Did you decide what you are doing this weekend?
Or decide where you’re going on vacation? Which car to buy? What airline to take on your next trip? Which bottle of wine to bring to that dinner party?
It’s Friday and that likely means you have had a long week of making decisions. Some important, some less so. In retrospect, some decisions you made were good, such as avoiding that sushi lunch at work. Some decisions were bad, such as saving some money by cutting your own hair.
Make no mistake about it, there were lots of things that needed deciding upon this week.
I find it fascinating that the impact of a decision is not always in line with the difficulty of the decision.
I once spent close to an hour trying to decide between two pairs of shoes that were about $15 difference in price. Compare that to the 5 seconds I spent deciding on bidding an extra $40K on a house.
Some decisions are easy and some are hard, and nowhere is that more true than with love. Um, I mean real estate. Yes, real estate. In my role as Realtor, I work with clients on making very big decisions.
When my clients decide to buy a home, they change the course of their lives. Their day to day lives are different and so is their broader economic future. The neighbours they interact with, the schools the kids go to, the commute to work, the restaurants you go to, even the friends you see regularly or not. Where you live impacts your life tremendously.
The right purchase in the right area means a sizeable gain in the value of the home over time, which means when you sell you can afford to buy more, you can pay off debt, you can take that family vacation, start that dream business.
On the sale side, deciding to take an offer on your home catapults you from the present straight into the future. Listing your home for sale is one thing, but having sold it, well that’s a whole different kettle of fish. (Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that I’ve never seen a single kettle of fish, let alone another kettle of fish that was quite different from that first kettle.)
When you are selling your home, it’s still your home. You can still maintain the illusion that what happens next is not set in stone. Maybe someone will buy it at the price and terms you like, maybe not. Maybe you’ll have to organize and clean out the basement for moving, maybe not.
Once the home is sold and the closing date is set though, you know it’s happening. A time is coming soon where you need to get out of that place you’ve considered home for the last number of years. The future is suddenly just around the corner.
I think about the decision making process a lot in my work with clients.
I firmly believe that when my buyer clients and I find the right property for them, the decision shouldn’t be difficult. We reach that stage when we’ve explored our options, when we understand the market, when we’ve seen a number of comparables and thought long and hard about what we want. Then we see that special property that hits all of the right buttons and I see it in their eyes. This can be Home.
When I sell properties for clients, I take that knowledge of how buyers approach the purchase decision and I flip it around to make our listing as attractive as possible to buyers. The better I am at that task, the more showings we have, the more offers we receive and the higher the price I negotiate for my seller.
Here are the three key things I keep in mind when selling a home.
1. It’s just a little problem.
As a Realtor, I’ve been to over a thousand homes for sale. Not a single one has been perfect. Every home has its imperfections. When I sell a client’s home, they are often quite stressed about the imperfections in their home. They know that underneath that area rug is a scratch from when they moved a table 6 years ago. They know that the cabinet in the bathroom isn’t perfectly straight and you need to lift the door a bit to close it. They know all about their home, because it’s their home.
When selling a home, I remind my sellers as well as buyers, that no home is perfect. We fix what we can, when we can, but it isn’t always feasible. Sellers run out of time, money and patience. The list price is reflective of the imperfections of the house and if we fixed everything that was wrong, we’d charge an extra $40K. For buyers it is a chance to get the home at a better price and a chance to earn some appreciation by fixing some of the imperfections themselves.
2. Unless there are a lot of those little problems.
Think of each problem or imperfection in a home as a dot on a blank piece of paper. One problem is just one dot. Two problems are just two dots. Three, four, five, 10, 20 problems…well those dots start looking an awful lot like a line pointing the buyer away from the home.
One reason I love my job is that I get to visually see decisions being made. As I show properties, I’m watching my clients to see what they think, gauging if I made a good call in showing them this property. When we see problems or imperfections in a home, you can actually see the change in the body language and facial expressions as potential purchasers become people who are ready to leave.
When I help my sellers get ready for a listing, we go through the property to identify how many problems we see. If we are running into lots of these little problems throughout a home, then I tell my clients, we need to fix a number of these. Too many imperfections give the impression that the home is fundamentally not a good property. We are all pattern recognition machines and if every room we go into has some issue, we pretty quickly decide it’s a rotten apple. I’ve seen many clients have what I call the ”Pack your bags Martha, we’re leaving” moment, where they stop considering the property as a potential purchase and they just want to go. At that point, the seller has lost them as potential buyers.
3. What’s the story here?
The final thing I keep in mind when selling a home is the story that is being told. Charles Dickens’ had it right that we are all the main character in a story of our lives. Think back to the last home you bought and how you described it to family or friends. We construct a narrative around the purchase that supports what we want to believe. That house with the shag carpet and peel and stick tile everywhere wasn’t a disaster, it was an incredible bargain where we didn’t have to pay for someone else’s renovations that were done to their taste not ours. The tiny condo with a balcony you couldn’t fit a chair on, let alone a table? It could not be more centrally located and it’s amazing how you live in the heart of that vibrant area.
With every listing, we need to find the story and share it. We need to cast the buyer as the hero in the story so that when they look at making that purchase, they can place it in context. If the listing agent can’t develop that story, then buyers don’t know how they feel about the home. They either make up another story, such as how they avoided overpaying for that one property, or they fail to make a decision because they don’t know how it fits into their narrative.
Whether it is buying or selling, real estate transactions involve very important decisions. If you or someone you like wants to work with a Realtor that understands that and will help you come to the best decision for you and those you care about, please get in touch. I’d love to be responsible for what comes next.
The big city is a magnet. It is terribly hard for small towns to stay alive and healthy in the face of central urban growth.
On many occasions I help clients who are facing the dilemma of staying in a busy, urban area where your budget doesn’t go as far versus moving to a more suburban location where the same money gets you more.
Choosing where to live is a complicated decision that involves many factors but in the typical short-term residency of most home owners (5 to 10 years), property in the suburbs or smaller towns tend not to appreciate at the same rate as urban properties. While appreciation isn’t the only factor to be considered, keep in mind that a home near many places of work and with easy access to public transit will be more appealing to more people.
In particular I caution clients who are considering buying a “fixer-upper” outside of the city. Such renovations cost the same as an urban property renovation, but it can be much harder to get a return on the investment on suburban or country properties.