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  • Writer's pictureJamie Koehler

Offer Suggestions, Never Options

In my recent post “Overcoming the ‘Bad’ Unique” I explained the importance of finding the unique aspect of a home that may be considered a deterrent and addressing this elephant in the room head-on. I think of this elephant in the room as a literal fork in the road. I know that if I ignore the elephant in the room, the buyer is almost always going to go down a negative path of thinking. Rather, I can address the elephant in the room and guide the buyer down a positive path of thinking. In my example in that post, I expressed that the elephant in the room was that the house had six bedrooms and most buyers today do not need (or want) that many bedrooms. By suggesting what those rooms could be used for, I guided the buyer down a positive path of positive thinking to the endless possibilities for those spaces – walk-in closet, home gym, man cave, etc.

Note in the example from the “Overcoming the ‘Bad’ Unique” post, I made suggestions of what a buyer could use the six bedrooms for after moving in. Those suggestions did not require anything of the seller. There is a huge difference between making suggestions for a buyer’s use after settlement (at no cost to the seller) and giving the buyer options prior to having a contract in hand (which could be costly to the seller). Here’s an example that illustrates this point.

In the summer of 2020, I was contacted by an investor who had flipped a home in Halethorpe in Baltimore County. He was frustrated because he had had the house on the market for 156 days with another realtor and it still had not sold. He terminated his relationship with that realtor and contacted me for help.

I reviewed the prior listing, visited the property, and met with the investor about his goals and experience up to that point. There was a lot to tackle to get the house re-listed properly and sold. I’ll likely dig into other dos and don’ts from this sale in other posts, but for the sake of this post, I’m going to focus on the pool.

The property had a beautifully renovated detached home on it. In the rear yard, there was an older, concrete, in-ground pool. Due to going over budget on the house and a general lack of knowledge on how to get the pool up and running, the investor left the pool totally untouched. He knew that it was not brought up to the same standard as the interior of the house. In the listing, the investor and the prior realtor decided to write “pool is functional, but seller is willing to remove.” The pool in this situation was the ‘bad’ unique. It was older, while the house was newer. Thinking back to the pool being the elephant in the room and a literal fork in the road, there were two choices : let the buyer go down a path of negative thinking or guide the buyer down a positive path of thinking. The investor and the prior realtor didn’t even let prospective buyers find their own way down the path of negative thinking, they actually overtly took them there.

While the pool was, in fact, functional, the way the listing was worded suggested that it was technically functional, just not aesthetically pleasing. Then, the investor and prior realtor suggested that the seller would pay to have the pool filled in. This is both a huge expense to the investor who was already over budget, but also took away something from the buyer – the hopes of having an in-ground pool. It got worse.

While listed with the prior realtor, the house did go under contract once. The buyer had an inspection done. The inspector had read the listing prior to performing the inspection. Because the pool was not up and running and was an older, concrete, in-ground pool, the inspector flat out suggested that the buyer take the seller up on filling in the pool. That coupled with some of the other repairs the buyer wanted to do became too costly for the seller. The parties could not come to an agreement on repairs and the contract fell through. A few days later, the investor called me for help.

There is a huge difference between making suggestions for a buyer’s use after settlement and giving the buyer options prior to having a contract in hand. If you’re giving a buyer options, you’re not controlling the narrative. And if you’re not controlling the narrative, the buyer may choose the option that is more expensive to the seller. It’s my job to make it very clear to prospective buyers exactly what your property offers today, why it’s an incredible opportunity for their taking, and what possibilities there are to make it their own, after settlement, at no cost to the you, the seller.

I found a reasonably-priced, reputable contractor that could get the pool up and running for $550. It was a small investment to change the narrative and get a buyer down a path of positive thinking. Along with some other marketing changes, I listed the property to include a “serene backyard with in-ground pool” and stated “Everyday feels like a vacation with a yard like this! Its private and fenced and features green space as well as an in-ground pool with diving board! Imagine sitting poolside in the shade with a drink in hand this summer! BONUS! 1 car garage with large attached storage space perfect for storing gardening tools and pool toys!” I listed the property on April 24, 2020. The pool would be a huge selling point to prospective buyers with summer around the corner. I eliminated the option to fill-in the pool completely. We agreed to an offer 14 days later on May 8, 2020, for $10K over the list price. That pool was an asset, not a deterrent, after all!

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