Because he's facing both financial woes and multiple maladies, a semi-retired consultant in his 60s badly needs to sell his suburban cottage. But although his place is located in a popular neighborhood served by top-notch public schools, he was recently rebuffed by an agent who refused to take his listing.
The problem is the consultant's resistance to taking even minimal steps to make his place presentable, such as basic cleaning and clutter clearing. That, coupled with the man's deferred maintenance and overgrown yard, convinced this agent the property wouldn't be saleable in its current condition.
"Sometimes, real estate people simply have to turn down potential clients who reject reason when it comes to getting their house ready for sale," says Sid Davis, a real estate broker and author of "A Survival Guide to Selling a Home."
"These days most buyers ... can't afford to take on substantial home renovation projects," Davis says.
But spending a lot of money on a crash program to upgrade a property in extremely poor condition isn't always the wisest course. If the problems are serious, those who invest too much typically can't recoup their outlays at the closing table.
"Focus your spending on your highest-priority projects, like cosmetic fixes to your kitchen and bathrooms and essential repairs, like plumbing or electrical problems. Also, paint your property and make your front entrance beautiful," says Ashley Richardson, a veteran real estate agent affiliated with the Council of Residential Specialists (www.crs.com ).
Here are a few other pointers for sellers:
-- Seek out a seasoned agent for guidance.
Although our consultant was rejected by the one agent he called in to look at his property, Richardson says that he should continue to search for someone who can advise him on how to make his place market-worthy.
Eric Tyson, a personal finance expert and co-author of "House Selling for Dummies," says not all agents are created equal.
"What you want is someone who will help you develop a strategic, step-by-step plan that works within your budget, however limited. And then you have to be open-minded about the necessary changes," Tyson says.
As he says, some agents will even step into the role of project manager, helping you find contractors willing to take on small jobs for reasonable prices.
"It could be a waste of money to pour your limited funds into a full kitchen renovation, including the installation of expensive new cabinets. But it might be worth the cash to paint your cabinets in a high-gloss white paint," Tyson says.
As the first step in the agent-selection process, Richardson suggests you interview three candidates, asking each to critique your home and itemize cost-effective steps to make it more saleable.
"Look for someone who makes eye contact with you and who you can trust to give you a straight analysis," she says.
-- Look for help to de-junk your property efficiently.
Richardson says that sellers who can't handle the often intensive work of prepping a house for sale themselves should ask family members and friends to assist. But what if no volunteers step forward? In such cases, Richardson suggests that owners may wish to hire students or others looking for temporary, part-time work.
"Post a classified ad that seeks assistance 'pre-packing for a move.' And don't forget to check background references before you arrange for any stranger to come over to your house," she says.
Richardson recommends you delegate to the person you hire a series of manageable tasks.
"Tell them, for instance, to pack up the contents of your kitchen cabinets, a heavily loaded bookshelf and your bathroom countertops. All these items, most of which you won't miss, can be packed in your garage in neat stacks," Richardson says.
-- Give potential buyers help to picture your home's possibilities.
If the house you're attempting to sell is run-down, the odds are you don't have enough money for major improvements. Even so, Richardson says it's critically important that you make your place at attractive as possible.
"You won't get buyers out to see your home in person unless it can pass the 'online photo test.' Everyone is now pre-screening property on their smartphone or computer," she says.
In addition to packing away clutter, you'll want to cart out any furnishings or draperies that make your place seem drab or tired. These could be replaced with items borrowed from your agent.
"Realtors sometimes keep a stock of a few good furnishings, including lamps, area rugs and paintings, that you can use during the showing period," Richardson says. In addition, she says the owners of an "as is" home should give to visitors contractors' estimates for necessary fixes.
"Homebuyers routinely overestimate the cost of home improvement projects. You can help them to calculate the likely costs they'd face if they bought your fixer-upper," Richardson says.
(To contact Ellen James Martin, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)