What does selling your home have in common with online dating? Probably a whole lot more than you think.
There may be plenty of potential prospects out there, but it is not always easy to find the perfect match. Sound familiar? If your place has been sitting on the market for a while, or your last deal unexpectedly went kersplat, it may seem like you will never find that elusive happily ever after.
Fortunately, there are more than a few life lessons sellers can learn from dating services like OkCupid, Match.com, and Tinder to ensure their home attracts the best prospectitive buyers who appreciate its worth and treat it well. And who, most importantly, will not leave you high and dry before the closing.
Lesson No.1: Hide your crazy
Whether you are trying to get an offer for a house or a dinner date, you might not want to immediately disclose the more unique aspects of your personality. That is because you don’t want to limit your pool of potential suitors.
This means stash away your ear wax collection, pet tarantula Buffy, complete 18-year collection of the Teddy Bear Times, and all bikini babe posters before an open house.
“Get rid of all the weird quirks or bizarre fascinations that you might have that the average person may not understand,” says Briddick Webb, a Bellingham, WA–based real estate agent with of Re/Max Whatcom County. He has had to advise clients to put their bobblehead figure or doll collections away, or to tone down giant shrines before a showing.
Lesson No. 2: Write up an enticing profile
Whether you are trying to rustle up a date for Friday night or find a potential buyer, it’s important to sell yourself—and, when it comes to home sales, that means your property. Highlight the best features of your home, like the awe-inspiring floor-to-ceiling windows, high ceilings, or new, energy-efficient appliances to make buyers swoon.
And feel free to downplay some of your home’s less-than-desirable attributes such as the small master bedroom or the garage that can accommodate only one car. Or you can frame it as a project for new homeowners—some people like fixer-uppers.
“Work with your Realtor® to craft the perfect statement,” says Portland, OR-based Realtor Deb Counts-Tabor. “The Realtor knows what words are going to bring people in. But you know the highlights of the home.”
Lesson No. 3: Looks do matter
In the same way that a new wardrobe, a personal trainer, and a few laser teeth-whitening sessions can work wonders for your appearance, so can some new carpeting, wallpaper, or flooring in your home. Making basic and cosmetic repairs can add thousands to the price of your home—and help it to sell quicker in many instances.
“Before you put your house on the market, you want to look the best that you can,” says Webb, who is also a former dating coach. “A lot of our decision-making is based on emotions rather than logic. … A house that is cleaned up and smells good is going to create a positive emotional response in a buyer. It’s going to sell faster for more money.”
It may even be a good idea to call in the pros—a professional staging company that is. They will come in and swap out the furniture and upgrade the decor to show the property in its best light.
“A lot of times, buyers don’t have the imagination to see what the home could be,” Webb says. And that is why it makes sense to help them along.
It is also important to make sure the unsexy stuff, like the electrical and plumbing systems, are in proper working order, says Counts-Tabor.
“Everybody focuses on the great backsplash, but it’s the $5,000 sewer repair that will damage your value,” she says.
Lesson No. 4: Don’t show photos taken when a President Bush was still in office
Nearly all online daters have had that terrifying moment when they meet that smoking-hot single they’ve been messaging with—who is clearly 15 years older, 30 pounds heavier, and generally way schleppier than the person depicted in those Tinder photos. Sigh.
It is the same with homes. Sellers should drop a few hundred bucks to hire a professional photographer to take current pictures to show off a residence’s best qualities, say real estate agents.
“Keep your selfies on your phone. Get studio-quality shots and a 3-D tour, if possible,” Carl Medford, CEO of The Medford Team, based in Fremont, CA, wrote in Inman. “Unfortunately, like it or not, how a home looks online dictates whether [a] seller ends up with a match, with the buyer of [their] dreams.”
Sellers should think about the pictures as “glamour shots,” says Counts-Tabor.
“It draws people in,” she says. “You get more showings.”
Lesson No. 5: Be realistic
No matter how great your home is, it is important for folks to set realistic expectations, say real estate agents and dating coaches.
“If you’re in your late 40s, you’re unlikely to date someone in their 20’s,” says Arthur Malov of NewYorkDatingCoach.com. Similarly, if every other home on your block has been selling in the mid-$300,000 range, your home probably won’t fetch $400,000, he says.
Sellers also should not expect that every potential buyer that comes through their door is The One. And they should not expect their abodes to be perfect either, says Counts-Tabor. Sometimes, they just need to get out there.
“Don’t go crazy worrying about every little detail,” she says of sellers who want to make what seems like a million improvements on their homes before listing them. “Pretty soon they are a year down the road and … their house isn’t even on the market because they don’t think they’re ready yet.”
Lesson No. 6: Appearances are often deceiving
First impressions can be deceiving. For example, the nice couple who oohed and ahhed during the open house may say they are emotionally ready to become homeowners, but they may not really be prepared to say goodbye to their current abode.
They may be having second thoughts about the responsibilities of homeownership, or want to make sure there is not a better house out there. Or they are simply commitment-phobic.
One sign that can help you separate the commitment-ready from those just playing the field is to look for buyers who are pre-approved for a mortgage.
“If a buyer takes the time to write up an offer, they are serious,” says Counts-Tabor. But “you don’t want to get an offer in and find out halfway down the road that they can’t get financed.”
Clare Trapasso, @claretrap
Clare Trapasso is the senior news editor of realtor.com and an adjunct journalism professor. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication and the New York Daily News.