Friday, August 20, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Well, it's been a long time with no new posts--almost two weeks.  But there's a reason.  And a good one:  I've been traveling around to all of our locations, grilling steaks for our customers.  

Over the last couple weeks, RepcoLite hosted 7 cookouts and served roughly 500 - 600 of our customers.  We fed them steaks and beans and potato salad . . . and in some cases chicken.  It was a huge success and we're grateful to all the folks who showed up to enjoy it!  Thanks for coming to our cookouts (yes, some of you made more than one--which is great).  But most of all, thank for your business.

Anyway, all that to explain the lack of posts. But the cookouts are over for another year and now, I'm back in the saddle again.  And the posts will flow . . . .

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Great Disassociation, part 1

OK, last time we talked about how important it is for your home to give a great first impression when you're trying to sell it.  You need to make sure the outside of the home is appealing from the road.  You cannot rely on the quality of the interior.  You can't bank on the fact that the inside of the home is finished so amazingly that people will be flocking in to pile their offers up at your feet.  Oh, you may be right--about the interior being amazing--but the hard truth is that if the package isn't appealing . . . chances are nobody's going to peer inside long enough to see what's in there.

So, the first step in moving your house and getting that SOLD sign in the front yard is to fine tune the package. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done.

And really, surprisingly, it's not the work that's the hard part--it's not the painting and cleaning and organizing and weeding that's difficult. Actually, the difficult aspect is distancing yourself enough from the home to actually SEE the painting, cleaning, organizing and weeding that needs to be done.

Oh, you might disagree with that . . . but hold on . . . it's true--it's just a fact of human nature. For example . . . and this is horribly embarassing to admit--but, in the pursuit of open, honest discussion, I'll throw it all on the line. For example, in my home, a year or so ago, I started painting my kitchen cabinets. It was a complicated process and I did it in sections--this chunk of cabinets, then that one, and so on, as I worked my way around the kitchen.

Well, everything went well until I hit late fall last year and the weather turned. I was doing this outside and I decided not to continue until the weather improved in the spring. I had, at that point, half of the kitchen done with the new dark color. The other half was still white. 

Well, I just realized the other day that my kitchen is still not completed. And I mean, I just realized it. I'm so used to seeing it the way it is, that it never dawned on me until I was playing with the kids in the kitchen and I laid down on the floor to pretend to be dead. (I was the monster and they had killed me). Well, while I was lying there, I looked around the kitchen noticing how different it looked from this perspective. I was seeing it from a whole new angle.

And that's when I saw the cabinets and realized how one half of the room was unfinished. Looking at it from a new angle made my mind process what it was seeing completely. When I see things from my usual perspective, I think my brain just glosses over what it's used to seeing--the cabinets have been unfinished for months . . . so my brain doesn't pay them any extra attention. However, when I saw them from a new angle, my brain noticed the difference.

I don't know the psychological or scientific explanation for what happened--but I know that by looking at something--my kitchen--from a new point of view . . . I saw things I literally hadn't seen for months: I realized I had work to do--that I still had to finish those cabinets.

Well, the same is true with your home. And that's why I said earlier that seeing the work you need to do is sometimes harder than actually doing it. See, your brain is used to seeing what it sees when you pull up to your home. When you walk in the front door or the back door . . . your brain largely tunes out what it's seeing--it's used to it--it's always there. You don't notice it.

Haven't you ever been at somebody's house that is extremely messy. Haven't you sat there and looked around at the mess and just felt an overwhelming depression settle in on your soul? Has anybody else felt that or am I a freak? Anyway, I've felt that and I've been blown away by the fact that the people living there have no concept of the mess. It's not a mess to them--it's normal.

Well, that's what happens with our homes--we become accustomed to certain things and we can't see them for what they may be: turnoffs to new potential buyers.

But hold on . . . don't let that get you down. Because there's good news--there's a solution to this: you just need to do what I did in my kitchen: you need to look at your home from another perspective. You need to find a way to disassociate yourself from your home. To find a way to forget that you live there. You need to find a way to see it as a place you might buy.

You need to get critical and you need to take notes. It's not easy, but it can be done. And doing this is going to open your eyes to a world of things that need to be fixed--things I guarantee will surprise you.

It's called the Great Disassociation and we'll dig into how you do it in another post

Monday, August 2, 2010

What's Your Home Saying to Potential Buyers?

There's a house down the road from me that's for sale.  Has been for a long time now.  We walk past it 2 or 3 times a week on our way to a baseball field where we play epic games that usually end in gloating (on the winner's side) and crying (on the loser's).  

Anyway, we do that 2 or 3 times a week and every time I walk past that house--whether I'm on the way to the field with 2 happy boys, or on the way home with one really happy boy and one really sad one--I take a look.  And every time I look at it, I think the same thought:  "that house sure has a lot of potential."

And it does.  It's a big stone house--looks like something out of a fairy tale.  It's got a lot of character.  It's near the baseball field (so we could go have our battles EVERY night--hooray!).  It looks to be a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath home.  (Which is enticing because my home is currently a 3 bedroom, 1 bath home.  And with 5 kids, a wife and myself . . . well, that's easily 2 bathrooms too few).

So every time I walk past the house, I stop and think about the potential.  But every time I stop . . . I start back up and continue on my way home, pushing any thought of buying that house out of my mind.

Oh, it's not the price.  In fact, the price started at the top of our price range (still within it, but at the very top) and it's dropped $30,000 or $40,000 in price since the beginning of the year.  No, it's not the price.  We could afford it if we wanted it.  And it's not really the location.  It's right down the road from our other home and it's right next to our major evening entertainment--the ball field.  It's definitely not the size of the home:  all that extra space and the extra bath and a half would be almost perceived as a gift from heaven.

No.  It's none of those things that keep us away.  None of those things that get our legs moving again after we've stopped to "window shop."  

No, what gets us moving again is what's probably kept everybody else moving as well:  the house gives a bad first impression.

I've never seen much of the inside--not up close anyway--but I've got a feeling I know what I'm going to find.  See, the outside of a home is a window to the interior.  A poorly maintained exterior is a warning many home buyers heed.

We walk up to this house and look at the beautiful aspects:  the stone walls, the 4 bedrooms . . . the 2.5 baths.  But despite all that, I can't get past the poorly maintained front door.  The overgrown landscaping.  The rotting and flaking fences.  The windows that are filthy.  The blinds that hang crooked and bent. 

The one room you can see from the driveway shows that either there was water damage or the family before had a dog.  A vicious, baseboard-attacking dog who took out his puppyhood rage on the floor trim of that poor little room.

All in all, despite the nice aspects of the house, the obviously visible negative stuff just turns me off.  I'm afraid that something that looks that bad on the outside is only going to be worse inside.  And so, every night that we stop . . . we look for a few minutes and continue walking, shaking our heads . . . unable to muster up the interest to call the number on the sign.

Now, I know this house is owned by the bank (or something).  It's empty and has been for a while--so I understand some of the reason for the dilapidated, unkempt look of the exterior.  I understand that whoever currently owns it doesn't want to spend the money or time to keep up on the exterior work.  They probably figure it's too expensive.

However, I can't help but think that when we started looking, the house was about $179,000.  If I'm not mistaken, the current price is either $149,000 or $139,000.  It's dropped anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 in price and still hasn't moved.

I've written about first impressions here on this blog before.  First impressions can make all the difference in the world when it comes to relationships and new jobs.  They also play a huge role when it comes to selling a house.  Create a great first impression with your home . . . and chances are, even in a down economy, you won't be sitting on it for too long.  Let the importance of that first impression slip down on your list of "things to do" and you're going to have a situation like the folks who own that house I walk by a couple times a week:  you're going to be lowering your price as you try to make people see past the obvious faults.

When you get to that point:  trying to make people see past the faults and focus on the price, you've lost your bargaining ground.  You want people to want the house because they HAVE to have it--they see themselves living there and can't picture themselves living somewhere else.  When that happens, price becomes a secondary determiner.  It's still important, but it's not the first thing we check.

When we see a house that shows well, the first thing we do is get out of our car and look around.  We imagine our kids playing on the yard.  We see ourselves snowblowing the driveway in the winter.  We picture cookouts on the grill and all the other fun things that go with life.  After that, we cautiously and nervously approach the little info box, hoping against hope that the house is within our range.

On the other hand, when people see the house I walk past every other night, I'd put money on the fact that the only thing they see or imagine is exactly what I imagine:  a lot of work.  They then probably do what we do and walk straight up to the info box and look at the price.

The big difference between the two scenarios is what happens at the info box:  in the first case, we're looking at the price, hoping it's within our range.  Our heart's beating a little harder . . . were nervous, excited, hopeful. In the second scenario, none of that's happening.  We're simply looking to see if the price is low enough to justify any thought whatsoever into purchasing the home.   

In the first scenario, if the price is even within $20,000 of your range, chances are you call the realtor--you want to look into it, to dig, to discover if there's some way you could swing it.  You love the house, you want it.  Or at least you want to look into it further.  In the second scenario . . . if the price isn't low enough to generate a little interest, you're walking.  You probably stuff that little info slip back into the box with a laugh, or you bring it home and throw it out. 

In the first case, the house sells itself--price is of secondary (though still important) consideration.  In the second situation, the price is everything:  if it's not low, low, low . . . the first impression of the house doesn't leave a potential buyer with enough interest to warrant any further consideration.

So all that to say:  if you're trying to sell your home . . . don't make that mistake.  First impressions matter.  In the next few posts, we'll flesh this idea out and I'll throw out a number of easy, low-cost fixes you can accomplish in a weekend that will help you make sure your house gets people stopping and talking.