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Double Check Your For Sale Listing Details

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Home For SaleA little over two years ago, my friend discovered that she had developed mold in her basement. It was a strain so difficult to manage that it required thousands of dollars to eradicate and she developed medical problems because of it. She had it professionally cleaned and had a ultra-violet light-equipped HVAC system installed to combat future growths. Despite all her improvements (and spore-free test results), her medical issues persisted and she was forced to move out and try to sell her home.

When I looked at the description used to explain the comforts of her home, I was aghast. The description, couched in all sorts of non-specific novelette-type prose like “quaint neighborhood” and “lovingly renovated,” did nothing to describe any non-mold related improvements. While a bit shady, I could understand not mentioning the mold related enhancements such as the UV HVAC system or the extensive cleaning of the basement; but the listing completely skipped how she replaced all her appliances with stainless steel, replaced her counter-top, and installed hardwood floors on the first floor. It even skipped on describing the renovated bathroom on the first floor.

My logic for offering as much information as possible so that buyers can make an informed decision on whether they want to tour a place stems from my experience with buying pay per click advertising. The key in any type of advertising is to lower your cost of acquisition. The cost in this case is your time. What you want is someone who is genuinely interested in your home coming to get a tour. If someone absolutely hates stainless steel appliances and doesn’t know you have them, they might be turned off the minute they walk in. You’ve just spent time showing a place with zero chance of a sale and time away from showing it to someone who would buy it.

On the other hand, if they don’t care about hardwood floors and they come, they might be pleasantly surprised but they won’t value it as much. You want the person who values hardwoods to visit because you will be paid more if that person buys. That person is more likely to answer the listing if they see hardwoods in the description. Offering as much information as possible might limit your pool potential of buyers but the probability one of them buys will increase (in pay per click advertising, you want a lot of targeted clicks, not just a lot of clicks).

I told my friend this but she was reluctant to ask the real estate agent to change the listing because she felt the agent knew best. While I have no doubt that a listing agent knows more than I do about selling homes, I find it difficult to believe that you would avoid mentioning stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors, or a newly renovated bathroom.

Ultimately my friend was unable to sell the home and is now happily renting it out. (this is more a product of the softening real estate market and the agent having too many listings to manage at the time)

Often, experts do know more than you in their domain but it never hurts to make suggestions. When you’re talking about such valuable assets and when the cost of asking is zero, it makes no sense not to ask.

(Photo: thetruthabout)

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11 Responses to “Double Check Your For Sale Listing Details”

  1. devil says:

    Stainless steel is to this decade what harvest gold and avocado green were to the 1970s. It’s nearly out-of-style already. Also, SS has the unfortunate distinction of being the most commonly used appliance finish in McMansions, many of which are repos now.

    I don’t blame the agent for not mentioning it.

  2. jim says:

    This was about a year ago, when SS was hotter.

    What is the trend nowadays for appliances?

  3. Amanda says:

    More info upfront is always better. When we were looking for a place, I gravitated towards listings that were very detailed about every aspect of the home. Your friend may have gotten more interest – and more serious interest – if she had done so!

  4. jay says:

    In this day and age information is king. I could agree more with your post. I was looking at houses a few months ago (holding off to see when this housing spiral figures itself out) and realized how little info the postings had.

    I want more than a couple sentance description. Lots of pictures and even a video while you are at it. It all comes down to time. Most open houses are during the weekend. If I am spending my weekend time searching for a home I want to maximize my output. I’d much rather spend the time up-front researching from my couch in the middle of the night than the weekend when I could be doing something much more fun!

    Maybe because I am a first time buyer my expectations are out of whack.

  5. jim says:

    Jay – I totally agree, I was also surprised with how little information there was and why companies didn’t create simple websites around homes with pictures, videos, etc. A domain is $9, it can’t be that hard to slap some photos in a template and show more.

  6. tim says:

    More information might throw up flags for some potential homebuyers. The agent’s ancillary job is to get as many warm bodies into the house as possible.

    Wouldn’t you prefer a house that had no water infiltration issue to one that clearly has had an issue in the past? That’s what you’re advertising if you talk about things like the UV HVAC system or extensive basement cleaning. The 4 letter word of the housing industry – MOLD – is a huge risk.

    I agree that descriptions other cosmetic improvements could better differentiate a house for sale. Add as many photos as possible too!

  7. jim says:

    A homebuyer that knows about the water infiltration issue after they show up is not going to buy your home, you don’t want quantity of people, you want quality, right?

  8. tim says:

    I really believe its more about quantity of people.

    You can’t begin to convince someone that this might be the house for them if you don’t first get them in to see it. Big purchases like this play on emotion more than logic. If you could show what a great deal the house is and then play down the present or future costs of remediation work for the water issue, you’d have a better chance of playing emotions to convince them that this could be the right house for them…

    Say 2 of 10 potential homebuyers are quality and don’t care about this condition – they’ll be quality regardless of what is put in the ad.

    Chances are a good realtor could convince 1 or 2 of the remaining 8 that their potential deal-breakers aren’t a big deal. But first the realtor would need a chance to get them emotionally involved.

    Rationalized emotions seem to end up meaning more than logic in the homebuying process! Thats why novelette-type prose is used – low on logic high on feeling.

    Then buyers remorse is when logic starts to mean more than emotion again after a contract is signed.

  9. jim says:

    Your argument makes sense to me but I’m skeptical whether it’s true in the real world. :)

  10. Chuck says:

    There’s an interesting section of Freakonomics on this topic. The section basically says that definable assets to your home improve your selling price. Examples like the words Granite Countertops, Hard Wood Floors, etc. Soft descriptions such as the words Charming, and use of exclamation points (!) are a subtle invitation to low bid on a house. I’m paraphrasing here, but the whole book is pretty interesting to read as well. I’m sure many BFP-readers here have read it (Freakonomics).

  11. Kevin says:

    I have to agree about lack of info out there on homes for sale. I use realtor.com and our local paper’s website to search about once or twice a week. Some of the listings with no pictures or a 2-line description, I’ll just skip over. If I’m going to take my time to go to an open house or even drive by the place, I want to know exact details. Some of the listings don’t even put sq footage in there – to me that is just lazy.


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