As a potential home buyer clicking through listings, which one of the above pictures would you be most likely to stop and consider, the unorganized or the staged home? Come on, you know…Even though the Phoenix metro area is in a ‘sellers’ market’, and sellers think they don’t have to put much effort into selling their home, they can be wrong!
Are there buyers looking for a great deal? ALWAYS! Do most of them think because a home is unorganized and less pretty they’ll be able to pay less for it? You can count on it. Is it true? Let’s look at each ‘sides’ motivation.
The buyer: Clearly, everyone wants the most they can get for their dollar. And, when it comes to home buying (aka ‘the big bucks’), this factor could be king. Naturally, there are as many wants, wishes, desires, dreams, needs, requirements / demands…as there are humans. The range is vast. Much of the time the new to the current market buyer isn’t able to quantify and/or prioritize these preconceptions. The one thing everyone can agree on is - they want more for less.
Whether it’s market value, the buyer’s perceived value, or an influencer’s suggestion of what the buyer ‘should’ value, it’s always at the bottom-line. How much is the buyer willing to pay in dollars, sweat equity, commute time, inferior schools or shopping, etc., to get the home best suited to them?
As we know, in a sellers’ market the buyer may be hard pressed to get their offer accepted if they aren’t willing to meet the seller’s expectations and/or if they ask for more (repairs, closing costs, time to close) than the sellers are willing to provide. Obviously, this may put a crimp in the buyer’s definition of value.
The seller: Also human. They too will want a return on their investment and/or sentimental attachment to their home. The latter can be a challenge for their Realtor® when trying to explain, “Of course, the deck in the middle of the yard (for no apparent reason) has worked well for you. And, I can appreciate it took two weekends…But, not all buyers will have your same vision…”.
Sellers needn’t get too cocky about their market position. They don’t own the market. They are in the market. With the possible exception of a few areas (currently, this is true for much of Avondale), sellers need to make a sincere effort to sell quickly. As experienced Realtors® know, the longer a home is on the market, the likelihood of a price decrease to garner interest goes up each and every day. This means the majority of home sellers actually have to put their best staging foot forward BEFORE their home is placed on the market...
The old adage, you only have one chance to make a first impression, is relevant. Naturally, sellers could take their home off the market for some months and start over if their first effort isn’t successful. That’s not unheard of. Yet, it’s usually not the seller’s preference.
This brings us back to how each ‘side’ of the home buying / selling transaction perceives value when considering how the home is first presented on the MLS. Because, in the world of real estate, market value is not only defined by what a buyer is willing to pay for a home. It is also defined by what previous buyers of similar homes in the area paid for theirs. (Other than the buyer who has plenty of cash and can afford to outbid others by paying a higher than market price, of course.)
The buyer seeks value defined in their personal priorities and monetarily. The seller values the well-qualified, cooperative buyer who can close the transaction in a reasonable, agreed upon timeframe. Now, they just need to meet.
As the picture clicking buyer, do you pause at the home in disarray that appears to be in need of some TLC? Or, the home that looks well maintained, loved, and possibly ready to move in, (and, maybe only make a few updates)? If you’re the average buyer, without a lot of handyman skills or cash to hire contractors, it’s much more likely you’re looking for the move-in ready home...
Heads-up, sellers! Up to 90%(!) of homebuyers start their search on the internet. Getting your home to look more like picture #2, and make that first impression truly count, is going to take some effort. Effort comes in the form of elbow grease, possibly some repairs, and/or paint, stowing much of your personal belongings (think of it as pre-packing), and staging your home for showing. (The above home was staged using much of the homeowner’s own furnishings.)
You can do it all yourself, call in professionals for guidance, or hire the professionals to do the work for you. Capturing the heart and mind of the buyer the first time they’re clicking-through is much more rewarding than having recurring price decreases or having to re-group later.
Kathryn Hisert's experience includes 30+ years of sales and marketing. This includes having been a Realtor for over a decade, a Marketing association president, and an Accredited Staging Professional. She is currently a member of NAPO (National Association of Productivity and Organizing), National and Arizona Realtor associations and various home staging groups.