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When today's home buyers tell you they are picky, they aren't lying. In 23 years of practicing real estate, I have never witnessed the level of discernment buyers display when considering their next home purchase.

There was a time when you walked into a home with a buyer and the smell of cigarette smoke emanated through the home. No big deal, it will go away. Not today. In most cases, even a hint of animal or cigarette smoke will barely get a buyer in the door.

Why have things changed so drastically? Let's start with the internet. People are more aware and less accepting of conditions and circumstances that have been a part of the resale home selling process for years. Second in line are television shows like HGTV. Now a buyer can live the experiences (good and bad) of 100’s of home buyers before ever hitting the street.

There is nothing wrong with being a discerning customer. It only means the Berks County home seller and their agent have to up their game. Start with getting into the nooks and crannies.

When a home buyer shows interest in a property, they become inquisitive. Why is the kitchen cabinet half an inch away from the wall near the sink? Why is there a gap in the trim around the fireplace? What are the streaks on the basement floor, was there a water problem? The list goes on and on, but the buyer is interested. If not, you will be lucky to get any feedback, let alone any questions, from the home showing.

Often a home buyer wants to know something about the present owner and their status. It's what I call the “Who lived there and how did they keep the home I may purchase” question. You see, all those years you owned and lived in the house was just a trial run. You were just keeping it perfect for the next owner, being a caretaker of sorts. Just because you lived in the home and used it does not mean it should look that way. We now call the act of living in a house without anyone noticing staging.

If a home is vacant, the buyer wants to know when it was last occupied. If the owner was not the last occupant who was? Did the owner or, even worse, tenant have pets? These are all questions asked when an agent lists a home. Most times the answer to these and other questions is on the Seller Property Disclosure Statement, which is given to the prospective buyer prior to making an offer or in some cases, seeing the home itself.

The habitation history of the home often has a bearing on the purchaser’s speculative thoughts but has little to do with its actual value. It is not difficult to walk through a house and tell if it was well kept or not. What is more of a challenge is to find out what is under the "well kept" home? It is at this time when the home inspector enters the picture, but this is only after a decision to purchase is made.

Most home sellers do the best they can to prepare their properties for sale. A little paint here and there, knock off some items on the honey-do list that have been sitting for the past eight years and some decoration should do the trick. Not today. It is time to consider those items and more. Getting into the nooks and crannies can wipe away years of home use.

Make sure the closets and drawers are in order, and things around the home are decluttered ("red up" if you are Pennsylvania Dutch). Get as many items out of the home as you can, within reason. Take care of windows and doors. These are the spirit and soul of the home. Dirty windows are a real buzz kill. No squeaky doors or floors. Use trim accents such as crown, foot and baseboard moldings.  These moldings will seal natural settlement cracks and uneven paint lines. Clean up around the exterior or hope for a foot of snow to cover everything. Finally, consider having a pre-listing home inspection done. This exercise can expose things that can thwart a deal.

Most sellers want the real estate agent to give it to them straight when it comes to advice about selling their home. It is good to find an agent who is willing to be honest with you about the value and condition of your home. The exercise can be humbling and humiliating, but take stock in what you are being told. The customer / Realtor® relationship is a partnership. Both parties have to work together to get the desired result. Our advice comes from the experience of being in other people’s homes with buyers and listening to what is said.

Look into those things about your home that have been bothering you over the years. You have been able to live with these things and, therefore, keep putting them off. The next potential owner may not be as acceptable.

Remember, you are just taking care of the home until they get there. The nicer you make it, the sooner it will be theirs.

Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue