Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Think it's okay to list your house when it's cluttered?

These days "stuff" is all to easy to accumulate.  There are online sites offering free shipping and cheap prices.  Catalogs galore.  "Big box" stores offering great deals in bulk and massive chain department stores that allow for incredible bargain prices. 
We have expanded the idea of basic needs well beyond necessity. Needs are things that we cannot survive without such as food and shelter. For whatever reason, many of our desires have become needs and the result is too much stuff. In a society where shopping has become a recreational sport, and the acquisition of things a daily ritual, we must be cautious not to acquire too much to clutter up our homes.
Many people who live in cluttered environments have developed some numbness to the condition of their homes, meaning that they truly no longer consciously notice or see the chaos of clutter. 
From the prospective buyer’s viewpoint, clutter translates into an undesirable home. Cluttered homes appear smaller. They look darker, and tend to smell from the excess dust. The visual stimuli of a cluttered home can be an immediate turn-off because the combined effect suggests that all of the home’s other features will be rundown, decayed and in need of much repair.  A prospective buyer will immediately think the house is nasty and cannot imagine themselves ever bringing their personal items into the home, much less ever actually living in the house.   That first impression will forever be etched into their minds and the house will remain as a symbol of filth to most potential buyers. 
The opposite is also true: homes devoid of clutter and kept clean give the impression of being well maintained and not requiring much work.

It is important to understand that when prospective buyers view a home they do so through various lenses. Some will look at a property in terms of its resale value, others will view it as a starter home, and others will view it as their potential home for life.
For those looking at property in terms of resale value, clutter is a good. Clutter means that the property doesn’t show well and as such the potential buyer stands a good chance of acquiring it below value. For those looking at a property as a starter home, the clutter only serves to widen the gap between the desired home and the home they must settle for. People looking at a property as their potential permanent home will imagine themselves occupying it. Clutter compromises the ideal image and prospective buyers view the home in terms of cleaning and maintenance.

Properties with clutter translate into increased time on the market and lower values, not only because the clutter decreases the perception of size, air and light, but also because of the perceived level of work involved in maintaining the property. It might behoove sellers to spend a little upfront and hire a professional clutter clearer and/or home stager. This initial cost will be recouped by way of a higher selling price and faster sale.
It never ceases to amaze me when I'm trolling the real estate sites to see houses listed with photo's that clearly show the house at its worst.  Many buyers can look past outdated things that can be changed.  Shag carpeting or orange laminate countertops can be ripped out and replaced with more modern finishes.  Flowered wallpaper can be stripped off and replaced with paint or a more taste specific wallpaper.  But when I see that an agent has posted interior shots of a house cluttered with dirty dishes in the kitchen sink, beds unmade, dirty laundry strewn about, etc., the first thing I think is "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?"
If an agent lists a cluttered, messy and potentially dirty house for $100,000, there is precious little chance of them actually getting that price unless the house is in a prime location worth 3 times that amount.  But if an agent gets their client to spend an hour of their time to clear off the kitchen countertops, make their beds and do some general pick up before photo's are taken, the homeowner will come much closer to getting their asking price.  
As an agent, you are a consultant for your client.  You need to go into the house with the eyes of a potential buyer.  You need to instruct and educate your client as to what they need to do in order to get a full price offer in a reasonable time.  Anything less than that is a true disservice to your client.
There was a time when the real estate market was thriving and it was truly a seller's market.  A cluttered house may have flown during those times.  However, in today's market, it's all about the buyer and buyers are  not inclined to purchase a cluttered house when they can go down the block and get a clean one for the same price or lower.

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