Two weeks ago I drove to Devon to see some clients. I’d been to their house before, not because they were thinking of selling but to advise on the sale preparation for another property they own.
During my previous visit they had shown me around the house. We briefly discussed what an easy sell it would be if they ever chose to put it on the market but I hadn’t really looked at it with my ‘viewing’ or ‘buying’ head on. Now however, it was on the market and after 7 viewings they hadn’t even had a sniff of an offer!
This house was meant to be their forever home, a property they had only recently finished refurbishing and fitting out to a very high spec.
A light, bright, modern living space, designed to make the most of fabulous, far reaching views over the Devonshire countryside. Fold-back doors, glass balustrades, and a swish bathroom, definitely gave it the ‘wow-factor’. And, its eco-friendly touches; including a rain water harvesting system made it a very cheap and efficient house to run too. So much so, that when most of us needed to turn the thermostat right up in the depths of the snow and ice last winter, they didn’t even put their heating on!
Although this property ticked all the boxes for my clients as far as contemporary ‘town’ living was concerned, they were also lucky enough to own another wonderful, more traditional property, in a fairly rural and equally beautiful part of Devon. After much soul searching, ‘country life’ appealed to them more for a while at least, and they’d decided to sell.
Although we had talked about the property over the phone and I had looked at the particulars online, I hadn’t given the sale of the house much thought. The Estate Agent was ‘confident that the house would sell quickly’. The owners had moved out but left the house mostly furnished and, armed with some tactics I had shown them on another property, they weren’t overly concerned about its saleability.
A few weeks on though and with the start of the summer holiday season, the Estate Agent had started murmuring about reducing the price for a quick sale!
Hang on a minute, this was an ‘easy to sell’, stylish, well presented property… What was the problem?
The agent’s viewing feedback had been positive, there were a couple of small issues, nothing major but equally no one was desperate to buy it either.
I thought back through our initial conversation when the house first hit the market, about the advice the agent had given and the reasons my clients thought the house was sticking. I looked again at the property photos and details and.. ‘ta-da’ … had a ‘lightbulb moment’!
It was arranged for the Estate Agent to be there when I arrived. I was keen to meet him; to extract any feedback information that perhaps he had neglected to pass on and also to see what he thought of my suggestions.
We discussed at length the appeal of the house, how much promotion it had been given in the press, the marketing details and how the viewings were conducted (i.e. which room they started with and which way around the property they showed viewers). When he started to talk ‘price reductions’ I challenged his thinking – ‘Why reduce now if this is the quiet season and ‘very few’ are looking? Surely you’d wait until September if it really was the right thing to do, otherwise you’d risk having to reduce it again wouldn’t you?’
Both he and I were of the opinion that the 3/4 bedroom house should appeal to a wide range of buyers, professionals, young families, and older couples. And it would. However, the reality was, that most people viewing or equiring about the property were in fact downsizers!
Downsizers, ok, forget reducing the price, I had a better idea.
Downsizing buyers are (usually) leaving a much loved family home, an acre or two of garden and lots of room to swing a cat (if so desired!). Although they want (or need) to downsize, they often view with an image of their large rooms and big furniture firmly at the back of their minds. “How will we fit our huge wardrobes in there?” “Where will we have our music room?” etc. etc. When people are buying a home they buy with their heart, not their heads. To secure a buyer for this house we needed to ensure viewers would buy into the ‘lifestyle’, could appreciated the versatility of the rooms and more importantly, could imagine themselves (and perhaps some of their furniture) actually living there!
Firstly, we needed to improve the details.
To me, the brochure didn’t show the reality of the roomy, light interior. The main accommodation looked small when actually it is a brilliant party house. Re-taking some of the interior shots from another angle would still show the views from the windows, whilst at the same time reflecting the EA’s description of a spacious open-plan home. I also felt there should be a vendors comment. Perhaps describing how efficient the house was to run or, explaining a little more about the property’s ‘eco-features’. After all, not many would have come across ‘rainwater systems’ or ‘high spec insulation’ and buyers definitely wouldn’t understand the benefits… unless they were explained to them.
Secondly, some rooms required further definition.
The very large hall area, I thought, could be utilized as a ‘valuable’, useful, living space, rather than a place to simply hang your coat and dump your post. Stylishly presented, this area challenged the dining room for size, yet other than a room to meet and greet it wasn’t really being used. One of the main rooms downstairs also needed a minor re-jig but, it was upstairs that I really hoped my ideas would make an impact.
Upstairs in the property there was a beautifully styled and furnished bedroom but to all intents and purposes it was really Bedroom 2 – not a bedroom many buyers would see themselves occupying. The so-called Master bedroom was across the hall and, completely empty.
I could see why my clients had left furniture in the other room, it had huge windows, stunning views and a ‘summery’ feel. However, in my opinion, leaving the Master bedroom empty left viewers failing to find and visualise a ‘room of their own’. This room also had great views but (according to the agent) most viewers didn’t stop to look at or appreciate the space, it had just become a way to see and access the en-suite! Styling the ‘Master Bedroom’ was key. It would complete the picture, allow viewers to appreciate the size of the room, identify their own space and ultimately get them to stop and realise (daft as it sounds) that this ‘walk-through’ was actually a bedroom!
None of my ideas were costly, in fact apart from a couple of accessories for the bedroom, the owners had everything in-house to make the necessary adjustments.
Under strict instructions not to let anyone view the property until everything was completed, I left my clients to implement the changes and skipped off to impart more property marketing wisdom 😉 to other Devon based clients.
The next people to view, gave us the feedback we wanted! They loved the house, thought it was bigger and the rooms more spacious than it appeared in the brochure, they lingered in the Master bedroom, appreciated the separate study/computer area and could really visualise themselves living there. Fantastic! The only problem was, they hadn’t sold, their own home wasn’t even on the market ….
All was not lost though. The second viewers to look round after our changes also loved it. Downsizers again, they came from a very traditional cottage but totally fell for the contemporary look and lifestyle my clients property offered. Better still ..this time they were proceedable 🙂
After the usual too-ing and fro-ing, I’m thrilled to report that an offer was agreed at the end of last week. Hands have been shaken on the deal and the couple in question who were so ‘sold’ on the overall package, even enquired about buying many of the furnishings.
My client comments;
“7 Viewings with no offers. You came and worked your magic 2 viewers who wanted it and an offer, higher than expected, in the quiet season, from a sale agreed buyer! Excellent :)”