The reason it’s so difficult for owners to sell their own home is that their vision is distorted. They don’t see the home as a commodity. They don’t see with unbiased eyes see the bedroom where they assembled the crib for the first time, the playroom where their four-year-old daughter used to host her tea parties, the basement where the father and son built model airplanes, the backyard where they celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary with their oldest friends. All of those precious memories, coupled with the cost of the improvements they’ve put into the home—the new water heater, the new roof, the fresh coat of paint, the cost to dry out the basement after Hurricane Sandy or even Floyd—help to create unrealistic pricing expectations. Those expectations might be the main cause of the Unsold Home.
Persuasive sellers may be so enthralled with their home, they even manage to convince their Realtor of its glory and so the agent overlooks the little indentation in the kid’s bedroom where the door knob keeps hitting the wall when the door is flung open; the odor emitted from the litter box in the corner of the kitchen; the worn spots on the hardwood floors in the living room; the cobwebs in the corner of the den; the cracks in the driveway outside. The agent might be too polite to tell the sellers that the way you sell a home is different from how you live in it so the doll collection has to go into storage; the plethora of family photos must be subjugated to a cabinet; the report cards must come off the refrigerator.
Unfortunately, the buyers who tour the home won’t see any of the memories that have caused the owners and agent to overprice. They aren’t focused on a home’s past, they only see its potential in the future. And too much clutter and memorabilia could prevent them from seeing themselves in the home. Potential buyers will also see every flaw that you or your agent overlooked and start subtracting thousands, not hundreds, from the offering price. And all those improvements that the seller counted on to bolster the higher selling price? New paint, new furnace and hot water heater, new roof, etc. are what buyers expect to be in the house, in order to bring the home up to selling standard and compete with the other homes on the market. They certainly won’t put a premium on your burnt sienna bedroom accent wall if they’d rather it was painted periwinkle blue.
True, it’s very flattering when a Realtor can’t stop telling you how wonderful your decorating is or how talented you were with your do-it-yourself projects over the years. But flattery won’t get you top dollar for your home. What will? One great idea is to hire an agent who will view your home as a buyer might, and who will be honest with you about your home’s flaws as well as its benefits. He or she might recommend a stager who can help you rearrange your current furniture and decorations to improve your home’s flow and appearance. It’s also a great idea to order a pre-inspection because for a minimal price, a competent home inspector can point out problems you can correct before your potential buyers use those problems to carve thousands off their asking price or walk away from the deal entirely.
When preparing your home, separate yourself from the memories. Be critical. Ask yourself honestly if you would buy the home in its present state. And if not, make the changes to make it salable or price according to current condition. Because if you love the home too much, you may end up keeping it.