Buyer expectations

kitykatSeptember 24, 2012

I will be putting my home on the market in spring 2013 and moving into a small retirement villa. This is a 60 year old 3/1-1/2 ranch in a very modest suburban neighborhood that I bought 10 years ago. It has a beautiful extensive garden, and small lawn area, so this is NOT the home for a family with two active kids and pets. With only 48" closets, I converted one bedroom into a spacious built-in, walk-in closet.

So, I ask of those on this forum... what are the expectations of buyers in this corner of the market? Other than being uncluttered and very clean, how much does one do? The interior paint is in excellent condition, but the slab doors and frames bear the painted-over dings and dents of lots of heavy use. Hardwood floors are in fair condition. The roof and exterior paint are new, and I have replaced all windows. White cottage kitchen is 6 years old.

The house looks like a perfect little cottage. Is this enough?

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Do you still have 3 BRs or has the conversion into a closet created a 2 BR home? If it's two BR, that maybe your biggest issue as there will be far fewer buyers for a 2 BR place.

De-clutter and clean as you said and then paint the doors and trim. They dings will detract from the overall appearance. Find a way to make those floors shine.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 2:32PM
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We have a rental that we're about to put on the market that is the same category: built in the 50's, 900-ish square feet, tiny everything. We've opted to make it as fresh-looking as possible. This included replacing the interior doors and hardware (hinges had multiple coats of paint, knobs were mismatched and loose and worn), replacing the original kitchen (though not the appliances, which work fine), vanity and toilet. We also updated light fixtures and changed all the mismatched outlets and switches to white.

Fortunately because the house is small, none of this was very cost prohibitive. Replacement doors are $20 at the big box stores and hinges are $1 and lever knobs $10 on ebay. The kitchen was $1500 or so.

If I were you, I'd refinish the floors and swap out the doors. Then your whole house will shout "well maintained." If you leave something not looking as good as the rest, it risks pulling down potential buyers' impressions of the whole house.

Feel free to post photos here. We all love to critique soon-to-be listings. :-)

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 3:23PM
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If your doors are original 1950's-60's, it is possible that someone might like them just the way they are. Post pictures.

My impression of ranch homes is that they are in sort of a revival. Dh and I have friends that have bought old ranch style homes and love them. We built a little more updated ranch a couple of years ago and get lots of compliments on it. People like them because they are so functional.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 3:52PM
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One of the interesting things that came out of the last census is that there are a lot of single adults living alone these days. My guess is that your target market is going to be these single adults, plus empty nesters, plus young people looking for a starter home, if what you have is basically a two-bedroom with a lot of storage.

And my guess is that your chief competition is going to be condos.

You are going to win out on storage space, and privacy, and noise, and lack of condo fees. You are going to loose out on maintenance and maybe age. As adelladbedella says, in some areas, ranches are making a comeback.

As a single woman looking for a house, a large garden would be a turn-off, because a) I wouldn't know how to care for all the plants, so I'd be intimidated by them and b) there's only so much time I have after work to deal with the yard and garden. I'd prefer a small garden and a larger yard, because I can just mow the lawn, whereas gardens need weeding and mulching and watering and other stuff.

What do the bathrooms look like? If they haven't been updated at all, at least give them a new coat of paint.

Some people, like me, would rather have the original doors, even with the dings. Other people would prefer fresh, new, un-dented doors. Pick one and market towards that.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 5:03PM
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camlan's right about your potential market. We've sold our other 2 rental properties in the neighborhood, and both were bought by retired couples. Singles (of any age) and newlyweds are the other likely potentials.

In our houses, they aren't "character old" with woodwork (or doors) that deserved to be preserved. They're "utilitarian old" making an update refreshing.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 8:06PM
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I don't think a working older style bathroom is necessarily a detriment to someone who wants an older ranch. Not sure what you have, but my friends love their pink bathroom with the pink toilet, bathtub and tile.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2012 at 9:24PM
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I truly appreciate all the opinions being offered. My only real concerns are the bathroom and hardwoods. Looking online at homes within a mile of mine, most all have refinished the floors, but then most are vacant! Many also have finished basements. My three bedrooms are carpeted; living, dining and hall are wood.

This house was NOT loved and well maintained until I purchased it. At some point there were water issues in the basement. I think former owners did not have gutters and sump effluent draining a sufficient distance. Also, the foundation is block and the floor has cracks, not unusual for the house age with very expansive soil. A heavy 4-6" rain brings the occasional trickle.

But the bathroom... the deep cast iron tub is scratched, scarred and worn, no chips though. The stopper does not work. And underneath the tub, viewed from the basement, the sub-floor is dry, but partially ROTTED. Who knows from when? Floor joists are fine! Tub caulk and some grout need a bit of work. To address the bathroom floor means removing the tub, tearing out some tub and floor tile. With no other bathing options, that presents a problem!!!

I plan to call in a few REA to obtain professional opinions. However, these homes are selling for not a lot. I, unfortunately, put considerably more into the house, than I will realize.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 9:21AM
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That's funny - Im a single woman who wants LARGE gardens and small (or no) lawn! Just goes to show ya.... Just my observation but I think the average flower gardener is most likely to be a single middle aged woman - we are the people with the time and inclination, and actually - IMHO well chosen established shrubs and perennials are easier than lawns.

The single woman is a small but significant part of the housing market. Ive heard it said that there are single guy houses and single woman houses, and what appeals to one may not appeal to the other. I bought my current house (with gardens and fish pond) from a single woman, as did she from the single woman before her. You should still probably aim for gender neutrality in paint colors, furnishings, etc. but I'd think twice about removing specific things that might actually attract certain types of buyers.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 10:47AM
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Hi fellow 'kat'. I am single, bought the house because the yard was a blank canvas, that I converted into a garden paradise. Other than two trees, all was planted by moi on hands and knees. Most are shrubs and understory trees, with some perennials... and ground cover. Wandering paths, benches, two brick patios.

My audience will be adult, single or couple gardener(s). The house is so pretty (only partially biased) other than that d**n bathroom!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 12:06PM
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I think your home sounds charming! Ask a local realtor for advice based on what is selling and expectations in your own market area. That varies so much from neighborhood to neighborhood, even in the same part of town, that a local opinion will help you most. Good luck... love to see some photos :)

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 5:19PM
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Ooh that does sound nice. I have a 2-flat now, looking to downsize eventually to something small and cottagey. Where are you - there isnt any rule against people marketing their houses in this forum there?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 6:06PM
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Nice to see there are others who have/had "buyer expectations" like mine! Hubby and I downsized 7 years ago to a small 1951 two bedroom/two bath home with a great yard for gardening (65x130). So not just singles will want a two bedroom home, retirees too!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 6:10PM
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kashka, I'm in the Kansas City area, on the Kansas side. The house is 'semi' gender neutral... kinda, sorta. There are numerous floral pictures, prints and watercolors. Walls are either cream or the lightest, pale green. I don't have any cutesy, feminine dust collectors though. Upholstery is light green sofa and two cream leather recliners.

The garden influence does predominate... and windows are very large and promote all the vignettes. Truly, as I walk through the house, I often gasp at the beauty outside. Such a distraction Mother Nature has provided in assisting my efforts!

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 9:14PM
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You can tell what you need to do to the home by knowing what your competition is.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2012 at 7:22AM
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Get it spotlessly clean, make sure everything works, and minimize the floral decor a bit. It will appeal to couples or singles who want big gardens and huge closets.

If the floors are worn, consider having them "screened". It's a process where they are scuffed with a floor polisher and special pads, then refinished, not with the drum sander that takes half the board off. It's still a dusty mess, though.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2012 at 10:36AM
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