I’ve been at this for a long time. I’ve sold a lot of houses. In a good market. In a bad market. In Lexington. Outside of Lexington. In neighborhoods. In the country.
Want to know the houses that are the absolute hardest to sell?
The ones that are partially updated.
You would think that a buyer would view a house that has some parts really nice to be a big bonus. They don’t. The nice part of the house just makes the rest of the house look worse to a buyer. Too much contrast between the nice and the average bits of the house.
Who comes to see these houses?
- The buyer who sees the nice new stuff in the pictures. They get excited but almost always say that the rest of the house needs too much work.
- The buyer who see the part of the house that needs updated. They get excited because they want to renovate the rest of the house, but not give any credit for the work that has been done……meaning they want it for free.
- All the other buyers who come mainly because it meets some or all of their search criteria. They don’t buy it because they say it needs too much work.
What you have to do with a house like this is try to make the non-updated bits look as good as possible. You want to minimize that contrast. You don’t want the buyer to walk in one room and be unhappy, then walk in the next and fall in love, then walk in the next and be unhappy. The goal is to make them at least feel neutral, then love, then neutral as they walk through the house. Less contrast is good.
You also have to really emphasis the other features of the house, hoping that the right buyer will see all the other pluses and feel like they can live with the house like it is or take on the updating. If the house is the best bargain in the neighborhood, walking distance to trendy places, has a park nearby, a desirable school district, is the most square footage for the money…..whatever the house excels at, and all houses have something unique, that is what you want to emphasize. Anybody looking for one or more of those unique features is usually the one who buys the house. Why? Because they don’t have as many choices
Here is my latest ride. It might look familiar to you because I’m standing beside a similar car in the picture on my blog, but they only look alike. This one has a different engine, transmission and suspension.
My youngest son found it. It was going to be a project both my boys could work on and then they sell for a little profit. That plan changed when I drove this broken down 17-year-old car home from western Tennessee last fall. I knew I wanted to keep it and I knew that I wanted to rescue it from becoming a parts car. So I bought it from my boys.
I really liked the lighter blue one I use to have, but I LOVE this one.
Because the way it feels while driving it.
When people ask me why I like it so much, I don’t quote the weight of the car, I say it is very agile. I don’t mention the steering ratio, I say the steering feels lightening quick. I don’t tell people about the high flow throttle body and cold air intake, I say the engine sound is intoxicating.
I try to do the same thing when I list a house.
A home is much more than some cold list of features.
When I describe a house, I want to convey the vibe of the place. I want people to get a feeling about what the house is like as they read my description and see my pictures.
How do I know buyers think like I do about my car? Because I have never heard anybody describe a house they love by quoting the square footage, bathroom count or other features. They always tell me how all those things make them feel.
Oh, and like a lot of real estate pictures, my car looks better online that it does in person.
Yep. I really said that. Those Google earth type tours where you click arrows to navigate around the entire house are a bad idea.
I know they are cool. On trend, just like Pokemon Go was last summer. Soon, they will be as flat as the last sip of a soft drink.
Why do I think they are a bad idea? It all boils down to the point of showing a listing online. The goal is NOT to sell the house. The goal of marketing a listing is to sell a SHOWING.
Pause and let that sink in.
I think we can all agree that buyers are looking at listings right now on their phone. What are they doing? They are deciding if they like the house enough to come see it in person. You know what happens when they see something they don’t like? They don’t come see it in person….I guess these 3-D tours are good for a buyer. Saves them a lot of time when they decide not to come see a house because they saw all of it and didn’t like something. If you are the seller, does this make you feel good? Wouldn’t you rather have a buyer come see your house in person before ruling it out based on an unflattering angle they saw on their phone?
The cold, hard truth is that these tours are the latest thing in a long line of products designed to be sold to realtors with the promise that it will help them get listings. In the 12 years I have been a realtor, I have seen several trends come and go: The number on the sign you call for a recorded message about the house, the Virtual Tours (which were the same pictures, just zooming in and out with music) and QR codes. All of those were gimmicky, but did not potentially prevent a buyer from coming to see your house.
And you know what, they aren’t even really 3-D.
This is a house I put on the market late Friday evening. I own it with a friend. It is fixed up pretty nice, which is why we had over 25 showings scheduled. We got 7 offers on it. We had two more interested buyers, but when I told their agents we had multiple offers, they didn’t want to join the bidding war.
You’d think it would be an easy thing….picking which one to accept. There is so much more to an offer than just the one with the highest sale price.
The lowest offer was way under the asking price and the buyer wanted us to pay $4200 of their closing costs. When 4 of the 7 offers came in over the list price, that one was rejected with a good laugh. I am glad I got it because I used it to force the next buyer into bringing their highest and best offer.
I had priced the house competitively. I knew that there was not much on the market. I knew we had done a really good job making the house appealing. What I didn’t know was how many buyers there would be. You don’t know that until you list it and watch it unfold in real time.
Most sellers would be thrilled to have offers over the list price. While I was excited, I was also thinking about the appraisal. Anybody doing any type of loan will need to do an appraisal. And I wanted an offer that would result in a CLOSING! All of the loan types the buyers were doing made me nervous about the appraisal. Plus, most of them wanted us to pay their closing costs too.
So, I really wanted a conventional loan buyer. Since we were over the list price already, I wanted somebody who did not need us to pay any of their closing costs. The closing cost issue was a really big deal. Why? because if the house only appraises for the original list price of $138,750 and the buyer needed $3000 in closing costs paid by us, we would only net $135,750. If we have to reduce the sale price to match the appraised value, I don’t want to also deduct the buyer’s closing costs from that value too.
Fortunately the house was so nice that I knew all I had to do was wait until the right offer came in. Once it did, we accepted it.
This is one of many things I take into consideration for my clients. It was fun to do it for myself this time!
There are two kinds of listing:
- The listings that are so desirable based on price/condition/location that EVERY buyer currently in the market wants it.
- All the other listings.
If you have one of those houses that makes people hear angels sing as soon as they walk through the door, are in an extremely desirable neighborhood, have priced your house to sell, or any combination of all that, congrats, your house will sell quickly any time of the year. You have nothing to be worried about. Spring is good. Summer is good. Fall is good. And yes, winter is good too.
If your house isn’t one of those, then you need to tweak everything you can if you want the coveted “SOLD” sign in your front yard. You have what I call the Bridesmaid house because you know that saying, right?
Every year, people ask whether they should wait to list, or take their house off the market until spring. My answer has always been no.
Because if you have a Bridesmaid house, there is always going to be a better house on the market all other times of the year. I see it happen all the time. A listing that is always the buyer’s second or third choice stays a second or third choice as long as those better houses keep coming on the market in the spring, summer and fall.
In the winter, there are far fewer buyers but there are also far fewer great listings. Winter buyers typically have to settle for what is left over from the fall. Picture this…..you’re at a Chinese buffet for lunch. It’s 12:55. There is one greasy looking Crab Rangoon. All the General Zhao’s Chicken left are those thin, hard looking pieces that you think are really cat meat. You are the only one at the buffet and nothing looks good. Then, somebody comes out from the kitchen with some fresh food. Even if it is just Pork Lo Mein, you eat it because it is the best thing available.
That is how the winter market works.
So, if you are ready to sell your house now, there is no need to wait until spring. If you have been on the market without an offer, now really is your best shot at selling.