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.

How you do a price reduction in a Seller’s Market

Okay, so you have made a mistake and overpriced your house. No worries. The market is strong enough that you haven’t shot yourself in the foot, you’ve just wasted a little time.

Back when the market was bad, it was even more critical to get the price right from the get go. The reason was because there were so few buyers entering the market. If they came to see your house and didn’t like it, a small price reduction wasn’t much motivation to come back and see it. About all you could do was made a big price reduction or wait for new buyers to emerge into the market.

Today, there are new buyers out every day. I don’t think in this environment that you need a huge price reduction to get your house sold. While it is true a lot of the same buyers who saw your house probably haven’t bought anything because there is literally nothing else to buy, your best bet is to catch a buyer who just started looking.

I think right now, I would suggest a small price reduction. That could serve two purposes. The first is that it might just cause a buyer who is tired of losing out in multiple offers to come back to you. It also makes it attractive to those brand new buyers. Every buyer loves a price reduction.

If your house makes it past the first day on the market and you didn’t get an offer, something is wrong. Whatever the issue is, a lower price always helps. If you reduce the price a bit and it still doesn’t sell, keep reducing the price a little until it does.

Of course, the best way to prevent needing to drop your price is to start out with the right list price from the beginning. Pricing it correctly usually means a faster sale and a far greater likelihood of getting multiples offers.

When everything is right and it still doesn’t sell

It can happen.  I am not going to be one of those agents that pretends all my houses sell fast, like I am some sort of magician.   A lot of selling a house has to do with….the house and the market.  I put the same effort into all my listings.  Most sell quickly, even when the market was terrible.  Sometimes though, a house struggles to find a buyer, even when you’ve done everything correctly and the price is right.

Here are some reasons:

  1.  Too much competition.  If there are like 50+ houses competing for a buyer and all are pretty darn nice and equal to each other, you’re waiting for the right buyer who likes your house just a bit better than the rest.  I am seeing this a lot in a few towns surrounding Lexington where there are a ton of new construction homes.
  2. Bad timing.  Usually the market slows down when school starts in the fall.  The week that school starts is usually really slow because everybody with kids is getting ready for the school year and wants to enjoy that first weekend.  If your house is in a neighborhood with a very popular school district, you may have missed most of your buyers and are waiting for somebody to move during the school year.
  3. There are no buyers….at the moment.  I see this one occasionally.  Sometimes in a certain neighborhood or price range, there just aren’t any active buyers.  This is like fishing when you have the right rod and bait, but there just aren’t any fish there.    I had a listing in a neighborhood of $450-600k houses a while back.  I put my listing on in the late winter.  It got a few showings.  Over the next 6 months there were about 8 houses that also were not selling in this small neighborhood.  It got so bad that all of the agents got together and did a neighborhood open house to try to get some attention for our listings.  Of course, it was a total waste of time and energy because none of them sold any time soon.  It was much later in the year when several of them began to sell left and right.  It wasn’t the neighborhood’s fault.  It wasn’t the fault of all the listing realtors.  All of the houses were priced right.  There were just no buyers at that time and the sellers had to wait for them to enter the market.