). So if you price relative to current listings, and those homes aren’t moving, you may be overpricing, even IF you are priced less than the others.

So the absorption rate is one tool that allows us to look back at the homes that HAVE sold and how quickly they have sold. Here is what you need in order to calculate absorption rate:

  1. The market you wish to analyze. This can be one specific neighborhood or a larger area.
  2. The time period you want to analyze (typically we’ll take six months, sometimes longer).
  3. The number of homes SOLD within that time frame.
  4. The number of homes currently under contract or PENDING sale.
  5. The number of homes currently on the market.

So, by way of example, let’s take Chastain Park as of June 2016. First, know that to truly get an accurate absorption rate you sometimes need to do a specific map search. There are several reasons for this. For instance, Chastain Park is a prestigious area so some listings may claim to be in Chastain Park when they really are not. Also, there are neighborhoods within Chastain Park that are named differently – so the neighborhood name might be used in the listing instead of “Chastain Park.” So using a map search will give us the most accurate information.  And using a map search, we find that 134 homes have sold in Chastain Park in the last year. There are 27 homes that are “pending sale” or “under contract.” And there are 99 current active listings.  So what does this tell us?  Here are the calculations:

  • What is the rate of home sales in Chastain Park? We take the number of sold homes and pending homes added together, (134 plus 27 = 161), divided by the number of months in our chosen past time frame (here we will use a year, or 12 months). This calculation results in 13.41 (161 divided by 12), meaning that 13 (and almost a half) homes are sold every month in Chastain Park.
  • We can figure out the absorption rate by taking the active listings and dividing that by the average number of listings which sell per month. Thus, we get active listings = 99, divided by the average home sales per month (13.41), which equals 7.38 months. That means that if no other homes came on the market, it would take 7.38 months to sell the inventory that we have.

A BALANCED absorption rate is generally between 5 and 7 months. By balanced, we mean a market that’s balanced between buyers and sellers; neither holds a particular advantage in a “balanced market.” Less than five months is a seller’s market (meaning better for sellers), more than seven is a buyer’s market. So we’re in a little bit of a buyer’s market in Chastain Park at this particular moment in time. This is an important piece of information which tells us in part that it’s important to price competitively.

Once we have figured out the absorption rate and how quickly homes are moving, we ask: who is the likely buyer for your home? First time homebuyer? Move up executive who is now making a lot more money and ready for a showcase home to entertain clients? A downsizing widow? A couple planning to have children? You get the idea. To figure this out, we look at the types of buyers who have purchased homes like yours in the same general area. While we want to have as broad an appeal as possible (at least as to those homebuyers who can afford homes in your price range), it doesn’t hurt to also have a good idea of who the “most likely” buyer might be, and to develop a plan to target them in our marketing efforts.

Keeping the likely buyer in mind, we stage carefully. Many of our staging rules apply no matter who the audience, but we also tailor our staging to the likely buyer, the style of the house, the neighborhood and the season. The marketing plan extends to photography as well. If our target buyer is one likely to enjoy the outdoors, we play that up in photographs. If our buyer is likely to entertain in the evenings, we may take some of our photographs at night. Nowadays we often also use drone photography to showcase a particularly large lot or extensive home, a pool, or outdoor area.

After years in the business, I have become expert in marketing homes, but I always also get the input of other agents. We invite other agents into your home to get feedback on our planned approach to appeal to buyers. We often make adjustments based on that feedback.  These agent previews provide a sort of “focus group” intelligence that helps us make your home most appealing to the buyers who come through.

Once we are in the marketplace as a live listing, the adjustments never stop until your home is sold. If buyers aren’t seeing the home, we want to know why. If buyers see the home and aren’t making an offer, we also want to know why. It’s important to have continual and honest feedback until your home is sold. As a seller, you must have a tough skin and take all feedback in stride. As your agent, I will gather the feedback and let you know what I believe is valid and what is not. It’s difficult to have strangers “critiquing” your home. But know the critique is really a critique of the marketing of the home, and not of the way you live. Put on your Don Draper hat and think of it as simply more market intelligence. Together we can determine the best marketing plan and get your home sold!


Mary Anne Walser is a licensed attorney and full-time REALTOR, serving buyers and sellers in all areas of Metro Atlanta. Her knowledge of residential real estate and her legal expertise allow her to offer great value to her clients. Mary Anne is a member of the Atlanta Board of Realtors, the Georgia Association of Realtors, the State Bar of Georgia and the Georgia Association of Women Lawyers. Contact Mary Anne at 404-277-3527, or via email: maryannesellshomes@gmail.com.