Why a price reduction is usually better

I practically wrote this post in my head last night.  I woke up just before 3 and never really went back to sleep.  Then riiiight when I was about to fall asleep, the dog barked at 5:AM and wanted to go out.

As I was lying there, hoping to fall asleep, I got to thinking about those houses that get the same negative feedback from showings and how sellers sometimes respond.

Let’s say a house is getting showings but no offers.  The feedback you get is something such as the buyer didn’t like the kitchen.  The kitchen is plain.

I often get asked by my sellers if they should do something like spend money getting granite.  I probably disappoint them because I usually say it isn’t a good idea.  It is better to reduce the price.

To a seller, this one thing is what appears to be holding back the sale so it only makes sense to remove the negative that has been a common thread in the feedback.

Having done this for a while, I know how it works.

See, the buyer walks in the house hoping it is THE one.  They look around until there is something they cannot live with.  Once they have made the decision that they will not be making an offer, they quit looking at the house.  Sure, they may walk around the rest of the house but they don’t really think about it any more because they know it isn’t the one.  They’ve checked out.

Then you get the feedback that they didn’t like that certain feature.

You spend a lot of time and money fixing that feature.  You turn that frown upside down.  You get a new batch of showings expecting it to sell because well, you’ve resolved the only problem previous buyers had with the house…..then you get feedback and there is a NEW problem.

See, what happened is that the buyers got past whatever problem you fixed.  You did a good job.  They kept looking at the house with serious buyer eyes.  They made it further into the showing this time before the next big negative became the issue.

IF that happens, then you’ve really wasted the money you spent because now your house isn’t selling for some other reason.  That is why I think it is safer to reduce the price verses spending a lot of money.

There has only been one time in the past 12 years where I was wrong on this.  I gave my client this same advice that you have read.  She insisted on getting granite.  LOL, the very next buyer bought the house……So if you’re reading this Tammy M, I hope I have made your day!

 

The hardest houses to sell

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.

Why?

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?

  1.  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.
  2. 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.
  3.  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

Why isn’t that house selling? I thought it was a HOT market?

You’d think in a time where there are not a lot of houses on the market, buyers would be less picky.

Not the case at all.

Back when the market and economy were bad, few people were updating or renovating their homes.  I mean, why would they when they didn’t know if they were going to remain gainfully employed as they watched the value of their home decrease?

Flash forward a few years and people are feeling great about the economy, home values have gone up, all is swell.  After all those years of watching HGTV, it’s time to pull out some cash on a refi or HELOC and spend spend spend.

Not so long ago, most of the houses for sale were just very ho-hum.

Now it seems like most of the houses I show have been updated or extensively renovated…..cooler, lighter colors, lots of white cabinets.  Marble and quartz have replaced granite.

So where does that leave the house that needs paint, flooring, has too much travertine or has that Tuscan vibe that was so popular earlier this century?  It leaves them sitting on the market, collecting dust each and every day as they get overlooked online.  The ones in more desirable neighborhoods do better because a good location can make a buyer more forgiving.

You’d think in a time where there are not a lot of houses on the market, buyers would be less picky.

Not the case at all.

A fun way to lose $100k

I had a client ask me about a gorgeously renovated house in South Lexington the other day.  It looked like something right out of HGTV.

What was the problem?

It was easily $100k more than anything in that neighborhood.  It was around $350k in a neighborhood of $180-225k houses.

It was too risky.

Now, it could be this was the first house to be totally renovated and many more will follow in this neighborhood.  Or it could forever remain the one house that doesn’t really fit in.  Only somebody with a crystal ball could tell.  For now, I think it is too risky to be that first person to pay waaaaay more than what any house in the neighborhood is worth.  If this isn’t the next “Up and coming” neighborhood, then the buyer for this house will find that in 10 years, nobody wants the 2017 trendy finishes they paid an extra $100k to have.  It will just be another outdated home in the neighborhood and no longer the best one……and will be worth about $180-225k adjusted to inflation.

The 3rd real estate word I created

One of the toughest things about being a realtor is when you make friends with somebody who buys a house from you, then they move out of town.

Phil and his wife were referred to me from their agent when they moved to Lexington.  He had taken a job here and commuting from out of state was not an option.

I had a really good time looking at houses with them.  They were a lot of fun.  We laughed.  It didn’t even feel like work to me.  It was like hanging out with old friends.

Several times a year, Phil and I try to find the best Chinese buffet in town.  We haven’t really found an amazing buffet, but we sure can tell you where not to go for lunch.

Well, Phil is just too good at what he does and now it is time to move on to bigger and better things that are not in Lexington.  Time to sell their house.

I went over to check it out earlier this week.  It was good to see what all they have done to the place.  I had forgotten a lot of details about the house, but I quickly saw why they picked it.  Back then, he had a choice of many houses in that price range.  Today, there might be 20 houses on that side of town in this price range.  I always like to make sure my people get a house that will be a buyer’s top choice even in a bad market.  We won’t have any trouble selling it.

Anyway, as I was looking at their hall bathroom, I said that the tile floor was “Decade Neutral.”  He got a good laugh, said that would make a good blog post, and here we are.

Decade Neutral I guess is my new term for those finishes that are hard to tell when they were done.  His house had 12 by 12 beige tile with a light but not white grout.  Who knows when it was installed.  It could have been the 70s.  Could have been the 80s.  Could have been last week?  It is decade……neutral!

When people ask me about updating their house, I usually suggest things like this.  It is no fun to rip out trendy tile once there is a new trend.  His tile is like a pair of jeans or khaki pants.  It goes with everything and is timeless.

Some other things that are Decade Neutral are:

  1. Hardwood floors.  Not the prefinished kind.  The kind that gets stained and polyed on site.  The Goldilocks kind because it is not too wide and not too narrow. It is just right.  The kind you see in houses from every decade since houses have been built.
  2.  Crown molding.  I’ve never had anybody tell me that they would have to update crown molding.
  3. Recessed lighting.  The beauty of recessed lighting is, well, that you DON’T SEE IT.  (Ok, I guess they did make some a long time ago that had a mirrored gold ring around it…but you can buy covers for THAT kind now.)
  4. Chrome faucets.  While they are more minivan than “Sexy Black Dress”, they get the job done and nobody is appalled to see them in a house.
  5.  Tall ceilings.  Sure, the 2 story foyer isn’t as popular any more, but nobody has ever said they wished the ceiling in the family room was shorter.

That is all I have for now.  I’m gonna miss Phil, but I sure wish him all the success he in due in his new job.  He’ll do great!

Oh, and the other real estate terms I created are “Move out ready” and “Reach-in closet.”  Move out ready is when a vacant house looks like the seller left in a hurry.  It has crumbs in the fridge, you can see the impression on the carpet where the couch was, and there are nail holes in every wall.  A “Reach-in closet” is any closet that isn’t a walk-in.