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!


Winter really IS the best time to sell

There are two kinds of listing:

  1.  The listings that are so desirable based on price/condition/location that EVERY buyer currently in the market wants it.
  2. 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.


Good deals in a seller’s market? (Depends on the seller)

The market isn’t hot enough for buyers to accept two things:

  1.  A nasty house.
  2. An over ambitious asking price.

If your house is nasty, no buyer is going to be able to imagine themselves in it.  I’m talking if it is dirty, messy, desperately needs paint or stinks.   Trust me, buyers just want to exit a house like this.  Even if you slashed the price in half, I bet most of the buyers would still say no.

I recently sold a nasty house.  It had been on the market for quite some time.  It was in a desirable neighborhood and actually priced right.  It has more updates than most in this nice neighborhood.  Problem?  It smells like dogs and has one of the nastiest bathrooms I have ever seen in a house for sale.  It was hard to get excited about the expensive tile in the remodeled bathroom when there was urine and hair all over the toilet.  Sorry to be so graphic…..I have a picture but decided not to include it, so I am holding back a little for those with weak stomachs.

My buyer is one of the rare people who can see past that and is getting a super nice house for a really fair price.  Added bonus:  It was one of the few times recently that I haven’t been in multiple offers with a buyer.  The house was so nasty that my client called me after the home inspection asking if I thought the seller was going to clean it when they moved out.  He just met with a home inspector and heard everything wrong with the house and the thing that was on his mind the most was how dirty it was.

Moving on, the next item is the overly ambitious list price.  A client bought a house for $400k that had been listed originally at $445k.  Nice house, just not a $445k house.  Maybe $410-415k based on the comps.  LOL, the way the market is going, it might be worth that now!  Anyway, it was reduced, reduced and reduced again.  By the time 170+ days had passed, it wasn’t on anybody’s radar.  Nobody cared?  Buyers today are focused on new listings.  If a house doesn’t catch their attention on Day 1, few will go back and reconsider a house.  They’d rather wait for tomorrow’s new listings.

My client actually passed on this house two times, then came back to it.  They were worried because it had not sold.  In today’s market, 6 months is an eternity of buyer’s saying “No” to a house.  Ironically, a house two doors down just sold for $405k the first day on the market.  It was 1200 square feet smaller and had a marginally more updated master bathroom.

While it is one of the hottest seller’s market ever, not all houses are selling immediately in multiple offers.  I always encourage buyers to seek out these good houses that are being held back by the sellers.  You can avoid multiple offers and get a good deal, even in a seller’s market.  My buyer with the nasty house might pay $400 to have it professionally cleaned but saved much more than that.  My buyer who made a reasonable offer on an overpriced listing didn’t have to immediately make a decision to buy it since there were no other buyer’s around.  It felt like a buyer’s market to them.

Picked my listing to buy sight-unseen…..WHY?

I’ve always told people the goal of a listing’s pictures and marketing remarks was to sell a showing, not to sell a house.  LOL, looks like I have been a little wrong because I just had one of my listings sell to a buyer who has NEVER SEEN THE HOUSE.

The buyer is from out of town and only based his purchase decision on pictures and marketing remarks.  I had plenty of professional pictures.  Besides putting comments with each picture, this is what I said about the house:

” Ok, so I’m with the photographer getting pictures for this house, and you know what I’m thinking about? I’m thinking about how easy it would be to live here. This one isn’t just about good looks & move in ready condition. I can really see you living here & appreciating the seldom seen features that you would grow to appreciate more & more. Like what? Look at the kitchen. Count the cabinets. Not only a lot of them, but you’ve got drawers for big pots & sheet pans. Eating? Options are the island, the breakfast area or the dining room that offers a panoramic view of the whole first floor. Big Laundry room. HUGE bedroom upstairs that could really be used for anything….even an upstairs Family Room. The wide tiled hall between the garage & kitchen would be a great spot for cubbies. The driveway is flat & there are no houses behind you. You’re all the way back at the end of a Cul-de-sac. Listen. Silence because you back to a farm, but, you’re 5 minutes away from the by-pass.

This house had been listed with another agent right before I got it.  It is a very nice place, but like I usually do, I asked the sellers to make a few adjustments.  We rearranged some furniture, cleared out a few things.  The bathroom had stained wood cabinets and matching panels around the garden tub.  The edges of the wood were a bit worn.  Not bad…..unless you are trying to sell your house in a market where buyers think a house has to be perfect.  Simple solution was to paint them white.  What a huge difference it made.  I think I told them to paint the bathroom a beachy blue color too, unless I am starting to confuse my listings!  Any way, the bathroom and the whole house looked amazing once the seller got all the work done.  (I think my next blog post might be about how the seller has as much to do with the success of selling their house as anything else.  Even in the terrible market of the past, I could sell any house if the seller would take my advice on price and presentation.)

I am sure this buyer studied every house that looked interesting to him.  I can’t help but think that the extra effort I spent to present the house and explain its unique features made it easier for him to make a decision.  Don’t you feel sorry for the sellers whose houses were poorly presented?  They might have been perfectly nice houses, but to a guy who was going to buy without seeing it, they didn’t stand a chance.

Was it me or St. Joseph?

Benz on snow

Back when the market was terrible and buyers had a ton of choices in any price range, I said that you had to have the online presentation perfect because buyers would not take the time to come see the house if you didn’t.  I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I also thought that if we ever had a hot seller’s market again that buyers would come see any house that was in an area they liked, regardless of the presentation.  I was wrong.

Here we are in such a market.  Good houses are selling very fast.  Overpriced houses and ones poorly presented are collecting dust.  It is like buyers are not willing to go backwards in their searches.  Like they see a new listing and either go see it or totally forget it forever.  I think some of this is because buyers are setting up saved searches on sites like Zillow or realtor.com.  They are only really looking at the new listings.  In the old days, you know, around 2011, people would scroll through all the listings everyday just to see the new listings.  You really need a price reduction or status change to get back in their portals.

Here is an example:  I’ve got a listing that we put on the market during all the snow we had this past winter.  The seller wanted me to wait to update the pictures until a certain tree was in bloom.  We hardly had any showing since the outside picture had snow on the ground.  This house has an amazing backyard.  Mentioning it in the marketing remarks did not matter much without a picture to show it.  The picture above was taken the day my photographer did the shoot.  There was nowhere to park so I made my own space.  Once the snow melted, we had maybe 3 showings in 45 days.

Finally, the seller agreed that it was time to update the picture.  The tree had pushed out it’s blooms.  I got my photographer back out.  I deleted the listing and put it back on as a new listing with the new pictures.  That was less than 48 hours ago and I have confirmed 4 showings since then.

The seller, a good friend of mine, credits the statue of Saint Joseph she buried.  I get no respect ;-(