I love Madonna. Kind of. A bit racy for my tastes, but I think she’s very talented. And she taught me a valuable lesson about selling homes very early in my career.
Jim Bryan was one of my first bosses in the real estate sales business. I was only a couple weeks on the job when he told me to get in the car. He wanted to show me something important.
He drove to a neighborhood about five years old with a couple of homes for sale, and told me he wanted my opinion on the values. No problem. I knew the area well.
We walked into the first home and he told me to walk around and let me know what I thought. The entry was nice. You could see past the moss rock fireplace through the living and dining areas to the wall of glass in the back. From the deck, you looked over a quiet ravine with a creek below. The kitchen was modern, with stone counters and raised panel beech cabinets and all white appliances.
When I walked upstairs, Jim was in the first bedroom, staring at a poster on the wall.
“Who’s this?” he asked.
I had no idea. A huge stage with a rock band had a tiny little lady you could barely see in the middle of it all. She was obviously belting out a song and wasn’t wearing much. In the bottom right corner, I read “Madonna”.
“Oh, this is Madonna,” I said. “She’s the phenomenal new talent in the rock world. Very big deal.”
Jim just looked and said, ”I think people should wear more clothes in public.”
When I finished walking through the home, he asked me what I thought of the asking price. It was on the market for $84,900.
I knew this was a test, so considered my answer carefully. “I think that’s fair. This neighborhood will support that price,” I said.
Next house was three doors down on the same side of the street. “Let’s take a look at this one,” Jim said.
When we walked in, I knew it was the same floor plan, same size, same builder built in the same year. Nice rock fireplace, glass wall leading to the deck overlooking the ravine. Cabinets were raised panel. Nice appliances.
I found Jim upstairs in the first bedroom. Amazingly, he was staring at the exact same poster of Madonna on the same wall of the same room. These neighbors must have been good friends.
But it was different. This poster was matted, under glass and framed. The walls were painted a cream color. I started looking differently at the whole house. The furniture was leather. The rugs on the hardwood floors were beautiful Persian-style rugs with colorful patterns. All of the walls were painted in warm colors, and the rest of the art was actually art. Real oil or watercolor framed in beautiful wooden frames. Bookcases were stacked neatly, cut flowers in every room. Even the dining table was set for a dinner party of eight, with cloth napkins and wine glasses.
“So this one’s asking $89,900,” Jim said. “What do you think of that asking price?”
Again, I knew this was a test. After some thought, I avoided the inevitable trap and told him, “You don’t get the furnishings with the house. It’s the same house as the one down the street for $5000 less. I don’t see it at $89,900.”
“Which one will sell first?” he asked.
“You don’t get the furniture. The one for $84,900 will sell first.”
“But which one will sell first?” he asked.
“The one down the block.”
“But which one will sell first?” he asked. I got it.
“This one, obviously,” I said. “It’s a much nicer home.”
“Exactly,” he said. “Let’s watch over the coming weeks and see.”
Jim was right. The home that was staged beautifully sold three days later for almost full asking price. The other was on the market for two months longer, and sold for less than the $84,900 they were asking.
It didn’t make sense. The houses were identical, but one sold for significantly more money in much less time.
Statistics show that a buyer will make up his or her mind on whether or not to buy a home within 18-20 seconds after walking through the front door. A home either feels wonderful or not. It’s either home or not. The rest of the tour is commonly just verifying that there really are bedrooms and bathrooms.
Staging a home is critical in any marketplace. Sometimes remodeling or refurbishing a whole home, although perhaps expensive, is worth it on the bottom line. Sometimes it’s not. But always, cleaning and staging a home is critical. It is always worth every dime and every hour spent on it.
If you’re thinking about selling your home or investment property in the coming year, it’s time to call me. I’m happy to walk through with you and talk about what we might do to make those first seconds count. Fact is, even Madonna, presented well, can help.
Call me as you need. I’m always here for you.
WK Real Estate