Inside Real Estate: Start with an expert


I’ll bet none of you has ever walked into somebody else’s home and said (with streaming eyes), “Great googly-moogly! Are you making your own fertilizer in here?!?” But chances are you could have. All of you know at least one person whose house smells of warm animal entrails (Or rotten potatoes. Or fish guts. Or the inside of a litter box…)

We’re simply too polite to say it out loud. Instead of risking hurt feelings, we master the art of making our voices sound normal while breathing completely through our mouths. It’s what we do.

Polite avoidance of the truth is all well and good…until it’s time to sell your home. Friends aren’t going to comment on your curtains that haven’t been updated since the first Bush administration or tell you that your cabinet hardware went out of style around the same time as avocado- and mustard-colored appliances.

In my 30 years in the Rochester, NY real estate market, I’ve pretty much seen it all. And I can assure you that stains on carpets, holes in walls, garish paint colors, chipped trim and loose door handles can and do deter prospective buyers from making an offer on your house.

Research shows that the best buyers are going to come look at your house within the first few days that it’s listed. You only get one shot to make a first impression with the buyers that are most inclined to make an attractive offer…and that means that you have to know what things to fix BEFORE you list it. It won’t be good enough to wait for feedback until you’ve had a handful of showings or you run the risk of getting a $140,000 bid on your $200,000 listing.

That’s why a great realtor is indispensable in getting the price you want for your house. When I walk into a home, I do so with fresh eyes (and nose!). You may not even remember that Sparky decorated the bathroom door with several dozen claw marks — but I’ll notice, which means you can fix it before a buyer questions exactly what’s been going on in your master bath.

Maybe you’re thinking you could tour your own house and just “fix the stuff that’s broken”, but it isn’t that simple. Nothing ever really is, is it? When selling a home, one of the realtor’s primary jobs is to put together a persuasive case for your home — and that requires a level of expertise that can’t be attained in a 15-minute search on the Internet.

The truth is that not every pre-listing project is worth tackling. In fact, if you go at it alone, you run a high risk of dumping time and money into something that will yield nothing in return. You need an agent who comes armed with the knowledge of your neighborhood and the overall market of your area.

If for example, I look at a property that is already the most expensive house on the street, I can inform the sellers up front that they should try to avoid upgrades that would drive the price up even higher. I also stress the importance of targeted repairs and recommend the projects that will get the biggest bang for your buck. A weathered deck might not be a big deal on a home in town with a postage stamp-sized yard, but it is a high priority on a house with a beautiful, wooded lot. An updated kitchen is a must for a house with a high asking price but isn’t crucial in a starter home.

Use a professional – you’ll be glad you did.