When a real estate agent walks into a home for a listing appointment, they see things that need fixing before the house is market-ready. The wallpaper is older than the homeowner, the paint colors are loud or the house smells funny.
Telling homeowners that their house needs work is often a tough conversation. Getting them to make the changes is another challenge.
Plan for the conversation. Get the homeowner to see the house from the buyer’s perspective, and the seller is more likely to make the changes that turn the "for sale" sign into one that says "sold."
Help the seller see their house through a buyer's eyes
When you are talking with the homeowner, be sensitive to their attachment to their own decorating choices. They view their homes as an extension of themselves. Let the seller know that most homeowners need to make changes to their house and share specific examples of the impact that simple changes had for other sellers.
“My approach is to [say] that just like fashion changes over time, interior-design trends also change,” says Suzanne Minken, a sales associate with Weichert Realtors in New Jersey. “If they bought their house 20 or 30 years ago, it needs to be blended with today’s current design trends that savvy buyers are looking for.”
Ask the seller to walk through the house and pretend that they are a potential buyer. Would they be able to visualize different furniture in the house? Is the house neutral enough for the buyer to picture their own photos on the wall and their family sitting at the table?
Point out how suggested changes will positively impact the buyer’s impression of the house instead of focusing on the current negative impact.
“Instead of approaching a questionable wall color and labeling it as 'questionable,' tell your clients that a bright color would visually expand the size of the room,” said Jennifer Zucher. She is an associate broker and senior vice president at Plaza Real Estate Group in New York City.
Talk with your camera
When a home homeowner is reluctant to make updates to a home, Minken takes photos of the house. “When I show these photos to the homeowner, they get an objective view of how the buyer would see their house for the very first time. And when there is bad or dated wallpaper, it simply dominates the photo,” said Minken.
Explain to the homeowner that the majority of buyers begin searching for a house by looking online. Remind them that similar photos will shape buyers' impression of their home. Ask them what their impression of the house would be simply from seeing the photos.
“Seeing is believing, and the homeowner very quickly understands why dated wallpaper must go,” said Minken.
Hire a professional stager
Bringing in a neutral party to give the homeowner advice is very effective. Some agents include a professional stager as part of their services for all clients. Or, they hire a stager for homes that especially benefit from the service.
“The possibly upsetting news coming from a third source, who is a professional in this area, does not jeopardize their relationship with the seller,” said Heather Higgins, with Higgins Design Studio. She often works with agents. One way she suggests saving money is to hire the professional stager for a consultation and have the seller do the work.
Give specific tips for changes
Give very specific solutions for how to fix the issues, even suggesting neutral paint colors or where to buy new cabinet knobs. Some people don’t realize how easy it is to make their home more marketable.
Suggest that they pack up extra belongings and put them in storage to make it easier to move. If your homeowner thinks that a particular change will be too costly, get quotes for the repairs, painting or wallpaper removal and show your homeowner the cost.
Smells can be a particularly touchy area. Encourage homeowners to fix the source of the odor instead of covering it up with air fresheners. If there are pet smells, have the carpet professionally cleaned. See if it's possible for the pets to live with a friend or family member while the house is on the market.
Telling someone what's wrong with their house is never pleasant, but the time that you spend coaching the homeowner will likely shorten the time the house stays on the market. When it is all said and done, the homeowner will forget that you asked them to paint their living room. But they will remember that you sold their house in three weeks.
Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with more than 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs for Contently.
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