Selling Your House: 7 Things Your Buyer Wants
What Do Women Want in a House?
Having recently bought a house that needs extensive work before it can be resold, I asked many people their opinion about what work would increase the value and appeal of the house. The people in the industry - the contractors and the real estate agent - happened to be all men, and they told me that it was the woman that purchased the house. They proceeded to tell me what features women want in a house, but I wasn't sure I agreed with them. I am a woman - and I don't agree with what they said. I wasn't sure whether I was unique in my opinions, so I surveyed a group of women from different walks of life, and what they told me was quite different from what the "experts" were telling me women wanted. Here is what I learned.
What the Experts Say Women Want
My contractor told me that what women want in a new home is new and neutral. He said women don't like to think about other people using their things, so he recommended new kitchen cabinets. He also said that people have a hard time envisioning things in a different environment so he recommended painting everything beige, by which he meant antique white. He also recommended spending the most money in the kitchen and the bathroom, which again meant new kitchen cabinets, new vanities and new flooring.
These rules seemed too simple to me. Women are smart enough to know that when they are looking for a house, unless it is newly constructed for them, that someone else has lived there before them. They don't mind using the things that other people use, and would rather not spend extra money just to have something replaced just because someone else has used it. In fact, I have many friends who enjoy shopping at thrift stores and antique stores to find those old products that are no longer sold at the department stores. Women will also likely get bored by the monotony of house after house as they shop for a new home. They need features that are memorable and enticing.
Since I am a woman, I thought that my own opinion should matter more than the basic rules that the experts had memorized. However, since my profit was at stake, I thought about my own home buying experiences. I was a real estate agent for a very short time before I started my banking career, but I did get a chance to go through a number of houses that were for sale. It took me a long time to buy my own house and I went through many for-sale houses during that time. In case my thinking was way off base, I also interviewed several of my friends and relatives and came up with a better list of what women want in a house they are buying.
Together we came up with two things that will automatically make women walk away from a house, and a number of things that will entice us to buy a house.
Women Want a Clean House
When we walk through the house, we are looking for a home to make new memories in with our family members. We picture family gatherings, cooking, eating, playing games and sleeping in on lazy Sunday mornings. We generally aren't thinking of the maintenance that needs to be done on the house. We aren't thinking of scrubbing the bathtub or cleaning the oven. Your house shouldn't make us think of cleaning, unless it is in a good way. A beautiful kitchen faucet with a spray that makes cleaning easier, or a dishwasher that will save us time, are good ways to think about cleaning.
The number one turn-off is a dirty house. I don't like to clean, and the thought of having to clean a dirty house repels me. While a small amount of clutter is probably okay, excessive amounts of junk will make me lose my focus. If I have to deal with an obstacle course as I go around the house, I will be paying more attention to your belongings than the house.
Be especially mindful of smells. I don't mind a normal amount of day to day living clutter, but if the house smells like cat litter, mold, or stale bacon grease, I am going to be too busy avoiding vomiting to look at any of the features in your house in a positive way. I have no interest in looking at this house, no matter how nice it might otherwise be.
Other women have confirmed that they also have no interest in houses with unpleasant odors or excessive stains and messes.
Women Don't Want Icky Reminders of Past Tenants
We all know that people lived in a house, and having used things is generally not a problem. But there are some things that will cause us to cringe, even though we know they are easy to clean. Dirty tissues, toenail clippings, hair in the sink or bathtub, and the dreaded bathtub ring are just plain disgusting and may blind us from the positive features of the house. We want the past tenants to have loved the house and taken care of it, and these things show that the house has not been loved properly. Maybe it isn't worth loving. Women who will buy a house like this anyway will likely subconsciously value the house less, and you won't get as much for it as you could have if you had kept it clean.
Nasty smells and gross reminders of the tenants will repel us. What features do we like in a house?
Carpet or Wood Floors?
I asked many women whether to sand and seal the wood floors or cover it with carpet. My contractor told me that for my house, the cost would be about the same. The wood floors would not require a lot of cost in materials, but there was the increased labor cost of sanding and adding polyurethane. If you can do the work yourself, you would save more money with wood floors.
The votes were evenly split. Some women felt that carpet hid the dirt better and was easy to vacuum. Other women liked that the dirt was easy to see on wood floors so they could easily sweep it away. They also appreciated the fact that wood could handle spills and wet paw prints that could simply be wiped off.
Women Want an Easy to Clean House
I understand that there is a lot about cleaning in this article, but since women have to do a lot of the cleaning, it is understandable that they want something easy to clean. If you can add features that help make cleaning easier, you are more likely to entice a woman to buy the house. If the house doesn't already have a dishwasher, see if you can find the space to add one. Make sure all parts of the counters are easy to reach and easy to clean. A spray in the kitchen sink and a shower head that can easily be moved around to clean are nice features to add.
When adding anything, look at how many nooks and crannies are in it that will make it difficult to clean.
A big part of cleaning is organization. A place that has nice closets, shelves and spaces to put things will be helpful. In the kitchen, add pull out drawers to make the items accessible.
Features that make the normal chores of cooking, cleaning and laundry easier will make the house sell faster and provide a great return on your investment.
Look at each item and really consider whether replacing it is an improvement.
A homeowner should be able to move into the house without having to change too much. Neutral is good, but an all-beige house has no character.
Add functionality; don't just change for change's sake.
Good place to remove icky reminders of past residents.
Women Want a Memorable House
Of course, when you are fixing up a house to sell, you want to keep it neutral so that many styles of furniture will fit in it. I also understand that in some housing markets, some people simply prime the walls and let the owner decide what color they want in the house. I wanted my house to be ready to move into and enjoy.
One of the mistakes my contractor made was in defining "neutral" as beige. When I was looking at houses, I was bored at all the houses that had all beige features. Sure, I liked the newness of it, but beige isn't cheaper than any other color. Beige is lazy. It shows the work of someone who quickly grabbed a bucket of paint from the shelf and put it on. There will be times when beige is the best option, but please choose a shade of beige that works best.
Take the time to find a neutral color that will enhance the look of your home. The time and attention you take will show that you cared about the house and wanted it to look its best. If you take shortcuts in the paint color, what other shortcuts did you take that aren't as apparent?
Remember, beige is also a color. You can't avoid making a decision about the color. Don't worry if it isn't the perfect shade. Women do know that we can repaint the walls if we don't like the color. In my house, I used several colors throughout the house, instead of only one. That way, if the home buyers didn't like the color, they did not need to repaint the entire house. I think it also shows that someone took the time to choose the right color for each room.
When you are removing things from the house that are dated, be sure to consider whether they add value to the house. If something is broken or worn out, it may be worth removing and replacing with something new, or just leaving it out. Make sure that whatever your substitute will be equal to or better than the item you are removing.
Keep in mind that there may be old things that add a special whimsy to the house and should be left there. In my house, there is a nook in the wall for the old telephone and telephone book. We considered removing it, because it is dated. As my daughter said, nobody uses those phones anymore, but I really liked it. We decided instead to turn it into a charging station by adding an electric outlet.
Women Want a House That is in Good Repair
When people buy a house, they will have to adjust to a new mortgage, buy furniture and decorate their new place. They don't want any large upcoming expenses, like an old roof or furnace that will need to be replaced.
Don't forget the little things either. Most contractors know that they should fix the things that are broken. But sometimes when there is an easy fix, they would rather let someone else handle it. In one house, I saw that a light switch cover was not in place. The contractor assumed that this easy-to-fix situation would not cause a problem when selling the house. What he didn't realize is that some women find a trip to the hardware store to be daunting. Without knowing the name of that little part that they need, they know they will have difficulty finding that little part. Some know that it may take several trips to the store to get exactly what they need.
This missing light switch cover showed to me that the house was not ready. I couldn't simply move in my furniture and start living there. It also showed me a lack of attention to detail, and made me wonder what other places were missing the attention that they required.
What Do Women Home Buyers Want?
To sell a house to a woman,
- clean up anything that smells
- remove icky reminders of residents
- consider the cleaning factor in anything you add
- add cleaning and organization features
- fix anything that needs repair
- make it pretty and memorable
- finish the job
Am I right? What do you look for in a house? Join the conversation in the comments below.
© 2013 Shasta Matova
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