What To Look For In the Listing When It’s Your House That’s "On The Market"

by Lauren Kermode

So now it’s yourturn… it’s your house that’s “on the market”. Here’s what you should expect to see (and not see) in your listing.

If you have a good agent who’s really working to sell your house your listing should include:

Pictures – with a capital "P"! Pictures of the inside, the outside and the property, landscaping, etc. I can’t tell you how many Buyers I’ve had sitting in my office who won’t even go and see a listing unless it has several pictures so that they can get an idea of what it looks like before we go. There are so many homes listed now that why should a buyer drive to Rising Sun or Port Deposit or Earleville to see your house unless there are photos that entice them to do so.

Photos should be taken abundantly but with an eye to the fact that they are to be used as a tool to market your home. What’s that mean? It means that photos should include the architectural interest in your home. Forget the picture of your new couch – instead show the picture window and the view beyond. Show the fireplace, the stairway (if it’s an attractive one), gleaming wood floors and an open kitchen/family room floor plan. Make sure there are several pictures of the kitchen – from all angles – and photos of the backyard as well as the front. If your bathroom has Italian tile or a huge Jacuzzi tub get a picture of that but everyone has a toilet – leave that out.

Make sure the photos have good composition. If the picture is of your finished basement don’t have the whole upper half of the photo showing the drop ceiling – that will make perspective buyers feel "closed in". Clear off the counters in the kitchen for the photos – even if you’re going to put the stuff right back after the picture is taken. Put the kids toys out of sight. If a perspective buyer has children he/she will see all of the space for toys but if the buyer doesn’t have children, toys are a turn off. If your garage is a sight to behold with storage shelves and a well-organized tool area, take a picture. If it just shows an empty space leave it out

Measurements - Make sure you have measurements of each room. "Large" master bedroom doesn’t tell the same story as seeing a "12’x20’" measurement in the listing and “roomy” dining room won’t let a Buyer know that her grandmother’s 10’ antique table, china cabinet and 12 chairs will fit.

Remarks – This is a HUGE issue. MRIS allows an agent only 400 characters to describe your property to perspective Buyers. Go ahead… put this newsletter down and get a pen or go to your computer. Now try and write a description of your home in just 400 characters - that’s words and spaces! You’re going to need some help with this… you’re going to need an agent who knows how not just to write "4 bedrooms, 1½ baths" but one who knows how to paint a picture of life in your home.

Two years ago – even before most of us knew we were going to have a rough time ahead – I knew that the remarks were going to be the biggest draw (or drawback!) to listings. Here’s what I wrote about one of the listings I had at the time:

"Picture this: it's spring...you're surrounded by 5 acres of light woods in your own private haven where curtains are just for looks - not for privacy. You're out on the deck having just gotten out of the hot tub. You're thinking about when to open the pool. You go to the 3-car garage & check on the classic car you keep there. Life is good."

Did you notice? Not one word about the number of bedrooms or bathrooms. Nothing about carpet or countertops, no mention of ceilings or basement. These remarks painted a picture of life in this house. Admit it – as you read this paragraph, didn’t you want to know more about the house? Aren’t you curious about where it is, how much the listing price is? So were the Buyers who saw these remarks on Realtor.com and bought the house for near full price 19 days later.

And another thing... a good agent has to know how to handle a situation where the Seller’s decorations may be more interesting than the house itself: I listed a home that had many large thought- provoking paintings on the wall. As I was looking at the photos I had taken I decided to use these paintings as the springboard for my remarks rather than try to ignore them. This is what I wrote:

"Currently owned by an artist, this home has such a feeling of serenity. Deck, shed, established garden and fenced area of this large corner lot add to its livablity. Beautiful wood floors LR & hallway. Delightful wood stove in LR that pretty much warms the whole house when those chilly days come - and with this price it's a great choice for a water access second home"!

Now these remarks don’t paint quite the picture that the previous ones do but the lead sentence does capture the imagination. This ranch house was shaped like a box with exterior vinyl siding. The photos of the outside weren’t going to entice anyone and the inside rooms were so small it was difficult to get a good photo.

About two weeks after reading these remarks one of the agents in my office came to me and said that when he first saw the listing he thought the remarks were ridiculous. He didn’t see where the avocation of the current owner had any bearing at all on the sale and thought it was a waste of precious space…

…He then admitted that while he was on desk duty during those two weeks he had had many people call and ask for more information on the house that was "owned by an artist”".

Commission – this one you won’t see but it’s at the bottom of every full listing that the Buyer’s agents do see before making an appointment to show or recommending the home as a possible match for a client. Now, which ones do you think get the most attention? The listings that show a 2 - 2½% commission to the Buyer agent’s company or the ones who show a 3 - 3½% commission? At that point if the Buyer’s agent is more motivated by his own commission than he should be, it won’t matter how good the photos, how complete the measurements or how ingenious the remarks.