by Dirk Zeller
All home sellers come with their own personalities and personal quirks, but when it comes to preparing a home for presentation you'll find that nearly all sellers fit into one of five categories. As you begin to counsel clients regarding changes and repairs they must consider, it won't take long to realize whether you're working with a Mr. Fix-It, a gung-ho renovator, a stuck-in-the-60s lover of the past, a do-nothing couch potato, or a human calculator.
At the point of staging a home for sale, each of these personality types brings favorable and unfavorable qualities to the task. The secret is to prepare yourself and your advice by learning early in the relationship just who you're working with.
Mr. Fix-It: This seller is ready, willing, and even enthusiastic to dive in and go way overboard completing projects before the home is ready to be shown.
Think of Tim "The Tool man" Taylor and you'll have a good idea of this seller's enthusiasm and approach. Then think of the results you've seen on the Home Improvement show for a good sense of the kind of outcome that may be in the script. Your only problem is Al won't be around when you need him.
The Downside: Mr. Fix-It has all the tools and is ready to use them at the drop of a hat. The problem is the work may not be done to industry standards, and so instead of an improved condition the home could end up with more problems than it had to begin with.
The Solution: When you spot a Mr. Fix-It, discuss changes in detail before any work begins. Discuss industry standards of quality. Ask: If a licensed and bonded contractor did the work, what would the finished product look like? Ask about industry standards for nailing, painting, gluing, plumbing, tiling, sheet rocking, roofing, and other tasks that may sound easier than they really are. Bring the seller's spouse or significant other into the conversation. The person who lives with a Mr. Fix-It understands where the power tool obsession ends and repair ability begins. With luck and skill, together you'll keep enthusiasm in check and put a damper on the idea to jack up and rotate the house so that the front yard becomes the back yard and the kids have more room to play.
The gung-ho renovator: These are owners who do everything way over the top. When it's time to preparing their home for sale, they want to practically create a whole new house before marketing begins. Once their makeover is complete, they sometimes find the result so impressive that they pull the property off the market and stay to enjoy the outcome of their efforts.
The Downside: Without good counsel, these owners cross the line between repairs and remodeling. Along the way, they spend way too much time and far more money than they can recover when they sell.
The Solution: Be clear about the seller's objective when preparing a home for sale. Impress upon the owners that the aim is to economically increase the warmth and desirability of the home and to remove potential objections that buyers might have against the home. The goal is not to achieve perfection. Remind them that in home fix-up, repair, and staging there is a point of diminishing return. It's easy for the gung-ho seller to cross that line.
Stuck in the 60s: With no further description, you know the look of this seller's home. From furnishings to artwork to floor coverings and color schemes, the entire place is decades out of style and, worse, the owners love it the way it is. I know firsthand, because I watched as the family home I grew up in sat too long on the market because it was stuck in the past. My mother loved the colors of the 60s and was resolute to keep them in place for as long as she was alive.
The Problem: The décor is so overwhelmingly dated that buyers have a hard time getting past the aesthetics and imagining. Struggling to visualize what it would be like to redecorate and move into the home.
The Solution: Somehow, you have to point out to the sellers that the look of the 60s (or 70s, for that matter) needs to be toned down, dialed back, or moved forward a few notches in order gain buyer interest in the home. Younger buyers have no nostalgia for the "old days" and many older buyers don't care to remember the décor from that era. Don't expect a complete redecoration: Often the best you can hope for is removal of the shag carpet. From that point, you may have to artfully sell around the avocado-colored appliances.
The couch potato: Coach potatoes want top dollar for their home but don't want to lift a finger to get it. Their favorite tool is the remote control.
The Problem: Sellers in this category claim complete satisfaction with their home just the way it is. They don't want to clean it up, pick it up, or repair it so it works. They feel that someone out there is willing to pay top dollar for the home, regardless of its mediocre condition. They simply want the agent to find them the right buyer. These are also the people who insist they always win when they go to Las Vegas.
The Solution: Seek a compromise. Make a list of recommended repairs and get the owner to take action on at least some items, because something is better than nothing. Then work to adjust the owner's price expectations in light of the property condition you have exposed. It seems the owner either has to settle for repairs or a lower asking price; they can't have it both ways without hurting the agent's stats. The calculator These sellers could be the most difficult of all. They can tell you in detail about every investment they ever made in their home. If you want, they'll be happy to provide you with receipts.
The Downside: These sellers expect to recoup every dollar they ever spent fixing up their home. If you counsel that additional work is needed to prepare the home for sale, they'll expect the sale proceeds to reflect at least a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement of the expenses involved.
The Solution: Reorient the sellers' view of the task at hand. Explain that the recommended investment covers improvements that bring the home back up to expected consumer standards and make it competitive in the current marketplace. Get the owners to understand that they are preparing their home not to achieve a higher sales price, but to gain buyer consideration that leads to a timely purchase offer.
Published: October 23, 2009
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