We are currently deep into round two of trying to sell our home. It’s frustrating. The market is tough and trying to keep a home show-worthy with an 11-month old and a giant, hairy dog is even harder. But we do it, because we’re motivated and will do what it takes to sell.
We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of showings lately and have our fingers crossed that one of those showings will lead to a buyer, but nothing yet. The experience has opened my eyes a lot to the whole buying/selling process, though, and I thought I’d pass on what I’ve learned to make the process go (mostly) smoothly for both parties. Some is a little snarky, I’ll admit, but most is just some good ol’ advice.
* If you’re the buyer:
– Know that the seller is rearranging their lives to show their house. This includes serious cleaning and hiding of every day items such as toiletries, dish drainers, and other items that you wouldn’t think you need all the time, but you do. Not to mention, they might have young children on schedules, pets that need to be removed, etc. Because of this, making an appointment to see a house in an absolute necessity. Preferably at least a day in advance. Sellers are well aware that this isn’t always possible, but it should be attempted most of the time. When you do make an appointment, try to have a back up time just in case the seller isn’t able to show that house at that time.
– Try to view the house with an open mind and know your market. I think HGTV has seriously skewed potential buyers and has given unrealistic ideas of what homes offer. I’m a House Hunters junkie too, so don’t think I haven’t been lured and teased by the pretty, pretty pictures of granite countertops, big bedrooms with master baths and giant, walk-in closets. But here’s the truth: your price point will offer more or less depending on where in the country you are. $300,000 in the Midwest will go a lot farther than it does in New England. You might not get that granite countertop today, but you can always put one in later. Instead, look at the great property, the spacious living room, the great light, whatever. I’m not saying to compromise on everything you want, just know that some things can be added (additions, hardwoods, etc.) and some things can’t (big property, great neighborhood, easy commute, etc.). Try and look at the big picture and if it’s not perfect to you today, think about whether it could be your dream home down the road. (I’m not saying settle, but you get my drift.)
– Following that same idea, paint colors can always be changed. Seriously. If your biggest complaint about the house is the paint colors, that’s a pretty good house.
– Sellers understand that you might be looking at their house even if you’re not totally ready to buy. I mean, we do that. We’ve toured potential houses even though we can’t put in an offer yet, because if our house were to sell, we’d like to know what’s out there so we can move quickly. This is all well and good and part of the house-showing process. However. If you’re not buying any time soon, don’t stay for an hour. Don’t tell the realtor how much you love it and how you would put in offer in today…if only you didn’t have to wait an entire year before you move. Don’t put yourself in a position where the realtor has to kindly push you out the door. You’ve wasted a lot of people’s time by doing that.
– Don’t go #2 while you’re there. Seriously, that’s just gross.
* If you’re the seller:
– Be as flexible as possible. I know I just went on and on about how buyers should be courteous of their showing times, but as the seller, it’s your responsibility to make showings as convenient as possible for all. After all, you want to sell the house. You’re really at the buyer’s mercy, not the other way around.
– Keep the house clean and remove a lot of personal items. Since we’re not only sellers, we’re also potential buyers, we’ve been inside a lot of other people’s houses and I can tell you, if the floor isn’t vacuumed, the bathrooms are dirty, there are dishes in the sink or random crap on the counters, it takes away from the house. Not all people can go into a house with a critical eye and see the potential. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not great at it, but with the coaching of my mom (who is GREAT at seeing house potential), I’ve gotten a lot better at looking past the obvious. However, some people will just see the mess. Or smell…the smell. A house can go from a possibility to a big fat no in a heartbeat. Don’t make it too easy for that to happen.
– If you have a pet, do your best to remove the evidence. That means no pet hair and no…pet. Whenever possible, make sure the pet is gone, or at least completely out of site/earshot when the house is being shown. You might be a dog person, but certainly not everyone is. (Kodiak’s toys and bed are always put away and Kodiak is loaded up in the car with us whenever we show the house.)
– Here’s where I get all contradictory again, but hear me out. If you’re serious about selling, sometimes doing some small repairs can make a big difference because buyers will see it as one less thing they have to do themselves. (And it’s one less reason for them to offer less money!). To go along with that, painting can do wonders as well. That magenta bedroom that you love so much? It can be a real deterrent for potential buyers. Painting over it in a neutral color gives the buyer a blank canvas in which to imagine themselves living in your home.
– If at all possible, do not be home when there is a showing. We once saw a house and when we walked in, the tenants were sitting on the couch with their feet on the coffee table, eating food and watching TV. They grunted at us as we walked around. Now granted, it’s not their house, they were just renters. But still. Not only is it awkward, (and it would certainly have been more awkward if it was the owner watching us instead), but just like crazy paint colors, it makes it hard to envision it as your home when other people are right there, occupying it.
Those are my tips from me to you. I hope they can help a little. Feel free to share your own home buying/selling tips in the comments!
And, um…anyone want to buy a house? I’ve got a cute one for you.