A lot of sellers these days are starting to wonder what it will take for their Atlanta home to sell. "The house is in a great location, it is nicely updated, and it is priced fairly," they reason. "Why are there still no takers?" They are left shaking their heads in frustration, unsure of why so little interest has been shown by potential buyers.
It might seem pretty obvious to some, but there are five basic things that potential buyers want when looking for a home--simple things, but ones that sellers often overlook nonetheless. If sellers can address these fundamental issues, they stand a much better chance of attracting serious buyers.
1) Buyers want a home that looks good.
Curb appeal is the single most important factor in generating the showings needed to sell a house. If your home looks bland or unappealing from the street (or in photos online), very few potential buyers will have any interest in looking further. The home could have an amazing interior with fully updated everything, but if the outside is ugly, many buyers won't bother even requesting a showing. You can boost your home's curb appeal in a variety of ways, from pressure-washing the exterior and touching up paint to adding landscaping and trimming your lawn. You will be surprised at the change in response you receive.
2) Buyers want a home that smells good.
A bad smell is possibly the most off-putting thing a potential buyer will notice about a house. Even if the home has all the features a buyer is looking for, unpleasant odors--pets, cigarette smoke, old grease or other food smells--can run them right out the door. One of the first houses my husband and I looked at in our housing search had clearly been occupied by someone with an overzealous and/or incontinent cat, and the smell was overwhelming. We liked the house very much, but we ended up not making an offer, and to this day whenever I think of that house, all of those awful olfactorial memories come rushing back. I'm sure this wasn't the impression the seller was hoping to make on potential buyers. One time-tested, cost-effective trick is to bake cookies before showing the house (or bake and distribute during an open house). This is a scent that most people associate with positive feelings, and it is a great way to boost a home's appeal in a subtle way.
3) Buyers want a home they can see themselves living in.
First and foremost, this means a clean house! And I don't mean just tidy--I mean spotless! Other people's dirt and grime is yucky. Potential buyers don't want to see it, and it is a big turnoff. Buyers also want to see a home that is clutter-free and devoid of any personal items that might put someone off. You don't want potential buyers viewing your home to associate your stuff with the house, for two reasons: 1) It makes it much harder for them to envision themselves living in the house (and this is key, as any Realtor will tell you); and 2) it gets in the way of the good features your home does have. You don't want buyers thinking of your house as "NASCAR guy's man-cave" instead of the vastly preferable "that cute bungalow with the great kitchen"!
4) Buyers want an honest representation of the house.
Dishonest listings are offensive to a buyer's intellect, and they hurt your chances of making a sale. Don't misrepresent your property by saying it's a 3BR when the third "bedroom" is the size of a pantry and has no closet of its own. Provide as much information to the buyer as possible, including lots of good photos, an honest (yet still positive) description, a seller's disclosure, and any other additional data that you would like to have access to if *you* were the buyer. Did you recently replace any systems or make any repairs to the home? These are not negatives! They are things buyers want to know about, and they can be cast in a positive light if you refer to them as "recent improvements and upgrades." Finally, if there is a major problem (e.g., crack in the foundation) that will quickly become apparent during an inspection, just be up front about it and price your home accordingly. This not only maintains your honesty and integrity with potential buyers, but it also helps you avoid having to make last-minute price cuts to keep a pending contract solvent.
Which leads us to our final point....
5) Buyers want a home that is priced right.
There is a difference between pricing a home fairly vs. pricing it right. Be realistic! We're coming out of a housing bubble and home values are falling pretty much across the board. You may not be able to get what you paid for your house at the height of the market a few years ago, or even what your home was valued at its peak. So what seems like a "fair price" to you is not necessarily going to be the "right price" for buyers. Right now, it is a buyer's market, and there is plenty of inventory for buyers to choose from. For example, if you need to sell quickly, you must set your asking price slightly lower than available comps. Getting that magic number (ideal asking price) is very important for a seller's emotional satisfaction; however, getting a "good deal" is important to the buyer's emotional satisfaction. A seller who is willing to compromise and forgo that satisfaction will have a lot more willing buyers who are eager for a good buy.