In Real Estate, Mind Your Ps And Cs

There is an old phrase “Mind your Ps and Qs” the origins and meaning of which there is not a consensus. Various learned sources trace it back to various uses in England in the 1500 – 1600’s. Google it to read all of the various sources that are referenced.

In real estate, I tell my clients that in order to sell their house they must mind their Ps and Cs, and I do have a explanation for them about that.   

What I tell them is that, when it comes to selling a house, there are three Ps and Three Cs in real estate, which are primarily things that they control. There are certainly lots of other factors that they can’t control, such as location, the local economy and the style of the house (once a tri-level, always a tri-level).

Here are factors that they do have personal control over:

The three Ps – Price, persistence and perseverance.

Price  Sellers always have input and the final say on the price at which the property will be offered to the market. Hopefully, they have retained a good, local Realtor® to help them properly price the home within the market context and have listened to that advice. Sometimes it’s hard to hear that the market doesn’t care what you need to get for the house or what you think it is worth. That has been especially hard for those who have been underwater on their mortgages. Setting the right initial price can mean the difference of a quick sale at asking price vs. lingering on the market for months and slowly, begrudgingly lowering the price to where it should have been. Normally homes that linger on the market for months end up selling for less than they would have, had they been properly priced at introduction to the market.

Persistence – Selling your house means consistently and persistently having it ready to show. It means getting into a routine with your family of straightening everything up before you leave for work or school in the mornings and being ready to leave on relatively short notice to accommodate showings. Sometimes it means having to accommodate the inconvenience of leaving your home for a showing when you’d much rather just stay warm and comfortable inside on a blustery winter day. Sellers with small children may benefit from creating a game-like environment with the children to see who can get their rooms picked up and ready fastest before school or for a showing. Having a crate for Fido or Tabby, or taking them with you is also highly recommended.  Showing Realtors hate being challenged by the showing instructions - “Don’t let the cat out”- when they call to show your house. 

Perseverance - This means giving the real estate process time to work. In today’s tight inventory market you may not have to preserver quite as long as in the past; however, you can’t be like the children in the back seat saying “Are we there yet?” to your real estate agent every day. Even though you hear about and read about fast sales in today’s Sellers’ Market; it may take months, rather than days or weeks to find the right buyer for your home. You also need to understand that there is a process involved with getting from an accepted offer to the closing table that can take 30-45 days. Hang in there!

In addition to the three-Ps, there are three Cs that are definitely the responsibility of the seller. Without a commitment to the three-Cs the sale process may stall or be drawn out and the sale price will likely be lower.

The three-Cs – Condition, Clutter and Cleanliness.

Condition – this has to do primarily with the things that some people get too used to living with – a gutter that needs cleaning, the marks on the door where the dog chewed, that window with the broken seal that fogs up in the cold weather, that missing knob on the cabinet drawer. This is mainly about maintenance or the deferral of maintenance. It could be something big, like the leaking roof or the air conditioning that no longer works, but more often than not it’s a whole bunch of little things that the owner has just gotten used to looking past and living with. Those things need attention before you put the house on the market or they will kill a sale or lead to much lower offers.  This is an area where a good Realtor can also help by doing a critical walk-through of you house to provide you with a list fo things that he/she sees need to have attention. In some cases, it may even be worth it to hire a home inspector to do and inspection and give you a list of things that will be found later anyway. For $300-400 up front, you can avoid (or at least know about) the bigger issues that may kill a sale later. Keeping the place in good condition during the listing is also the sellers’ responsibility.

Clutter – Having too much stuff in a house is the most common issue that Realtors face with sellers, especially those who have lived in the home for many years. De-clutter is usually the first piece of advice that a seller will hear. Buyers don’t really want to spend time looking at all of the family pictures that you’ve collected over the years. They could care less about your bowling trophies and fish mounts. Would be buyers need to be able to walk through the house without having to navigate around a labyrinth of furniture and knick-knacks and souvenirs from all of your family vacations. When they open the door to a closet they do not expect to have to catch the stuff falling out on them.  De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter and then de-clutter some more.  If you can’t bear to part with some things, consider renting a storage unit to put them in until you move. Moving will likely force you to re-think things, since many people are downsizing and won’t have room for all of that stuff. If you need help with this, have your Realtor give you de-cluttering and staging advice or hire a professional stager (whose first piece of advice will likely involve de-cluttering).

Cleanliness – Potential buyers aren’t going to inspecting the cleanliness of your home with white gloves, but they will notice the dust bunnies or cobwebs under the tables or in the corners of the rooms. They will see whether or not you have kept the grout clean on floors and walls. They will see the dark streaks that can build up on cathedral ceilings and wonder what is causing that. They might notice a dirty washer or dryer and wonder what other appliances you have neglected. The point is that lack of cleanliness just brings unwanted attention to things and ignites the imagination of the buyer in ways that aren’t usually good. I often recommend that a seller hire a local cleaning company for a thorough deep cleaning, especially if the sellers both work and don’t have time to do the cleaning themselves. It will still be up to them to keep it clean during the listing.

So, now you know about the Ps and Cs that you will need to mind, if you are selling your home. You really need to think about these and make the commitments that are necessary to do your part in the sales effort. 

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Leigh Young

Leigh Young

Realtor - Veteran Specialist
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