According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, home improvements and repairs make up a $300 billion industry in the United States. Despite that mind-boggling figure – and the common knowledge that remodeling can add value to a home – some potential homebuyers just can’t get past that shag carpet left over from the 1970s, a wall color they dislike, or kitchen cabinets that need to be replaced. Sure, the last thing you want is for a client to end up with a home he/she doesn’t really love. But sometimes you know a property is perfect for your hard-to-please client, other than the wallpaper. Helping clients see your listings’ hidden potential can land them the home they’ve always dreamed of, and put a commission in your pocket. Here are a few expert tips and tricks for getting your clients to see beyond minor cosmetic imperfections.
Start the discussion early
When it comes to helping clients (especially first-time home buyers) recognize a diamond in the not-so-rough, it’s important to start the discussion early and to gauge their willingness to make improvements. For RE/MAX Metro Realty’s Brooke Davis and her team, the discussion starts right away. “At the intake meeting, we suggest that we’d like to help them see the potential of a listing,” Davis said. By starting the discussion early, clients may be more receptive to seeing listings that need minor renovations, and won’t expect to only walk into perfect homes.
However, some clients may never be open to seeing anything other than their dream home. It’s important to find out where your clients stand in the beginning, so you don’t waste their time (and yours). “You have to feel out your clients,” said Ashley Jensen, a Realtor with Silvercreek Realty Group. “I have had some clients that wanted a less expensive home that needed TLC because they were handy. With those people, we look for the houses with ‘potential.’ If I have clients that aren’t as handy, or have no desire to deal with extras, or can’t afford to fix up a house because of their budget, I take them to move-in-ready homes.”
Point out ‘great deals’ and ROI
“Usually, the homes that need TLC have to be a ‘great deal,’” Jensen said. For budget-conscious buyers, a home that needs a little work may come with a location they couldn’t normally afford, or more square footage. By pointing out the things that make a listing a great deal, clients can start to see past the cosmetic things that are getting in their way.
Another thing to help clients understand is building equity. Buyers are starting to consider ROI when renovating, because who doesn’t like the idea of making something they own more valuable? In fact, a Houzz report found that “increasing home value” was the second most popular reason homeowners decided to renovate, behind improving the look and feel of their homes. By helping clients see their homes as investments, and aiding them in understanding how renovations can add value to that investment, bad wallpaper or an outdated bathroom won’t seem like such big deals. Some online tools allow you to show your clients how much a renovation will cost, and its potential ROI.
We have the technology – now use it
Speaking of online tools, there are a number of ways to use modern technology to help your clients see past cosmetics. From 3D room designers to your social media pages, technology is definitely your friend in getting clients over their renophobia.
Davis uses technology in a number of ways, including “sending ideas and links to clients, and finding a good website that you feel has resources you can use.” Showcasing renovation before-and-afters – either from your listings or that former clients have done – on your website and social media accounts can also be beneficial. “We find that buyers identify with other buyers,” Davis said. The key is to “post things that they find relatable and feel like they can share in.”
Realize the power of imagination
“A thing to remember is that these buyers already have their funds wrapped up in their new home loan, and that spending even just a little extra is not appealing,” Jensen said. “Buying a home is already so stressful, and adding a project for them will steer a lot of buyers away.” People shopping for a new home have a lot on their minds and, for many, a home is the biggest investment they will ever make. These things can get in the way of their imaginations – it’s tough to envision how knocking down a wall could result in the great room you’ve been searching for when you still have the dollar figure of your new home loan swimming in your head.
That’s where you come in. By reminding your clients of the possibilities, and bringing in your own imagination, you can get your clients over this hurdle. “I try and help them visualize the possibilities by painting a picture or telling a story,” said Stevie Coomes, a broker with Skyline Properties, Inc. “It’s difficult for people to see past what is in front of them, but if you can give ideas for how they can make modifications and show them how to create an entirely different space, it allows people’s imagination to take over. Then all of a sudden the property they’re viewing goes from being just a house, to a home.”
Sometimes it’s a matter of being upfront, and gently reminding clients about what’s important. “I always tell my clients, ‘You have to keep an open mind. Forget about the paint color, forget about the tile. We’re looking at the bones here; making sure the bones are there so that we can make your dream home a reality,’” Los Angeles real estate expert Ivan Estrada told us in a 2015 interview.
Have some recommendations at the ready
Helping clients envision what a space can look like isn’t always easy – sometimes you need to bring in an expert. Davis recommends telling clients to have a consultation with an interior designer, as this can help any abstract ideas about a listing’s potential feel a little more real.
If you have contact information for specific industry professionals whom you trust, share that with your clients. If not, helping them understand how to find and vet the right person for the job can take some of the fear out of purchasing a home that needs renovating.
Ultimately, helping clients see a listing’s hidden potential and getting them beyond cosmetic things comes down to providing superior customer service. You know the benefits of renovating, but your clients may not, especially while they’re in the midst of the hectic home-buying process. By talking with them, being imaginative, and providing tools and recommendations, you can find your clients their perfect home, and help them see it as a great investment.