Happy Valentine's Day. I hope you find time to celebrate the occasion with someone you love, OR use the opportunity to reach out to a long-lost friend, OR perform a good deed, OR decorate your home with a cheerful bunch of tulips (skip the hot-house roses), OR walk the dog, OR just take a moment to be kind to yourself. From where I sit, Valentine's isn't just for lovers, it's for all of us . . . so embrace the day and celebrate the love!
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, today's topic is ALL about love; specifically, how to get MORE LOVE when it comes to Real Estate.
As with all forms of love, the more you give, the more you receive. Thus, when homes are showered with loving attention, the Sellers are often rewarded in kind (as our record-setting sale at 68 Oakmont Avenue certainly proved). Conversely, when properties are allowed to fall into disrepair, the resulting sales price will very likely reflect the deferred maintenance that now awaits the new homeowners. If you haven't picked up on my none-too-subtle meaning, when it comes to the sale of your home, LOVE = VALUE!
So what's love got to do with it? Everything (!!!) especially as buying a home is largely an emotional decision; rarely a practical one.
Put another way, the condition and presentation of your home makes a significant difference to BUYERS, ergo to Sellers. Both the components the public can see - design and finishes - and those they cannot - foundations and drainage - will come into play on the offer date. While it doesn't necessarily follow that Buyers will pay extra for a squeaky-clean pest report (the way they will for a renovated kitchen), they will certainly deduct heavily for a poor report. In fact, an unexpected negative finding can torpedo a sale altogether. (Ugh!)
Therefore, any discussion with respect to “value” should include a clear understanding of the health of your home, as well as an objective viewpoint of its current design. (That's where your Realtor comes in; Sellers tend NOT to be very objective about their homes.) Are the paint colors on trend? Does the carpet need to be replaced? How are the hardwood floors holding up? Have the bathrooms and kitchen recently been updated? Is the foundation performing adequately? Are there any drainage or pest issues that have been left unattended? How old is the roof, furnace, water heater, windows, etc.?
It's hardly a surprise that Sellers love a GREAT result. However, they rarely love (or even like) the process required to get there. (Who can blame them? Selling a house is incredibly invasive.) Nor does it necessarily feel comfortable to turn over your beloved home to a Realtor.
"So what do we need to do to get our house ready for the market?" (a loaded question if there ever was one).
Our response in the most succinct terms usually is: "You need to depersonalize what you have spent decades personalizing." (How rude!)
"Oh, and if you can please move out and take your kids, pets and pianos with you, so much the better." (Pushy much?)
The thing is, selling a home, like promoting yourself on Match.com (or so I've been told by my nieces), isn't about telling your story, it's about curating a new story, in which the Buyers envision their lives in the home - not yours. Yes, we want you to write the love letter that extols the virtues of small-town living, including how you walk your dog in the park, but we don't want evidence of said dog by way of stains in the hardwood floors. We want to know you raised cheerful, active children in the house, but we don't want their clothes and sports gear all over their bedroom floors. We want to know you have space for your in-laws, but don't want to run into them cooking spicy food downstairs. Do you get the gist? (I thought you would.)
What do Buyers love? They love fresh, they love clean, they love turn-key, they love "Insta-worthy" homes that need little more than a moving van unloading their things. But they also love a "value proposition," which can mean different things to different people and undoubtedly does. One Buyer values a convenient "walk-to" location, while another values space above all else. One desires a view, while another wants a big backyard, and so it goes . . .
When I was new to the marketplace, Cliff and I valued "potential" above all else, because frankly, it's all we could afford. With good bones and a good location, we knew we'd transform the house into something we could truly "love" and better yet, turn for a profit. BTW, a Buyer's "value proposition" often changes over time, as they marry, grow a family, empty the nest, take on the care of aging parents, change jobs, retire, etc., etc., etc., which is why one size doesn't fit all.
What can I say? Love is fickle.
Which brings me to my final point (and I say this with love) although your home may have been "on trend" 10 or 15 years ago when you painted and retiled the bathroom, those design choices are probably no longer current. Which is why your Agent is going to make suggestions that are more on point with today's Buyer. ("It's not personal, it's business. It's not personal, it's business!") So let us love your house and let us bring you a result you will LOVE in return. As it turns out, we're not just selling houses, we're selling "love."
Happy Valentine's Day!
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.