If Your Seller Authorized You to Spend $2,000...

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I don't know about you, but I'm very much enjoying this debate on whether or not we listing agents can positively affect the market value of our listings. I believe we can. And frankly, I'm stunned at the amount of opposition to that notion.

Now, a disclaimer - I don't work in a distressed market, so I shall defer to those who do that they know more about selling homes in that environment. Fair enough. If you work mostly REO's and short sales, you are excused from this discussion. Although... well, I'll get to that in a sec.

For the rest of us... those of who work primarily retail markets...

If your seller gave you $2,000 and asked you to spend it for him with the goal of getting the highest price in the shortest amount of time... what would you spend it on? Obviously every home and situation is different, but give me a list of priorities you'd address.

For example, would you...

  • Take out a full-color ad in the neighborhood newspaper? and/or
  • Bring in a stager? and/or
  • Bring in a handyman? and/or
  • Replace/refinish flooring?
  • Paint?
  • Hold a catered broker open house? and/or
  • Board the dogs?  and/or
  • Landscape? and/or
  • Have the house professionally cleaned? and/or.....

I have a very clear list in my head of what I'd tackle first, next and after that, depending on what the home needs, but I'd like to hear yours. But here's the big question... DO YOU THINK IT WOULD MAKE A DIFFERENCE in the market value and ultimate sellability of the home? Or would your seller be throwing his money away?

Your thoughts are very much appreciated!



 p.s. As alluded to above, perhaps this is not relevant to a distressed market... but maybe it is. What if banks gave their listing agents $2k to spend on improving the property... do you think it would help move these properties faster... for more... or at all?




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Ken Tracy
Keller Williams Realty Infinity - Naperville, IL
Helping clients buy and sell since 2005

Hi Jennifer.  I like your list.

A good old fashioned cleaning is tops for some houses!

Thanks for writing,


Jun 30, 2009 05:28 AM #18
Chuck Capan
REMAX River Cities - Moline, IL
REALTOR Licensed In IL. - Moline Homes Quad Citie

My imaginary money will be spent on cleaning.

It has to be clean, clean and clean.  New flooring and new paint is just deep cleaning.

"For Sale Signs Don't Pay the Bills: 74 Ways to Sell Your Listings"  I bought that one, whadya mean it was not a big seller.

Jun 30, 2009 05:45 AM #19
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

Carpet and Paint would probably do wonders in most homes!  the color add, and open house with food etc... would all be equivalent to flushing the bills down the toilet!

Jun 30, 2009 07:55 AM #20
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

Hi Jennifer,

It depends on the situation..

First things first - if repairs are needed - get that done.

Interior cleaning and painting are next.

If the exterior needs help - I would emphasize curb appeal...get them through the door!

Staging would rank up there if needed...


Of course every house is different ...so its difficult to judge.  There was a condo I sold recently that really would have benfitted from staging. It had odd angles and people couldn't visualize their furniture there. I couldn't get the seller's on board. I think they would have done  a lot better had they listened regarding paint color and hiring a stager for layout issues.  However, some places have such terrific layouts - that perhaps the money is best spent elsewhere...

Jun 30, 2009 08:13 AM #21
Ann Allen Hoover
RE/MAX Advantage South - Hoover, AL
CDPE SRES ASP e-PRO Realtor - Homes for Sale - AL

Biggest bang for the buck.......I would paint, and then I would stage the house best I could by decluttering and using whatever was on hand.  Repairs would depend on the need.  I wouldn't replace anything that I could make look great with elbow grease.

Jun 30, 2009 08:53 AM #22
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Thanks for all your thoughts! Your ideas run along the same lines as mine... here's my list:

  1. Obvious scare-the-buyer repairs - water-stained ceiling, exposed wiring, active leaks. spongy floor, smoke or cat urine smells.
  2. Obvious cosmetic repairs - paint, flooring, switchplates, awful countertops, ugly light fixtures.
  3. Cleaning
  4. Not-as-obvious inspection items
  5. Staging consultation

I'm not saying that you could do all of this for $2k, but this would be my order of priority. I never advise staging a house unless items 1-4 are handled.

If you have a good handyman, it's amazing how much fun you can have for $2,000... and if you approach your seller with confidence and a can-do attitude, they'll find that money more often than you think they will!

Jun 30, 2009 09:09 AM #23
Wendy Rulnick
Rulnick Realty, Inc. - Destin, FL
"It's Wendy... It's Sold!"

Jennifer - In a flat or declining market, like mine, staging and repair might make a home seller faster, but not necessarily for more money.  Of your choices, though, I would say "repair", though.

Jun 30, 2009 12:09 PM #24
Lise Howe
Keller Williams Capital Properties - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

I would probably go with the staging, then paint and handyman - there always is something that needs to be done.

Jun 30, 2009 01:47 PM #25
Lisa Hill
Florida Property Experts - Daytona Beach, FL
Daytona Beach Real Estate

Depending on the listing, any of your suggestions could positively affect a listing. I wasn't aware of a debate on this subject (no surprise there.. I'm usually clueless about drama) but how could any seasoned listing agent believe that they couldn't help the sellers make more money on their sale, just by getting them to (insert applicable helpful tip here).

Jun 30, 2009 05:07 PM #26
Dora & Vincent Kwok
HomeSmart Real Estate - Chandler, AZ
CNE - Chandler, Arizona Real Estate

Jennifer- It does depend on the house, but as a general thought I would work on the curb appeal...probably new paint and landscaping.

Jun 30, 2009 05:09 PM #27
Jennifer Allan-Hagedorn
Sell with Soul - Pensacola Beach, FL
Author of Sell with Soul

Lisa - travel on over the drama-blog-in-question and see how many agents don't believe they have any power to affect price! http://activerain.com/blogsview/1132322/any-idiot-can-give-their-house-away-if-price-is-all-that-matters-what-do-they-need-us-for-

Wendy - A sale is good! Which brings the seller more money than a non-sale!

Jun 30, 2009 11:27 PM #28
Robert Rauf
HomeBridge Financial Services (NJ) - Toms River, NJ

Even if you cant see the $ value of the investment in terms of selling for X or Y... if it sells the home faster it will save thousands in carrying costs and in a declining market it could save thousands in lost equity as you wait to sell!

Bottom line, Fix the little stuff and prep for a quick sale!!!

Jul 01, 2009 03:31 AM #29
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
Good Company Real Estate www.ChandlerRealEstate.weebly.com - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Jennifer - Of course if you had $2k to spend on a listing, it would help it sell.  It almost wouldn't matter what you did.  If you worked on the inside - cleaning, staging, painting, etc; exterior - landscaping, curb appeal, painting; or marketing - getting it in front of pontential buyers; any one of these will at least help.  I don't feel that any of these things would be a waste of time, but you do need to know what may work best given the condition of each home, and also, keep in mind that pricing is still very, very important in getting a home sold.

Jul 01, 2009 08:04 AM #30
Lori Cain
eXp Realty - Tulsa, OK
Midtown Tulsa Real Estate Top Producer

Paint, carpet, handyman, then staging. Skip the print ad and Broker's open.

Jul 02, 2009 04:38 AM #31
Kathy Manoogian
SKBK Sotheby's - Birmingham, MI

Jennifer, I absolutely would spend the money on fixing up the house.  Maybe paint a room a fantastic, color, or rip out some carpet, or refinish hardwood floors, or replace old appliances.

Jul 03, 2009 02:32 PM #32
Bob Wall
Sun Real Estate, Inc - Millbrook, AL

One of the first things would be improving the curb appeal and then a through cleaning inside, whatever is left, if any, for painting.

Jul 09, 2009 03:38 AM #33

"What if banks gave their listing agents $2k to spend on improving the property... do you think it would help move these properties faster... for more... or at all?"

Banks won't give money to brokers/agents. Used to a broker/agent would have their own contractor business and double dip the profits as they were taking a reduced commission from a bank or paying a refferal fee to the asset company handling the banks portfolio.

Any repairs now  the broker/agent has to get approved and submitted or it will not be re-imbursed. If it doesn't sell and the listing gets re-assigned have fun chasing them to get the money back.

Generally distressed properties spell deal and buyers won't pay more for them. If it needs a good cleaning,carpet,and fresh coat of paint might make a difference.

Most buyers expect these things done as maintenance issues and not upgrades they will pay more for.

I am talking distressed market which is alot of markets around the U.S. currently.



Jul 18, 2009 03:43 AM #34
Janie Coffey
First Coast Sotheby’s International Realty - Ponte Vedra, FL
Uniting Extraordinary Homes w/ Extraordinary Lives

professional clean and declutter, professional photography, front yard landscape pick me up, RealBird website with special domain, lovely open house for brokers and a bottle of champagne when it sells!

Jul 19, 2009 09:41 PM #35
DeJaniera B. Little
Weichert Real Estate - Philadelphia, PA

Although I'm new to the industry...I can honesty say that advertising will not guarentee the sale of a home.  However, the cosmetics of the home will stand a much better chance (cleaning, painting, fixing items, and staging)

I would even consider placing staging near the end of the list because while I'm not a professional stager, I know that less is more and removing items in a room that would make the room less than optimal is a good thing to do. 

Thanks...good question!


Jul 29, 2009 05:57 AM #36
Christa Ross
RE/MAX Select Realty - REALTOR and Green Homes Specialist - Pittsburgh, PA
Helping you buy and sell Pittsburgh's Best Homes

First, Clean

Then, repair cosmetic issues, paint and carapet

Then, how about an energy audit that shows a buyer how they can buy the home and at the same time reduce the cost to live in it by rolling those upgrades into the mortgage.

Aug 11, 2009 07:59 AM #37
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