I was just finishing my lunch when the phone rang. Being in real estate, I opted for phone over food and took the call.
“Hi Kristen, my wife and I are finally ready to list our house so we are calling you. We’ve been working on it for a year and you are going to be impressed!” Oh, goodie! I can’t wait to see what they’ve done. In fact, I can’t wait to see the house and finally meet these folks that I’ve been emailing with on and off for some time. I packed up my latest market info, my iPad, checked my teeth for any lingering cilantro bits and hit the road.
Pulling into the driveway, I commenced my first of 100,000 observations of the home. Observations is another word for judgments when the observer is a Realtor or your potential buyer. The house was nice! It was a classic Seattle craftsman with a welcoming front porch. The yard was well kept and landscaped, with flowerbeds framing the fenced-in front yard. Looking good.
I rang the doorbell and first noticed that it was a cheap brass-toned number from the Homie D. Strike one, but it’s only a doorbell. Oozing with optimism, I said hello to this lovely couple and entered their home.
Slipping off my shoes, I hoped they didn’t notice that I wasn’t wearing my listing appointment socks that day. I may have had on of my 7-year-old’s kitty socks on one foot, and something that definitely did not match on the other.
Luckily, they didn’t notice because they were exploding with pride and accomplishment and couldn’t wait to show me what they’d done!
Speechless in Seattle
After saying hello, they walked me into the living room and began the tour. The tour of atrocities. A playbook in what NOT to do when you list your home.
I knew we were in trouble when my new clients said, “The hardwoods in the entry were scratched so we installed new flooring.” Oh no. I looked down to see a mosaic of 12X12 vinyl tiles that had been glued to the floor.
“And in the dining room, the walls were a little rough. Luckily, my cousin, Stan, moonlights as a contractor and he gave us a real deal on installing this new wallpaper and decorative valence.”
Cousin Stan was clearly a duck pond kind of guy. This classic dining room with a bay window and crown molding now looked like a scene out of Duck Dynasty. Miles of Mallards. Reams of Reeds. I was speechless. For the first time. Maybe. Ever.
“Wow, how much would you say this cost?” I get to ask those nosy questions. Job perk.
“It seemed like a lot. $5000, but he said that it would normally cost $7500. We saved $2500. And, Stan said the improvement should increase what we can ask for the house by at least $10,000.” She beamed.
In addition to the water foul, they removed one of the closets in the 3rd bedroom to make it look bigger. They replaced all of the appliances in the kitchen with a Sears outlet package in bisque. They installed brand new carpet in the rec room. Brand new hunter green carpet. Felt green. Looks good on a craps table, but not in a listing photo.
Okay, it’s clear where this is going. We had to have The Talk. I went through the house and we made a plan together, scheduled our stager to come back the next day, got it ready, listed it a week later and it sold for full asking price. Sadly, that price did not make up for the over $20,000 in poorly directed funds, time, and energy they put into preparing the home for sale without the consult of a professional who does this every day. When it was all said and done, they could have spent $1000 on the right projects and sold it for the same amount.
The Right Way to Prepare Your Seattle Home to List
My intention is not to be smug with this brief expose’. These people were smart and well-intended people with busy lives. Most people sell a home maybe 3 times in their lifetime. The dynamics of the market are constantly changing. What’s hot one week, may be out the next. Buyers are discerning and want to emotionally connect with the home they are envisioning their lives in. Additionally, Seattle is a dynamic city. What works in West Seattle may not be right on Capitol Hill.
Here is a short list of things to do when preparing to list your Seattle home:
Paint – a gallon of paint is $35. A painted room in a neutral and appropriate color palette can add $5000 of value. Not a bad investment. And you can paint! Really, you can! If you don’t trust yourself with a paintbrush, hire a pro. It’s still worth it.
Clean – hire a pro on this one for sure. A gang of hard working housecleaners will do a better job, and they know what to do for a listing cleaning. Wiping out the insides of drawers, cupboards, tops of refrigerators, between the blinds, above the light fixtures. Cleanliness is next to Soldliness!
Service - your furnace if you haven't in the last year.
Pressure Wash - the exterior concrete. The Pacific Northwest has some of the most exotic species of moss. And winter fudge that builds up on your sidewalks and driveways.
Wash - Windows & clean your gutters.
Sniff - Have someone who is not you come and sniff the house. Give them carte blanche to tell you if anything is afunk.
Get Advice - on where to invest your dollars.
These are just the basics. Every home is unique. If you’re preparing to sell your biggest asset, please consult with us before you do anything. Don’t worry, we’ve seen it all. I’d rather see your house in its messy unkempt glory and direct you peacefully down the path to profit. We also have a list of trusted service providers. Let me know if you need a recommendation. Selling your home? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org