Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to NOT sell a house

Selling a house in today's market is difficult.  However, why make it impossible?  Are there really people out there who list their homes for sale when they really don't want to sell them?  Apparently.  I can't think of any other reason as to why folks do the things listed below.  And for the record, none of the houses that I've pictured below were For Sale By Owner.  ALL of them had licensed real estate agents who actually allowed their name and the name of their company to be associated with the properties.  Moral of the day?  Just because you have an agent to list your home does not mean he or she is going to clean your house for you to get it sold.

Now let's get started on the list!


4. Things that don't work or fall off when you touch them.

Everything in your house should work before you put it on the market.  Nothing in your house should fall off whenever someone touches it.  Two simple rules to live by.

Trust me.  When people come to view your home they are going to open your kitchen drawers and your kitchen cabinets.  They are going to slide the closet doors open and flip light switches.  They are going to use the banisters when they go up or down the stairs and believe it or not - they are going to fully expect them not to wiggle or fall off.

None of your lights should flicker - replace bulbs.  None of the drawer fronts should come off in the buyers hands.  None of the cabinet doors should swing off the hinges.  Invest in a pack of light bulbs and a screwdriver and fix this stuff BEFORE you put your house on the market or your only option will be to live there for the next few years because that's how long, if ever, it will take for you to even get an offer that will let you break even on your loan.

3.  Odors.
Let's picture an all too frequent scenario.  Your house is on the market and your agent calls to let you know that there will be an open house from noon to 4 this Saturday.  The entire family cleans and declutters to a frenzy and then packing up the kids, dogs and spouse you make yourselves scarce on Saturday between noon and 4.  By the time you get home you are about 2 seconds away from taking the dogs to the pound, the kids to the orphanage and the spouse to divorce court.  The only thing that could possibly save your day (and family) will be news from your agent of an offer!!  But, alas, you get no such news.

Why?  The house and yard are spotless!!  I'll tell you why.  The basement smells a bit musty.  Your son's room smells like dirty socks, your daughter's room smells like the dog that sneaks into her bed every night.  The master bedroom smells like an odd mixture of after shave and hair spray and the entire downstairs smells faintly of last night's dinner.

You and your family don't even notice any of the above.  Why?  Because you all live in the house and have grown accustomed to those smells.  With the ever growing number of non smokers in this world, odor is a real threat to selling a house.  Gosh real estate was so much easier back in the days when everyone smoked 2 packs a day....

One last note on odor.  GET RID OF THE PLUG-INS!  Sure they smell good but they also send a very loud message that there's something to cover up.  Try the scented melting waxes or simple diffusers instead.  Trust me, if those two things don't work - you have a serious odor problem.

2. Overpricing.
I know you love your home.  You're proud of it.  You've worked hard to get it and keep it.  To you it's worth millions!!  However, at the end of the day, it's really only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.  I don't care if it appraised at $250,000.  Always remember that what a bank will loan on a house and what a buyer will pay for it are usually two entirely different numbers.  If the only offer you get on it is $150,000 then that's probably what the house is worth.

You can try the old "slap a price on it and see if anyone bites" routine and then lower it until someone makes an offer.  Sure you can.  Just be ready for a long long wait and many low ball offensive offers to come your way.  There's an old real estate saying that goes something like this "It's better to be the cheapest house in an expensive neighborhood then the most expensive house in a cheap neighborhood." (or something to that effect).  This is very true.

It doesn't matter if your home really is worth $250,000 if all the houses around you are only worth $100,000.  Very few, if any, people are going to pay 2 1/2 times what all their neighbors paid for a house.  If you just can't stand to part with your house for less than you think it's worth, stay put and hope the real estate market bounces back with a vengeance.

There are a couple of other reasons you should never get crazy on your pricing.  One of them is the fact that buyers (and their agents) can smell blood.  If you have reduced the price on your house 4 times in the past 6 months and still no offers, they will be able to smell the desperation and the low ball offers will begin to flood you.  The second reason is they will assume that something is seriously wrong with your house, neighborhood or both - and they'll run in the opposite direction.

And the number one reason houses sit on the market for so long?

1. Clutter and Filth.
I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Do you really want the whole world to know you live like a pig??  Why anyone would allow their home to be photographed or shown when it's dirty is beyond my comprehension  Further, why a professional real estate agent would ever photograph or show a nasty house is beyond my comprehension - but that's for another blog.

Clutter could be toys strewn about. It could be laundry that has yet to be folded and put neatly away.  But it can also be collectibles - LOTS OF COLLECTIBLES!  I know you might love your plastic flowers, dolls, elephants, religious artifacts, clowns (shudder) - but believe me when I tell you - you are in the minority.  Again, I will say - You're planning to move anyway (otherwise your house would not be for sale) so rent a storage unit and pack at least 50% of your stuff up and store it away from the sight of potential buyers......please.

(Doll collections creep me out)
Roosters don't creep me out but in this instance they do prevent me from seeing the window, the walls, the floor....

Some people think that dishes and groceries all over the counters, in the sink and covering every other inch of square footage in the kitchen and dining room falls under the heading of clutter.  I, for one, think it falls into the filth category.  When I look at the pictures below, I don't think "They must be a busy family who just haven't gotten around to putting the makings of breakfast back into the cupboards" think "there are roaches and rats in here - I just know there are!!"

Side note:  It's sad when you have to bring in a TV dinner tray in order to have a surface upon which to put your garbage....
This gem of a kitchen sports a "lovely" wallpaper border, missing drawer front and plenty of garbage for the truly discerning home buyer.
The picture above is from a house for sale in New Jersey.  I got nothing else to say about this kitchen that wouldn't get me booted from this site.....

I think I can smell this bathroom through my monitor - that's how nasty this looks.
The ad for this house actually touted the fact that this house has a home office!  There's nothing about this room that I'd tout....
How much money would it have cost the home owner to rip up that worse than nasty carpet, slap a coat of paint on the walls, rip down that sheet they're using for a curtain and pick up the garbage littering the floor?  Answer:  About $30 and 2-4 hours of their time.
Again, take the carpet to the curb and slap some paint on these walls and ceiling. 4 hours of your time, $30 for paint and you've just added maybe another $10,000 to the price of the house with it selling in half the time.

To recap this section, it's not difficult to get ready to put your house on the market.  You don't have to rip out the kitchens and bathrooms and put in high end ones.  You don't even have to replace the carpeting that you rip out and take to the curb if you can't afford to - you'll still make more money from a naked, but clean, slab than you will from exposing potential buyers to this filth.

All you have to do is wash (and put away) your dishes.  Grab a couple of garbage bags and pick up all the garbage.  Wipe the light switches and - for God's sake - clean your bathrooms!!

Everything above is really common sense.  Most people knock themselves out cleaning and straightening up in preparation for company.  Strangers coming to your home to decide if they want to write you a very large check is a category far above "company".  They deserve the extra effort for sure!

But that's just me.....


  1. Sue, I wish you could be my realtor here in Knoxville. There are lots of homes for sale in Knoxville, luckily I haven't come across listings in this bad of shape. I wish I could send this link to the sellers regarding tips #2 & #3. It's amazing what people think they can get for their home, when similar homes have been sold for a lot less in the same area.

    1. Thank you Sam! I'd love to be a realtor in Knoxville - such beautiful country there! I get the overpriced house thing. It's not so bad here in Birmingham, AL - sellers seem to get the market has tanked down here - but I totally get what you're saying. These people seem to fall into 3 categories (1) greed - they want to clear enough profit to go live on a beach somewhere, (2) they look at their house with rose colored glasses on. They think their house is super awesome and it should be sold at a super awesome price because gosh golly everyone is going to think they have a super awesome house too - these are usually the people who have doll collections, plastic flowers everywhere and lots of gnomes in the yard - and (3) they've put "so much work into the home" that they deserve to get paid for all that work - this usually translates into they put down new carpet 10 years ago and maybe replaced the light fixture in the bathroom. LOL People are funny funny creations. Thanks for the comment and I hope you come back soon!

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