Have home sellers lost their pride of ownership?

Maybe I am a little old-fashioned, or maybe it is because I own a business, but I fundamentally believe that consumers want to be delighted by the products and services that they buy. If you are shelling out your hard-earned money, you want a product that performs as advertised, is reliable, and is affordable to purchase and own. People love Zappos because they have a wide selection of reasonably-priced shoes coupled with outstanding customer service. People are continually loyal to Honda because their cars have a history of reliability and consistency. People ship their overnight packages with FedEx because they know that FedEx will deliver on time at an affordable price. Selling a home involves these same buyer emotions and decisions, yet many home sellers fail to recognize it and jeopardize their chances of a successful sale. If you are selling a home, demonstrating your pride of ownership and committing to delivering a quality product to your buyer can go a long way towards a successful sale.

One of the agents in our office has a grandfather who is very particular about things that he sells. Whether he is selling you a car, a refrigerator, or a home, he takes the extra steps to make sure that he is selling you the best product possible. He cleans up the car, changes the oil and fixes minor issues before putting it up for sale. He makes sure the the refrigerator is spotless and demonstrates it in good working order when you come to look at it. Does he spend extra money and time to make these happen? Yes, but he ends up with happy buyers in the process and more importantly a successful sale.

Prepare your home before listing

Demonstrating this sort of pride of ownership when you go to sell your home starts when you prepare the home for sale. You have lived there awhile and know many of the quirks and problems in the house. Are there issues that you can fix upfront? Maybe it is as simple as touching up the paint or installing new furnace filters. Maybe it is more involved like fixing a problem with the plumbing or replacing a defective appliance. If you are diligent, you can even pay for your own home inspection upfront to identify issues that need attention prior to the sale. The inspection phase of a home purchase is loaded with pitfalls and potential for the sale to fail. By addressing many of the issues upfront, you can reduce the risk that the sale falls apart during inspection. If the home has some larger issues that you are not planning to fix, being upfront about those issues and accounting for them in your price will let your buyers get past that hurdle before they even make an offer.

Be flexible on inspection negotiations

Demonstrating pride of ownership can also help you overcome buyer objections to items that they do find during their inspection. Every home, no matter how new and how perfect, will surface some issues in a home inspection report. Many buyers don’t want the hassle of fixing things in their new home, and some have unreasonable expectations that the house will be “perfect” when they buy it. Only buyers of new construction can expect perfection, but a seller can help to deliver that perfection by agreeing to fix many items, even if they are small or seemingly insignificant. We see negotiations every day where buyers and sellers get into a disagreement over a ~$1000 list of items that could be fixed by a handyman. For a $400,000 purchase, is it really worth risking the loss of a qualified buyer over such a small amount?

Dealing with unreasonable buyers

The decline in the real estate market has brought out a segment of buyers who expect the world. They want a very large discount off of your list price, and they want you to fix every problem they find in the home. Are they being unreasonable? Yes, but put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you want the house at a great price with no issues to worry about? When the buyers want everything, you are going to need to negotiate to bring things to resolution. Do what you can, within reason, to be flexible and give them some concessions to get them past the issues. All too often we hear “It’s an old house, of course it has issues. We’re not fixing anything.” That is hardly a recipe for buyer satisfaction or trust. Your chances for success go up if you can demonstrate some commitment to the quality of the product that you are selling, which is your home.

The pitfalls of selling “as-is”

Maybe your house has lots of problems, or maybe you don’t have the financial means to facilitate any repairs. Those are both valid situations where you may want to try to sell the home “as-is.” There are certainly buyers out there willing to purchase “as-is” if the issues are reflected in your pricing. More importantly, if you choose to sell “as-is”, you should be very upfront about what they are getting into. Here is an example. Let’s say that you know you need a new furnace, but cannot afford the $4000 replacement cost. One approach is to say “I’m selling it as-is. I know it needs a new furnace, so you are making an offer knowing that fact.” The second approach is to say nothing and let them find out that it needs a new furnace during their inspection. Even if both situations are “as-is”, I guarantee that the secretive approach to the problem is going to end up with them negotiating and asking for the furnace replacement.

The process of selling your home is an emotional and financially stressful one. Your real estate agent can help you navigate the process and come to a mutually acceptable resolution for both the buyer and seller. While your house doesn’t have to be perfect, demonstrating some flexibility and a commitment to selling a quality home will increase your chances of a successful sale in this tough real estate market.