After living in a home for a few years, homeowners tend to be oblivious to their home’s condition. Whether passing the clutter in the hall corner daily or having a section of baseboard molding missing since that last paint job, homeowners are blinded by problem areas on their property because they’re too familiar with the space, so the issues fade into the background.
It’s important to note that homes are rarely picture-perfect prior to going on the market. While real estate agents know this, many still decide to market the property in an unflattering state. All you have to do is look at a home’s photos online for proof: Cluttered counters, toilet seats up, clothing-covered floors, overstuffed rooms and orange walls are a few examples of bad representation that can be an eyesore for buyers. And in most cases sellers don’t even think about these issues.
So with a homebuyer looking for a flawless property and a home seller unable to accurately see their space’s condition it’s the job of a real estate agent and home stager to turn those imperfect realities into a merchandised product that creates a win-win situation for both parties involved. But how do you break the bad news to a home seller that his home is an eyesore? Try these simple solutions.
Be honest. Remember that saying we learned growing up? “Honesty is the best policy.” Well the same holds true in this situation. Sugar coating a home’s condition will not help the home seller or the bottom line of the deal.
Regardless of the current state of the home, having an honest conversation with the seller at first glance will avoid wasting time. Not to mention, it will boost your professional status as a trustworthy agent or stager, where others will seek your honest advice and opinions. By being honest, you’ll also be able to get the best return on the home’s investment and more money in your pocket.
Remove judgment. A real estate agent should team up with a home stager early on in the process to avoid having those awkward conversations with their clients.
By introducing home staging at the initial meeting, rather than once the home is sitting on the market with little buyer interest, an agent shows that this is his process with every listing, and not a personal attack on the client's style or way of living. A home stager’s job is to be critical and tell home sellers how to best present their property to represent a buyer’s lifestyle.
Be sure to present facts, proof and statistics to steer the conversation, avoid objections and show the value of home staging. This will help reinforce why you use home staging in every listing.
Choose your words carefully. Home stagers know how to put a clever spin on a negative feature in a property. It’s all about the wording used to get the point across without blatantly offending the seller. Bobbie McGrath, who owns Successful Staging in Raleigh, North Carolina, never uses the “c-word” ( clutter ) when talking with home sellers. Her workaround: “You’ve given me a great shopping center from which to select the accessories we’ll be using for your staging. The rest will need to be pre-packed!”
McGrath never uses the “d-word” (dated) either. When looking at an old or beat up piece in a home, she says, “I can see this sofa has been well-loved through the years.” The homeowner almost always laughs, opening up discussion about removing or replacing the item for the staging process.
When using clever wording, sellers feel more comfortable with making the necessary changes rather than being defensive.
See through the buyer’s eyes. One tried-and-true method for helping the seller understand buyer expectations is to have the seller pretend to be the buyer, according to Audra Slinkey, creator of the Home Staging Resource, a professional training and education source for home stagers.
Per Slinkey’s recommendation, the home seller goes through each room as a buyer would to describe first impressions, both positive and negative. Anything found that’s negative should be taken care of immediately before showing the property. By going through this process, sellers are able to disconnect emotionally from their home and truly see its current condition.
Show off the competition. Another way for a real estate agent to discreetly tell a home seller the house needs work is by sharing other home’s features currently on the market. When in competition no one likes to finish second, so get home sellers motivated by showing upgraded and staged homes competing for buyers on the market, plus the details about how much more recent homes sold for based on making improvements.