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The Real Reasons Your Home Isn't Selling - Part 2: Condition

Having your home sit on the market with little interest is incredibly frustrating, especially if you have a timeline in which you have to move and need to buy a new home. So, what could be going on? While the price is often the largest and most common factor (you can see why here), there are two other common issues with a listing. This week, let’s talk condition.

Condition refers to the state of something with regards to its appearance, quality, or working order. The hard truth is that buyers are looking for move-in ready homes. Most people don’t want to have to deal with projects or renovation because a home is outdated or needs repair. While you don’t have to necessarily spend the big bucks to bring your home on-trend, you do have to take into consideration what current buyers are looking for in a home and how that might impact the pricing of your home. Similarly, if your home has major signs of wear and tear or maintenance has been deferred, your price will need to reflect that for your home to sell.

The important thing to remember is, the characteristics of your typical buyer is going to vary depending on your region, home characteristics, and price point. So, above all, it is best to get the opinion of a local real estate agent who can give you specific recommendations for your individual situation. However, there are a couple of variables to consider that can help make your home more attractive to buyers, no matter where you are located or what the buyer’s budget is.

  • Curb Appeal – Let’s face it, first impressions matter and not just in real estate. Consider the first impression your home is giving potential buyers. Does the siding need a good power washing? Is there chipped paint or rotted siding anywhere? Do the lawn and garden beds need to be freshened up? If the answer is yes to any of those questions, addressing these things can go a long way in attracting more buyers. Why does curb appeal matter? Well, first of all, from a financial standpoint, homes with well-kept lawns and professional landscaping sell for an average of 7% more than similar homes with exterior blemishes or unattractive yards. From a sales standpoint, prospective buyers are more likely to want to look inside if they like what they see from the outside. After all, the exterior of your home is the first thing a buyer will see. This first impression sets the tone for how they will view the house as a whole. If the yard is unkempt and exterior maintenance has notably been deferred, the buyer will wonder what else is might need repair in the home. Plus, your goal is to get a buyer to fall in love with your home, if the exterior leaves something to be desired, then you’ve got a big uphill battle from there. Many buyers can’t visualize changes and often won’t take a second look at a house if the first look doesn’t appeal to them. Those that can visualize the needed changes and are prepared to invest in them will expect you to reduce your price to compensate for the needed work. Even things as simple as a fresh layer of mulch or painting the front door or mailbox can go a long way in freshening up your home. Want more guidance on how to up your curb appeal? Check out some suggestions here.

  • Deferred Maintenance – I get it, no one wants to spend $10,000 on a new roof or another couple thousand on a brand-new HVAC system but if either of those systems is at the end of their life or look like they haven’t been cared for properly, trust me, a buyer will notice, and they will see dollar signs. No one wants to immediately move into a house and sink that much money into major systems unless they are compensated for it accordingly. Similarly, cosmetic maintenance deferment like heavily stained or frayed carpets, scratched hardwoods, dings, and dents in walls, chipped paint, strong odors, a water leak that wasn’t corrected, dirt and grime, or half-completed projects cause a home to feel worn and not show well. The good news? The return on investment for correcting these things is really high. Even for high-cost items like a roof and HVAC, you will likely be able to recoup the majority of your investment or even turn a profit (NAR estimates an average return on investment between 85-107%) in addition to having significantly more buyer interest. Flooring updates fare even better, with the 2019 NAR Remodeling Impact Report citing an average ROI between 100-107% to replace or refinish hardwood flooring. Smaller fixes like a fresh coat of paint can result in an even higher return percentage. A brand new neutral palette can result in your home selling for thousands more than an identical home with outdated colors. Want more suggestions for low-cost strategies to make your home look even more attractive to buyers? Check out the 6 things you must do to get your home ready to sell.

  • Clutter – Too much stuff is one of the most common reasons a home doesn’t show well. You’re planning on moving anyway right? So, you might as well start packing! Clutter distracts from the house itself and makes it feel smaller and more dated. I recently showed a home to one of my buyers that had FOUR dressers in the owner’s suite…FOUR. This owner’s bedroom was huge, but the extra furniture made it feel cramped and small. I had to literally get out a measuring tape to prove to them how big it actually was because they didn’t believe me. Plus, it is difficult to appreciate a house and its features if there is a ton of extra stuff everywhere. Year over year storage is reported as one of the most appealing features of a home for buyers, whether in the form of garage storage, walk-in pantries, and oversized closets. If the storage spaces are overfilled it screams to the buyer, “There’s not enough storage space in this house.” Plus, our potential buyers aren’t buying your stuff. They’re buying your house. Less is more here. Remove large furniture, pack up personal items, declutter closets, and minimize the number of non-essential items. You want the buyer to be able to envision themselves living in the space and it is much harder to do with distractions and someone else’s personal items stored everywhere. Need some help decluttering? Check out this super simple guide to help you get started.

Would you believe that the number one most commonly cited desirable feature in a home in 2019 was a laundry room? (Source; 2019 NAHB What Home Buyers Really Want Report)

  • Targeted Home Updates – Sometimes, homes need a little more than a good declutter and a fresh coat of paint. Targeted home updates can be a great way to draw more buyer interest and get you the price you’re looking for, especially if your home hasn’t been updated in a while. Some of these updates are going to be highly specific to your region and price point so I would definitely recommend consulting a local expert before you sink a lot of money here. You want to be sure you are efficient with your budget, so you can get the highest return on investment possible for your home. On a national scale, the National Association of Home Builders published a report in 2019 that ranked buyer preferences on home features from highest to lowest. The top 10 desirable features of a home included:

    1. Laundry room (91%)

    2. Energy Star windows (89%)

    3. Patio or other outdoor living space (87%)

    4. Energy Star appliances (86%) ß Stainless steel still wins here

    5. Ceiling fans (85%)

    6. Garage with storage (85%)

    7. Exterior lighting (85%0

    8. Walk-in pantry (83%)

    9. Hardwood flooring (83%)

    10. Double kitchen sink (81%)

Conversely, the following features are typically major turn-offs to current buyers:

  1. Outdated wallpaper or wallpaper borders

  2. Glass block walls

  3. Popcorn or plaster ceiling

  4. Laminate or tile countertops

  5. Closed-off floorplans

  6. Wall-to-wall carpet

  7. Pastel fixtures

  8. Shiny brass fixtures

  9. Wood paneling

  10. Stenciling and sponge painting

Again, style recommendations should be individual to your specific region, but most of

these turn-offs are pretty universal no matter where you are located. You might not need

to give your home a complete overhaul but fixing just a few of these things could go a

long way in improving buyer interest.

Just behind price, the condition is the second most common reason a home sits on the market. Take into account the above suggestions and do an honest audit about the current state of your home. Then, make any necessary adjustments or corrections so that you can get your home sold quickly and for the highest possible price. Don’t want to deal with the updates? I get it, it’s a pain. But not doing so can cost you big time. You can still sell your home in a less than optimal condition, but you have to be prepared to drop the price significantly compared to market value to compensate for any required work. You also have to be prepared for your home to sit on the market longer. Most buyers are looking for a move-in ready home, so if your home is a bit of a fixer-upper your buyer pool is going to be much more limited. Plus, the buyers that are left are going to want to be compensated for the time and money they are going to have to spend to get the home updated and back in working order. I would know, these are the only types of homes we’ve personally bought so far because we can get them at a great price and build in instant equity with the updates!

Have questions or want to talk further? Send me an email with your questions or schedule a free buyer or seller consultation. Even if you’re not in the metro Atlanta area, feel free to reach out and I can help connect you to a great local agent that can get you started in your buying or selling journey!

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My name is Lindsay Walston.

I'm a healthcare provider turned real estate agent with an eye for luxurious details. Let me show you how to create (or find!) a beautiful and functional home, no matter your budget.  Want to learn more?

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