Comps, not comps, and emotion.

palimpsestJuly 18, 2014

A friend and occasional client has her father's house on the market. There are several houses in subdivision for sale that are essentially the same plan.

The feedback on her father's house has been negative with the overall interest question being answered as "not at all interested".

When I first did a design job for this client, bluntly, she has no realistic idea of what a halfway decent piece of furniture or a good contractor should cost. I think she was used to how things were done when she was growing up which was to get the cheapest option every time (which was not necessary because of their income level).

At one point I was supposed to do a refresh on the bathrooms in this house and the father instead elected to have a Bathfitter type thing done in both bathtubs without doing anything else and calling it done. (And the bath liners feel and sound "loose". My impression overall is that the house was poorly, or at best cheaply maintained,

The houses are two in the $440 range, $415K, $380

The $440 houses are not comps, I don't think, but they show what people have done to maintain and update these houses. The $415 is the nearest comp.

The $440s have central air, the $415 and $380 do not.

Her father's is the cheapest, but honestly I don't think $35K is differential enough between it and the nearest comp because you could not make $380 look like $415 for $35K.

I said that people are seeing 2 baths and 1 powder room that are new or updated vs, three original baths with (poorly done not said out loud) bathfitters and a nicer kitchen and seeing much more than $35K in difference.
Again she things like you" could do a bathroom for a couple thousand dollars'

I am trying to be pretty diplomatic here, but then she will turn around and say "Well you have to have everything Perfect and pay way too much for people to do anything so you are not a good judge".

Hmm. Well, what do you think of the comparisons of these houses?











And this is the $380 Master:

I don't think the house shows well at all. I feel that it should be emptied, cleaned and the price dropped and sold as an obvious "estate". Do you think I am wrong overall? I am not sure staging it (and this is sort of staged and cleaned up already) will help much.

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415 Master Bedroom

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:46PM
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If you add up remodeling the kitchen, 3 baths and adding AC, it starts to make the $440K listing look like a pretty good deal, specially if you don't have DIY skills and will be using contractors for everything.

None of it matters if your client/friend isn't willing to accept the truth.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:51PM
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The $440K feels much more updated than the other two. I don't see much difference between the $415K and the $380K other than newer appliances in the kitchen/laundry room and newer carpet in the bedroom. the $415 has nicer furniture, too, so it probably gives a better impression.

Frankly, considering the differences between the $440K and the $415K and assuming the $440K is priced right, I would say that the $415K is overpriced, too. I would say the $440K is worth $150K more than both of the other properties, but I'm not a realtor nor am I familiar with your area.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:52PM
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You are not wrong; that house is dull, old-fashioned and shows poorly. I would empty it out, paint it, light it up, change the god-awful carpet if you can get them to do it and keep the price as is. Staging is not always the best thing to do unless you have the background to set it off. I think potential buyers would be interested if they walked into an empty, clean, well-lit house and began to envision it as they would furnish it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:56PM
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Holly- Kay

Wow, I can't believe the difference between the 380 and 415. I think you are being amazingly diplomatic to not snap her head off when she made the comment about you not being a good judge.

When I renovated my kitchen last year I knew if I was going to do it I wanted it well done or not at all. I am usually frugal but DH and I believe in buying the best we can afford as it is usually the best value overall.

I too would answer the questionnaire as "no interest at all" as there is nothing to recommend that house over the closest comp and you are right when you say that the amount of money to bring 380 to the 415 standards would be significantly more than 35k.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 9:59PM
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The 415 also has updated fixtures, moulding in MBR and LR, lovely bay window in LR. And, while you don't show the staircase of the 415, I bet it doesn't have the dated white railing of the 380.

I'd still want to make enough changes in the 415 house, though, that I would consider low-balling the 380, knowing I'd have to replace everything.

Of course, as tactful as you have been so far with your friend, it does seem like your strategy of emptying and cleaning, and then promoting as an "estate" sale, would make potential buyers come into it with an expectation of a dated home. Using the "e" word greatly lowers the expectation of any updates. It would, therefore, attract these types of buyers, rather than someone who walks in seeking the 450 look.

Frankly, this strategy would set it apart from the 415 and perhaps make it even more attractive.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:01PM
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The 440 looks like someone cared about the house and was happy there. Subliminally, I get the feeling that maintenance issues would have been addressed well.

415 looks a little worn and uninspired. Barring any glaring problems at inspection, I'd consider it first and make my own improvements.

380 looks like a rental, and I would expect significant problems with deferred maintenance or abuse. Are the floors laminate? Not my preferred flooring and doesn't look as nice as the 415 house. New flooring throughout, paint, and whatever arose from the inspection would be a consideration for me.

As a homebuyer looking in the area, seeing all 3, I'd probably offer on the 415 so that I could make my own finish choices to a home that I felt well-maintained but worn. Especially after seeing how nice the 440 one is!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:06PM
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Unless people are buying to flip, they want to see what can be done in a house to make it a home when buying. Most people don't have the ability to create a vision when looking at a blank uninteresting home. And that is how your friends house is showing.

Your friends house is dull, uninteresting and I sure wouldn't want to live there. Nobody cares about this house.

The other two houses have personality because someone cared enough about them to give them life.

Did your friends house always look like this, so lifeless, or has it already been stripped.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:12PM
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Hire an appraiser. It will be the best money you can spend. Although well meaning comps are selected and adjusted in a totally different way from the above advice.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:16PM
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Well it didn't look so lifeless, but it was also very cluttered. The family generally has clutter issues, and the father and one of the kids I would put in the mild hoarding category,

But when I first did a job for my friend/client at her old house, *Her* house looked exactly like this. There was furniture that had been placed slightly askew when set down by the movers years earlier that had never been adjusted.

I felt it was extremely depressing. It's interesting because my client was and her sister is still a compulsive traveler. I think part of it is that they can't stand being in their own houses. After I did a second, new place for the client, she stays home a lot more because it actually looks like a "real house" now.
There must be some complex issues here. They are all educated, they have high income levels, the two sister actually have a very expensive shore house. (which looks kind of unfortunately like this on the inside.) They've had some trouble with renters of the shore house who complain that it's not cleaned well enough and looks a bit shabby, but honestly I don't think this family *Sees this. They were smart enough to hire a professional cleaner for the shore house because I don't think they understood what they weren't doing right so are willing to pay someone else to do it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:23PM
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I don't know your area or local market, but I think you are right on. Clean it up, clear it out, and sell it as an estate sale or light fixer. As long as there are no major mechanical issues, it should move quicker than the 415 home. The 440 home is selling to another target market with a different set of buyers.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:29PM
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"Hire an appraiser. It will be the best money you can spend. Although well meaning comps are selected and adjusted in a totally different way from the above advice."

Could not agree more with this advice. The pictures above tell one story;'an actual appraisal may tell a completely different one.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 1:35AM
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Due to watching many episodes of House Hunters, I now consider myself an expert and he is my opinion: Homeowners typically buy with their eyes and not potential. Unpopular paint colors can sway and buyer one way while stainless steel is their "dream". I like ss as much as the next person,but does no one care about the manufacturer? Is the frig Sub Zero on Sears? Guess not.As for your friend/client,is she simply asking for an opinion or is she hiring you? If she simply wants an opinion,be diplomatic. It will be interesting to see what the selling price actually is. Keep us posted.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 6:14AM
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Without reading any of the responses I see from the perspective of an average but experienced buyer...

Ready to move in, everything seems or would be expected to be serviceable. In other words, appears maintained.

rant: get the @#$% fan out of the background of the kitchen picture! Nothing says "this place will be uncomfortable" quite like a great big freestanding fan. Otherwise meh... better plan on doing some work.

Bring your tools because you'll be busy for a while. I like cool vintage stuff but none of the original things I see come off that way at all.

The only reason I could see someone going for the 380 one is if they wanted a place that was fixed up, but really didn't like the way the one at 440 looks. It would be a bit of a challenge to DIY a whole house for the price difference between the 380/415 and 440 one. Not possible if you end up contracting it out.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 6:33AM
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Keep in the back of your mind that there is a reason that the lenders (banks) turn to appraisers to get their estimated value of a home.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 6:45AM
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I came across an evening of "Flip or Flop". What that show is suggesting is if you come in and "update" a home, there is BIG MONEY to be made. The average home buyer is totally unwilling, uninterested, unable to even so much as grab a paint brush. I don't know the market where you are but focusing on today's buyer, focusing on what the average buyer is INSISTING on may enable you to make some headway. I do not have any issues with the decisions the homeowner chose over the years--they lived there, THEIR CHOICE but for them to now think they have "added value" well that is just STUPID. Anyone purchasing this home with be a first time home buyer and still want it "perfect". With out a huge "redecorating" budget built in they will be in a uphill battle no matter how low their price goes. I understand those no longer fly--ya need to do the work BEFORE anyone will bother to make and offer--I am just not seeing these owners doing the work either. I don't think you can trust them to do what needs to be done either way. Their priorities are not what your buyers will be.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 6:52AM
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I think there are two variables, yielding four different combinations of houses:
1. Dated/cosmetic changes
2. Cheap products/quick fix job

Your friend's house seems to be the cheaply done/dated house. Then there are the houses with a quick slap of paint and shoddish workmanship, but surprisingly, many buyers will prefer this over a solidly built and maintained, but "updated" house.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 7:39AM
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It would be interesting to see what the comps lower than this look like.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:40AM
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I know that the appraised value of the house is a bit less than the asking price--not much. I think the mentality is that people will want to negotiate the asking price and they would like to end up at appraised value.

I saw this house years ago when the father was thinking about moving to a shore town permanently. My impression then was that they would have to sell cheap. These houses were built at what I consider a low point in construction quality, and I also think the builder used construction surplus in these houses. There is a cerulean blue type bathroom and a yellow bathroom, and these houses were built in the mid to late 70s, not the 60s. The finishes were already a good decade out of date for new construction when they were brand new.

These houses are middling for the township. They are more than half way through the listings ranked by price and the first page of listing is all at $1M *more* than these houses (for development-type McMansionish new construction)

I don't think that this is a house where I would be trying to maximize resale. It's an estate, it has no mortgage. I would just be trying to unload it as quickly as possible if it was mine to sell.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:44AM
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Just going with prices you listed and the amount of work to be done I think your friend’s house needs a price drop into the $370’s as a start to get some bids. Of course it would come out above the highest listed comp after it was remodeled properly but the majority of people will not understand that even though buyers are much savvier these days. Most regular people underestimate remodel costs. A lot of people will look at the price difference of $440 and $374 and think they will get the same look for much less. With the price reduction I’m still assuming that everything at least works.

Depending on how far the seller wants to go on the minor spruce and fast sale I would paint the entire interior Sherwin Williams Antique white. It's a nice light warm neutral that would look nice with the cabinets, that bit of yellow tile in the bath, the floor and the dark hole of the living area.

If it were me along with the price drop I would go ahead and change the dirty looking odd colored carpet in the bedroom or bedrooms to “gasp” light beige builder grade. The old carpets just say stinky yucky to me. The other thing I would do is take down some of those horrid ceiling fans and replace with new or just put a cap up there. I know some are needed as there is no central a/c. Remove the plastic looking window verticals in the kitchen dining area to brighten the space. Change out kitchen and bath faucets to new shiny chrome. I would try to limit the things most likely to immediately assault and make an attempt of a blank slate. In my neck of the woods people not only underestimate remodel costs, they also have a hard time looking past sticky outies, ceiling hangies and worn smelly’s. Also, many will want to live there while doing possible remodeling so it can’t be gross. After making sure everything works and is spotless I would put my efforts on sprucing up the curb appeal if needed.

I agree the house would benefit with mostly “empty” unless one could find anything interesting to put here or there.

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 9:34

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:53AM
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What caught my eye was cheap, boring light fixtures; old carpet/laminate; old/cheap furniture. The impressions just comes off as dumpy. Oh, and complete lack of color on the walls. I'm not sure I could live with the dark blue in the $440 house, but at least it's color.

I think it would show better with nothing than with the furnishings they have.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:21AM
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I'd say clear it, clean it, paint the walls white, and sell the house for its renovation potential, but maybe nobody wants to buy a fixer upper these days.

Are there not buyers who prefer a blank slate anymore? I'd rather rip out crummy old kitchens and baths and redo them to my tastes than live with a previous owner's spendy trendy renovations that I don't really love. And I wouldn't feel good about redoing a recently redone kitchen or bath.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:26AM
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the $440 house clearly has some nicer finishes in it like the fireplace and to the ceiling cabinets, recessed lights, and is overall a much nicer kitchen in general, imo.

the differences between the 415 and 380 are really minimal --- the 415 has some things like molding, newer light fixtures, and bathroom and laundry room cabinets, and an unattractive backsplash- but they mostly look like cheap finishes and don't really improve much ...
(are the floors in the 2 lower priced houses laminate?)
the 415 house probably shows better because overall the furniture looks nicer and the windows aren't covered by those vertical blinds, etc. if the 415 house was alot cleaner(and if they were including the w&d with sale), it would be more attractive to me for that reason, but would probably offer knowing it was very similar to the 380 house for sale---i don't look at one as needing alot less work than the other and would probably want to spend less $ on essentially the same house and put my $ in the updates.

if i was young/had no money to redo, i'm not sure how i would go... now i think i can look past the furniture/blinds/pink towel with yellow tile, etc, but not sure if i could when i was younger... ??

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:44AM
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It's sad and depressing. It might look better with everything removed and a fresh coat of paint. Ditch the vertical blinds. I don't even like the $440K house, but it has possibilities.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:45AM
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We have recently gone through the sale of our in-law's home that they had been in a very long time, and the sale of our home that we had been in 17 years.

In my experience...

Today's move-in buyers want a house that is something that looks and feels completely finished, updated, and ready to move in, plug in the TV, and be done. That is the BASE that they base their expectations on. Then they start subtracting the money and hassle from that base to what they see, smell, feel, and size up in front of them. That is how they decide if they can deal with the hassle of the work. Then they figure out the cost of getting the work done + the cost of their hassle for doing that work. That is how the arrive at the value of what they will pay.

Some buyers can't afford the time and hassle, and won't consider anything that needs work. They are too busy with work and kids to live amongst construction, or move twice.

Some will. Those that will, they are the only ones who are in the pool of buyers for your friend's house as it is now.

Many buyers just are not able to envision taking the before to the after. They are not like GW people. You can't blame the buyers for this. It is what it is. You must deal with reality.

And nobody (except a landlord) wants to buy a home that feels basic. Buyers want solid quality features to see and touch. An emotional bond.

Unfortunately, deferred mechanical maintenance (like having an original boiler and no AC or ductwork) tells buyers that all decisions on the home have been based on short-term vs adding value long-term. This is a signal that makes them start to find fault with all of the little things as being too overwhelming, instead of a punch list that can be worked through.

I will say the house we bought last year would fall into the category of what your friend is selling. (but newer, so it did have AC, but needed replacing.) We got it after it sat on the market for about 6 months, and had been dropped in price by about 20-25% from the original list. We had to redo every surface from flooring to lights to paint to doorknobs before we even moved in. When I show before and after pictures to people, many can't believe that we were able to see the "after" in the "before".

If your friend is under the delusion that any buyer will live in the house as it is now, she is, I am sorry to say, wrong.

My in-laws could not understand why if things had been just how they liked them, why a new young buyer would not want wallpaper, Corian, or carpeting. It is not easy for sellers to see after either. And they have an emotional buffer to the before that tints it with memories, so IHMO they are not really able to see the before either.

At this point, unless a bunch of money is put into the house, (and done very well), I would think that emptying, cleaning, and then pricing would be the best way to maximize the sales price for your friend. But I would also guess that your friend will think you are wrong.

Best of luck.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:47AM
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Pal, I loved seeing the same rooms in the comps and the home in question. Great visuals. Things to do for a couple thousand dollars. Carpet (wall to wall?) in the living room. That bare floor is too sparse. I didn't think the kitchen was bad but too much wood color! Some staging here might help - black and white check tablecloth for contrast?

I am afraid of the carpet in the MBR. If wood under, rip out and add rug maybe.

Holly-kay - loved your comment!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 9:59AM
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My strongest gut feeling about walking into a house like this as a potential buyer is this:

If this is what everything that I can SEE looks like, then how poorly maintained is everything else? Is there $20K in plumbing getting ready to fail the minute I close on the house?With baseboard hot water, am I going to be spending $25K or more to air condition the house? Is the deck as cheaply done as any other upgrade--is it going to fall off the house if it has 30 people on it?

I bought a house that was heavily staged in the cosmetic sense but I could see under the makeup that the infrastructure was poorly maintained. Here I am three years after buying the house spending $50K on plumbing, air conditioning and electrical --and this only includes the behind the scenes stuff. this does Not include a new bathrooms in the mix.

I think that 415K, as unimpressive as it is, and the few thousand dollars of cosmetic differences (which is what my friend is seeing, I think) do not tell the real picture. I *suspect* without having seen it in person--that the $415 owners at least did the basic maintenance that goes along with the upkeep types of things where the $380 is a ticking time bomb of infrastructure waiting to collapse. *Thats* where I think the more than $35K difference comes into play.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 10:20AM
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I agree with others - clear it out, paint it a warm white with a different trim colour and call it a day. It's easier for people to envision their own things in a blank slate than an ugly room that leaves them depressed about living there.

My MIL just sold her place. She has never seen the value or need to maintain her house. I've been around for over 30 years and she has never even had a wall painted. About 20 years ago she replaced her LR and DR carpeting with indoor/outdoor carpeting that she got for a deal. It is worn down to the subfloor. She just doesn;t care. And her house is in the most expensive market in Canada.

People would walk in and not even go beyond the front entrance. She finally found a developer to buy it at rock bottom price. There was so much potential in that house and I always felt so sorry for it.
` At one point my DH suggested that we sell our place and buy hers - if I were to print my response it would get me a warning.

This post was edited by blfenton on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 10:36

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 10:34AM
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hmmm... i don't know if i would make the assumption that the 415 house was better cared for in that way...
i have known people who clean or pay for a housekeeper every 2 weeks and don't venture into their basements to change filters, etc...

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 10:57AM
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Oh, I agree, that's what the inspection is supposed to tell you, ideally, but as a first impression thats what I would be thinking. I am working under the assumption that no visible maintenance in terms of cosmetics in the $380 house probably automatically includes no underlying maintenance. The $415, cleaner slightly updated house and even the $440 house could have ignored underlying issues as well--they could be only concerned about cosmetics.

But my overall assumption would be that if the visible stuff is run down, they probably aren't that great about underlying repairs and maintenance.

But I think some people just don't *see* certain things or discern them in the same way.

1) when I has helping her stage her first house for sale (the one I had done design work in). Her basement was filthy, with peeling paint and spalling concrete and old water damage. Her attitude was "But that's what basements look like, who cares if they are dirty?" It took a showing or two to even convince her to clean it out.

2) when she saw *my parents' house, which I probably have some of my own emotional blindness about. she said "Oh your parents' house and mine are the same! They are both dated old people's houses."

Here are the LR, a bath and the kitchen in my parents' house:

She just sees that they are both 40+ year old houses and that makes them "the same"

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:17AM
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Your parents’ house has carpet that’s easy to get along with and looks clean in the pictures.
I personally think it would be a big mistake not taking the gross carpets out of your friend’s house. The seller would eliminate a decent size of the buyer pool that may have to move in immediately (maybe their house sold or is selling). Most will know work needs doing but not all will be able to live off property for a remodel. The ones that will need to move right in and know there is work to figure out; well they still don’t want smelly gross. Even if they know they are going to rip the carpet out eventually it will make them feel better moving in and making an offer.
Ideally doesn’t the seller want a fast sale?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:48AM
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IMHO, it almost never makes economic sense to buy a fixer upper. There are always surprises and things you can't see that will need repair.

It nearly always makes economic sense to buy a "done house" for people who will pay retails for repairs, improvements, etc. If the average return on a new kitchen, is say, 75%, then the corollary is a buyer will save 25% of they buy a house with a kitchen that is already done ...

The differences between the 380 and 440 house will surely cost 60k to replicate, if the buyer is lucky.

Empty it, clean it, paint every inch white. And then take whatever the market will bear.

Your parents house is "dated" but it is pleasant and clean and well kept. That is totally different. In fact the LR needs very little and the K cabinets I would save.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:59AM
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If she believes your parents' home and her father's home are similar, then you're swimming against a current trying to convince her otherwise.

Again, clear it out, clean it up, and use the word "estate" in the listing.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:01PM
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Oh, goodness, no. No, no, no, no, NO. There is no comparison to your parents' charming, clean, cohesively decorated 40 year old house and your friend's smelly looking old dump. You should refer her to an optometrist.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:04PM
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Without reading all the responses here is my take....

440.....pretty move in ready...just paint to suit my color palette....nothing HAS to be redone in that it is so out of date, not in good shape, etc...

415.....some updating...but can live with it while I slowly update.... update needed...remodel kitchen and WT (verticals!), etc....I turnoff unless I loved the neighborhood and was prepared and had the $ to redo everything.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:09PM
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Really, REALLY want the lights in your parent's bathroom! And whatever the cool chrome thing in the wall is. There's a huge difference between those places though - one of them obviously looks taken care of and the other does not.

I disagree with mtnrdredux regarding fixers, with the caveat that if someone is looking for a particular style or type of home that would otherwise be difficult to buy. For example in this city if you want modern you either have to build it or spend some serious cash because as an architectural style it's very rare. Since something to one's liking may not be available for sale at all unless they go far above their price range it makes more sense to buy a fixer or tear down and (re)build it to their own vision.

However, that applies to a very small minority of people. In the case of most they won't be that particular.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:23PM
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Mnt says: IMHO, it almost never makes economic sense to buy a fixer upper. There are always surprises and things you can't see that will need repair. *Not so for us DIY-ers. I always make money. Not bragging I just do.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:27PM
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Entirely possible, Jterri --- my point was

"...It nearly always makes economic sense to buy a "done house" for people who will pay retails for repairs, improvements, etc. "

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 12:59PM
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yes, i agree about some just seeing the age/datedness vs the care/quality...

sortof like how some people see 'clean' as compared to others...

is that a door knocker on your parents' bedroom door?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 1:37PM
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"IMHO, it almost never makes economic sense to buy a fixer upper. There are always surprises and things you can't see that will need repair."

That's why you pay for an inspection report. Our first two homes, which we adored, were fixxer uppers -- a 1939 Art Moderne house and a 1950s MCM. But our bids on the houses were contingent on them passing inspections done by inspectors of our own choosing. Both homes passed, but we had a clear understanding what work would need to be done down the line. Only one surprise -- the 2nd home's electrical system needed upgrading quicker than we'd thought, but we were glad to have the work done, so it was money well spent.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 2:03PM
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OK I could only find ONE picture with carpet in that place, and it was of the dark green carpet in one of the bedrooms. It doesn't look "smelly" (I don't know how something could be "smelly-looking" anyway, but whatever). The color is certainly not very appealing, but I don't see how anyone could decide it's dirty and/or worn from the one picture.

Much of it does look dated. The kitchen doesn't look that bad to me - unless shelves are seriously warped or there is grease staining the cabinets that doesn't show up in the pictures, it really doesn't look much different from the other kitchens. You could make the window more appealing (I THINK that is a window and not a sliding door because I THINK I can see a baseboard heating fixture at the bottom of it) by softening it with an appropriate window treatment.

As a buyer, I would rather redo the bathroom myself and put a real tub in - the kind that is deep and long enough to actually get wet in. I can't say that I have seen a bathroom in a house that I would actually want in many years. Builders make bathrooms far too small and cramped these days. Anyway.

I agree about getting rid of the furniture. Removing things like the cheap mirror in the living room would also help. Basically take everything out of the house, repair nail holes and whatnot, and some paint - with some interesting detailing or something other than flat white on one or two walls - would greatly improve things. Neutral tones don't HAVE to be boring - a beige with rosy undertones on the back wall of the living room and a lighter color on the other walls would make it less generic looking without introducing a love-or-hate situation like with the blue in the other house. Updating the moulding and adding some ceiling moulding shouldn't be horribly costly and would go a long way towards making the place less generic.

As for "replacing the nasty carpet" - which just looks like it's an unappealing shade of green to me, but what the hey, maybe my eyesight just isn't good enough to pick up whatever makes people think its filthy and worn - I wouldn't. I'd give them a carpet allowance instead. If there's one thing I hate, it is having to replace brand new cheap carpet I wouldn't have wanted to start with. I'd rather select my own flooring and have it installed before move in - easily done if the place is empty. Some people don't want carpet ANYWHERE. A carpet allowance - or perhaps more accurately flooring allowance - would be very much preferable to me if I were looking at a house to buy.

In that price range I wouldn't even CONSIDER any home that didn't have central heat and air, and that house appears to have neither. However it looks like there is baseboard heat in at least one of the other houses, too.

I don't think it much matters what you do to the house as long as it doesn't have central heat and central air - BOTH. You will not get it up over 400k without central heat and air - you probably won't even get it up to 400k. But painting and a carpet allowance (and emptying the place out) may at least get you into the target range of the current asking price. Installing new moulding might even bump you up over that.

BTW, I wouldn't buy the $440k house either. Too much blue, and the very dark blue would make me absolutely claustrophobic. If you like blue and dark rooms don't bother you, I guess it would be ok, but I would feel compelled to paint before moving in any way. And at that price, I don't see why I should have to paint first shot out of the barrel.

I can imagine how eager someone might be to buy given that there is no central air and the house appears to have baseboard electric heat - making installation of central heat and air a far more expensive proposition than if there was existing ductwork.

Capping those fan fixtures would turn me right around without another glance. The light fixtures aren't exactly to my taste, but they don't set off the screaming heebie-jeebies either. I like ceiling fans, even when there is central air - without it, removing them would be a death knell. Knock off another $20k from the asking price right now if you intend to do that.

The question is, does your friend have any money to put into the house? If she doesn't, the question is moot.

I don't have a problem with your parent's house either, except for the wallpaper. Nothing wrong with the patterns - I just don't like wallpaper. That's a personal thing. It doesn't even look particularly "dated" to me - it just looks like it reflects the tastes of its owner. Not so much to my taste, but nothing wrong with it. It's not like its done up in 70's style harvest gold with dark walnut paneling and wavy glass in the amber light fixtures, LOL! Now THAT is dated! Almost anything else can be passed off as "charming".

Oh yeah, and I would replace that stair railing, too. Sometimes seemingly small things - like updated paint, crown moulding, and a stair railing that doesn't look like the one on the steps up to my grandmother's porch in the 60's - can make a HUGE difference in how a house is viewed. I wouldn't suggest putting any more into it than that, though, in the absence of central H/A.

This post was edited by zensojourner on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 15:20

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 3:13PM
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"I don't think the house shows well at all. I feel that it should be emptied, cleaned and the price dropped and sold as an obvious "estate". Do you think I am wrong overall?"

No ... especially with the cheap-out on the bath-fitters. One starts to wonder what else is covered up, cheaply and badly.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 3:27PM
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Ya know, zensojourner, I almost didn't write "smelly looking" in my post because clearly one cannot smell a photo on the internet. And yet, each time I scroll by those pictures, the first thought in my mind is "I bet it smells bad in there". Weird, I admit.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 4:10PM
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I think your advice is right on target, except that I would suggest painting the walls once the furniture is gone. You could help with color selection.

In the end, the market will tell you what the house is worth. Unfortunately, it just may take your client months before she realizes it.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 4:13PM
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Zenso, keep the carpet but redo the stair railing and crown moulding and ceiling moulding? I just don’t know what to say to that. The whole idea I'm thinking is making a fast sale. Even though there is no mortgage there is upkeep costs, electric, water, lawn maintenance ect… To do that (fast sale) one needs to take out the most immediate offensive stuff that can make the biggest impact without breaking the bank. Like old green carpet!

This post was edited by jterrilynn on Sat, Jul 19, 14 at 21:26

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 6:30PM
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Yesterday I read a long thread on another board about a man who bought house that looked on the surface very nice. He had had to make 60K plus in repairs so far and is far from having a livable home. It makes me leery of newly updated houses which may have very rotten innards that are covered up by snazzy new finishes. Lipstick on pigs (not a palin fan but it's a great descriptor).

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:09PM
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If I had to choose one of those houses, the $380k house would win, hands down.

Between the $380k and the $415k, I see NOTHING that adds $35k in value to me. Carpet is not an improvement over laminate. They both need to be replaced. The $380k house has a ceiling fan in the living room, which is an improvement over the house with no ceiling lights. I assume the $380k house has a bay window, too, it's just covered with the blinds, so get rid of those. Even if it's just a picture window, those blinds are hiding the natural light this room gets. The tile in the $415k laundry room is better than laminate. But the dark grout with white tile looks dirty. Both bathrooms are dated and ugly, to me. It might cost more than $35k to update the $380k house. But I'd rather not spend the $35k to get the $415k house, and still have to pay to upgrade it out of the 80s. (Or early 90s.)

The $440k house is nice, from the photos. And maybe, if I wasn't into design (and hence, reading this forum), then maybe I'd be willing to accept something not to my taste in exchange for not having to do anything. But, it kind of strikes me as a flip, and I'd have to wonder whether the updates were done well. Just because the house was renovated more recently, as the $440k house was, doesn't mean it was done better. There are probably enough people out there who don't worry about that who would see nice, dark wood cabinets and sign an offer right away. There is definitely a market for that house. But there is also a market who doesn't want the "fixed up to 2010 builder standard" house.

And from the pictures of your parents' house, there is nothing to tell me that house is better maintained. The fact that it's an immaculate time capsule doesn't mean the structure is sound. Maybe the cheap laminate "upgrade" was done because there was an issue that the home owner addressed? When we renovated our kitchen a couple of years ago and pulled out the 20 year old flooring, we found that the back door had not be properly installed, and 20 years of water had caused damage to the subfloor and joists. We wouldn't have known if we didn't renovate. Who knows what's hidden in your parents' house?

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 10:29PM
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I don't think we can say what's hidden in any of these houses for sure. That's what a personal and well-done professional inspection are for.

(I can tell you, that my dad who is 90 just put on a new roof and could also give you binders with all maintenance that's ever been done on the house with the receipts right back to 1969--But my parents' house isn't a comp to any of these houses really. It will sell for much less just because of where it is but it is a much better constructed house. It's had a standing offer on it for over a year, I only posted it because some people look at all houses of the same era as "old and dated" no matter what).

The real question here isn't which house anybody would buy and why, not really. The two at the top and the two at the bottom aren't going to appeal to the same sort of buyer at all.
I doubt I would buy any of them because I don't think they are well built houses. If I *had to buy one, I would probably buy the $380 one but low-ball it. I would *assume everything was wrong with it because it probably is.

I don't know, maybe the $380 house is the most honest representation of what these houses really are, deep down.

The issue for this seller though is that everybody is essentially turning around and walking out because of the way it presents. The $415 at least is getting people it consider it. But of course the inspections will point out the real differences.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 9:49AM
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Pal, does your friend actually want help from you or does she just want to vent about the perceived injustice of it all?

How does the agent fit into the equation? Has he/she suggested changes to the family?

What do you think the house would be worth if the family emptied the house, took off the window treatments, painted and replaced the green rug?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:12AM
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Pal, sorry that you are swimming upstream trying to help your friend. The house is dark, dreary, dated, and dumpy (I didn't know I could string that many "d" words together!). And more than anything, depressing.

I looked at the listing. Is the garage door bent?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:15AM
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I too wonder if minor changes would make a difference on value. I think the buyer is maybe destined to low ball offers. However, with a good agent, a few interested low ballers it could be played at an advantage for the seller…that is if she can get anyone slightly interested. So, I stand by what I said in replies of suggestions.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:32AM
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I don't know yet. Mostly venting I think. She knows I think the price is too high. Ironically I just got an email about preparing another house for sale, and it's another one I think is going to not show very well.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 10:52AM
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If people are walking out and heading to the $415k house, I assume that one is sold? Or are all of these homes sitting on the market? It could be a slow market rather than the way the house presents itself.

By saying that I would buy the $380k one, my point is that I don't think the $415k house presents any better than your friends (based on the photos in this post.) AND they want $35k more? I think if I were their friend, I'd be posting here for advice about how to break it to my friends that their house is not really that much better. Sure, it's more updated, but it's still not current.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 8:26PM
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To be clear, I have never bought a home without an inspection (though I do know that in some overheated markets people waive them ... no thanks).

So I am not talking of the typical things a good inspection will uncover.

I am talking about the kinds of surprises you often find in an existing home when you want to do something. Like, it's fine that you want to do x,y, and z, but the town will then make you bring a,b,c, and d up to code, which will cost you. And yes, great idea to open up the kitchen to the den, but you will need to add a steel support beam, which will cost you. Oh and, when we were gutting the bathroom, we found out all the backerboard was moldy etc etc. Oh and, yes you can enclose the deck but you will need to add another zone to your HVAC.

That isn't even my litany, but it's the types of things that can happen when you renovate. And one of the reasons it is often cheaper/less risky to buy a house that is "done". (But of course, not as much "fun"!)

    Bookmark   July 20, 2014 at 11:25PM
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No, $415 has not sold. But there was another house at just about that price that sold recently, and it was similar in condition and upgrade status to $415, but had air conditioning. (Which is why I think both $415 and $380 are overpriced)

But I think the main thing with $380 is the negativity of the feedback overall. She knew the owners of the sold house and knows somehow that the feedback on $415 have not been as consistently negative. In other words it seems that, although they got/get a certain amount of "not interested" in the final analysis, they at least are getting some positive feedback on pricing and how it shows.

I know the bottom line is getting the house sold and getting people to check the box that says "yes, interested" (and following though). But it was very helpful to me as a seller (who got a year +'s worth of "not interested" ) --to get feedback that said shows:"excellent" and priced: "just right" consistently enough to know that there were other factors involved. I think she is having trouble dealing with how bad a lot of house hunters apparently think this property is. She said to me that "they can *see what it looks like in the pictures and they can *read the listing, if they think it is so terrible why are they wasting their time?"

I think this is a good question, and I think that what they are doing is looking at every house like this in the neighborhood and comparing them all. They may not be paying that much attention to those listing pictures.

For example, my listing clearly stated that it was 2BR and 1 Bath and that there was an elevator in the building but you had to look for it. It also explicitly explained the condo fees. There was a LOT of feedback that it would be perfect but they wanted a powder room or another room like a den, that there was No Elevator, and that the condo fees were too high. --So why were they looking? Why were they missing the elevator (we put signs up eventually), and why were they missing the condo fees?

I think because they were looking at Everything that met a general criteria rather than specific properties.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 12:15AM
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Yes, the house needs updating! But since the woman is adamant about NOT spending money to re-do certain things, maybe she'll spend a bit and maybe be able to take certain things with her, such as new furniture.

The vertical blinds need to go, as well as the fan AND light fixture in the kitchen. Two similar or identical fixtures would be much better. Convince her to also get an area rug for under the table, and GET RID OF THE TABLECLOTH. A few things on the countertop wouldn't hurt either~homes DO sell better when someone is living in them, but it looks like no one lives here.

New towels in the bathroom, reface the cabinet doors, or get rid of that 'appliqué

If you can convince her to get a few things she can take with her, to 'impress' prospective buyers, she may be able to sell w/o updating. People form their first impression immediately, and unfortunately it is the furnishings they see, which says a lot. If it's old stuff, they 'll assume there's been no updating, but if they see relatively new furnishings, they'll assume more care has been taken in the home, and maybe won't notice the degree of updating that needs doing~you can always hope! Start by taking the woman to a few furniture consignment stores, and maybe you'll find several pieces and get a 'good deal'!

I have a friend very similar to this woman, and she doesn't understand if you want to make money you sometimes need to invest money. Makes me want to teat my hair out, so I try not to go shopping with her. The best of luck to you pal, and I hope you have a fair amount of patience.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:15PM
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I meant to add, she may get *close* to the $380 asking price with some cosmetic changes/new furnishings, and maybe flooring, but it won 't be a significant amount. She should consider herself lucky if it sells, period! Being hard headed isn't an advantage in the situation.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 5:34PM
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Palimpsest, I think you need to step aside and let the market run it's course. Your friend has already told you she doesn't think you are a good judge. She's probably paying a realtor / selling agent, so let her choice of professional give her advice. Don't say another word unless she asks.

It's unfortunate that your friend will probably get less for the house than she could have, but it's her own fault. Let it be ... and instead help people who appreciate your ideas and professional advice. Who knows, she might even approach you for help after the market shows it's colors.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2014 at 10:15PM
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