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How to Handle Backhanded Compliments About Your For-Sale Home

The best revenge against picky would-be buyers? Use their feedback to make your home irresistible for the next open house.

It can feel unsettling, to put your home up for sale and have strangers traipse through offering up their brutally honest opinions. Everything from your taste in home decor to the tidiness of your closets becomes fodder for conversation.

Sometimes the comments are well meaning yet stray into the backhanded-compliment zone. You know the kind I’m talking about: “I wish I could be this laid-back about housecleaning.” Or how about: “This house could be amazing with a little sweat equity.”

And my personal favorite, “How quaint,” the house version of “Bless her heart.”

As with many things in life, it can be tough to hear less-than-flattering things about yourself — or in this case, your home. Yes, emotionally distancing yourself from your home can help, but let’s explore how to constructively use this feedback. We can positively channel it to sell your house faster and at a premium price — the ultimate goal.

View the comment pragmatically

Put all emotions aside and search for the nuggets of helpful feedback that could help sell your home. When your neighbor says, “I love the bold colors; I always play it safe and choose classic neutrals,” take note — potential buyers could have the same reaction.

Remember, you’re not choosing colors for yourself; you’re picking paint colors that will appeal to buyers. The goal is to give buyers the feel of a blank canvas. Not only does this reduce the new buyer’s work after purchasing the home, but it also allows the buyer to visualize living in your home: a giant and essential first step toward wanting to make an offer.

Don’t take each comment personally; instead, put them to good use!

Perhaps the most hurtful backhanded compliment revolves around cleanliness. Taking this one to heart is understandable, because the natural reaction is to think, These people think my house is dirty, which means they think I’m dirty!

Before responding, consider this: There are levels of clean that we practice in our daily lives. For example, there’s the way I clean my kitchen when I’m home alone and a more thorough way I clean when my parents are coming to visit.

Take a look around and assess your home, viewing it as if you’re about to have a house full of critical houseguests (because you are). Clean, scrub, and polish the obvious spots as well as the closed cabinets, closets, and corners.

Assume everything will be opened and scrutinized — including the junk drawer and the cabinet under the sink — and then clean and organize to show buyers that you are an attentive homeowner.

Accurately market your home

Here’s a fun comment: “I really love how you’ve decorated the third bedroom. It doesn’t feel that small.”

If there’s one thing I know about buyers, it’s that they do not appreciate surprises. While a wide-angle lens can do wonders for beautiful property photos, sometimes they aren’t the most accurate portrayals of a home. If a buyer needs three full-sized bedrooms, she is not going to be satisfied with a glorified closet.

In both football and real estate, the best defense is a great offense. In addition to the photos, address the small third bedroom in your marketing materials. Consider a description like, “The third bedroom is ideal for a nursery or a cozy office.” Then everyone is on the same page before they show up to view the property.

Buyers who need a third large bedroom probably wouldn’t have made an offer anyway, so don’t waste your time trying to sneak a less-than-perfect feature by them when a perfect buyer could have been touring the property.

While backhanded compliments can be tough to hear, they can also be extremely helpful in marketing and selling your home. So put your personal feelings aside, dig deep, and use the information to your advantage!