Neutralize the Negatives

The lush country landscape of this million-dollar listing lured prospective buyers, but long dark hallways and an odd mix of fixtures sent them running in the other direction.

November 1, 2008

Location: Westwood, Mass.
Square footage:
Lotsize: 2 acres
Bedrooms: 5
Bathrooms: 3.5
Year built: 1961
Extras: Estate property, close to shopping and commuter rail. Designer kitchen with granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances, maple cabinetry.

THE CHALLENGE: A sluggish market wasn't doing any favors for this unusual million-dollar listing. The 12-room Westwood colonial sat on the market for a full year. The sellers—a working couple with two young children—were eager to unload the property because they already bought a new place to call home.  

That's when Barbara Miller, CBR®, stepped in. The sales associate with William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance in Wellesley, Mass., says the home's strange mix of old and new were hiding its potential, hurting its chances of selling.

The walnut trim and doors made the home appear drab, while a small office off the family room was weighted down by over-stuffed bookcases. Five bedrooms sat along a narrow hallway that ran the full length of the house on the second floor, giving the home a motel-like feel. And a series of partially finished remodeling projects left a combination of newer reconfigured areas in stark contrast with older areas of the home.

“Even though it had some extensive remodeling, parts of the house felt old and tired,” Miller says.

Furthermore, an awkward arrangement of rooms and furniture impeded the flow of the house. And an extended island in the remodeled kitchen served as the only eating area – and only sat three. "The seating capacity in the kitchen, compared with the potential number of family members you could have in a five-bedroom home, just didn't jive.”

How did you overcome the challenge?

Miller: I presented an aggressive marketing campaign that combined interior painting guidelines, staging of the main living areas, and a price decrease. I told the sellers that if they followed my suggestions not only for pricing but also for staging, I felt I could sell their home in a few weeks. I was close; It sold within 8 weeks. Here's a rundown of what we did to attract a buyer:

I added a breakfast room to solve the seating crunch. I painted the dark wood in the office a lighter color and added furniture and décor to create a family-friendly and charming feeling to the room. As a result, the space was transformed into a delightfully airy breakfast room. This attractive space right off of kitchen/family room integrated naturally into the family's flow and answered the need for family eating areas.

The family room needed to be lightened up. I painted the fireplace white and rearranged the furniture. With this simple fix, the kitchen and family room felt like a natural combination and worked well with the newly created breakfast room.

To create a cozier feeling, I went shopping in the owner's home and staged the living room with furniture from other rooms to create a central conversation area around the fireplace.

Tell us about your marketing plan.

Miller: I made a marketing booklet for the home that focused on specific features of the home, the town, and surrounding parks. I also added information on local transportation and schools. It helped me sell the home as a location and environment—not just a property. I listed all of the home improvements in a spreadsheet so prospective buyers could easily see the values that were added.

My mailing list targeted buyers in nearby towns. I sent the booklet to homes with fewer bedrooms and smaller lots.  To reach the virtual shopper, I created a video—not a virtual tour—that showed the surrounding areas as well as the property and posted the video on my Web sites and YouTube and other similar sites.

How much did you spend marketing the home?

Miller: I spent about $1,000, which includes the costs for the moving truck for staging furniture (which I brought from my basement, where I keep a large collection of staging furniture), the videographer, the floor planner, the unique Web site I established for the property and the search-engine optimization for the Web site, and the unique mailing list.

What did you do about the price?

Miller: This property had been on the market for over a year and listed at $1,275,000 with another broker. With the sellers’ approval, I listed the home at $1,189,000.

How long did the sale take? What was the final selling price?

Miller: I sold it in 82 days. The property sold in June for $1.1 million.

How many times did you show the property?

Miller: I showed the property about 10 times

How did you find a buyer?

Miller: The buyers came from a neighboring town and said they were attracted to how open and inviting the property looked. They saw the listing on the Web.

What do you attribute to closing the deal so quickly in a tough market?

Miller: The location was perfect for the buyers. They chose this property because it offered an upbeat appearance with plenty of room for their family. But much of that perception came from the staging elements and marketing campaign that highlighted the home’s best features.

What lessons did you learn from this transaction?

Miller: I learned that staging really does matter, and that marketing is crucial. I continue to develop new, unique, and powerful tools in conjunction with my company. But staging and marketing are key to the successful presentation of the property to the market.



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