Julie Butler, Real Estate Pro in Virginia Beach, VA

What is the best way to politely and tactfully encourage a seller to clean up and declutter the house they want you to list, without offending them?

Asked by Julie Butler, Virginia Beach, VA Mon Mar 12, 2012

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I agree with Chris about offering 2 choices as a list price
Higher for cleaned up and lower for messed up:)

However this needs to be done with tact or you will offend them.
You may even need to show them who they are competing with
and point out the clean fresh competition:)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
Give them two different listing prices - one if the house is clean, a lower one if its not and let them choose.
3 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
That is just straight-up awesome.
Flag Tue Dec 17, 2013
Great recommendation!
Flag Fri Apr 12, 2013
Denial - the result of believing a lie to be true.
To challenge this is to confront the indivuals 'belief' system structure. (belief and truth are not necessarily synonymous)

Bring the MLS printouts, with the pictures, of all the competing homes. Ask them which of these homes look the best? Which would you buy? Now, explain to them why they choose that home.

Compare those images to 'this' home. Dear home owner, "Are you willing to sell your home at 60% of its value? Ugly and/or grimy and/or smelly and/or cluttered and/or dirty will cost you 40 of your homes value. We can make is easy and fast by listing your home as is at the most attractive price for the highly visionary buyer.

At best they will agree. At worst they have been conditioned for those predatory offers.
Now, you, the real estate professional have a serious decision to make.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 13, 2012
I like to refer back to myself. If it is a clutter problem, I tell them the honest story of how I just hung something on the wall and asked him if he liked it. I wondered if it was too much and his response was, "honey, if there were a one square foot of wall showing, you would find something to put there." True story and it gets a laugh every time. I explain that while I am the type of person that likes lots of familiar things and to me that is what makes a house MY home, that is exactly what we don't want to do when selling.

Further explaining that there is a lot of inventory out there and not a whole lot of difference between homes. You are in a beauty contest and the better it looks and smells, the better your chances. Removing personal photos and collections is a must.

If there is an odor, I do not comment because we all have different "smellers". I simply wait for the first showing report and forward that on to my seller. Works almost every time.

And finally, the rest has already been stated below and I agree with most.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
It is said that it is easier to ride a horse in the direction in which it is going.

Messy people don't tidy up very well, so you might suggest that they hire an organizer or cleaner that you know to get the home ready for the market. If they resist - which is rare, because messy people know they are not neat and tidy - you can reassure them that YOU'RE not bothered, but that home shoppers are used to seeing homes staged and looking like builder's models, so there's nothing else to do but start packing things away!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
Script – Part of my job as your Realtor is to protect your money that is currently tied up in this chateau. Unless you clean up this dump it is going to cost you at least $25,000 by virtue of a lower price. And while you are at it, I suggest you farm out the kids with the neighbors whenever there is a showing.

You may want to soften that up a little bit.

Seriously, one of the Realtors that refers her clients to me buys them one giant plastic tub with a lid and takes it to them when making the suggestion. Tells them to box up everything that is loose and store it in the basement or at mom’s. Tells them where to buy more tubs. Good luck,
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
I agree with Robin - put it in terms of what the buyers want. "buyers can't see past colors they don't like, let alone your nick-nacks", etc... Remind them they are selling a HOUSE that will be someone else's HOME - they have to stop thinking about it as their HOME. It's not easy. Show them color photos of competing - or better yet, sold - properties.

Good luck!
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012

There isn't really any good way to tell folks that their baby is ugly.....but as their guides in this real estate maze, we have to be strong enough to help them to help themselves. You could deflect the hard discussions to a third party, but this will only be one of many tough conversations you may need to have with them....I say, get your big girl underpants on and meet with them with suggestions. You can do it....and they will respect you for it.

Good luck, the job we have isnt always glamorous...


Chris Schilling
Turbo Realty
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
Hi Julie... I always let them know the buyer wants to see
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
That's a tough one.

We're very honest but also very respectful. We just explain what it takes to sell their home.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 9, 2014
If you don't have your tablet with you, the way I always explain to sellers on how to clean/tidy up is I say look..we all have busy lives and we are constantly going at 1,000 mph and I totally understand. but now that your home is on the market let's make it look like none lives heres. basically de-personalize as much as possible, keep bathrooms clean (if you don't already) and always have a fresh scent by the door way so as soon as they walk in… it smells like paradise and looks that way too :)
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 9, 2014
What I do is bring my laptop to the listing appointment and show some examples of homes that are uncluttered and how great they look in the MLS photos. I show kitchen counters that are clean and free from dishes, appliances, towels, soap, etc... I then suggest that we try to make their home look as uncluttered and this usually works.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 9, 2014
Great question and great responses. Thanks everyone.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Wed Apr 9, 2014
Hi Julie,
First let me say my principles class is just not the same without you!! Since I am your teacher I shall teach. We are obligated to be honest with our clients and sometimes the truth hurts. That is our job - to advise our clients. That is a big part of getting our seller/clients the highest possible price for their homes along with getting it sold. That is in the back of my mind as I am speaking to clients. Be nice, be tactful, but be honest. Your clients will only benefit from this.

Bob Chance
Broker / Licensed Real Estate Principles Instructor
William E Wood & Assoc. Realtors
222 Mustang Trail
Va Beach VA 23452
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Apr 8, 2014
Hi Julie,

I would just send them or show them the feedback comments from the showings. maybe show them a couple of their competitors in the neighborhood and do a little compare and contrast. if this fails I would use a more direct approach.

hope it helps and best of luck .
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 17, 2013
I agree that feedback is great. But often time is wasted waiting on feedback so it seems better to have the house in order prior to Day 1. But I'm aware with some sellers this just isn't possible. So we're left with relying on feedback from showings.
Flag Wed Apr 9, 2014
Love the 2 list prices suggestion. I'm in this exact situation at the moment, and we basically had the same conversation. They chose to take another week to "do some work" (with the final moment of truth being on Thursday - fingers crossed) before we put it on the market. Hallelujah!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 17, 2013
I agree with the two listing prices. Also- offer up feedback from showings stating that the clutter is turning buyers off.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 17, 2013
I think a straightforward but tactful approach is always the best. Such as if you want to get top dollar for your home these are the things I suggest you do... Another approach I use is to ask them if they watch the HGTV channel...it is surprising how many do and from there it is usually quite easy to ease into the conversation of what to do.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 17, 2013

Provide assistance, explain to the seller why it is important to have a house staged correctly, mention that part of your marketing plan is to help stage the house so that it may have the best feedback from prospective buyers. So make sure you offer help, this should make it a bit easier and will most likely get you a referral from the seller.

All the best,
Antonio Sanchez
Exit Realty Search
3928 E. Tremont ave
Bronx, NY 10465
CELL: 347-320-0673
BUS: 347-202-4965
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Dec 17, 2013
Tell them the home will "appear" larger to the possible buyers if we remove some of your valuables.

Tell them buyers like to imagine their items in the home, they like to imagine how they will arrange their furniture. This is easier to do if the home is very If the home has very little items in it.

Kawain Payne, Realtor
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Dec 16, 2013
Perhaps staging tapes would help. One thing every seller needs to realize is that a home that needs work vesus one that doesn't will always effect the return on their investment. If they realize it is costing them money by not doing it, then maybe they will allow you to work with them in staging the home. Pics of the competition would help too. If they see what other homes like theirs are selling for and what they look like, you can simply say that by not staging the home, it will cost them in the long run.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 19, 2012
As their agent it is our job to get our Sellers the best price for their property. Ask them to view the home through the Buyer's eyes and offer to bring them boxes to start packing up their stuff -
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 15, 2012
I start the discussion asking if they have ever went to open houses at new construction sites. I ask if they liked how the homes were furnished and decorated. I then tell them that buyers need to see the property at its best. Usually by then they start with the "I know I need to clean this, organize this" that then opens up the dialog and I offer advice and give references for services if they want professional help.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Thu Mar 15, 2012
Hello Julie,
I discuss with the sellers that their home is now becoming a product to sell and thus must be de-personalized so that buyers can picture themselves living there. If there are too many personal photos and nic-naks displayed then it becomes more difficult for the buyers to visualize the home as a place to call their own. I also add that removing clutter makes the rooms appear more spacious.

Since they will be moving; I then make suggestions on what should be packed away and what can remain. Most sellers are thankful for the advice and know that it will help in attracting more buyers to their home and possibly a higher sales price.

Best wishes to you!

Laura Feghali
Prudential Connecticut Realty
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 13, 2012
I think you can be polite, tactful and DIRECT with a person without offending them. And if by the off chance you do offend them--is that the client you want in the long run? I always start the conversation by asking them if they watch HGTV...in my area, most people do--and once I have a yes from them...then the rest is easy. If they don't, then I help them to understand that a staged home sells faster and typically for more than one that isn't...I tell them to keep in mind that clutter eats equity...with that mantra in mind they are usually ready to do what's needed to make the home ready to sell.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Mar 13, 2012
As long as you are being polite and warm in you style, there is nothing wrong with being direct. I find it wastes less of my client's time and I explain it will help them get a better value for their home. In turn, that equals much less of my time spent!

At the least, I would go on to show them pictures of the other homes I have sold that are similar to theirs. I would say, "Do you think that this house I am showing you is cluttered or cleaned up?" They would be forced to come up with their own conclusion.

I also include information in my Blog on the best things you can do to show your home off!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
I have a few pages of tips on things they can do to spruce up the inside and outside of the home to get it ready to sell. I also pull up a few really great listings that show well in pictures, take pictures of their home and then put them side by side. Sometimes people don't know just how much a picture "tells" until one is taken. Another good one is to take them to a model home site and let them see how few things are out. We don't live in a house the same way we sell a house! Good luck!
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
You could take yourself out of the equation by suggesting an ASP Home Stager. They have no problem telling them exactly what needs to be done! You look like a professional for recommending the service but you are not the one actually telling them. ASP Stagers will pack it all up for them! If they hedge on the price of staging, remind them that the staging costs far less than a price reduction. Work closely with your stager and price it right! Win-win.
Web Reference: http://www.StagedHomes.com
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
Do a Google search for articles and statistics showing that well presented homes sell faster and for more money. Also look for articles that mention how important a buyer's first impression is. Print them out and make them part of your listing presentation.

Be empathetic with your sellers as to how difficult it is to get a home ready to be presented for sale but the time doing so is well worth it. Empathy takes the sting out of being perceived as critical. Also, give them personal anecdotes of your sales whereby the lister took your advice and was then amazed at how quickly and $eamlessly the home sold.

Broker Associate, GRI
Lang Realty
9858 Clint Moore Road
Boca Raton, FL 33496
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
You can suggest that it will show better, look bigger if they declutter. Ultimately, it's up to them and how fast they would like an offer.
0 votes Thank Flag Link Mon Mar 12, 2012
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