For a Smooth Sale, Think Like the Buyer


If buying a home seems scary, selling has the potential to turn your world upside-down.

It's not just the physical work of packing up, keeping things clean and making a fast getaway just before a prospective home buyer turns up for a showing. If you're going to sell, you have to separate emotionally from your home. Until you do, you'll remain a homeowner rather than a home seller.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with being a homeowner. But it can get in the way of selling your home faster and for more money. That's because as homeowners, we tend to overlook small things--such as squeaky doors, rusty hinges, ripped window screens and missing storm windows--that seem like a big deal to home buyers.

They don't want to move into a home with peeling paint and bubbly wallpaper. They want to move into a home that's as close to being new as a 15-, 20-or 40-year-old home can be.

As a seller, it's your job to give home buyers what they want and to meet their hopefully reasonable expectations. If you do, you'll be rewarded with a faster sale for more money--goals you can easily achieve in any market.

Here are a few things buyers always have on their wish list, and some ways you can meet, or exceed, their expectations:

* A house that's new, even though they can't afford it.

The goal of most home buyers is to purchase a property that's as close as possible to being new but to pay the least amount for it.

Of course you're not going to completely renovate your home and add on to it just to turn around and sell it the next day. It's not cost effective, and if you were going to do so much work, you'd probably just stay there.

What you can do is make sure everything is as sparkling clean as the day it arrived in your home. If that means taking a toothbrush and scrubbing the grime out of your countertops or stove, so be it. Buyers always notice when something isn't clean and shiny.

* Not having to fix anything.

That's what buyers expect when they purchase a house--even one that's 50 years old. It's not a reasonable expectation, but when selling your home, you have to make sure that everything works.

If you have any doors that don't really open, broken windowpanes, ripped screens, squeaky hinges, carpeting that has been pulled up, loose floorboards or stained drywall, fix these items before a buyer walks in the door.

That's because once a buyer believes your house is full of things that need to be fixed, the amount of interest he or she has in making you an offer wanes.

* A perfect house.

The concept of normal wear and tear doesn't exist for some home buyers. They expect a house to be in exactly the same condition as the day you accepted their offer, or perhaps even better.

The problem is that when you're preparing a home for a showing, it appears in perfect condition. But no home is truly perfect, especially when you've taken it apart for moving day. Unfortunately, that's sometimes the next time the buyers will see the home.

Unless the buyers can remember how "perfect" the house looked the day of the last showing, when everything was picked up and in place, you could be facing a fight at the walk-through inspection.

To defuse the situation, make sure that your home is once again as spotless as possible. Most sellers think broom clean means just sweeping up. But in many cases, that doesn't begin to get rid of the dirt and grime that have accumulated from the move. So grab the spray cleaner, a few rags and the broom and give the home a final cleaning.

Finally, if the buyer asks to show the home to a relative or decorator between the time you agree to sell and the closing, you might consider letting them in for a short period of time. This generosity will hopefully help the buyer visualize the house in another, slightly less perfect state before the final walk-through.


Ilyce R. Glink is a syndicated columnist. If you have questions, write Real Estate Matters Syndicate, P.O. Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or visit Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.

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