Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder Buyer

When should a listing agent (representing the Seller) explicitly acknowledge in their marketing that a home “needs cosmetic updates” (or the equivalent)?

Less often than you might guess.

Here are my three reasons why:

One. The pictures tell the story.

For years, websites like have allowed an unlimited number of home photos; since June 2018, so does MLS.  See, “Max Number of Photos on MLS Now? “The Sky’s the Limit”.”

Given all that exposure, the listing agent hardly needs to tell prospective Buyers that the home “just needs your decorating touches” ” they can see for themselves (note: the asking price often suggests that as well).

Two. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

Yes, many (if not most) Buyers might agree that a given house is dated.

However, it’s always possible that the Buyer loves the home just the way it is.

In that case, conceding that the home is dated is essentially an unforced error that hurts the Seller’s negotiating power (and sales price).

Tiki Bar in Basement: Bug or Feature?

Exhibit A would be the basement Tiki bar in a Fern Hill home years ago that caused at least two agents (I wasn’t one of them) to decline the listing because they thought the Seller was asking too much.

The upshot?

The ultimate Buyer loved the Tiki bar, which clinched the sale.

Three. The flip side of ubiquitous “sales puffing” is that Buyers (and Buyers’ agents) automatically assume that the home’s condition is worse than the listing agent is letting on.

So, “just needs your decorating touches” can often translate into “needs a general contractor, lots of sub’s ” and a healthy rehab budget.”

Meanwhile, “home needs substantial updating” often means “tear-down.”

Of course, when a home really is in tough shape, it’s best to acknowledge that, and market the home appropriately.

As I tell my selling clients, I’d rather attract 10 serious Buyers who are pleasantly surprised by the home, than 100 prospective Buyers who feel they’ve been misled, and leave in a huff.

See also:  “Real Estate Euphemisms ” New & Improved“; and “Real Estate Clichés & How to Avoid Them.”

About the author

Ross Kaplan has 19+ years experience selling real estate all over the Twin Cities. He is also a 12-time consecutive "Super Real Estate Agent," as determined by Mpls. - St. Paul Magazine and Twin Cities Business Magazine. Prior to becoming a Realtor, Ross was an attorney (corporate law), CPA, and entrepreneur. He holds an economics degree from Stanford.

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