Have you ever wondered why there has not been an offer on your home yet? You may think your home is immaculate and the best place to live, but here is a list of six homebuyer turn-offs that can make buyers cringe at the thought of your home, and action steps you can take to prevent your home from being an offender:
1. Stalker-ish sellers. While you think it might be helpful to walk the buyer around your home and point out details and upgrades that you made, it might be hard for the buyer to imagine themselves in your home. The buyers may be trying to ignore, minimize or figure out how to undo the features that make your home dear to you. Buyers may also need personal space to have conservations with their partner or agent while viewing your home. You being there, especially walking right alongside them while they’re in your home, prevents them from being comfortable about doing this, or discussing all the things they would change if the home were theirs. In my experience, the more nitpicky a buyer gets about a house and the more detailed their list of things they would change, the more serious they are about considering making an offer on this place.
What’s a Seller to do? Back off. Let your home be shown vacant, or leave the house when people come to see it. If you need to be there, at least walk outside or go sit at the coffee shop down the way while prospective buyers view your home. If the buyers have questions, their people will contact your people.
2. Shabby, dirty, crowded and/or smelly houses. The buyers who come to see your home are making the decision whether to choose your home for the biggest investment of their life. Your job is to get your home noticed – favorably – above the other homes on the market, many of which are priced very, very low.
What’s a Seller to do? Other than listing your home at a competitive price, the only tool within your control for differentiating your home from all others is to show it in top-notch shape. Pre-pack your place up, get rid of as many of your personal effects as possible. Do not show it without it being completely cleaned up: no laundry or dishes piled up, countertops freshly washed, no pet odors or litter boxes cleaned and/or out of the house.
3. Irrational seller expectations (i.e., overpricing). There are so many other homes on the market, buyers don’t want to deal with irrational seller expectations and they don’t have to do this. When they see a home whose seller is clearly clueless about their home’s value and has priced it sky-high, most often they won’t bother even looking at it. If they love it, they’ll wait for it to sit on the market for awhile, hoping the market will “educate you” into a lower asking price.
What’s a Seller to do? Get real. Get out there and look at the other properties that are for sale in your area and price range. Don’t take it personally if a real estate’s recommended listing price is low. If your home has much less curb appeal or space or is much less upgraded than the house across the way, don’t list it at the same price and expect it to sell. If you owe more than your home is realistically worth, you may need to reexamine whether you really want or need to sell, or consider a short sale, if you simply have to sell. Don’t be tempted into testing your market with an obviously too-high price, unless you’re prepared to have your home sit on the market and get lowball offers.
4. Feeling misled. Here’s the deal. You will never trick someone into buying your home. If the listing pics are photo-edited within an inch of their lives, or your home is described as an “approved” short sale when, in fact, the bank approved another offer, now withdrawn, but will require a new offer to go through any sort of approval process (even a truncated one), buyers will learn this information at some point. If your neighborhood is described as funky and vibrant, as code for the fact that your house is under the train tracks and you live in between a wrecking yard and a biker bar, prospects will figure this out. If the detailed information about your home, neighborhood or even transactional position (e.g., short sale status, seller financing, etc.) is misrepresented, the sheer misrepresentation will turn otherwise interested buyers off. If you authorize your agent to “verbally approve” the buyer’s offer, don’t go back the next day demanding an extra $5,000. In cases where the buyer feels misled, whether or not that was your intention, running through the buyer’s mind is this question: If they can’t trust you to be honest about this, how can they trust you to be honest about everything else?
What’s a Seller to do? Buyers rely on sellers to be upfront and honest. If your home has features or aspects that are often perceived negatively, your home’s listing probably shouldn’t lead with them, but neither should you go out of your way to slant or skew or spin the facts which will be obvious to anyone who visits your home. Make sure you know what the listing of your home reads like, before it’s published to the web, and that a prospective buyer will not feel misled by it.
5. New, ugly home improvements. Many a buyer has walked into a house that has clearly been remodeled and upgraded in anticipation of the sale, only to have their heart sink with the further realization that the brand-spanking-new kitchen features a countertop made, not of Carerra marble, but brand-new, pink tiles with a kitty cat in the middle of each one. Or the pristine, just-installed floors feature carpet in a creamy shade of blue – the buyer’s least favorite color. New home improvements that run totally counter to a buyer’s aesthetics are a big turn-off, buyers just can’t ripe out expensive, brand new, perfectly functioning things just on the basis of style – especially since they’ll feel like they paid for these things in the price of the home.
What’s a Seller to do? Check in with a local broker or agent before you make a big investment in a pre-sale remodel. They can give you a reality check about the likely return on your investment, and help you prioritize about which projects to do (or not). Instead of spending $40,000 on a new, less-than-attractive kitchen, they might encourage you to update appliances, have the cabinets painted and spend a few grand on your curb appeal. Many times, they will also help you do the work of selecting neutral finishes that will work for the largest possible range of buyer tastes.
6. CRAZY listing photos (or no photos at all). Listing photos that have dumpsters parked in front of the house, piles of laundry all over the “hardwood” floors touted in the listing description, and once, even the family dog doing his or her business in the lovely green front yard. Listing pictures that have put your home in anything but its best, accurate light are a very quick way to ensure that you turn off a huge number of buyers from even coming to see your house! The only bigger buyer turn-off than these bizarre listing pictures are listings that have no photos at all; most buyers on today’s market see a listing with no pictures and click right on past it, without giving the place a second glance.
What’s a Seller to do? Check your home’s listing online and make sure that the pictures represent your home well. If not, ask your agent to grab some new shots and get them online.