Being Up-Front with Our Sellers, Part III – The Condition of the Property


posted by on Working with Sellers

The Condition of the Property
Just last week, I had a conversation with a young man who is putting his house on the market. The home is tenant-occupied and shows poorly, which he acknowledges. However, he has photos of the home taken when he lived there that “show how nice the home really is.” He wants his agent to display the photos in the home so that potential buyers won’t be put off by the current condition.

Well, nice idea, but unfortunately it won’t work. What he doesn’t realize is that buying a home is an emotional decision, not a practical one. If a typical buyer walks into a home that meets all her objective requirements, but is dirty and smelly, she’s not going to fall in love. She’s going to wrinkle her nose, give the home a cursory look-over and leave. Part of the problem with “dirty and smelly” is that it’s so personal! Other people’s dirt and other people’s smells make it quite difficult to imagine oneself “at home.” Even unobjectionable smells like leftover breakfast or lingering hair spray in the air will make the buyer feel as if he is invading someone else’s space, not exploring her potential new home.

The vast majority of buyers will not respond to a home that shows poorly. Buyers don’t overlook even obvious easy-fixes such as an unmowed lawn. Of course, the buyer knows the lawn can be mowed, but she’s not thinking that way. She’s looking first for an overall “feel,” and if that first impression is negative or even neutral, she won’t explore further. She’s just not interested.

Many sellers ask if they should replace ratty carpet or just offer a credit. My answer? It depends. If the carpet is apparent from the front door, change it out. The first impression is so important and if bad flooring is part of that first impression, it will dramatically affect a buyer’s interest level in the home. If the carpet in question is in a bedroom or office, an allowance might be okay (but not ideal). Finished basements? I always recommend replacing the carpet if needed; some people are hesitant about “paying” for finished basement space, so the nicer the space, the better they’ll feel about it. In Old Denver where the homes are small, basement square footage is valuable and should be maximized to its full, livable potential. Which includes decent flooring.

The bottom line? A home seller needs to know that the better his home shows, the more it will sell for. Buyers will not overlook clutter, smells or deferred maintenance unless the home is priced below market. Again, your seller will make the final decision as to how much effort he’s willing to make to get top dollar, but it’s your responsibility to see that he has all the facts.

To be continued…

copyright Jennifer Allan 2007