Note: This is a series of posts about the ABCs of buying, seller and investing in real estate. Each post, I select a letter (W this post) and make up a story about a real estate topic centered on the letter. The story is fake, but the advice is real(ty).
Winston and I were sharing a good dinner at a fancy steak house. He had ordered his brandy and was sipping it as we discussed Winston’s latest passion: real estate. He was telling me about his life and laying all kinds of wisdom towards to the secrets to a fine life. “Nothing better than a fine cigar.” he told me. Our conversation eventually went back to selling his current residence and getting starting over somewhere fresh. He had lived in his current home for over thirty years and since his wife passed last year, he was itching to sell it. We spoke about what was needed to be done to sell his home and I referred him to my blog where he could pick some good pointers on how sellers can sell their home. Winston knew that selling his home would not be easy as it needed a lot of work. He asked me point blank what I thought was some of the strangest things I had ever seen sellers do when selling their home. Winston wanted to be sure that he did not repeat their approaches as he wanted to sell as quickly as he could.
This is what I told Winston….
As I have told many a client (and written about in this blog several times), real estate can be a stressful experience for both the buyer and the seller. Sellers have to open up their homes to strangers who want to look it over. Many appointments get scheduled with very little notice so sellers have to be willing to put their lives on hold for a couple of hours and endure interruption after interruption to their lives. A good real estate agent can help to reduce some of the stress by being there to advise the sellers on the selling process. Even then, sellers will feel burnt out at times. Because of these stressful conditions, you sometimes see some “weird things” when touring a property. Sellers get lost in the process at times and forget about the details that it takes to successfully sell their home. Selling a home is like selling anything else in life. Presentation matters a great deal and it takes discipline to keep up the appearance. Homes that are clean and staged will have been shown to sell much faster than homes where presentation is kept up. I have always said that a house with clean floors and a fresh paint job does much better in showings than a home that looks worn. You can never underestimate buyers ability to find things they don’t like about a home. I did end up telling Winston about some of the some strange things you will see while showing a home.
1. Leave Personal Items(and smells) Laying Around – As I mentioned to Winston, Sellers will sometimes forget to take care of the many items that needs to be done with each new showing. You have to make your home feel welcomed by having a neat appearance with no strange odors. In my time in real estate, I have seen some very unusual things laying around a home while showing it. With the first home I ever bought, our showing had some adult entertainment laying on the bathroom floor and some Marijuana plants in one bedroom closet (yes, we still bought the house). I have had mystery rooms in homes where you went in the room and left very quickly because you figured out immediately the room’s function. I have seen some very valuable collectibles laying around a home as well as sensitive information and even money. Some sellers also forget about their pets and you can walk into room to find them waiting for you. Personal items, like photos and pictures, are also often found in homes. These are not necessarily weird in itself, but I am not sure why sellers want to reveal so much about their personal lives by leaving the items in the home. When it comes to smells, you get all types of odors from a pet (dog or cat) to musty moldy smells that you never figure out the source.
2. Hiding property defects – I am always amazed when I enter a home and you know immediately that the seller had work done on it, but not to necessarily fix an item. Instead it was a very lousy attempt at hiding the defect. Cracks in the walls and ceilings are usually the most common ones that get made over poorly. You see some sellers who let different vegetation overgrow a bit in order to hid external defect like bricks and mortar falling out of the wall. Some sellers have decided that painting over wall paper does a better job than actually removing it. You get the same things with floors where it was too labor or resource expensive to bring up the floor before laying a new one down. Roofs are also notorious in this aspect. My favorite is when people try to hid cracks in cabinets and tubs by just re-caulking them in the hope the cracks don’t show. It would have been so much better if the seller had just taken the time to fix the issue correctly versus just hiding it. Buyers are not stupid and most will figure out what is going on. If all else fails, the inspectors will let their clients know about the hidden defect(and laugh at the effort of the seller to hide it).
3. Try to sell it for too much – I realize this last one is not all that weird in the bigger scope of strangeness, but I include it here to make a point. In this day and age where comparable property sales data is so readily available to a seller, there is no reason for a sellers to overprice their homes. When selling their home, the seller’s agent should have presented them with a series of recent sales in their neighborhood within a half mile of their home. These comparable properties give the seller and agent a really good guide where you can price your home. If you price the home too high, no buyer will touch it. Of course, there are still times where there are no comparable homes to use. In these cases, you should hire an appraisal to give you a correct sales price. There is really nothing worse you can do to a listing than to overprice it.
Winston chuckled at all my points and promised he would learn from these other sellers. He did not want to leave personal items laying around since it can embarrass a buyer and shatter the illusion that the buyers are looking at their future home. It never shows right when you try to hide a defect versus just fixing it. Finally, the cardinal sin of selling your home is pricing it too high.