Your property is the product that either attracts or repels buyers. That means that in order to sell a home you’ve got to think like a buyer. Buyers will often see your home differently than you do.
To illustrate, let’s take a tour through the eyes of a buyer. I recently showed a four bedroom, two bath Lakes Region home with a two car garage. The property had some good things going for it. It was on a corner lot in a nice location. The home was competitively priced and featured cathedral ceilings with a skylight, and a good sized master bedroom.
But as my client stepped out of the car I watched him pause, stroke his chin and stare fixedly at the home’s uniquely colored garage door and shutters.
“What do you think?” I asked. It was less a traditional home color than a color traditionally at home on an Easter egg. In was a color that one would either love or hate but invariably notice.
My client looked at his wife, shrugged and replied, “I’ve got paint.”
I unlocked the home and gestured for the buyers to step inside. They both stopped abruptly at the threshold and dropped their eyes to the flooring immediately inside the front door.
Instead of tile or linoleum, it looked as though the floor had been covered with the kind of contact paper that people affix to the shelves inside their kitchen cabinets. This might not have been so noticeable, but numerous large bubbles were erupting in the paper, some as big as man’s fist.
My buyers exchanged another glance, this one not as forgiving as the one they had shared in the driveway.
From there we quickly completed the shortest showing I have ever conducted.
When my client’s wife stepped into the master bedroom she wrinkled her nose and immediately pivoted to exit the room. “That’s it, you don’t need to say any more,” she said to me. “This isn’t for us.” The tour was over and she quickly exited with no interest in seeing the remainder of the house.
I stepped into the master bedroom, which at 5:30 on a rainy September evening was already dark and gloomy as no lamps or overhead lights had been left to illuminate the room for buyers. The carpet was old, worn and soiled, and I was assailed by a very unpleasant smell, the kind of smell that, given time, can permeate one’s hair and clothes and linger. I too was eager to leave.
It was a pity because this house had warmth, charm and potential, and because a few buyer-minded changes might have created a much different impression and result.
I learned later that the property’s sellers had lived in that house for decades. It was their primary, full time, year-round residence. We can assume that many life milestones, family events and fond memories occurred in that home over the years.
Homes can become part of our families. We can grow to love our homes and look past their physical appearance and faults (and smells) the same way we do with beloved family members.
But buyers do notice these things. Buyers do not have the same emotional attachment to the home that the seller does. And that’s why you have to think like a buyer to sell your home.
In this case my buyers were coolly repelled by the bright garage doors and shutters that had warmly welcomed the sellers each time they pulled into the driveway.
The same bubbled entrance flooring that the property owners could proceed living with was enough to stop my buyers dead in their tracks.
Worse, this entrance impression set the context for the rest of the tour. Scientists who study persuasion psychology call this the “primacy effect.” It refers to the fact that people tend to form strong memories and impressions based on the first information they receive about a person, place or thing. All other perceptions are filtered through the initial observation, be it a good one or bad one. In this example, the bubbled flooring gave a poor first impression of the interior of the home and set the context for an extremely short tour.
When you list a property for sale it’s important to remember that buyers don’t see the memories and feel the emotions that you do. Try to see the property through their eyes so you can do what must be done to create a great impression and sell your property as quickly as possible, for the best possible price.
In this case it may have been inconvenient for the seller to leave behind some floor lamps that would make each room bright and visible for buyers. It would require an investment to repaint the garage doors and shutters, and it might be emotionally challenging to cover up one’s unique color preference with a shade more common. It would also require some money to update the flooring just inside the entrance, and to replace the bedroom carpets.
But inaction is a form of action, and it also costs money to not effect these changes for prospective buyers.
The home in this example is already priced below what nearby comparable homes might sell for, and that price may have to drop even further in order to attract serious offers. Price reductions can directly and indirectly cost sellers far more than improvements like paint and flooring.
Consider that the home in this example has been on the market for well over 100 days, costing the owners nearly a thousand dollars in property taxes on a home they’re not even living in.
Real estate professionals work hard to sell homes, but in some cases houses sell people more than people sell houses, and that’s why it’s important to think like a buyer when being a seller.