Selling the White Elephant on the Block

Cartoon Elephant In Black And WhitePart of my 40 years in real estate involve a stint during which I bought homes to fix up and sell — and, I’m proud to say, not one of those homes was a white elephant. Doing the buy, fix and sell was easy for me for several reasons. First, I was single, so I didn’t have to argue with anybody about my material choices or order of construction, not to mention, I didn’t have anybody under foot. Second, I had a lot of experience selling homes to draw upon. I didn’t do stupid things, and much was based on experience plus my excellent intuition. Third, I was willing to take the time to learn how to do the work myself, and time was not of the essence because I lived in the house — so no matter how many times I messed up, I could repeat the task until it was perfect.

There are some homeowners who don’t care if their home improvement project or remodel is absolutely perfect, but I am not one of those people. I set high standards — sometimes impossible by another’s definition — and I achieve those goals. I visualize. I will capture an image in my head and intently focus until it comes to life. The ability to focus and direct my energies in one direction is one of the reasons I have become a top ranking agent in Sacramento. I concentrate on the job at hand and do it well, because if it’s not done well, it’s not worth doing.

Today, when I meet with people who have over-improved their home and turned it into a white elephant, or have plans to do so, I cringe. Because I know without a doubt that the challenge to sell will be practically impossible to meet. These over-improved homes will appeal to such a tiny fragment of home buyers that it could take years before they find a buyer who is foolish enough to be underwhelmed by the facts and blown away by the emotional impact.

Because that’s the combination it takes to sell a white elephant.

People by their very nature want to live around other people just like them. They tend to gravitate toward conformity. Nonconformists live in corner homes, for example, but people who are not mavericks prefer the comfort of the middle of the street. If a buyer wants to spend half a million for a home, that buyer will purchase a home in a neighborhood of other homes worth half a million. She won’t buy a home in a neighborhood of $300,000 homes, much less on a busy street, and spend $500,000.

This is basic real estate 101: Location. Location. Location.

Unfortunately, those HGTV shows have turned ordinary homeowners into lunatics. Everybody wants to be a flipper, whether they have experience is not relevant. And that’s how they end up trying to sell a white elephant. Let’s not even try to talk about an appraisal because that discussion will simply make your head hurt more than it already does.



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