...and fun was had by all in this week's debate over pricing versus condition versus pricing AND condition. Did you miss it? It's good stuff - check it out at: Any Idiot Can Give Their House Away...
In the 150+ comments, the question was raised - "So, how do you convince a seller to put some effort into getting his or her house ready for market?" I'd made the claim that at least 90% of my sellers hire my stager and my handyman and almost all spend at least $1000 (of their own money!) prior to going on the market.
Am I just lucky to have intelligent and motivated sellers? Maybe. But I'll give myself more credit than that, although I have to say that every single seller prospect I've spoken with in the last 18 months has brought up the topic of "What do I need to do to the house to get top dollar?" They bring it up first! I spoke with a potential seller just yesterday who doesn't want to sell til next spring, but wants to get started now on home improvement projects! Maybe I am lucky - is this NOT typical of sellers in other markets?
That said, here are a few ways to help a seller see the light, and then do something about it.
First, go in with the assumption that the seller wants to know what it's going to take to get top dollar. Don't pussy-foot around the topic, although it's best if you're polite about it, of course! Like I said, ALL my sellers ask me first, so maybe there's some vibe I send out that inspires them to do so, I don't know. But I will say that if a seller didn't seem interested in preparing his home for market, I probably wouldn't be interested in listing his home. I don't say that to be snotty or arrogant - it's just a fact. I don't want a listing I'm not proud of.
By far the best way to get your sellers to clean up, fix-up and decorate-up is to help them do it. No, you don't have to do it yourself, although I've certainly rolled up my sleeves once or twice or a dozen times. By "help" I mean that you have the human resources on call to Get the Jobs Done. Contractors you know and trust... who know, trust and love you. How anyone sells real estate without a good handyman, stager and cleaning person on board is a mystery to me. When you can walk into a seller's home and confidently say "Yes, that needs to be fixed - we'll put it on the Bob-List," or "Yep, let's get Bob over here to give us an estimate on that," or "No big deal, Bob can fix that," you're golden. Not only are you the hero, but you'll also get yourself a sellable listing.
What I see most agents doing (if they do anything at all) is to give the seller a list of things that need to be done, smile sweetly and leave them to it. Well, that's a recipe for failure. Our sellers are busy people and probably don't know a good handyman, painter, stager or cleaning crew. They'll open up the yellow pages, make a few calls and throw up their hands in despair. I'd do the same thing; in fact, I have when I was selling an out-of-state property and didn't know who to call myself. My Realtor didn't help; I didn't get the work done... and guess what? The house didn't sell. Bummer for us both.
Here's how I handle it.
Seller: "Tell me what I need to do to get ready for market."
Smarty Pants JA: "I see a lot of maintenance and repair issues that really should be dealt with before we go on the market. Let's get Bob over here to give us an estimate. Are you around this Saturday?"
I use the same approach when discussing Staging. Frankly, I suck at decorating and furniture arrangement, but I know bad décor and awkward rooms when I see them. So, I just say "I'm a terrible decorator, but my stager, Geri, is the most wonderful woman you'll ever meet. Give her a call and set up a time to meet. I think she charges $250 for a 3-hour consultation. I promise you - it'll be the best $250 you ever spent." (Here's a news clip of me & Geri in action on one of my listings)
And I believe that. With all my heart. And that's another part of the story - YOU must believe that the first impression and condition and décor matter... and you must trust your resources. If you don't, you'll never be able to sell the concept. I can "sell" staging all day long because I have a great stager and I know it works. I can whole-heartedly bring Bob into my clients' lives because I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he'll make me proud.
If you don't have a Bob or a Geri, make it among your top priorities to find them. Finding contractor resources is a topic for a different day, but for this day, just know how important it is to your business. I credit Bob and Geri for at least half of my paychecks thru the years. Seriously.
Hope this helps.