Do this if you never want your house to sell

I showed a pretty nice house last night that is going to be very hard for the listing agent to sell.

It was one of the lower prices for a huge house on a gorgeous lot in a very desirable neighborhood.

You’d think that would be enough in any market, yet alone one starved for listings.

This is what it was like seeing the house.  You walk up to a freshly painted facade with recently mowed grass and fresh mulch.  You are feeling good about it.  You go inside.  The foyer is nice.  It is a little strange that you can’t see any rooms from the foyer, but not the end of the world.

You go towards the left and see the dining room.  Wall paper from the 90s.  You go into the kitchen next.  Red wall paper from the 90s.  You go into a really nice sunroom.  What do you see?  Murals painted on the walls.  You go back through all those rooms and then you enter the great room, which was super nice.  Then you see a bedroom.  Ok.  Then you see a bathroom that not only has wall paper, but wall paper boarders on the ceilings and top of the walls, as if they were making crown molding.  The shower curtain is heavy, like the dress Scarlett made in Gone with the Wind.  Then you enter the living room which is set up as an office and has way too much furniture in it.

Heading upstairs, you notice that all the bedrooms are painted a different color.  The basement is pretty normal.

The sellers furniture was nice, but they probably bought all of it when the house was new in the early 90s.  I am not bashing anybody’s stuff because my own house is probably the most boringly decorated house in the whole world, but I am not trying to sell it.  I would need to stage my own house if I were selling because my stuff would make my house feel as dated as this one did.  All of my furniture is stuff my parents gave me and that my wife and I put together from a box.  I’m just not into decorating……maybe that is why I can always see the house past the decor.

It sort of made me sad because I could picture the house vacant and with a coat of fresh paint.  It was nice.  Sure, the house would have still been a little outdated since it was about 25 years old, but it wasn’t terrible at all and typical for the neighborhood.

There was a stack of realtor cards on the table in the foyer.  That means all those people in addition to my buyers said “No” to this house.

What sellers never realize is that a buyer will walk through their entire house in about 20 minutes.  Having too much furniture in a room may suit the sellers needs, but it makes the rooms feel smaller to the buyer.  It is also hard to see the room past the furniture.  I always say that when you live in a house, the room exists to show off your decor.  When you are selling, the decor should show off the room.  Also, colors make a big difference.  A seller may be in one room of their house for a while and then go to another.  The buyer, when walking through the entire house, gets sensory overload if every room is drastically different.  A uniform color can also help when the house has a choppy floor plan too.

I am sure all the feedback on this listing has been that it needs too much work.  If this were my house, I would remove as much furniture as I could stand.  I would put a fresh coat of neutral paint everywhere.  People ask me all the time what is the biggest bang for the buck.  I always say fresh paint.  Nothing makes as big of an impact as fresh paint.

With all the wall paper gone, most of the dated furniture out, and a coat of fresh paint, the house would feel so much better.  The 25 year old finishes were neutral enough that buyers would find them acceptable in the absence of the 25 year old furniture and wall paper.

When I go to sell my current house, I am taking my own advice since my place is very similar to this one.

Where are you going to find anything better for that price?

I remember the day.

I was in a two week class for new agents.  One of those days the topic was CMAs.  That stands for Comparative Market Analysis.  It was how to figure out what a house is worth based on recent sales of similar houses.

Long story short, you start with the subject house.  If a comparable recent sale was better than the subject house, you deducted money from that sale price.  If the comparable recent sale was inferior, you added money to the sale price.  In the end, you had a bunch of debits and credits for the differences that you either subtracted or added to the sale price of the recent sales….. and then you know what the subject house is worth in comparison to the recent sales.

Very logical.  This is how it has been done for years.  This is how appraisers do it too.

In that class, one of the other newbie realtors asked how it was done before CMAs became the standard.  The teacher said that you just guessed a value.

I sort of feel like we are back to the guessing days now.

I’ve seen recently remodeled houses sell for up to 50% more than what the second highest sale price was in the neighborhood.  Granted, a remodeled house SHOULD sell for more than the average house, but not by 50%.

I sold a house for $160k.  The comps pointed to it being worth about $143k.  We got several offers between $137k and $143k…..then we got one for $160k.  That is $17k MORE than the second highest offer.  Those buyers were desperate.  They had lost several bidding wars and were not going to lose again.

There’s definitely been a shift in how we calculate value, and it appears that it has less to do with logically analyzing recent sales and more to do with it being a tight market.  Something I hear buyers and agents say a lot these days is “Where are you going to find anything better for that price?”  So, value is now determined by availability, just like the lobster prices at a restaurant.  A good day on the water might end up with lower lobster prices.  The very next day the fishermen aren’t as lucky and you pay more for the exact same dinner.  That is sort of scary to me because what happens when the market slows a little and there are more houses for sale?

 

 

 

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.