Every day sellers want me to look at their ad, their pictures and their price to weigh in. Every day, those same sellers are hoping to find the perfect ad to make sure their house sells right away.
One of the first lessons that stuck with me as a rookie salesperson is that you have to get into the mind of your buyer. Too often sellers look at their homes and focus so hard on why people should buy it. Sellers are so convinced they are right, they become blind to all other possibilities.
What’s worse is their friends and family agree with them which only pushes the sellers further into their fantasy land.
Sellers put so much time and energy into the tiniest details, that when there is a typo in the ad or one of their pictures is out of order, sellers freak out like a bride on her wedding day. Aside from the undue stress it causes, this passion for detail and overthinking is not bad–it’s just not particularly effective.
When you obsess over details and “sell yourself” that your home is worth more than it actually is, you have overlooked one teeny tiny problem–the buyer gets to vote too. Without the buyer vote, we get nowhere.
This is why it is so important that you remember to put on your buyer goggles every time you make any decisions about your marketing. This includes everything from your price to your description and photos. If you think like a buyer—you will win. If you think like a seller—you will lose. It really is that simple.
First, let’s take a quick look through your seller goggles.
Picture it—we are getting ready to sell the house. We get all worked up because we look around our place, after we’ve done all the fix ups, and decide that we are worth $xxxx. Worse, we decide what amount we “need” to get out of the house and work backwards from there to come up with a list price (plus some room for negotiations). Through our seller goggles, this makes absolutely perfect sense.
After we land on what we think is a great price, we write an ad that is longer than a book telling the world about every single detail of the house. Then we take 900 pictures to make sure that we cover everything. I mean everything. No stone unturned. “Honey, did you get a good picture of the crawl space?”
Finally, it’s time to put the ad out there and the sign in the yard and wait for the many many offers to show up. We imagine dozens of buyers lining up—foaming at the mouth, fighting in line, money falling out of their pockets—to buy our house…(insert dreamy sigh here).
Not so fast amigo.
Put down the seller goggles and let’s see what the buyers are seeing.
First things first: buyers do not care about you or your house. They probably don’t care about the improvements or repairs you’ve done. They can’t even conceive of how much attention you’ve paid to this incredible chateau.
They don’t care about your gold-plated toilet handles. They don’t care about the time you’ve spent lovingly nurturing your grass. They don’t care that you installed top-of-the-line light switches instead of the cheap ones. They don’t even care that your mailbox is made of stainless steel–not regular steel.
They just don’t care.
Well, if buyers don’t care about all of those arguably important details, what DO they care about? Glad you asked…
Buyers care about…wait for it…themselves. I’ll wait here while the shock wears off.
Since you have the buyer goggles on, I want you think about what’s important. What do you care about? How do you get started? How do you choose between the hundreds of homes for sale?
Like most buyers, you will generally take the “last house standing” approach. You start with all possibilities, and then slowly whittle down the choices until there are only a few left—then you decide.
With that in mind, here are a list of questions you will need to answer so you can start the search for the perfect home.
Where should you live?
City, suburb or country?
How much can you spend?
Ready to move in or “unique fixer upper”?
House or condo?
How many bedrooms?
How many bathrooms?
One story, two or more?
How much yard/land?
Pool or no pool?
OK—you’ve got a much more manageable list. Next you do a drive by to decide which homes to tour. You setup your showings and begin the task of narrowing the choices even further.
The entire process from start to finish is all about that phrase—narrowing the choices. I want you to notice that up to this point, you haven’t really been choosing a house—you’ve been eliminating houses.
Most buyers I’ve met do not paint a mental picture of their perfect house and then patiently wait for that house to show up in their area and price range. Most buyers look and look until they figure out which house has the fewest reasons NOT to buy—and then they go for it.
Oh sure—sometimes a buyer walks into a house and falls in love. It happens, but usually only after an exhaustive process of refining the mental image of the perfect house. Once the buyer has a strong mental image, the job of finding the house becomes more of a matching game at that point.
There are a whole lot of hurdles between “for sale” and “sold”.
Now that you are beginning to understand the buyer mentality, you are ready for the next phase:
How to get into their brains to make your house stand out.
Jerry Seinfeld used to say that people don’t care what’s on television – they only care what ELSE is on. Jerry’s right and home buyers are not much different.
Buyers not only care what is for sale, they are pretty much obsessed with what ELSE is for sale. They are so worried about missing out on the perfect house at the perfect price, that even after they buy they keep shopping.
This is one reason it is critical that you also know what else is for sale. What is your competition. How fast and for how much your house sells depends heavily on what else is for sale around you.
So much emphasis is put on finding “comps”. A comp is industry talk for a home like yours that has recently sold. So called “comparables” allegedly serve to establish the value of similar homes in the area. The main purpose of a comp is to justify a price that is already set. While that’s great for the bank, it does nothing for you, the seller.
A handful of savvy buyers may know and understand the recent sales history of a particular area and price range, but ultimately, those buyers are going to make an emotional decision and then use comps to justify that decision.
So, instead of only focusing on what has recently sold, I’d advise you to focus on the other “comp”: your competition or, what else is for sale. That is the pool of homes that will most affect the time it takes your home to sell and the price you will get.
Put on those buyer goggles, get on the internet and make a list of homes for sale that are most like yours. Anything within a mile or so (could be more in rural areas) and within 5-10% of your asking price is your competition. If that list is too long, then use the list of questions above to reduce the list by things like bedrooms, bathrooms, square feet, etc. until you have a list of 5-7 homes that are like yours.
Once you have that list, get off your couch and go see them. Open houses are fine, but if that’s not an option, you’re going to have to get creative (but within the bounds of the law) to get inside them. At a minimum you at least need to drive by them, but if you can possibly get inside them, go for it.
If you have your buyer goggles on correctly, you will be thinking like a buyer which means you are looking for a house and it’s a huge deal. You don’t plan to do this again for a long time and unless you are under extreme pressure to move right now, you’re going to be very thorough in your search.
The more seriously you gather information as a buyer, the more successful you will be as a seller, but only if you adjust your price and marketing to attract buyers. If your first ad and/or price are not working–change it until you start getting results. If that doesn’t work–change it again.
So at the end of the day, it’s about what the buyer can get for their money. How many of their needs/wants can they satisfy with their current budget. If your house stands even or a little below your competition, you will hear crickets. If your house is slightly above, you will get activity (showings, second showings, etc.) If you are head and shoulders above your competition, you will get the holy grail-multiple offers- and you will get it right now. Not in a month, but right now.
I don’t care how dead the market is or how hot the market is. The tide raises and lowers all boats. You are never going to escape the fact that “what else” is for sale is always going to be the driving factor behind your level of success selling your home.
I say all that to say this – stop trying to sell the house with the flyer. Your opinion of your house and your asking price does not matter. Bad feedback and weeks with no activity are only signs that you have underestimated your competition. Most sellers get mad and try to blame their agent or the idiot buyers.
If the fish are not biting, do you blame the fish?
If you try to get a $350k buyer with a $300k house, you will be frustrated and buyer-less for a long time. If you try to get a $295k buyer with a $300k house, you will have a tall stack of offers.
None of this is earth-shattering information. If you study economics, you already know about the basics of supply and demand and the invisible hand of market value.
What stuns me is that even the most educated people ignore this information when it comes to selling their own home. Super smart people decide the rules of economics don’t apply to them and their home. None of us are exempt.
LeBron James could sell his house and yes, it would be worth more than the other houses around there, but if Michael Jordan decides to sell his house and it’s in the same neighborhood, the competition of MJ’s house would affect how LeBron’s house is selling. Just saying. Nobody is exempt. Nobody.
Which brings me to my favorite law of real estate, “The market never lies—not ever.” Not for you. Not for me. Not even for LeBron.
In the end, it’s still a bit of guesswork. Get close and listen to the market. If you are too high, you’ll get crickets and you should adjust. If you’re at or below market value, you will be fielding offers. It’s just that simple.
Now, go polish up those gold toilet handles—we’ve got an open house coming up!!
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