A few weeks back, we talked all about (and I mean all about!) statements sellers should avoid making while they’re engaged in what I like to call ‘verbal staging:’ drafting the listing description and marketing materials that create prospective buyers’ expectations about your home.
Though the subject started a rollicking conversation, many of you posed the sensible follow-up question:
Okay – then what should sellers say??
As you might have guessed, I have some thoughts on that matter, too! Here are 5 ‘verbal staging’ statements sellers should at least seriously consider making, when they’re working with their agent to market their home for sale:
1. Do Tell: Anything in or around your home that is ‘new’ (or nearly so). To a buyer, seeing features, amenities and appliances described as new-ish creates several connotations beyond the dictionary meaning of the word:
‘New’ implies modern: in look and functionality. New appliances, furnaces, and finishes like paint and flooring simply have efficiencies, functions and an aesthetic style that older ones don’t.
‘New’ implies clean: the suggestion is that even the most germaphobic buyer won’t have to fumigate the place with various disinfectant sprays to expunge decades’ worth of cooties (imaginary or otherwise).
‘New’ implies less work for your home’s eventual buyers – especially if what’s new is a necessity that home buyers often have to buy before they can move in or a cosmetic item that home buyers often like to replace (i.e., carpet, paint, fridge, etc.).
That said, you should actually avoid using the word ‘new’ – unless something has been installed since you’ve moved out, and has truly never been lived in or with. Better to specify ‘recently remodeled,’ ‘installed this year,’ or ‘updated in 2011,’ to avoid legal problems later.
Think broadly when you’re thinking about how to apply this advice – work with your agent to determine whether to call out anything that’s new-ish about your home, whether that be appliances, a recent kitchen remodel, paint or landscaping. For that matter, look beyond your home with this point, to anything new in the neighborhood that might be relevant to buyers-to-be, like a new school, park, subway station, shopping strip or Farmer’s Market.
2. Do Tell: Your home’s dominant features. Ask yourself: what’s the very best thing about this place? Then ask again until you have maybe a handful of items. That handful of things may contain great fodder for your home’s marketing materials.
If you have to choose, prioritize features that (a) visitors to your home often comment on, and/or (b) that you have immensely enjoyed while living in the place. And think outside the box: consider things like the light, the floor plan flow, the amazing block parties, the Zen you achieve sitting in your garden, the smells and sounds and the nearby attractions you haunt. (Did I already mention the neighborhood Farmer’s Market?)
3. Do Tell: Anything that’s exceptional about your home – the things that differentiate your home from the competition. Is your home larger or does it have more bedrooms than the average home in your neck of the woods? Is your lot bigger or more private? Is your home a ‘regular’ sale in a sea of short sales, or the lowest priced listing in your super-chic subdivision? Does it have panoramic water views in an area where most homes overlook a canyon? No rear neighbors where most properties are surrounded?
I’m not suggesting that if you live in an Agrestic-style tract of cookie-cutter homes, that you stretch to find something – anything! – you can say about how your home is different. But you’d be amazed at how many home listings fail to point out the differentiators buyers really do care about.
Don’t let your home’s listing be one of those. To avoid that dire fate, it might be helpful to take notes when you ask prospective listing agents for their first impressions of your home as compared to others in the area. Another strategy is to revisit your listing description after your agent has collected the feedback of Open House hunters. What you’re looking for is not something to exaggerate into a stunning selling point; rather, the goal is to find something that’s unique about your home relative to other nearby or competitive properties.
4. Do Tell: The features your home has that you know buyers crave. If your home has uniquely compelling features compared with its competition, then say so. But even if your home’s features are not so unique, if it has some nuts-and-bolts features that give it wide desirability for a large segment of buyers in your area, it behooves you to express and emphasize them.
If people buy homes in your area because of its great school district and family-friendly activities, then mention the big, level backyard; the play structure and the fenced/covered pool. If your target buyers are looking for chic, car-free, urban living, talk about the Whole Foods Market and the gym on the ground floor of your building and the multiple public transport options within spitting distance.
Here’s where it’s good to mention any such features your home has that you know buyers in your area tend to look for that may be pleasantly surprising to those who just see your home onliner. This may include the actual size of very large rooms, the fact that you have a living room and a den, or all the amazing built-ins and customizations you’ve had professionally installed in your kitchen, closets, office, workshop, craft room or garage.
5. Do Tell: Incentives, extras and details that make the transaction easier or more favorable than a buyer would expect. If you or anyone else is providing any sort of bonus or incentive that promises to make the transaction even a small amount less expensive, smoother, easier or faster than the norm in your area, call it out!
This may include:
HOA or closing cost credits paid by you (or your bank or relocation company)
Personal property you’re willing to leave behind (i.e., furniture, electronics, yard equipment)
Your willingness to finance part or all of the sale price
The fact that your listing is not a short sale or foreclosure – or anything else of this sort.
Because you’re probably not nearly as well versed in what area buyers expect from a transaction as your agent is, this is one particular area in which you should look to your agent for strategic counsel.
Insider Secret: Keep in mind that prospective buyers may only see a few lines of your home’s description online, and may not be able to see everything that would go on a flyer, or even the detailed or agent-only remarks that local agents can see on MLS listings. So after you talk with your agent about which of these ‘verbal staging’ points to include, it’s important to actually view your home’s online listings to ensure that buyers can actually see the important points.
Written by Ask Tara@Trulia