People will often ask me if I like working with home sellers or home buyers best. I really don’t have a preference. To me, the most important thing is that I work well with the people I’m working for. If we’re on the same page, things are great. If I’m working with buyers or sellers who don’t cooperate, it’s no fun. As I’ve been helping buyers and sellers find the home of their dreams for some time, I will often ask my former clients what surprised them most about the house hunt or the sale of their home. I asked a couple who bought a house in August what their biggest surprises were. Below, my recent buyer clients share two surprises on their home purchase.
The First Surprise: What The Listing Photos Can And Can’t Tell You
We know from countless real estate studies that home buyers start their searches online. That means quality photos are a must. One of my buyers was surprised, however, with what the listing photos can and can’t tell you. As an example, my buyer wanted to see a house for sale in the city of St. Louis, near Tower Grove South. When she saw the pictures online, she was ready to put an offer in on the house without actually even seeing the house. Why? Well, there was a photo of a very nice garage in the alley, and on the back of the home, there was a porch on the second floor that came off of a bedroom.
When we went to the house to see it in person, my buyer was immediately disappointed. There was a garage in the back. There was no photo of the inside of the garage, however. In person, you could see that the first 4 feet of the garage was going to need to have to be replaced because it was rotten.
The second story porch was even worse. In the picture, I could see that the porch sagged indicating that the footings weren’t solid and that the slope of the porch might be downright dangerous. Because my buyers didn’t know what they could learn from the pictures, they just assumed that because they saw a porch that it must be safe, number 1, and number 2, not in need of any repair. When I opened the bedroom door to the porch, my buyers refused to walk on it!
I’ve looked at many listings online and after a while, you see things that the average home buyer isn’t going to notice. I’ve also written about instances where listing photos never tell the whole story. Understand, just because I see a thing in photos that my buyers might not see, that is never an excuse for not going to see the house in person. It normally breaks two ways: I usually go to see what a real train wreck the listing is, the other option is that I’m surprised that it isn’t as bad as I’d feared.
The Second Surprise: How Sellers Can Decorate A House To Hide Defects
When working with home buyers, I always recommend that they physically go look at a lot of houses. It’s not because I don’t trust their choices, it’s because I want them to be confident in the home they choose. Home inventory is always changing, and you’re buying a home in a small fraction of time. Let’s assume a new home search by committed buyers takes two months on average. That’s 10 months per year where there is new inventory that they’ll never see or never know existed. What is the problem with that? Buyers get tunnel vision and have difficulty comparing value between similar homes.
Since I’m showing my buyers lots of houses, I’m also using these opportunities to educate them on things to look for. Let’s start with one small tell. When you walk into a home, what does it smell like? Does it smell clean, or do you just smell air fresheners? If you are smelling powerful air fresheners, there’s almost always a musty basement being hidden. When you look in the basement, you may not see any water, but rest assured, under that mildewed carpet is wet, soggy padding, the smell being hidden by powerful air fresheners.
A little higher up in how sellers tend to hide defects is something you’ll find in a bathroom. When you walk into a bathroom is the shower curtain closed or open? If it’s closed, there’s probably something going on with the walls or bathtub. It could just be dirty, there could be rust stains, indication of leaks, or even glazing coming off of the tub.
The buyer sees the nice shower curtain and sees a nice shower. They never think to look behind the curtain. This can be a significant mistake.
Have you ever gone to a home that is for sale and there’s that brand new carpet in all of the bedrooms? What’s that about? Sometimes, it’s used to hide defects in the subfloor or floor. If the floor sags, the new carpet and pad can sort of hide it visually. Of course, you aren’t likely to walk the whole floor, so you never notice how it sags.
The marketing remarks may exclaim “Brand new carpeting throughout!” It’s highly unlikely that they will write, “Brand new carpeting throughout because we are hiding defects in the floor!.”
Two Surprises, but there are many more
While my recent buyers sheared these two surprises on their home purchase, there’s almost always two or three surprises new home buyers encounter during their journey to buy their home. This is where a competent real estate agent is so valuable: They know how to look at a home and where the possible surprises are. This is just one reason why choosing a real estate agent from Deerwood Realty is going to make a difference in your home search.