They're Not Buying Your Masterpiece

Real Estate Agent with Long and Foster Manassas

They're Not Buying Your Masterpiece


You’ve spent years making your home perfect.  The room colors are just what you wanted.  You found exactly the right artwork and furniture to make the office your own.  You spent hours on the decorative painting in the recreation room, and every time you go down there, you’re transported back to your magical trip to Rome all those years ago.  After years of labor, and hundreds of dollars, you have made this home a work of art.  More than that, it is your personal work of art, your masterpiece, and you love it!

But now, you’re moving on, and it’s time to sell.  Surely, there are many potential buyers out there who will appreciate all your hard work and love your home just as much as you do.  Why aren’t they coming and making an offer?  Can’t people see how beautiful and unique this home is?  How can they not like all those personal touches you spent so much time on?  After all, this isn’t just a house; it’s a work of fine art!  It’s your work of fine art!

One of the most difficult things to accept when selling a house is that it’s just that – a house.  The moment a property is listed, you must begin to think of it and treat it as a thing to be sold.  It is no longer your home; it is merely a structure that you are staying in until you can find a new home.  Those distinctive touches that you love so much and that mean so much to you may not be attractive to a potential buyer.  You may have personalized some spaces so much that potential buyers just can’t picture themselves living there.

Yes, you have transformed your home into the equivalent of a fine work by da Vinci.  The problem is that your potential buyers prefer Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock, or Hieronymus Bosch (creepy as that might be in home décor).  They want the chance to create their own masterpiece, not live in yours.  And they must be able to see past your fine work to envision their new creation.

Buyers don’t want a finished work of art.  Just as you did when you first moved in, they want a canvas to create their own masterpiece.  As a seller, you must be willing to paint over or at least tone down the spaces that most strongly reflect your unique tastes, personality, or memories.  You don’t have to provide a totally blank canvas.  The basic structure and outline of the house are obviously there, and it’s OK to leave a few personal touches, if for no other reason than to give the buyer a glimpse of just how magnificent this house can be.  But you’re still selling the canvas for the next owners to paint their own masterpiece, not the finished work.

It’s hard to accept that others may not love your sense of style and art as much as you do.  I’m sure your picture is perfect in every way.  Unfortunately, the most qualified buyers may just have terrible taste in art and decoration.  Don’t chase them away just because they can’t see past your finished work to the canvas underneath.  Sell them the canvas and move on to making your next house an even greater masterpiece of a home.

Comments (59)

Jenna Dixon
Momentum Real Estate Group LLC - Marietta, GA
55 & Over | New Constructions | Horse Farms

This is a difficult pill for most sellers, I think a big part of it is not that they can't understand how a buyer would have different tastes, but that a buyer would not be intent on making the home their own AFTER the sale regardless of how the home looks prior.

Oct 23, 2014 05:10 AM
Scott Gleason, CRS
Coldwell Banker Realty - Westfield, NJ
Westfield NJ New Homes Specialist

By the comments you can tell many of us have seen and dealt with this issue.
But think many sellers get the picture pretty quickly if they see potential Buyers back away.

Oct 23, 2014 06:13 AM
Mary Benton
TechTown Realty, Licensed in Texas - Lubbock, TX
TechTown Realty in Lubbock

Right-o!  However, I admit I personally struggle with this some.  My house now is newer, beige-er, nice-er but I miss my enchilada red wall in the basement, turquoise wall with gold dragonflys in a previous home, etc.  My house is lovely but doesn't feel like me.  I guess I could go for it, make it suit me as long as I would be ready, willing, and able to neutralize it all before I sell it someday.


Oct 23, 2014 08:10 AM
Barbara Altieri
Better Homes and Gardens RE Shore and Country Properties - Shelton, CT
REALTOR-Fairfield County CT Homes/Condos For Sale

Pat --- Very well said. It's hard for sellers to understand that not everyone has the same taste they do. Selling their house instead of their home sometimes takes a while to wrap their heads around.

Oct 23, 2014 10:36 AM
Melissa Zimmerman
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty - Huntersville, NC

It is hard for people to realize that "their masterpiece" won't sell unless it is a "blank canvas" for a buyer! Great article!


Oct 23, 2014 10:57 AM
Ann Marie Clements
Remax Realty Group - Gaithersburg, MD
Montgomery County & Frederick County

Great post! I agree with you. When you list your home remember that one person's treasure is another persons castaway. Most people don't sell more than 4 homes in their lifetime - it is our job to educate them on how to get the most money for their home, even if it means painting their favorite rooms. We have a responsibility to let them know that the room that they love is just plain ugly! LOL! 

Oct 23, 2014 12:31 PM
Tammy Adams ~ Realtor / Podcaster
Maricopa Real Estate Co - Maricopa, AZ
A Maricopa Agent who Works, Lives & Loves Maricopa

What??!! You mean the new buyers may not appreciate the fantastic green faux wall it took me a week to do?      

Oct 23, 2014 03:21 PM
Jackie Connelly-Fornuff
Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Babylon NY - Babylon, NY
"Moving at The Speed of YOU!"

Hi Pat, sellers have to not only depersonalize, they have to start emotionally separarating themselves and remember that selling is a business decision.

Oct 23, 2014 03:50 PM
Richard Iarossi
Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage - Crofton, MD
Crofton MD Real Estate, Annapolis MD Real Estate


Shed a tear, and move on. The next house is just waiting for memories to build.


Oct 23, 2014 07:19 PM
Richard Silver
Sotheby's International Realty - Canada - Toronto, ON
Sales Representative, ABR, e-PRO, CIPS

Even though it's perfectly clear that the seller needs to understand that it's just a house they're selling, you have to keep in mind how difficult it could be to separate from a place you called your home and have someone else wanting to completely change everything you liked about this place. So you have to understand your buyer, help them go through it and not just throw it in their faces. Selling a home can be a really sensitive process as we all know and realtors should be understanding and helpful.

Oct 23, 2014 08:03 PM
Scott Gleason, CRS
Coldwell Banker Realty - Westfield, NJ
Westfield NJ New Homes Specialist

I appreciate your post, Pat.  Sellers have put so much of their lives into their homes that, when it comes time to sell, it's hard for them to shift from a "home" to a "house" mentality.

Oct 24, 2014 05:54 AM
Alyson Engelbrecht
Bellevue, WA

Pat - what a fantastic post i love this idea "you’re still selling the canvas for the next owners to paint their own masterpiece, not the finished work"

Thank you for reminding me as I get my childhood home ready for sale.

Oct 24, 2014 08:17 AM
Cheryl Ritchie
RE/MAX Leading Edge - Huntingtown, MD
Southern Maryland 301-980-7566

How beautifully said. You just earned my Reblog of the day! Love the canvas concept!

Oct 24, 2014 11:47 AM
Troy Erickson AZ Realtor (602) 295-6807
HomeSmart - Chandler, AZ
Your Chandler, Ahwatukee, and East Valley Realtor

Pat, I can see why your post has been featured. You are so right that home sellers need to understand that their perfectly decorated home will probably not be another buyers perfectly decorated home. They must make it appealing to potential buyers.

Oct 24, 2014 04:39 PM
Pat McCormick
Long and Foster Manassas - Manassas, VA

Wayne and Jean Marie - It is tough.  People tend to love their houses.

Kevin - True, and we need to keep our clients focused there.

Jenna - the challenge is to get the sellers to see their house as a potential buyer would.

Scott - One would hope so, but it doesn't always happen.

Mary - I struggle with it, too.  I think how much you do depends in part on how long you intend to stay in one home.

Oct 25, 2014 02:38 AM
Pat McCormick
Long and Foster Manassas - Manassas, VA

Barbara - Thank you, and I agree.

Melissa - Thank you!

Ann Marie - Thank you.  I think it is one of our key responsibilities.

Tammy - What can I say.  Some buyers just have no taste!

Jackie - Making that emotional break can be tough!

Oct 25, 2014 02:44 AM
Pat McCormick
Long and Foster Manassas - Manassas, VA

Rich Iarossi - For many, that's tough to do.

Richard Silver - Quite true.  I think a good portion of our job entails being a part-time therapist.

Scott - Thank you.  It is a tough shift.

Alyson - Thank you and good luck!

Cheryl Thank you!  I'm honored.

Troy - Thank you.  Often much easier said than done.

Oct 25, 2014 02:51 AM
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
Retired New Hampshire Home Stager

Somehow I missed this last month when it was featured!  EXCELLENT analogy!  And it's one I've not seen used before....being a home stager, I've seen and used many!

Nov 28, 2014 06:16 AM
Pat McCormick
Long and Foster Manassas - Manassas, VA

Sharon - Thank you for the compliment.  

Nov 28, 2014 06:27 AM
Roy Kelley
Retired - Gaithersburg, MD

This is good advice for home sellers.

Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2014 12:44 AM