Be Honest With Unrealistic Sellers

Even in a hot market, a home won’t sell quickly unless it’s properly staged.

July 1, 2004

All markets have unrealistic sellers—especially a market that’s sizzling hot. In a seller's market, homeowners may be overconfident that their properties will sell quickly at a premium price with little or no marketing or staging.

But even in the hottest residential markets, some homes don't move as fast as they could.

One way to sell older homes for more is to encourage sellers to make minor improvements to their properties, even if they think they don't have to. Working with sellers to address some of the unattractive aspects of their homes is a delicate process that takes professionalism, confidence and finesse, says Robin Diessner, president of Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Mark-Taylor Realty.

"In today’s sizzling real estate market, if a home hasn’t sold in three weeks, it’s either overpriced or it needs to be re-staged," says Diessner. But breaking the news to the seller isn’t always easy. “Telling someone their house doesn’t look good is like telling them they have ugly children,” she says.

She advises practitioners to tell buyers and sellers that one of a real estate professional’s greatest values is the ability to know what it takes to sell homes for the desired price.

“It is important to ask the client—in this example the seller—how honest they want you to be with them," suggests Diessner. "If they have asked for the truth and have given you permission to share that with them, you can tell them gently what they really need to know to get the best price.”

Sellers don't always realize that it's human nature for buyers to educate themselves by visiting as much housing inventory as possible, including new homes in the area. Buyers are comparing all homes to an ideal, such as new models they've visited, or other homes in the neighborhood that have the improvements and features they want. Buyers want the most they can get for the money, and any home that is lacking will be ignored or bid lower by buyers, regardless of the market.

Buyers have those beautiful model homes in mind when they tour someone’s private home for sale. The difference is no one lives in a model home. They are decorated simply to improve the potential of a sale. Sellers need to keep that in mind and ‘stage’ their houses to make it appealing to potential buyers.

“When working with sellers, we walk around their home and view it from the buyer’s eyes,” says Diessner. “Leaving garden hoses and tools out may be convenient for the owner but it's distracting to visitors.

The same goes with countertops that have accumulated clutter from everyday life. Every time the eye has to stop and look at something, it causes a break in continuity or flow in the potential buyer’s mind,” she says.

“With the delightful exception of very few, I think every home benefits from some sort of staging," says Diessner. "Houses are a lot like people, the rare few that are perfect have many people vying for them and they usually aren’t available for long.”

Here are Diessner's tips for making a home more attractive to potential buyers:


  • Paint.
  • Remove huge photo collages.
  • Clean the cabinets.
  • Dust the home.
  • Re-caulk showers and tubs.
  • Store seasonal clothes.
  • Eliminate unnecessary furniture.
  • Get rid of the clutter.
  • Clean the closets.
  • Organize the kitchen cupboards.
  • Make sure the house smells good by burning candles and using air fresheners.
  • Set up vignettes in various rooms to convey a story, such as turning down the bed, setting up a backgammon game in the family room and setting the dining room table for company.


  • Apply a fresh coat of paint to the most visible areas.
  • Make sure the street-appeal is strong with colorful flowers and a manicured appearance.
  • Put away garden tools.
  • Clean the windows.
  • Replace burned out lights.
  • Clean the garage.
  • Clean up after Fido.
  • Power wash the driveway and sidewalks.
  • Pick up the children’s toys in the yard.
  • Clean or replace the house numbers.
  • Spray down the house to remove cobwebs.
  • Provide regular pest treatment to eliminate any signs of infestation.

    (c) Copyright 2004 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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