Home Design Purgatory – Part I

When a client sees a home that has been on the market for 100+ days in Charlotte they immediately think that something is wrong with the house, the seller’s expectations or both. Why would a perfectly good house, in a highly-sought-after neighborhood be sitting on the market for that long and especially if the price per square foot is on par or maybe even below that of its neighbors?

 Buyers will always say “there HAS to be something wrong with it.”

Well, not necessarily.

Have you ever walked into a home and everything looked nice, but it just didn’t feel like much? Sometimes this sentiment comes across when someone says “I mean, it’s a nice house. It checks all of our boxes, it’s just not OUR house.”

Welcome to what I like to call, Home Design Purgatory. This is when a house was designed to meet everyone’s expectations and in doing so meets no ones. It takes a trained eye to see a home like this, it was once called a home “with potential” where people dream about ripping up shag carpeting to find hardwood floors, but now it seems to be new-ish builds.

It looks like faux subway tile backsplashes (yes, it’s a thing), and formica counter tops accented by builder-grade light fixtures and faucets. This is not a bad house. Not. At. ALL. There’s a very good chance that the previous owner focused on taking care of the mechanicals of this house instead of spending their time designing and upgrading the little show-y pieces around their home. However, a buyer doesn’t see the perfectly maintained furnace when they walk through, they see fixtures and accents. If it doesn’t feel like home, they move on. This means more days on market and more missed opportunities to sell. Hence, my term of “design purgatory,” there’s no telling how long this home might sit on the market or how much you may need to drop the price to appease a potential buyer.

So, what do you do? The first step of any problem is admitting that there is one. If you’re the seller of this home that can be a hard pill to swallow. First, keep in mind that this doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or your house. Maybe you have really great furniture that stole the show when guests arrived. Creating a warm and inviting space is what we’re after and maybe you did that solely with furniture, art and décor.

If you’re still living in the house ask your Realtor® about a staging consultation. The home stager will come into your home and move the items you have and maybe add a few design touches that you wouldn’t have picked for yourself. They may reconfigure your seating within rooms to show off the features that a buyer is looking for, for example, creating a conversation area around a large picture window instead of around a TV. While the layout chosen by the staging consultant might not be your ideal everyday living arrangement, it can greatly help with appeal to a potential buyer, and for you it will strictly be temporary.

A staging consultant will also take out some personal items like family photos and trinkets to make it easier for buyers to see a cozy home that they want to live in, and not make their time touring the house feel like they’re imposing on you by coming in. The removal of family photos can also be for your own families’ safety. There may be hundreds of strangers looking at listing photos of your home, they don’t need to know the ages and names of your children. So be safe and not sorry.

If you’ve already moved out of the house and the home is being shown empty, as your Realtor® if it would be advantageous to have the home either partially or fully staged. The temporary addition of furniture and décor not only allows a buyer to feel more comfortable in a space but it can also detract from any small cosmetic issues the home may have. I’ve seen very minor details be what stands between a buyer making and not making an offer, so try to downplay the little things like scuff marks on a wall. If there’s nothing in the home, buyers will focus on things like that because there’s nothing else to look at, but add some seating and a few throw blankets and a scuff becomes a much less impactful issue. Try to keep a level head about the whole situation. If the ultimate goal is to sell the home (and it should be if you’re listing it) then take a look at the home around you as best you can from an outsider’s perspective. And listen to the advice of your Realtor®, if they suggest making small cosmetic changes then listen to them, they are there to support you and your best interests.

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