It's Not Personal

But selling a home… now, that’s different. It’s not personal. It’s business.


It’s interesting with this job because we get to see such a personal side of someone’s life.

We often learn about the harmony and discordance within a marriage. We get to know the children and the pets. We meet the parents and the in-laws. We see the highs and lows of our clients’ temperaments. We learn some of the financial realities of their lives.

We see the bright red walls or the flamboyant wallpapers. We see the photographs, artwork, diplomas, certificates, and other memorabilia of peoples’ lives. In some cases it almost feels a little voyeuristic. Working in residential real estate is very personal.

So is buying homes. We look in closets and open drawers to understand the space. We analyze their furniture and how it’s laid out.

Will our grandmother’s dining room table fit? Will the ceiling be tall enough for our armoire? We flush the toliets to make sure they run properly. We try to envision ourselves living in the space. We ask ourselves, "Will this property work for the way we live our lives?"

It's all very personal. 

But selling a home… now, that’s different. It’s not personal. It’s business. It’s about merchandising a product and making it as desirable as possible to the vast majority of buyers. 

I often say there are two types of sellers. Those who want to sell their home and those who want someone to buy their home.  And there’s a huge difference. 

The sellers who want to sell their home will do anything and everything to get their home sold. They understand that it’s not personal. It is business and they are selling a product. They will take down the wallpaper; paint those red or purple walls beige; lay new carpet; put up a new mailbox, put away personal memories; organize closets; and put out beautiful planters.

I’ve even had clients install new bathrooms and put on new roofs to make their “product” the most merchandisable. They get it. They see their house in competition with all the other homes on the North Shore and they want to win. They want to be best in show; to be the house that gets the next offer. They want to sell their house!

The other kind of sellers: those who want someone to buy their home, just put their home out there - as is - and then say to themselves, “My house is special.  Everyone is going to love it.” 

Sadly, that’s rarely the situation. These sellers are constantly disappointed and angry when they don’t receive the complements they are expecting. I remember a very high-end, beautiful home for sale a few years ago. As I walked through the house I admired the gorgeous wallpapers and the beautiful wool carpets.

I could see the excellent quality of materials that were used for decorating. But, it was also very clear to me that the list price was not about the value of the house. The sellers had priced their home in such a way that they might get reimbursed for their decorating costs. It was so personal – no business logic at all.  

Rarely to buyers pay for decorating – some do – but most could care less. When making an offer, they mentally deduct the costs associated with removing the wallpaper or changing the colors in the rooms. For them, they want it to be "our house" not "your house."

So, while they may appreciate the lavender colored bedroom, they don't think their teen-age son is going to like it very much. Most buyers want to buy a house that they can move right into with little effort and will work for their family.  

So what kind of seller are you?  

If you want to sell your house, try to remember, it's not personal.

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Cooler by the Lake June 19, 2012 at 03:26 AM
DEA, I don't disagree with you. Most buyers do want to be creative and personalize their homes -- eventually -- but moving in without having to make significant changes is often more desireable. They've just spend thousands of dollars for a new home -- they don't particularly want to continue spending more money to change it. To your point, for the seller to go to great lengths to modify a home in order to just sell it, may or may not make sense. However, there can be a lot of space between a "blank canvas" and a cluttered or overly personalized property. If the seller chooses to do nothing to make their home more marketable, they also need to understand that they will probably not get top dollar for their home... it is a business decision for them. If they choose to do nothing, their list price needs to reflect that decision. Because when a seller has either a very dated or cluttered or distinctively decorated home, many buyers will either eliminate the house or deduct from their asking price. Alternatively, the seller might prefer to invest $1000 in order to add perhaps $10,000 to the sales price...that's the cost/benefit decision they need to make.
Ana Draa June 25, 2012 at 01:25 PM
I.dea, I think you're missing the point of this article. Buyers in a soft market have many homes to chose from. When a buyer is going around looking at houses...which homes stick out or catch their eyes? For me, it's the ones that are fresh, clean, and well maintained with updated bathrooms & kitchens. At the end of the day, selling a home is purely business transaction. If a Seller wants to get their product/house sold, you need to present it in the best light, put your best food forward. Any seller who is unwilling to make the effort needs to be aware that the competition is making the effort. It's all a matter of how long you want to deal the hassle of trying to sell a house, and how much of your home value you want to realize.
Cooler by the Lake June 25, 2012 at 09:12 PM
Ana, Yes, that is exactly what I meant -- thanks for clarifying it so well! :)
Ana Draa June 26, 2012 at 02:08 AM
You're welcome Ann, your article makes a lot of sense. The other mistake a lot of sellers are making, not being realistic about the market. I know it's very tough to accept that the value of a home has dropped (a lot!), but facts are what they are. If a seller really wants to get their home sold, they need to price it based on current market conditions, not what the house was worth in 2006.
Cooler by the Lake June 26, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Absolutely. The most strategic marketing tool is to price the house correctly from Day 1. We're finding that houses that are priced correctly usually go under contract within 30 days -- sometimes for as high as 100% of their asking price. Those that are overpriced can take months, even years to sell -- usually after numerous price reductions.


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