What Home Buyers Want

What homebuyers want is a clean and move-in ready house

It was a sunny Saturday morning in August 2007, and I was house hunting with some friends when I really realized what home buyers want in their new homes. If you're thinking of selling your existing home, read on, because I think this story might surprise you.

The Viewing

We had spent most of the morning looking at properties when we pulled up to our last property before lunch. It was a fully renovated 1990’s home in Fife, and I just knew they would love it. 

The outside was a deep green, there was rockery all around the landscape, and the door was a warm rust red. There was freshly laid bark, and the lawn must have just been cut because we could smell the grass clippings right when we got out of the car. It was the picture of inviting curb appeal.

The inside was just as great. We walked in and everything was brand new. New oak floors with matching trim, cabinets, and the list just went on from there. 

I could see my friend was excited, and I was pretty sure that I'd just found them their new house.

The Choosing

After that showing, we went to lunch to discuss next actions. We first reviewed their top 5 needs and wants. But I didn't think we'd really need that list, because I was pretty sure that they wanted that freshly remodeled home that oozed curb appeal. To be sure, though, we flipped through the houses that we had seen.

There were some great contenders, but I would have bet money on that remodeled home. And I would have lost.

To my surprise they quickly passed on the remodel! Instead, they went with another house that was less polished but was a great value. At the time I was really taken off guard because come on, who doesn't want a remodeled house!? I was shocked! Wasn't I supposed to know what home buyers want?

The Reasoning

It turned out that although they loved the shiny remodeled home, they were very nervous about the big price tag that went along with the beautiful upgrades. I asked more questions, and it turned out that they didn’t really like the brand new oak cabinets. Plus, it had only 2 of their top 5 needs and wants. The brand new floor, as beautiful as it was, was also a problem for them because they wanted carpet. 

I asked my friend why her reaction had been so positive when we had toured the house, despite it not really meeting their needs. She said that she was taken in not just by all of the new finishes, but really by how clean and move-in ready the house was. She knew that those two factors meant that they could move in right away.

At the end of the day, they choose to go with another clean and move-in ready property. It wasn't completely remodeled, but it did have 4 of their 5 needs and wants. They lived happily in that home for about 7 years. 

The Lesson

I have seen this situation happen over and over in the years since that day. I have concluded that willing and able buyers who are approved to pay fair market value for your property want two things: 

  1. CLEAN
  2. MOVE-IN READY

Notice that I didn't say freshly remodeled with a brand new kitchen and all new flooring. Nope. Most buyers will take "used" as long as it is clean and move-in ready. Of course, you can remodel your property and list it for a higher price…but what will your net return be? Will the headache of renovating be worth the return on investment? 

Generally, the answers to those two questions will be 1. not enough, and 2. no.

If a buyer wants brand new, they'll buy new construction. If they're looking at existing places, though, chances are they are willing and ready to take on some of the hassle to give the place a face lift after they purchase. Honestly, a lot of buyers prefer that. They can pick out the finishes and personalize the home for themselves. That's often part of the fun of buying an existing house!

So my advice to sellers is this: give your property a thorough cleaning and make sure that it is move-in ready. Do this and you'll be posed for a quick sale because you will be offering exactly what home buyers want.

Remember: move-in ready doesn't mean remodeled. It means completely functional and free of major defects. So yes, fix that broken drawer in the kitchen or replace that broken window pane in the bedroom. But don't buy into the myth that you have to gut the place.

As far as cleaning, I love a good checklist! Don't you?! Here is a simple cleaning checklist that should help you whether you're planning on selling next month, or next year. 

Oh, and don't forget to give me a call, too. I can give you an idea of how to prep your property to be listed. Work smarter, not harder! Before you do the heavy lifting, let me help you lighten your load! After years and years of doing this, I do know what home buyers want, and I can help you offer it to them.

All the best,

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