How every Buyer picks their house

I often get a Buyer who gives me a very long detailed list of all the features they want in a house. It’s usually things like how many bedrooms, bathrooms, what type of floor plan, what type of kitchen cabinets or flooring they must have.

Then they buy something totally different from what they described?

Why is that?

It is because people pick the home they ultimately purchase based on how they feel while inside a house. It’s the vibe the house gives them. It is an emotional decision.

When I work with a Buyer, I try to notice how they respond to a house. Did they tell me it was too dark inside? Did they think the yard was too bare and needed more trees? Was the backyard not private enough? Did they not like the floor plan and why? Or did they even care about any of this?

These are the type of things people use when making their decision. If a Buyer feels groovy inside the house, they can overlook items such as not having a pantry, not having the flooring they prefer, or if it is missing one of those specific features they said they could not live without. In houses they feel good about, they say things like “We could always change the counter tops later.”

All of which is why I try to create that vibe when I list a house. Buyers also respond to colors, decor, cleanliness and clutter. You can have the most amazing house but if you have wild paint choices, it is going to be harder to sell. Why is that? Truth be told, few of us have vision. We ALL think we do but trust me, there have been so many times where I have told a Buyer that all a house needs is a fresh coat of their choice of paint and they don’t see it. Or I’ll say imagine this house with the flooring you want and they can’t see it. Or maybe I’ll say “Those cabinets could be painted and that mauve counter top could easily be replaced.” And even worse is a cluttered or dirty house. Nobody can imagine what it would look like in better shape.

So the lesson here for Sellers is that you need to make your house feel a certain way for a Buyer to fall in love with it. Another important thing to keep in mind is that people who totally fall in love with your house will pay the most since it is an emotional response and not a logical one.

How can a Seller do this?

The most crucial and obvious ones are to declutter and clean. Not to your standards but to the Buyer’s standards. Then think about how your house looks. Think about how Buyers will tour your house. Ever been in a Builder’s model home? Next time you go in one, notice that there is just enough furniture to make the space feel good. You want your furnishings to compliment the space, not fill it. You will notice that the furniture often has narrow legs and you can see more of the floor. Seeing more of the floor always makes a space feel larger. There is thought about how people will walk around a space. You don’t want to block parts of the room off with furniture nor do you want to make pathways seem narrow. Those things create the vibe that the house is small. Buyers get that same vibe from this as you do when you’re stuck in a traffic jam.

Something else you do NOT want to do is have Buyers leaving the showing with a To-Do list of repairs. If you have unfinished projects, finish them. If you have a stain on your ceiling from a repaired leak, paint it. Buyers will respond to those things logically instead of emotionally. They begin to think about what it would cost to repair it, and they usually estimate high. You want your buyer to leave your house thinking only about how wonderful their lives will be in your house and how they need to rush home and sign an offer.

Having a hard time selling your house?

Now that we have returned to a much more normal market after a brief period of utter craziness, it’s time for a refresher course on what to do if your house didn’t immediately sell.

Real estate has always been about price, location and condition. All three of these must be in balance for a house to sell. Since you can’t change the location of a house, all you can control is the condition and price.

Here is what over 17 years of experience in good, bad, terrible, average, great and crazy markets have taught me:

When you get lots of showing but no offers

This usually means that buyers think the price is realistic based on what they see online so they schedule a showing and come check out your house. If you don’t get any offers, that means their expectation did not match the reality of the house. Sometimes this can be caused by having pictures that make the house appear to be in better condition than it is, bad curb appeal of the surrounding properties, or some negative thing omitted from the listing that buyers won’t discover until they get there. 99% of the time it is just because the house didn’t “Wow” the buyers in person as much as it did online.

An old school rule of thumb is that when you have had 10 showings and no offers, it is time to reduce the price. Sometimes if the feedback from showings is all the same, you can keep your old price and improve whatever negative thing buyers mentioned. I usually prefer a price reduction because often you can spend money correcting that one big negative only to have subsequent buyers find the next big negative. There is nothing more frustrating than spending money solving a problem only to later discover you’ve got another one to solve.

When you are not getting any showings at all

Usually when this happens it is because buyers know the price is way too high and don’t even bother to come see the house. Occasionally buyers can overlook your house if the presentation of the listing was terrible but I don’t see that happen often. Sometimes it can be because you’ve got too much junk all over the house and the pictures, while good, just show a cluttered mess. The thing to do here is reduce the price to be competitive with similar houses buyers may also be considering. Something that is hard for sellers to understand is that buyers are looking at more houses than just their home. To a seller, their home is all they are thinking about. To a buyer, it is just one of several homes they can buy. Buyers have options now. You’ve got to make your house become their first choice if you want to sell.

Over the past 17 years, I have seen sellers refuse to reduce their price or do anything to make their home more appealing to buyers. They usually think the issue is with their realtor…..if only the realtor would do more open houses, if only the realtor would advertise the house, if only the realtor had glossy brochures inside the house for buyers to take home. These sellers usually let the listing expire then pick a new realtor. It is at this time that the new realtor suggest dropping the price. It is also at this time that the seller cooperates. And guess what, with a lower price, the house sells.

Selling a house is not rocket science. All you are trying to do is make your house a buyer’s first choice. Back in 2009-2011 when the market was the worst ever, I would sell houses the first day on the market and have multiple offers. Many people thought I had a magic wand back then. I put the same effort in all my listings. It wasn’t me. It was my sellers. They were realistic and took my advice.

How a Seller can protect themselves in a Seller’s Market

What?

It’s their market. Why would they need to do anything? Aren’t they the ones holding all the cards?

Yes, they are. However just because it is their time right now doesn’t mean they don’t need to do things to ensure they got the best terms possible and had a smooth transaction.

So here we go!

DO NOT SELL YOUR HOUSE OFF MARKET-I know this is very popular right now and us realtors love it because it is easier. It has become sort of a status symbol. Sellers feel like their house was more exclusive that it was. Buyers feel like they got an invitation to the after party. It isn’t a good idea though. The market is crazy right now. Buyers are tired of making offers that don’t get accepted. They want a house. I have seen numerous times where I will get multiple offers on a house and one buyer will go way over the list price to get it. Let’s say you get five offers. Four of them are pretty much the same and then there’s one that is waaaaay better. Come to find out, they had lost several houses and were just tired of it. Their attitude was that they were not going to lose another one again. Long story short, you never know what your house is going to sell for until you expose it to the market.

DON’T TAKE THE FIRST GOOD OFFER-There is no question that if you have a decent house and don’t overshoot the value with the list price, you are going to get multiple offers. Too often I see sellers in a rush to accept one. They know it is a sellers market but since they don’t buy or sell houses all that often, they are afraid of losing a buyer. It is up to their realtor to let them know that the buyer is not going to suddenly rescind their offer if it is not accepted within a few hours of receiving it. The only time you want to be in a hurry to accept an offer these days is when it is the ONLY offer you got. I think it is best to give the market at least 24 hours to see the house and let everybody know the cutoff for sending offers. That deadline implies you have multiple offers even if you don’t and makes buyers in a rush to decide if they want the house.

DON’T SELL THE HOUSE “BY OWNER’-I know this one sounds self serving. The temptation to save paying real estate commissions is appealing for sure. I see more for sale by owner sellers having deals fall apart or selling for less than they could have gotten for their house. This could be an entire blog series so I will just skim the top. To begin with, few sellers take good pictures of their houses. That makes people less interested in seeing it. Then they can usually only show the house when they are available. That means fewer showings. Then they don’t leave for showings. Buyers ALWAYS feel awkward when a seller doesn’t leave. They think they need to be in a hurry or can’t open closet doors. They feel like they are invading the sellers personal space. Even worse are the sellers who want to lead you around and tell you unimportant details about their home like telling you what the kitchen looked like before remodeling it. Newsflash, painting a picture in the buyer’s head of the old ugly kitchen does not help to sell your house. Then they go with the highest offer, which on the surface sounds good, but the buyer has to sell their old house first and they were preapproved by “By-Pass Mortgage and Bait Shop” which is located somewhere in Arkansas. Then they feel like they shouldn’t do any home inspection repairs since they have been living there and that leaking roof has never bothered them. In the end, few for sale by owner sellers know if the offer they have is the best one and if it is likely to close. They often kill their own sales since they don’t know what they are doing.

ALWAYS ASK FOR THE TERMS YOU WANT, EVEN IF IT WASN’T IN THE OFFER-If you have several offers, try to combine the terms you like from all of them. Sometimes it works. Let’s say you like the price of one offer, the closing date of another, the possession date of another, and the inspection type of another. What you do is pick the one that you think has the best chance of closing (cash or preapproved with a lender your realtor knows is good, bigger down payment, etc.) Then you see if that buyer can match the other terms you like. You might say to the buyer’s agent that you really want to work with their buyer but you also would like to close on such and such date like one of the other offers you got, and that you’d like the buyer to not do a home inspection like one of the other offers you got. It is a friendly way of letting them know that while you like them the best, you might just go with another buyer who has already agreed to those terms. My experience is that most of the time a buyer is more than willing to alter a closing date, possession date and possibly change their inspection type to get the house.

Something I wish sellers understood

It happens a lot with sellers.

They have a house that isn’t getting much attention from buyers.  It could be due to price, an odd feature of the house, the time of year, competition from new construction, or anything really.  They get a lot of showings and all of the feedback is the same, resulting in no offers.

Then all of the sudden they start getting more and more showings.  Buyers seem more interested in the house than they have been, but still no offers.

The seller finds this time exciting.  They are thinking “Wow, with all these new showings and better feedback, surely my house is about to sell!!!!!

Sellers assume this will last forever but it is a temporary thing.  It lasts until other sellers with better houses put their homes on the market.

And here is the lesson to be learned:  The market changes every time a house sells and every time there is a new listing.  Once the best house in it’s price range sells, it makes every other house look just a little bit better.  That is why your house that hasn’t been that interesting to buyers is all the sudden on their radar.  Once a new listing hits the market, it has to fit into the hierarchy of all the houses available.   If you have one of the better houses for sale, then a house better than your house hits the market, it makes buyers less interested in your house.

When you find the market has it’s eye on your house and you still haven’t gotten any offers, the best thing to do is reduce the price while you have the attention.  If you wait, most likely what is going to happen is the market will move on to other houses and you will be right back where you were.

When everything is right and it still doesn’t sell

It can happen.  I am not going to be one of those agents that pretends all my houses sell fast, like I am some sort of magician.   A lot of selling a house has to do with….the house and the market.  I put the same effort into all my listings.  Most sell quickly, even when the market was terrible.  Sometimes though, a house struggles to find a buyer, even when you’ve done everything correctly and the price is right.

Here are some reasons:

  1.  Too much competition.  If there are like 50+ houses competing for a buyer and all are pretty darn nice and equal to each other, you’re waiting for the right buyer who likes your house just a bit better than the rest.  I am seeing this a lot in a few towns surrounding Lexington where there are a ton of new construction homes.
  2. Bad timing.  Usually the market slows down when school starts in the fall.  The week that school starts is usually really slow because everybody with kids is getting ready for the school year and wants to enjoy that first weekend.  If your house is in a neighborhood with a very popular school district, you may have missed most of your buyers and are waiting for somebody to move during the school year.
  3. There are no buyers….at the moment.  I see this one occasionally.  Sometimes in a certain neighborhood or price range, there just aren’t any active buyers.  This is like fishing when you have the right rod and bait, but there just aren’t any fish there.    I had a listing in a neighborhood of $450-600k houses a while back.  I put my listing on in the late winter.  It got a few showings.  Over the next 6 months there were about 8 houses that also were not selling in this small neighborhood.  It got so bad that all of the agents got together and did a neighborhood open house to try to get some attention for our listings.  Of course, it was a total waste of time and energy because none of them sold any time soon.  It was much later in the year when several of them began to sell left and right.  It wasn’t the neighborhood’s fault.  It wasn’t the fault of all the listing realtors.  All of the houses were priced right.  There were just no buyers at that time and the sellers had to wait for them to enter the market.