Open house feedback

kats_meowMay 7, 2010

We had a realtor open house today. The feedback was worrisome. House is listed at $599k which is higher end in this area. We did a lot to get it ready for sale (recarpeted, repainted, replaced vanity, new appliances, staging, etc). Market here is reasonably OK compared to most places. However, house is custom house on acreage and these can take a while to sell even in good markets.

We have already bought our new house so wish to sell this house asap to eliminate the carrying costs. One problem is that it is very very difficult to come up with comps since houses in this area vary so much in acreage and amenities. Our house has a guest house which may be very valuable to the right buyer or virtually meaningless to someone else. HOwever, I don't want to have the house on the market for a year waiting for the right buyer.

We have had about 6 showings in the 2 weeks on the market, with one second showing. Second showing people really like it but they can't buy until they sell their home. Another buyer also liked it but has been looking at a lot of houses and not ready to buy without first selling. A couple of people didn't like layout or would have to make too many changes. Other feedback was good or non-existent.

I already felt I wanted to lower price since I really want to sell this summer (house is 5 bedroom and most likely to appeal to people with children). The difficulty is figuring out how much to lower it given the comps that are never actually very comparable.

The open house gave good feedback in some areas (overall condition, lot, area, design, layout). Negatives were mainly 3 areas:

1. Several people commented on pet smell in entry. I posted about that in another thread. We had our cat litter box in a large closet under the stairs. We have cleans it repeatedly (cats have been gone for 6 weeks to our new house). Area has no carpet (concrete). We are having the floor cleaned and sealed tomorrow and the closet repainted with a view to getting rid of pet odor. If that doesn't do it, we are at our wit's end. The odor is faint but is noticeable when coming in the house.

2. Flooring. This is one that I think we have to deal with through lowering the price. The first floor has 4 different flooring. The dining room, kitchen, hall way and office all have ceramic tile (sort of a orangish brown). The foyer and formal living room have hardwood (we did have this refinished before listing). Sunroom has a different brown ceramic tile. The family room, master bedroom and master bath have a natural slate tile. Replacing that tile with carpet is really cost prohibitive at this point. See link to see pics of flooring.

3. Price. This is the one that has us flummoxed on what to do. I am totally willing to lower the listing price. Houses here usually sell for about 97% of listing price.

Each agent was asked what they thought it would sell for. Four gave no snwer. Eight gave numbers that ranged from $495k to $575! There was also one that said low $500s and another that said $570. The others clustered in the $535 to $560 range.

So that makes it very hard to know where to drop to the price to particularly given that comps and other listing are that helpful since nothing is really all that similar. The houses in the area are custom so there is no cookie cutter subdivision. Also they are on acreage which varies from 1 to 5 acres. Also with that acreage there is a variety of different outbuildings. Some have elaborate pools (we have a plain pool). We have a guest house. Another one might have a gazebo or a barn or a workshop. We have 2 double garages and so on. I think that one reason there is so much variance in agent's suggested prices it would sell at is because comps are so difficult.

I am really struggling with whether to reduce it to $560k or more or less. Carrying costs are $5k a month so I really want to list it at an attractive but realistic price.

Any thoughts?

Major negative

Here is a link that might be useful: House pics

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Ignore where I have "major negative" at end...typo meant to delete.

Also see below for better link to actual photos

Here is a link that might be useful: House pics

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 10:48PM
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It is a beautiful house! Can you change the front panels to your kitchen dishwasher and trash compactor or whatever it is to match the stainless steel refrigerator? Is there a panel that you can just flip????

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 12:37AM
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No there is not. The trash compactor was in the house when we got there and I've never used it. Dishwasher is newish (late last year) but there aren't panels for it.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 12:42AM
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I realize it's hard to find 'comps' but a good realtor will find them!! Really "push" him/her to find some so you can make a reasonable decision on the price. It is a beautiful home,by the way, I bet it will sell soon! It is very early if it has only been 2 weeks; give it some time and then drop the price some if you find the'comps' warrant it.
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 1:38AM
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I did hear from my agent who said that the critique sheets usually make it sound worse than it really is (the sheet asks them what to change, not what they like about the house). Said that the agents overall did like the house. And the house is in a very desirable subdivision where houses don't often come on the market. I've asked to see updated comps (such as they are).

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 2:20AM
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Where do you live? Is tile flooring the norm in your area? I think that an area rug in the master bedroom might be a good idea and more comfortable for bare feet. Based on the agent's feed back I would drop the price to about $550k. (I know, easy for me to say).

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 9:28AM
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Do you have a link to the actual listing?

Have you removed that picture of the porch yet? It doesn't look very good. Also, that pink chair with the green table next to it doesn't do anything for the picture. It should be removed at least for the picture.

The front of your house should be your first picture, not a bedroom picture. Your house is beautiful.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 10:26AM
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Terriks - I am in Texas. Tile flooring is not the norm in the bedroom but it is not unusual to see it in the higher end houses. The area rug idea is a good one. I am going to get new comps and look at them carefully before I decide on the price. We do have one buyer who has said we are at top of their list but they have to sell their house first so I don't put much stock in it.

happyladi - The picture of the porch is gone. The pink chair/green table pic was of the guest house and is gone and replaced with a better picture. In the actual listing the front of the house is the first pic.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 1:02PM
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Re cat odor:

Before the walls are repainted, have them coated with white pigmented shellac (Zinsser and BINZ, are two brand-name formulations of WPS). Shellac is excellent at odor blocking, quick to dry and compatible under most paint. It's likely that you have a small amount of over-spray from a litter box. You could go crazy looking for it, but it's easier to just shellac and repaint, unless you know exactly where it is. If you do the painting yourself be aware that WPS is prretty strong smelling (when being applied), especially in a small space. You can get a cracking headache from breathing it in a confined space so use some forced ventilation if you can. The good part is that it's cheap and the clean up is household ammonia and warm water.

If the floor is tile or cement, then I would wash it with a cat-urine specific enzymatic cleaner. Nature's Miracle for CATS is one, so is Get Serious. Use either one several times allowing full drying between. They are slightly stinky themselves and rely to a small degree on odor-blocking so you may not smell anything remaining at first. Be prepared to treat again, but eventually it will cure it.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 6:03PM
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I've read that activated charcoal is good for removing odors. Could you put a bowl of it in the closet in the entry?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2010 at 6:33PM
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The smell of cat pee/spray/odor would be a deal breaker for me.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2010 at 11:43PM
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Before the walls are repainted, have them coated with white pigmented shellac

This is exactly what they ended up doing. And the smell was very strong although dissipating now. You sure can't smell any pet odor now. We did clean the floor with an enzymatic cleaner and then had it cleaned and sealed.

With regard to the price feedback I did ask for and get comps. There were only 2 sales remotely like my house in the last 5 months and they were not all that similar. The per SF price of the two was widely different (one was around $105 and the other around $138). The $105 was a very large house (about 5700 SF as I recall) and not in as good a location and a bit higher price range. The $138 house is not that comparable as it is was a house in a higher price range. These two houses sold for about 90% of listing price. There is a pending sale for a house in a lower price range (mid-$400s) that is listed at about $110 SF. It is smaller, on more land, older, not as good a location, but does have a guest house.

In the active listings there are 4 houses in the $650 to $700 range, 3 at around $599k (including my house) and 4 in the mid to high $400s. Most are not that similar to my house. Given that the only listings between $495k and $650k are the 3 houses at $599k I am inclined to drop my price.

My agent does think when all is said and done that the house will likely sell in the $550k range or thereabouts. We will likely reduce price although haven't decided what to reduce it to. Perhaps around $565k.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 10:44AM
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Sometimes it's more about capturing attention and making the buyers feel like they got a "deal." Since there are three others at $599, I'd drop it, too. Put it at $569 and see how it flies.

I know a reduction hurts, but it if makes you feel any better, my house was listed (and sold!) at $305, then that deal fell through, and it eventually sold for $255. So that $50k drop was a bigger chunk of my total than for you... I feel your pain. :)

Good luck!

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 11:43AM
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I know I watch too much HGTV :). In several shows I have seen a stick-on "stainless" sheet that can be applied to existing appliances to give a more uniform look to the kitchen for not much money. Just a thought, although your kitchen is nice as it is.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 1:44PM
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Here are my thoughts, we just finished selling a home that didn't have a whole lot of comps, either. We were on the market for 1.5 years!

1. Real estate agents don't really know what price you'll get. Take their feedback with a grain of salt...when we went on the market, we interviewed 3 agents, and there was a huge variance in the prices they thought we could get. Each did a comprehensive market analysis, but they did not agree on price, not even close.

2. The best strategy on price, if you have time, and want to maximize what you get for the place, is to incrementally lower the price until you get good showing traffic and positive feedback from buyers. A good rule of thumb is to lower for 2-3 weeks, and if you don't have any offers, lower it again.

3. Be prepared to lower the price until it hurts. Then, be prepared to lower it a lot more. This is very hard to take, but it was our experience. Like I said, we were on the market 1.5 years. Every time we lowered the price, we expected a lot of interest. It just didn't happen till we went a lot lower than we thought we'd have to go. Hopefully that won't happen for you, but in this market, it's often the reality.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2010 at 2:23PM
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If your carrying costs are $5k per month, you don't want to diddle around lowering the price incrementally for weeks and months on end. Bottom line is, you HAVE to SELL your house. I agree with xine, drop the price so that yours is the best "deal" for the size and location of the house. It doesn't do you any good to hold out for 6 months to get your price if it costs you $30k in the meantime.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 9:05AM
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grad_girl_1 - I don't recommend your approach at all as it will get you less in the end. xine and idrive65 have the approach I would take. It will likely net you more in the end as the longer you sit on the market the more stale the listing becomes and people wonder what is wrong with the place.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 9:41AM
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I agree with xine, idrive65 and lyfia. That said, I think that grad_girl_1 has a point to. When comps are limited it is different than when you have a house, say, in a subdivision that has a lot of similar houses nearby to use as comps. In that situation, comps can be relatively straightforward.

Where they aren't straightforward and where there is wide disparity between realtors on what they think a house will sell for it can be difficult to know where to set the price and doing incremental pricing may be a way to get at finding what a buyer would pay.

That said, I do not want to be on the market 1.5 years given that we already have bought our new house. I want to do a fairly large reduction now and hope to shorten the sale process considerably.

Since the comps were so few and non-similar I had my agent do comps all the way back to last August. Unfortunately that didn't bring much more clarity. Prices per SF were all over the place, partly due to the fact that many houses had varying amounts of acreage and homes varied a lot in size and amenities and outbuildings. I did notice that by and large the sale prices tend to either be about 90% of the listing price or about 97-98% of listing price.

One of the things that also makes it difficult to decide how much to drop the price is that there is a potential buyer who has expressed very strong interest in the house but has to sell their house first so is not in a position to buy for a month or two. I am not going to wait for that possibility of course.

My agent asked if I was going to drop the price to about $560 or $570 so I guess that is the range that the agent has in mind for a price reduction. I am uncertain whether to drop to $565 or $560.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 11:51AM
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Your house is beautiful! I can't believe you have to lower the price any more. What a shame, that's a lot of house for such a low price. In my area it would sell well over a million.

I wish you much luck,


    Bookmark   May 12, 2010 at 9:55PM
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Almost 3 months later...

We ended up reducing the price to $565k about 2 months ago. When I last posted we were at the top of one buyer's list. It turned out when they made the 3rd visit that it was the wife's 1st visit and she didn't like the layout of the house.

Another buyer who had seen the house before the price was reduced came back for another visit since the price reduction and reportedly is highly interested but has to sell their house first.

We've had a total of 15 showings (not counting 2nd showings) and had 2 others who wanted to come when we had the house off showing for a few days. Real estate agent says that is a lot of showings for a house in this price range.

A nearby house that started out being listed over $800k a couple of years ago has now dropped its price to $600k. It is not all that comparable (more land, much smaller, no guest house and in other ways) and is still priced way more a square foot than we are. I don't want to be the one on the market for 2 years though.

We have high carrying costs on this house and need to sell as soon as possible. I realize you can't sell if there are no buyers but the number of showings implies to me that there are buyers (although not so many now that it is the end of the summer).

We are going to reduce the price again, probably to $550k (in our area search breaks points are at $50k so this picks up the ones searching 500-550 and those from 550-600).

We are at the point there where if we sold for that we would break even at closing. If we sell for less then we bring money to closing (which I understand has nothing to do with market value). We can afford to bring money to closing *if* we sell in the next several months. If this drags on a couple of years then it becomes difficult.

I am thinking at this point to list at $550k and if it doesn't get an offer within a month lower it $25k. Thoughts?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 5:55PM
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Oh, your post brings back too many memories for me. It took us 2 years to sell our house (it sold a year ago). We had loads of traffic and the majority did not have a problem with the house, there was just too much on the market to choose from. We ended up selling for 65K less than we started at and that was after doing a minor kitchen remodel (removing a wall and adding a large pantry cabinet), a new roof and replacing some flooring. All that to say, yes, I think being prepared to lower is a wise way to go. Hope you get an offer soon!

    Bookmark   August 2, 2010 at 7:25PM
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The amount of showings that you are generating tells me that you have a property that is marketable and something that buyers would like... at least when looking at it from a computer screen. Once they get there though, it sounds like the floor plan is scaring them off at the current listing price.
What's up with the nieghbors house, who listed at $499000?
I would suggest lowering it to $537500 now. Don't waste time lowering it to $550,000 now and then a month later to $525000. Split the difference now.
BTW...when your agent is comping out the home, is she adjusting for sq. ftg. amount of land, outbuildings, pool...? The differences in land amount is not that difficult to adjust for. She can research what lots are selling for and get a sence of the value of land, and adjust accordingly.
BTW... it is hard to "give your house away" even in a buyers market. If you undervalue it, two things can happen. You will get multiple offers that your agent can play against each other to get the price back up to a fair market value, OR, it does not get any offers at all. And if it gets no offers at the "rediculously low" price, then it would have never sold at the higher price to begin with. (This strategy takes an agent that knows the art of footdragging, in order to wait around for that second offer)
Thanks for keeping us updated and good luck.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 7:59AM
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I did consider going lower than $550k however if I do that then searches for $550 to $600 won't turn up our house. At $550, we will hit both search bands.

Neigbors house (not at $499 now, it is at $600) is on about 5 acres (double lot which they don't want to sell vacant separately). It is a 3 bedroom house in a sea of 4 and 5 bedrooms. They have horses and really the outbuildings/property are optimized for horses. My understanding is that people with kids think it is too small (it is about a 1000 sq feet less than ours). On the other hand, older couples who might be interested in a 3 bedroom may be turned off by the sunken living room. Started out well over $800k (shortly before the time the market started going down).

The agent is adjusting but the comps are not entirely clear particularly since there are so few of them. We also have a guest house which most comps don't have.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 11:34AM
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You can not worry about what increments buyers are using for thier search. It has nothing to do with your property's market value. And, with a market that has so many good deals out there, buyers are using a wider price range these days anyhow. If the home is priced at $525, $537, or $550, they will find it.
You say that you would go below $550 except for the problem that you think it would cause for searches. If this is the case, then lower to $550, instead of being stuck at $565 with no offers.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2010 at 9:04PM
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Oh, we are definitely going to lower it to at least $550.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2010 at 11:45AM
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When I evicted a tenant from one of our rentals I had to deal with some nasty smell. I tried all the different sprays and no good results. I bought some of those baking soda boxes with different scents and had some change. Then I bought 4 bags of charcoal and put them into four big boxes I got from the supermarket. I left them there for a week, open the windows, it worked. Also change the a/c filter, wipe down the vents with alcohol.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 3:14PM
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