2008 Feb 18th

Top 7 Reasons Your Condo or Home is Not Selling (That You Can Do Something About)

Why Hasn’t My Condo Sold Yet?

When a property has been on the market an eternity and it’s just not moving, there is a reason. It may be in a bad location. That’s not really anything the seller can do much about. The property is just ridiculously overpriced. Sellers can be greedy. That’s hard to change. Often there is a different reason and a simple fix.

If You Really Want to Sell – Let Go Of Your Attachments

Sounds like something I would hear in yoga class – and it’s true. You’ve been living in your condo with things a certain way and you’re all attached to it being a certain way. You’ve justified all the reasons you never made those little improvements and now you’ve deeply bought into your justifications. If you really want to sell you may have to make some changes. Here are 7 of the most common issues that usually have a very easy fix:

1. The Closets Are a Mess

You should have sprung for the closet organization system when you bought the place. After years of living with clothes piled on shelves and crammed on a single closet bar, it hardly seems worth the effort to change your closets now. Well, it is. One of the biggest turn-offs for buyers is a lack of closet space, a common fault with Hoboken condos.

Solution: Go to Ikea. Buy a new closet system.

They’re a fraction of the cost of California Closets and just a functional and good looking. They are easy to install yourself with nothing more than a screwdriver. If you simply can’t afford it – hide everything! That’s right, hide the mess. Buy a bunch of pretty, colorful, matching paper boxes. Pile all your stuff into the boxes and arrange them neatly on the shelf. Then get matching hangers and pretend you work at the Gap. You know what I mean. Everything in color order, facing the same way. Add a big dose of potpourri or home fragrance and you’re good to go.

2. The Bathtub Is Gross

I can’t tell you how many tubs I look at in the most pristine bathrooms that have dirty, stained caulking.

Solution: Go to Home Depot. Buy some “caulk remover” and new caulk.

This is a really inexpensive fix yet it makes a huge difference in the appearance of your bathtub. Check the sink, too. Moisture accumulates where the countertop meets the wall and often mildews. Re-caulk it if it needs it.

3. The Floors Don’t Shine

Hardwood floors get scratched by furniture and shoes and lose their shine. They need to be refinished every so often. Carpet looks nice when it’s brand new but after a while it seems more like a place where somebody else’s dirt is hiding. A small change in the appearance of your floors can make a huge difference in the attractiveness of your unit.

Solution: Have the floors refinished and replace carpet with hardwood.

If you already have hardwood, you’re ahead of the game but you need to have them sanded and refinished. A relatively small investment here has a big payoff. If your hardwood is the very 1970s style checkerboard parquet (yes, you with the condo at the Shipyard) get rid of it and put in plank flooring. Not only will it look 100% better, it will set you apart from your neighbors who are selling. If you have wall to wall carpet seriously consider ripping it out and installing hardwood, or at least a laminate like Pergo. Hardwood is way less expensive than you would imagine. Look on-line. There are plenty of discounters.

4. The Lighting is Awful

Dark, dreary, or cast in a blue/grey glow? Does this describe your space? Do you have bare, exposed bulbs in your bathroom fixture or high hats where there should be spots? Sure, the spots cost more and use more energy but now is the time to use lighting to your advantage.

Solution: Buy new bulbs!

I am all about saving the environment and not wasting energy. So while I don’t advocate ‘over lighting’ a home day-to-day, selling your property is like displaying diamonds in Tiffany’s window. Ever notice jewelers always use halogen lights in their display cases? It’s because it makes the diamonds sparkle more. You need high wattage in your kitchen and living room space so it looks bigger. Then think about accent lighting to highlight a particular feature – say next to a chair and bookshelf to create a reading nook, or strategically placed around the dining area to chreate a warm, glowing atmosphere. Again, Ikea is great for inexpensive light fixtures – and we’re talking $10 to $50 for major improvements. Those $5 Home Depot plain white ceiling-mounted globes the developer installed – replace them all with something pretty and turn blah into a benefit.

5. Who Picked Out Those Colors?

You may just love purple. Or shocking pink. The latest trend in home decor may cry out for lime green. You’ve had that wall painted bright orange since you bought the place. Guess what – not everybody likes what you like. People are thinking to themselves “why on earth would anyone paint that room purple and lime green?”

Solution: Duh – paint it neutral!

Unless you are a talented decorator by profession, it’s best to stick with warm, neutrals. My favorite paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Calming Cream (and I love the name). You want to stick with unobjectionable colors. Creams, warm toffee beige, soft moss greens. Ask they guy at Lowes which colors sell best. Go online to different paint company websites or look at the little leaflets they give out at in the paint department at places like Lowes to choose a non-personal palette. You want to go for the colors the most people will like. Plus a clean coat of paint does wonders to make your condo shine.

6. The Kitchen Hasn’t Been Updated Since 1968.

A gut renovation is ideal but can be cost prohibitive and disruptive. But short of that, there is much that can be done to bring your kitchen into the 21st century. We will assume that you will or will have it scrubbed from top to bottom so that it is clean. Beyond that, however, you need to make it inviting. Otherwise, the buyer will think: I don’t want this place because it needs a new kitchen and that’s too much work and too expensive.

Solution: Fake it.

I staged a Hoboken condo recently that had a horrible kitchen. The cabinets were dark, dated oak with ugly, worn, fake brass knobs. The counter was formica in a mottled brown and beige pattern. The appliances were half old, half replaced and didn’t match. Fortunately, it has a neutral white ceramic tile floor. Without breaking the bank, my handyman painted the outside of the cabinets glossy white. I bought new draw pulls and knobs. We got a few decorative tiles and mostly field tile to match the countertops and installed a new backsplash using the decorative tiles as a focal point. The light fixture was changed for a track style with little halogen bulbs. The seller’s big splurge was for a new refrigerator and matching micro-hood. My point is that you can make drastic changes for a reasonable amount of money.

7. It’s Too Small

Square footage is what it is. You can’t really make your condo any bigger. It would surprise you, however, to know how many buyers react badly to clutter. Any space can be made to feel bigger.

Solution: Get rid of the junk.

You’re selling so, presumably, you’re moving. Think of it as getting a head-start on packing. All the unnessesary stuff you have laying around; the extra furniture jammed into the second bedroom; the 48 different kids toys have to go. If you have to work your way around a mess no matter how large your space it is not going to show well. Even if it means temporarily renting a storage space – do it. Clutter won’t sell.There are probably a dozen more ideas I can think of but I’ll save those for a follow-up post. You get the idea, I hope. If you are really serious about selling and want to get the most money possible for your property, and who doesn’t, then a little work will have real payoffs.

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  1. Scenic City Scoop - Chattanooga Tennessee Real Estate Blog

    Great article, I can’t agree with you more on #5. We had a Seller who had some interesting colors and we finally convinced him to paint in neutral colors. Two weeks after painting, the house sold. He now is our biggest fan. Keep up the great work.
    David

  2. Nimer

    Great post! LOL! I am a buyer in Hoboken and my agent and I are SHOCKED with the things we saw. It is funny cause you can guess who lives there (mess: a single guy, pink: a single girl, decorated: couple). I have seen an apartment actually with dog poop (no kidding) all over the floor, I definitely did not see myself there.

  3. Lori T.

    Hi Nimer,
    It’s a shame but often listing agents do not do their job. If it is my listing I do everything I possibly can to convince the owner to clean up the place to the point where it really shines. Not all owners, however, are willing to comply. In the end, it is there loss $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

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