DIY Home Improvements… Ouch!

Regina Brown | March 10, 2015 | Real Estate Agent Industry Reports

By Regina P. Brown
DIY Home Improvements Gone Wrong“We installed this tile floor last month, isn’t it gorgeous?” your sellers ask as you tour their home during a listing appointment.  YIKES!!!  It’s obviously a botched DIY (Do-It-Yourself) job with ugly colors and sub-standard construction.  Buyers will puke when they see it.  You wince… what do you say?!? You work really hard at generating real estate leads and you don’t want to insult them during your listing appointment and lose the sale!  Last time, we showed you how to win the listing by asking the right questions.  Today’s let’s talk about how to best handle a seller’s “wonderful” DIY home improvements.

When a seller points out with pride their DIY home improvements that actually devalue a home, how do you respond?  That’s a sticky situation because you don’t want to insult your soon-to-be-client, and yet you need to be honest and realistic.  Here are some possible responses.

“Nice work, it’s beautiful!”  NOT.  A false compliment not only destroys their trust in you, but it undermines your credibility as well.  You better believe that fabricated praise will come back to haunt you — in about 30 days, when you have to inform them why they need a price reduction.  And besides, people know when you’re lying.

“It’s gross.  Buyers will hate it.  Let’s decrease the asking price because buyers will have to remove the tile and put in better flooring.”  Brutally honest, perhaps, but not tactful.  Remember, sellers are emotionally tied to their houses.  They always think theirs is the best on the block.  There must be a better way to break it to them.

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“Do you have receipts?  If this was completed by a licensed contractor, it may add value to the property.”  The subtle hint is that DIY jobs do not add value.  At this point, they will confess that their brother’s neighbor’s cousin’s friend is a handyman who helped them complete it without a contractor.  Look surprised.  Try not to smirk.

“That must have taken a lot of time to complete.”  An honest assessment of their effort contributed, this response honors their hard work.  Of course, it doesn’t give them the complete story, so it may be misleading.  Continue the conversation to point out more information.

“Remember that buyers often prefer to add their own touches to personalize their new home.  Some people are very picky.  They may or may not like your flooring style.”  This gets them into the “neutral zone” where they can distance themselves emotionally and make a good business decision.  As a listing agent, it’s your job to help the sellers detach from their family “home” and sell their “house” as a financial investment.  You’re on a roll, keep going.

“In my 20 years of experience selling houses, I’ve come to realize that buyers want 2 things:  either a turn-key ready house or a fixer-upper where they can add their own touches.  So don’t be surprised if buyers plan to remove your tile floor.  And in fact, they may ask for a price reduction in order to install their own preferred flooring.  Hardwood looking floors are really popular right now, and I’m finding that most buyers prefer that style over tile floors.”  Let them down gently with a long explanation as a buffer.  Show that you are the expert, and why.  And continue detaching their emotions from the sale.

“Last year, I sold a house in which the sellers made lots of personalized improvements.  The sellers thought it was great, but the buyers didn’t like any of it.  After they closed escrow, the buyers removed all the improvements and customized the house to their own preferred style and taste.  If buyers do the same for your house, I hope it would be okay with you?”  Use third party stories to bring them to reality without insulting them.  Facts tell, but stories sell.

And that, my friends, is how you overcome that dreaded DIY obstacle and win the listing while touring the house with the sellers.

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Regina Brown