Buyers Draw Conclusions About How Sellers Live

J Philip Faranda June 27, 2011

Interesting day of showing homes to a buyer client. 

Of the 5 homes we saw, 3 were an instant "NO." And they all had something in common: Poor upkeep and, shall we say, optimistic asking prices. 

  • Home #1: Lots of updating was needed, but the deal killer was, if you can believe it, drop ceilings in two rooms on the first floor. Sadly, a 3rd room gave the reason- there was water damage at one point which was never completely repaired. It wouldn't take a 2nd mortgage to fix this, just a long weekend and maybe -maybe- as much as $2,000. The buyer perceived that if the seller had such low standards that the rest of the house might have other defects. At the asking price, the interior should have been pristine. It wasn't. Pass. 
  • Home #2: As I opened the lockbox, the seller flew over from the barbecue next door and explained she wasn't aware of the showing and to please excuse that the house wasn't prepped. Understandable. What we didn't understand was how the teenager playing video games in the living room in his gym shorts couldn't get up and pick up his underwear off the floor of his bedroom. There were other issues, but this shed them in the worst light. Few want to do business with people with poor common sense. Pass. 
  • Home #3 (the coup de grâce ): As we pull up to the home, we see a stone retaining wall bowing and deteriorating. We've had tons of rain, so they get a pass because this might be a new development. Then, the walk up to the front door is an obsacle course of crumbling slate. As we opened the screen door to access the lockbox, it scraped the ceiling of the porch. Inside, it appeared as if the sellers left the house in haste and did  nothing to prepare for a showing. It was cluttered and there was a distinct cooking odor. When a home looks as if the occupants were abducted as opposed to tidying up and leaving on their own terms, it is a distraction. We didn't make it upstairs- it was probably $50,000 over priced. Pass. 
Rustic charmIf you think buyers are just too picky, think again. If a seller wants to get what the Jeffersons down the road got for their house, the sellers have to make sure that their house is as maintained and updated as the Jefferson's place was, or they'll sit. Buyers have too many options to look past foibles. Jury rigged maintenance, sloppy housekeeping and lackadaisical upkeep will just have them moving on to the next home on the ever-growing list. 

It has been said many times that we are in a pricing war and a beauty contest. Some of these asking prices took some chutzpah given the condition of the homes, and when the competition is $50,000 nicer and priced $25,000 less, some serious client education is in order. 

For their part, buyers conclude things when a place shows poorly. They ask aloud if the sellers are taping the Formica together on the counter, then how are they maintaining things like the furnace. If  they don't have the smarts to tidy up or price the house to reflect the condition, being in bed with them for a 60-90 day contract period doesn't seem very appealing. With about half a million dollars on the line in this case, I don't blame the buyer for moving on. What they conclude by observing how the sellers live raises too many doubts about doing business with them. 


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