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.

19 0ffers and $40k over list-Fun getting the most for my seller

It’s been an exciting past few days.

This story begins one rainy Friday when I was on my way to a Radwood Car Show in Cleveland with my son. I got a text from a repeat client who I have become friends with. She tells me that her mother is going in assisted living and she wants me to sell her mother’s house.

After a few months, the house was ready to list. Unfortunately the market had really started to cool off since we first discussed the sale.

Full disclosure here…..I don’t think any realtor right now really knows how to price a house unless there are good comparable sales from the past 8 weeks. We usually look back 6 months for comparable sales. Six months ago the market was on fire. That market doesn’t exist today. Gone. Interest rates have nearly doubled. We are all, if we were to be honest with ourselves and the public, shooting from the hip on pricing right now. The market has changed so fast that we lack good data on pricing from this “New” market.

Since the absolute worst thing you can do in any market is to overprice a house, I suggested we put it on at a number I was 100% sure we could get and also expect multiple offers. That number was $185k. I was really hoping we might get multiple offers and I could drive the price up to maybe $200k but I didn’t tell this to my friend.

One investor heard about the upcoming listing and contacted me. I let him and his realtor show it the day before it hit the market. I told them that we wanted to expose the house to the market before deciding. They of course wrote a full price offer and wanted an immediate response. I told my seller that I was sure we could duplicate that offer from anybody since it was nothing special. She agreed.

I put the listing on the market very late Friday night. Immediately it started getting showing requests. By 9:AM the next morning, more than a dozen showings were scheduled. I spent all day Saturday, Sunday and Monday texting and talking to the 72 agents who had scheduled showings on this house. It was overwhelming.

Once the offers started coming it, I went to work on pushing the price up. With every new offer we got, I told the realtor if there was another offer with better terms for price, inspection type, financing type and closing date. The goal is to create the ideal terms for your seller by getting one buyer to change something on their offer so you can use that for leverage to get another buyer to change something.

We ended up with 19 offers. We had two cash ones that were very close (especially after I nudged each one of them to go higher to be competitive.) I think one of them figured out I was using their offer to push the other one up higher, and then come back to push them up again. This agent send me a Confidentiality Agreement. That is where one of the terms of their offer is that you can’t disclose any of their offer terms to anybody else. I won’t violate my integrity. In addition to experience, all I have to offer people is trust. I felt like both would go a little higher. What to do? How could I squeeze a little more money out of them for my elderly seller who needed it to live on? I decided to tell each of those two buyers they had the best offers and to send me their highest and best offer. They had one shot. The seller would pick the best one. This move ended up getting about another $4k for the seller.

In the end, the house sold for $225,750. Just over $40k more than the list price.

Here’s why you’re not winning in multiple offers

Some offers are better than others. Some people think it is all about who makes the highest offer but there are other things to take into consideration.

Here is the hierarchy of offers:

  1. Cash offer.
  2. Conventional loan with large down payment.
  3. Conventional loan with smaller down payment.
  4. FHA/VA loans. (Because the appraiser for these loan types does a minor assessment of the house. If the condition does not meet minimum standards set out for each loan type, the Seller HAS to do the repairs in order for the Buyer to get their loan.)
  5. Any loan with down payment assistance where there are two loans that have to go through two different underwriting guidelines.

Then there is the offer amount:

  1. Offer over list price.
  2. Offer list price.
  3. Offer less than list price.

Then there is the home inspection. Three choices there:

  1. No home inspection at all.
  2. Buyer does home inspection but won’t ask for repairs. Will either accept the house or walk away.
  3. Buyer wants to negotiate repairs with Seller.

Then there is the appriasal:

  1. Buyer will cover any possible gap between sale price and appraised value in cash.
  2. Buyer won’t cover any possible gap between sale price and appraised value in cash.

Then there is the Buyer’s lender:

  1. Buyer will use a local lender that every realtor knows does a good job.
  2. Buyer will use a non-local mortgage company.
  3. Buyer will use a local lender that every realtor knows preapproves any buyer with a pulse.
  4. Buyer will use a bank that begins with the letter C that everybody knows will be difficult to work with and that it is unlikely to close on time.

Then there is the closing date and when the buyer can move in the house:

  1. Buyer’s realtor found out when Sellers want to close and put that date on the offer.
  2. Buyer’s realtor doesn’t know to ask this and that it can really help make their client’s offer more attractive.

Then there are contingencies:

  1. Buyer has no contingencies.
  2. Buyer needs to close their old house first in order to buy the new one.
  3. Buyer needs to sell their old house first in order to buy the new one, meaning it currently may not be on the market and definitely doesn’t have a contract on it.

Then there are closing costs:

  1. Buyer will pay their own closing costs.
  2. Buyer needs Seller to pay some of their closing costs.
  3. Buyer needs Seller to pay all of their closing costs.

What are your numbers? If you are a 1 in all of these, go out and make your offer. You will probably get the house. If you are a low number in any of these, best of luck. If you are the bottom of any or all of these, then you are wasting your time. Sorry, but you are. You are not going to get a house making an offer less than list price with an FHA loan, wanting to negotiate repairs with the Seller and needing to close or sell your old house.

Now that you know all the things a listing realtor is thinking about when they process all the offers, do what you can to make your offer the best it can possibly be. If you are doing a conventional loan and think you are going up against other cash offers, maybe waive the home inspection and offer to let the seller stay in the house briefly after the closing? If you have to close on your old house to buy, make your offer the highest one they get (realize too that moving twice costs money and it might be cheaper to pay the most for a house verses paying to move twice, live somewhere temporarily and then look for another house which will have gone up in value while you wait.)

When I moved in 2012, I was up against 4 other offers. Two of them were cash. That was unheard of back then but common today. I knew I couldn’t compete with cash so I went a little over the list price, waived the home inspection and offered to let the Sellers rent back from me until they found their new house. This was appealing to them since they had not found their new house yet.

The worst thing you can do in multiple offers

This one always drives me crazy. There are a lot of bad things to do during multiple offers when you are the buyer’s realtor, but trying to rush the listing realtor is the worst.

What I mean here is where a realtor sends you over an offer and puts something like a 2 hour deadline for acceptance. I get it. Their goal in this is to make you hurry up and accept their offer before another offer comes in but I have NEVER seen it work in their interest. It usually backfires.

There are three reasons why:

  1. Do you know what happens once that short time frame for acceptance passes? The offer has technically expired. I don’t know about other realtors but the last thing I want is for the listing realtor to think the offer I sent is dead because the time has past. In this market, I usually do the opposite. I know listing realtors are wanting to get several offers and it is common for a seller to not even review all the offers until 2-3 days after the listing went live. I like to give them plenty of time. Why? Because I know I am not going to get them hurry up. They are going to do whatever they want and I want my client’s offer to be valid whenever it is presented. I also want to come across like we will be easy to work with.
  2. It makes the seller not like you. This is an even bigger one. Nobody likes pushy people. We don’t like it when somebody keeps pushing their grocery cart too close to us in the check out line. We don’t like tailgaters when driving. And in the hottest seller’s market in all of history, we sure don’t like it when buyers try to exert some pressure on us.
  3. It makes you question their commitment. I recently had this happen to me. I got a really good offer on a listing the first day on the market. I told the realtor, who was also the buyer, that we were planning on reviewing offers on the following Monday. She pointed out that she had given us a two hour window. I suggested she extend that until Monday. She fought back and said she didn’t know if she was still interested in the house if she couldn’t buy it that day. That tells me two things about her. She was either bluffing or was serious. Both are bad signs to me. If she was bluffing, it tells me she is going to try to manipulate us through the entire sale process. If she was not bluffing, she probably wasn’t totally in love with the house and there was a greater risk of her backing out of the sale before it closed. I told this to the sellers and they agreed that the only way we were gonna sell the house to her was if her offer was the only one we got. Fortunately we got 3 other offers and I was happy to tell her she didn’t get the house…….and I did it before her precious deadline.