Selling a home in today's market can be a bit frustrating. There's all sorts of home staging and property preparation advice out there, and some of it seems daunting or impossible to follow unless you already live in a haute home or have a serious bankroll set aside to whip your place into shape.
You can't turn a rancher into a Victorian – so don't bother trying. But you do have more control than you may realize over how desirable your listing looks to potential buyers. In order to know what turns a buyer on you need to know what turns a buyer off.
Here are 6 big-time turn-offs that make buyers cringe at the thought of purchasing your home.
1. Cluttered, dirty and/or "fragrant" houses. You already know this one. Every seller does. Yet, even in 2013, the era of Houzz and HGTV, buyers across America walk into homes that would make your mother cringe every single day. The people who come to see your home are making one of the biggest decisions they'll ever make. Cluttered countertops, neglected toilet seats and unattended litter boxes not only invite the viewer to turn up their nose, they practically compel a buyer to walk away.
Luckily, you have all the control in the world over how you house looks to your would be buyer. Some sellers find it helpful to think not about de-cluttering, but about pre-packing. Everything that is not part of the home's decor or furnishing and that is not a must for your daily functioning should be boxed up, and neatly packed away in the garage or a storage unit. You'll have to pack it all up anyway when your home sells, and doing it in advance just makes it more likely the place will sell, stat!
Also, no matter how long it takes for your home to get an offer, do not show it without it being completely and totally tidied up: no laundry or dishes piled up, countertops freshly wiped down, mail and paperwork put away and smelly dogs or litter boxes cleaned and/or out of the house. Get every family member on board, kids/cats/canines included, and create a morning or evening cleaning ritual to minimize mad, pre-showing dashes.
2. Overpricing. Buying a house in today's market is hard work! On top of all the research and analysis about the market, buyers have to work overtime to separate the real estate wheat from the chaff, get educated about short sales and foreclosures and often put in many, many offers before they get even a single one accepted. The last thing they want to add to their task list is trying to argue a seller out of unreasonable expectations or pricing.
When buyers see a home whose seller is clearly clueless about their home's value and has priced it sky-high, many won't even bother looking at it. If they do love it, they'll wait for it to sit on the market for a while, hoping the market will "educate you" into desperation, priming the pump for a later, lowball offer.
Ultimately, you decide what to ask for your home. But you deprive yourself of the professional counsel and expertise you're paying for if you fail to listen to your agent's advice and insights on the subject of listing price. They will point you to other properties that have sold in your area with similar features and use that data to help you understand the right price range for your home. Worried about setting the price too low? Get buyer's brokers' feedback with an advance broker's open house, and work with your agent on an advance plan for bringing the price down if you get no showings or buyer interest.
4. Deceptive listing descriptions or pictures. Here's the deal: you will never trick someone into buying your home. If listing pics are photo-edited within an inch of their lives, buyers will learn this information at some point. If your neighborhood is described as funky and vibrant, because the house is under the train tracks and you live in between a wrecking yard and a biker bar, buyers will inevitably figure this out.
And misrepresentation alone is enough to turn otherwise interested buyers off. In cases where the buyer feels misled, whether or not that was your intention, they can't help but wonder: If they can't trust you to be honest about this, how can they trust you to be honest about everything else?
Buyers rely on sellers to be upfront and honest – so be both. If your home has features or aspects that most buyers will see as negative, your home's listing probably shouldn't lead with them. But neither should you go out of your way to slant or skew or spin the facts which will become instantly obvious to anyone who visits your home. And in any event, your pricing should account for all of your home's features, pros and cons.
5. New, bad, home improvements. Many a buyer has walked into a house that has clearly been remodeled and upgraded in anticipation of the sale, only to have their heart sink with the further realization that the brand-spanking-new kitchen features a countertop made, not of Carerra marble, but brand-new, pink tiles with a kitty cat in the middle of each one. Or the pristine, just-installed floors feature carpet in a creamy shade of blue – the buyer's least favorite color.
New home improvements that run counter to a buyer's aesthetics are a big turn-off. In today's era of frugality, buyers just can't cotton to ripping out expensive, brand new, perfectly functioning things just on the basis of style – especially since they'll feel like they paid for these things in the price of the home.
Check in with a local broker or agent before you make a big investment in a pre-sale remodel. They can give you a reality check about the likely return on your investment, and help you prioritize about which projects to do (or not). Instead of spending $40,000 on a new, less-than-attractive kitchen, they might encourage you to update appliances, have the cabinets painted and spend a few grand on your curb appeal. Many times, they will also help you do the work of selecting neutral finishes that will work for the largest possible range of buyer tastes.
6. Bad photos or no photos at all. Some of the listing photos that make it online are shockingly bad. They have dumpsters parked in front of the house, piles of laundry all over the "hardwood" floors touted in the listing description, and once, even the family dog doing his or her business in the lovely green front yard. Listing pictures that have put your home in anything but its best, accurate light are a very quick way to ensure that you turn off a huge number of buyers from even coming to see your house!
The only bigger buyer turn-off than these bizarre listing pics are listings that have no photos at all; most buyers on today's market see a listing with no pictures and click right on past it, without giving the place a second glance.
Before your home is on the market, ask your listing agent-to-be to see the online marketing for their current listings, to get a feel for how they operate. After your home is on the market, don't neglect to check top listing sites to be sure that the pics for your home's listing represent your home well. If not, ask your agent to grab some new shots and get them online (and say pretty please, pretty please!).
Whether you are planning to put down a full 20 percent or pulling together the cash for a 3.5 percent down payment for an FHA loan, your down payment might be the biggest single cash expenditure you ever make. Some scrimp and save for years, while others can ready the cash with less difficulty, but no buyer in the history of home buying has ever said they have too much down payment money.
Here's an insider secret: many buyers have a treasure trove of down payment resources at their disposal, hidden in plain sight. Here's a map to this hidden treasure – a handful of frequently-overlooked sources of down payment funds.
1. Your budget's biggest line items. Home buying is one of those push-meet-shove-type situations. If you're serious about coming up with your down payment funds, sit down and backtrack over your monthly budget or your last month's checking account statements. Isolate your top 10 budgetary line items and do an internal gut check on whether there is anything on this list that you can slash or eliminate.
If you spend $5 a workday on a bagel and coffee at breakfast and another $15 on your takeout lunch, that's $400 per month – almost $5000 a year! – you can save by simply bringing these things from home (not to mention the health and other benefits you'll gain). And those numbers are not inflated, if you work in a big city. Nor is the $100/month cable bill, the $20 yoga class, the $2,000 vacation or the premium pricing you might paying for cell service.
Redirecting the dollars you would normally spend for some of these big-ticket items back into your down payment savings account is like pressing fast forward on your home buying timeline.
2. Your stuff. When you need to save money, there are really only two levers you can pull: you can spend less, or you can make more. Selling stuff you already own and don't actually use is a relatively painless way to make more money to go toward your down payment. If you're really serious about home buying, put everything on the table.
Things buyers-to-be often sell (usually online) include:
- RVs, cars and motorcycles
- designer clothes, costumes, shoes and handbags
- underutilized hobby-related gear (bikes, boats and snowboards)
- furniture and antiques
- electronics, books and CDs (think: TVs, computers, old smart phones, etc.).
Don't underestimate the amount of cash you can bring in from the things you already own. With the proliferation of peer-to-peer sharing sites popping up across the inte
3. Your skills and time. One way to make more money is to sell off the stuff you have lying around the other is to get to work! Spend your off-time, your evenings and weekends leveraging your professional skills or personal hobbies to bring in some extra cash.
Once you get serious about coming up with your down payment cash and decide to be creative about where to find that money, using your skills and your time creatively is a power-packed way to open the financial floodgates.
Consider starting out with a simple email to your circle of acquaintances outlining your skills and what kind of work you'd like to pick up. You can also list your potential services on a site like TaskRabbit. If you are crafty you might let your new felting hobby stock the virtual shelves of your shop on Etsy. Even if you aren't "creative" think creatively about what you might do to earn a little extra cash. One acquaintance of mine has earned thousands of dollars dog sitting while she works at home. You'll be surprised by how much you can earn hawking wares on the side or with small business projects, like research, bookkeeping or office organizing projects.
4. Your Parents, Family and Friends. Many home buyers get by with a little help from their friends (and relatives). Most mortgage programs will allow for some portion of your down payment to come in the form of 'gift money,' which is exactly what it sounds like: money someone gives you to help you buy a home.
The best case scenario is to have some idea of what sort of gift money you can count on as far in advance as possible, as it will impact your own savings targets and your lender's documentation requirements. If you have a parent, sibling or auntie who has mentioned their interest in giving you this sort of gift it is important to bring the subject up, express your gratitude and let them know that you're planning to buy soon. You'll want to have a detailed conversation about logistics and go over everything from timelines to tax obligations.
Check in with your mortgage pro about how much of your down payment needs you can satisfy with gift money – guidelines varies widely based on how much of your own cash you have to put down and what loan programs you're applying for. Lenders almost always require that gift money be contributed along with a gift letter that states that the giver is a relative and that the money is a gift, not a loan. The lender may also require to see a bank account statement from the giver showing that the money was theirs to give – just to be sure they didn't go out and get some sort of loan that they expect you to help them repay.
5. Your Assets. Some retirement accounts allow you to borrow against or pull out funds, penalty-free, to apply them toward your down payment on a home. Obviously your specific circumstances will determine if it is advisable for you to tap into your 401K or IRA and plug that cash into a house. For some buyers, it may make sense to get your down payment up to 20% by borrowing a few thousand dollars from yourself!
If getting your down payment to the 20 percent mark by borrowing from your 401K gets your mortgage interest rate down and allows you to repay that cash to your own retirement account (vs. to your mortgage lender) with interest, you and your financial advisor might agree that this move is the right move for you. Or not – this is a highly personal decision that must be made strategically, but some homebuyers should at least explore whether their retirement accounts are a sensible source of some portion of their down payment funds.
I spent my Sunday morning preparing to file taxes for 2015 and spent the rest of the day planning 2016. I’ve looked through my list of 2015 closings and have taken the time to reflect on each of those deals. I closed 2015 with achievements that I am personally proud of, I have made lifelong friends through my work and I have identified areas of my service that could use my attention and further education for professional improvement through the coming years. I have identified areas of my personal life where I recognize the same, and have taken time to register for classes both in continuing education and for seminars in self-development.
“Do what you love and more than money will follow” B. Proctor
Before I started a career in the industry, I had bounced around from hourly-waged job to job. I was looking for something to sink my teeth into that would allow me to build a career in a field where I could always continue learning, growing and excelling while earning compensation based on my own effectiveness.
Staying-put has never been satisfactory to me, I am always up for a new challenge and working towards a new achievement, and I thrive from finding answers and solving problems. Most importantly, I love to build lasting relationships with great people. Real estate encompasses everything I hoped to find in a career.
Now that I’ve landed on real estate (3.5 short years after making the decision to give it a go), I can’t imagine spending my days any other way. Real Estate is more than open houses and pretty pictures. Under the umbrella of the “Real Estate” title, I am able to experience and grow in different realms of the business; sales, rentals, investment, and development. There seems to be endless opportunity and constant evolution; it’s an exciting path to be accelerating on at an exciting time in history.
Being a vacation town, we do our fair share of cash deals but we also work hard to help buyers qualify for appropriate financing programs to help them transition from renters to homeowners. These particular deals have been especially meaningful to me lately! With low interest rates and a number of loan options (FHA, RD, Conventional) this is a great time to be a borrower and become a homeowner.
Whether I am helping skiers find the vacation home of their dreams, or working with friend to help her become a first time homeowner, it is always my goal to close the deal knowing that I handled the entire transaction with the quality of service that I would wish my own family be shown if the roles were reversed.
This is more of a personal blog post than an ad intended to share new listings and price reductions. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my gratitude for the industry and for the wonderful people I have met through my work. 2015 has been a memorable year and I look forward to experiencing all that 2016 has to offer.