By Lance McCarthy
It’s hard to imagine a time before shows about selling a house. Remember when “flipping” was something people did to pancakes, “move that bus” was something you said to get out of the school’s circle drive, and “staging” was…uh…something you did…on a…stage?. About that time I had a brilliant idea: someone should start a company that prepares peoples’ homes for sale. Brilliant idea, really poor timing. A little like selling life jackets on the Titanic–before the iceberg.
As poor as the timing was, the techniques worked amazingly well. Clients were able to sell their houses faster for more profit by applying some very simple principles. We evolved over time to serve a broader client base, but I still get to help people prepare their homes for sale occasionally. I still enjoy helping clients take a home they have lived in for years and enhancing it for a more profitable sale.
This week I want to share three of the mistakes many people make during this enhancement process.
Myth 1: A home buyer decides on a home for mostly logical reasons
This is one of the worst assumptions sellers make because it leads them to prepare for the sale as if it were a math problem instead of a date. We imagine buyers with this list of must-haves, using MLS to filter down to the correct option like someone would select a dishwasher. That is all true, but at the end of the day, the buyers respond emotionally to the house they will live in.
You can see it in the looks they give each other as they step through the front door, and you can hear it in the way they describe the houses after they leave. They don’t say, “remember the 2836 s.f. 4 bedroom 3 bath?” They say, “remember the one with stained glass in the bathroom?”
I have frequently seen buyers disregard really important items on their “must-have” list, or even spend more than their stated budget, all because they found “THE ONE”.
Myth 2: A buyer will see the house I see
This isn’t usually a conscious thought, but sellers don’t realize that they stopped really seeing their house years ago. That mildew in the master shower? Invisible. The way the front door deadbolt sticks? That’s become normal. The way the entry closet is crammed full of coats no one actually remembers wearing? That’s what closets are supposed to look like, right? To the seller the house is their home. Full of memories that the brain can’t see past.
Of course to a buyer all of these things are ominous clues of something worse going on. Mildew in the shower is a sign that the house hasn’t been taken care of. A sticky front door is a sign that there is a bad foundation causing the house to settle. A packed entry closet is a sign that there isn’t enough storage in the house.
Don’t trust your own eyes when evaluating your house. Rely on honest friends or a great realtor for feedback on what to focus on, then trust their response.
Myth 3: Making the home perfect costs too much
Now for a piece of good news. Although this one is true, it is irrelevant. The house doesn’t need to be perfect for a buyer to buy, it just needs to be right for them. I call this the Cindy Crawford principle. The idea is that a mole here or there doesn’t make a house less attractive, it just can’t be on the end of the nose!
So how do you decide which improvements are worth doing? Here’s a hint: The porch light is more important than the furnace. Let me explain. Recent studies have shown that we form most of our impression of someone within the first 1/10th of a second. Literally the blink of an eye.
I believe something similar happens with house buyers. I have rarely seen a buyer change their minds after a negative first impression. That first impression happens before the buyer has been in the house for even a minute. That means if the porch light isn’t working, you have already lost the battle. If the furnace is old, it just becomes something you negotiate into the deal.
Those are my three myths. Do you have similar experience? I’m anxious to hear.