What Buyers Want…

Our managing broker recently asked the agents in our office what successful sellers are doing to attract their buyers. That’s a good and important question because there is plenty of inventory out there, in nearly every price range, competing for buyer attention. With lots of choices and relatively few buyers, sellers have the difficult task of figuring out how to make their home stand out to anyone who comes looking.

I want to give you a from-the-trenches perspective. I’m actively working with buyers in three price ranges: Under $175,000; under $250,000; and under $450,000. Interestingly, for each of these buyers, the things that make a house appealing to them are…exactly the same. That’s right. In each case, the buyer is looking for a clean, inviting home that is in good repair.

Sound too simple? Consider it from their perspective: Let’s say we look at six houses this afternoon. Chances are, at least two are short sales, meaning the seller has the home listed for less than they owe on the mortgage and will be walking away without a dime (if they manage to sell before it gets foreclosed on). If the seller can’t pay their mortgage, they likely aren’t able to keep up on home maintenance. Of the remaining four houses, at least one will be bank-owned, a “foreclosure.” It will be cold and dark inside because the bank won’t pay for power. And most are, at best, dirty. Appliances, doors, and fixtures are often missing.  So, of our six houses, at least three will literally leave the buyer cold. Now, of the last three, you can bet that at one of them, the seller didn’t do their dishes, or left clothes on the floor, or hasn’t run the vacuum for weeks.  That leaves just two homes – just two chances to impress today’s buyer.

I guarantee you that any buyer who walks in to a warm, welcoming home where the floors are clean and the space is tidy and inviting will remember THAT house above the others. Often, it’s the difference between a sparkling bathroom and a dirty one. Or a made bed and an unmade one. Buyers subconsciously want to feel like they are coming home. I often tell sellers to think of a showing as the first time your potential husband/wife/mother-in-law ever sees your house – what do you want them to see? What DON’T you want them to see?

Buyers make emotional decisions and back up those decisions with reason. If your house appeals to the buyer’s emotions, the price will be a secondary concern. The rationale goes something like this: “I know I can buy that foreclosure down the street for $20,000 less than this place, but it needs so much work…I’d rather just have a house that I can just move in to and don’t have to worry about.”

Show buyers that you take care of, and have pride in, your home. Clean it – inside and out, top to bottom. Pack up half of what you own and put it in storage unit (they are cheap, and pay dividends when a buyer walks in and feels like your home is uncluttered and open). Repair anything that’s broken or worn. Create an inviting and warm HOME – not just some house, those are a dime a dozen right now.

  • Marjorie Stolley

    I thought your analysis of what happens when buyers visit homes was so interesting, and so well-written. I would think that buyers might go for the cheapest home, swallowing hard and rolling-up sleeves for a good bargain. My husband and I will eventually be selling our home, and I’m happy to know that our expensive up-dating and immaculate housekeeping will pay off. If we lived in your area, we would definitely consider using your services as our realtor.