"UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WILL WE ALLOW YOU TO CUT DOWN THE BUSHES!" the Sellers emphatically wrote. Followed by, "We're not emotionally attached to the house, (yes, you are), but we planted those hedges when we first moved in (which is why they now need to go).
Whether it's overgrown plants that need to be trimmed, a worn front door that ought to be painted or replaced, OR the fireplace brick surround that's turned black from years of use, the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back, is almost always some fairly minor update that completely throws the Sellers into an unexpected defensive mode. (That's not our goal.)
"Okay," we said, "as long as you understand that those hedges are blocking a bay view, so that decision is likely to cost you $100,000."
Likewise, that dirty fireplace surround isn't historic tile; it's run-of-the-mill brick that can be picked up in any number of places. Moreover, the room is going to photograph exceedingly poor.
Yet, it's precisely these issues that Sellers fight us on time and again.
Not for nothing, but we don't make ANY recommendations for your house that we don't believe are 1) going to improve the overall appearance and desirability of the property, and 2) are going to pay you back several times over. Conversely, we'll challenge you on the things we believe are wasted investments.
"How many lighting fixtures are you changing?"
All of them.
Despite Instagram, Houzz, and a plethora of other online design resources, the vast majority of Buyers have a difficult time envisioning the space as anything other than how it currently presents. And as you've hired us to do a job for you, please step back and let us do it . . . (Would you be more inclined to listen if we charged you more?) New lighting and fresh paint are remarkably easy and fairly inexpensive ways to quickly update a house.
Whether you've lived in your home for forty years, or just a few, Agents are going to see your property through more discerning eyes (the way a Buyer does), which is why we're going to point out things you've probably stopped noticing long ago. And as you intend to move out and move on, do your really care if we power wash the patio (it's long overdue), replace the cabinet hardware, or paint the front door a bold new color? (You shouldn't.)
The truth is that if selling a house were as simple as pricing by the square foot, all parties would quickly understand the value based on a simple mathematical equation, and Sellers wouldn't need to invest in painting, staging or repairs of any kind. However, VALUE has very little to do with square footage, and far more to do with location, the condition of a property, the supply & demand equation, the prevailing interest rates, and the overall desirability of the home, AND that's where experienced Realtors come in. Our suggestions are based on years of experience selling hundreds of unique homes.
In other words, we understand that buying or selling is an emotional journey - not necessarily a mathematical one.
That being said, as interest rates ARE on the rise, the "affordability index" is also quickly changing, meaning homes, especially those at the lower end, are definitely going to see fewer Buyers. All the more reason to make your property stand out, and present it as fresh and current.
Still, "fresh and current" come in different stripes. Yesterday I showed a fairly basic property in Montclair to first-time home buyers, which had clearly undergone a bargain basement facelift. The floors were cheap luxury vinyl, the bathrooms were thrown together with tiles long out of fashion, and the staging was definitely subpar. Sadly, it was a C-level remodel at best. As a result, the only thing the Buyers focused on was the noticeable slope of the floors and the large retaining wall out back. In other words, not all renovations are created equal. No one wants to pay a premium for lousy work (not even in this marketplace) - nor should they.
"What's the level of interest?" I asked the listing Agent.
"Not great," she answered. "I'm really surprised." (I'm not.)
In the end, it's your house, and the final decision is yours concerning what to improve or what to leave be, but as you are paying for our expertise, our advice, and our guidance, let's make sure we get it right. "Greige" (grey/beige) is purposefully meant to neutralize the property so OTHERS can envision their lives in your house. We promise, we won't be investing your money foolishly, haphazardly, or without good intentions, but make no mistake, the investments we recommend are worth their weight in gold - as is the view.
So now will you let us trim that unsightly wall of bushes? (The correct answer is "yes.")
How can we help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 17 years and has published more than 650 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.