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Left Coast / Right Coast: Actually Selling the New House

We’ve been working on this project for nearly four years. Without going into too much boring detail, building a new house on the waterfront (Puget Sound) never turns out as simple as one would like.
Putting the final touches on the fence. Photo courtesy of Mike Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

We’ve been working on this project for nearly four years. Without going into too much boring detail, building a new house on the waterfront (this is the fourth time we've built a house on the Puget Sound) never turns out as simple as one would like.

In this case, there were lots of problems developing the site (this site had never had a building on it – it was just an empty parcel). But eventually all the required permits were obtained from Snohomish County (the house was located in unincorporated Snohomish  County), the parcel was cleared, the foundation poured, then the framing, rough plumbing and electrical, roofing, drywall, and the never ending “finishing steps.” (On the side, was installation of a solar system, a sprinkler system, the HVAC system, on and on.)

But finally, the house was “done.” So one would expect a simple “just list it and sell it.” But Oh, No! Nothing in selling a relatively high end waterfront home is simple. First major question, do we “stage it” or not. Staging means putting furniture in the empty rooms to give the house a warmer feeling.

Several real estate experts said, “Oh, no you don’t have to stage this house. Just the view will sell it.

Others said, “Buyers often don’t have the imagination to visualize the house furnished – so you should stage it.”

What I find humorous about this is that even selling a home occupied by the current owners creates a potential problem. See, most folks have collected stuff for the entire duration they’ve lived in the home. So instead of seeing how “large and spacious” the rooms are, you see nothing but clutter. So quite often the realtor will convince the homeowner to vacate the premises, put all their furniture in storage, and then actually “stage” the home – with furniture that is not theirs.

I’ve seen some “staging tricks” that fortunately, we did not have to do in our house. Tricks include “staged beds” that are not full size – to create the impression the bedrooms are larger than they actually are. Likewise on furniture for the living areas. Again, deliberately smaller than “standard size” to create the impression of more space.

Next, the listing agent actually lists the house on the MLS listings. I was told that on the first appearance of a listing, everyone in the entire world sees it. And that as one can search on the MLS listing, whatever are the key features of the house, it will generate a much broader response than in the old “pre-Internet” days in which a realtor would have to advertise in all the print products in that area, also do a bulk mailing to all the other brokers and, last, have a “brokers open house.”

The broker’s open is, pure and simple, a bribe to get the other brokers to actually physically visit the house. You usually offer free coffee, soft drinks, perhaps wine along with pastries and other snacks, and even a raffle at some local retail store. What you’re trying to do is get maximum exposure – as it is the “buyers  broker” who has the actual client (with necessary funding) to hopefully buy the home.

Now real estate brokers sometimes have an “image problem.” After all, when you sell something as expensive as Seattle real estate, it is unheard of that the broker may “embellish” the qualities of the house. Here is a classic comedy routine done by Bob Newhart, "Buying a House."

Then, like any high-end sales process, you spend most of your time “overcoming objections.” Listen to the Bob Newhart routine above to get an idea.

So the folks visiting our house for sale have said stuff like, “This house would be great with a solar system.”

It already has an installed solar system!

Or, “We’d like space for a work out area.”

The house has an entire lower level (above ground) which could serve for that purpose, or a four car garage with plenty of room for exercise equipment, and even a dedicated area outside the master bedroom designed for that purpose, but we didn’t “stage” the area with exercise equipment.

Or my absolute a favorite, “It has a great view – but we can’t see the Olympic Mountains.”

Hey, it was raining – that actually happens in Seattle. And with rain can come fog – which can obscure the view of the Olympics – a good 30 miles west across Puget Sound.

The only “view objection” we have not heard as yet is, “I can’t see Hawaii or Japan.”

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