An educational technique that I often use with would be listing clients is to take them on a visit to their own home, through the eyes of a would-be buyer. I haven’t yet gone all the way to loading them up in the car and driving around the block to get to the visit; but, I do normally start outside in the driveway, where a Realtor and his client(s) might park. Sometimes we have to start discussing things right there, if the driveway has been neglected, is cracked and has grass growing through the cracks.
One of the most often neglected places in a home is the front walk and front door. As side-entry garages became prevalent, more and more homeowners got into the habit of popping the garage door open and driving in. They then make their way into the house through the garage door, which often opens into a mud room. Many can’t even remember when the last time was that they used the front door; and it shows. Realtors don’t bring visitors in through the garage; they use the front door.
Overgrown front walks and neglected front stoops or porches and front doors are very common. People put in all sorts of cute little bushes or plantings along the walk or beside the porch and then forget about them. Often one has to step off the walk to get around the overgrowth from the those cute little bushes that have now grown into monsters. Porches or stoops are also often left with little attention, even when they start to deteriorate. Often that bright brass coach light that looked so cute when it was installed is now dull and rusted and is cocked off at a slight angle, just to call extra attention to itself.
Just getting to the house up the walk may be a challenge, especially in the coming winter months. If it’s not uneven concrete flags to trip over; it might be icy spots on the walk or porch. Since the homeowner doesn’t use that entrance sometimes they forget to shovel it off when it snows or to spread ice melter when it is cold. Don’t make a visit to your house a survival course.
The next challenge is often the Realtor struggling with the lockbox. As we get into shorter and shorter days, showings will more often fall in period of darkness. I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve struggled on a dark front porch trying to work the combination on a lockbox because the seller forgot to leave the front light on (yes, that same pathetic, rusty brass light). I carry a flashlight in the winter just for this case.
Once inside, especially if it’s snowy or rainy, you’ll probably be ask (or want to) take off your shoes. Many homeowners forget to provide a chair for shoe removal and putting them back on; so that can mean leaning against a wall while trying to accomplish this feat. Hopefully, they have provided a mat of some sort to put your snowy shoes or boots upon; so the snow doesn’t melt all over their foyer.
The entrance foyer can set the tone for the rest of the visit. Visitors will make note of what they see just inside the door; even if it only views of the stairs and a couple of rooms off to the side. The worst that I’ve seen is a foyer with a view up a straight set of stairs right into the bathroom at the top, with the toilet prominently on display. No sale on that one!
If you’re doing this “visit” with a Realtor watch were their eyes go. They will be looking at or looking for things that you just may not notice any more. They will scan the ceilings in every room, looking for any evidence of water stains that are clues of leaks somewhere. They will scan the walls looking for plug and switch covers and for extra amenities, like wainscoting or ceiling molding. They will be looking at the lighting fixtures – types, how many and do they work. They will note the paint job in each room, looking for evidence that it was a badly done DIY job. They will note the condition of the kitchen – appliances, cabinets, countertops and layout. In baths they will note the condition of the grout around tubs and in tile work and look for signs of rust staining that indicates iron in the water.
Of course the Realtor will be seeing and noting any issues with clutter and cleanliness, so that they can discuss that with you, too. He/she is not trying to make you feel bad about your house or your housekeeping. They know that people fall into patterns of comfort about how they live in a house. The Realtor just needs to get you out of that comfort zone enough so that you see the house as strangers will see it when they visit. They may suggest hiring a cleaning service for a one-time deep clean.
After the visit, you should sit and discuss the results. Let me give you a hint at a line not to use with the Realtor – “Well, it’s good enough for me, so it should be good enough for them.” Maybe you should turn that thought process around and think, “If I make it good enough for them, it will be great for me.” You may rediscover something that you surely had at one time; but, which might have gotten sort of pushed aside for a while – pride of ownership. Once you have that again, it will shine through to visitors and help your house sell itself.
Even if you aren’t about to sell your house, make a visit to it every year, so that you can see the stuff that you need to get to in order to keep it up. I guarantee you that once you’ve gone through this experience with a good Realtor, you’ll never walk into any house again without noticing more than you’ve ever seen before.