The +/- theory of showing a home
by James Miller
We all hear about how important the first impression of a home is when showing it.
I actually break it down a little further into my own sort of pseudo science.
It is pretty much common sense that when a potential buyer goes through a home everything they notice will be looked at as a benefit or “positive” thing, a determent or “negative” thing, or will have no impact at all on them.
On rehab projects that I take on, I like to keep this theory in mind when I am considering buying a property and I certainly keep it in mind when I am deciding what features to add or fix on a property.
It goes a little something like this:
As I walk through the property I evaluate things that catch my eye. Is there a chip or crack in a floor tile? (-1 ) Did they just refinish the hardwood floors (+1 for each room). Are the colors in the bathroom dated? (-2). Is there a deck on back (+5)
For the most part these numbers are pretty arbitray, but I stick with a few rules:
1) The first thing you notice get weighted by 5. So if you pull up to the property and the first thing that strikes you is an unkempt lawn, then that is a -5. If the first thing is spectacular landscaping, then it is a +5
2) Most things are a +1 or a -1, unless they strike you as severe, in which case I will assign a somewhat arbitrary point value. For example a home that has a significant slope in the floor would get much more than a -1, I would probably put that in the -4 or higher category.
3) Things noticed at the end of the walk through are given a weighted value of 2. So if it is something like a nicely contrasting wall it becomes a +2, if it is a very noticeable crack in the wall it becomes a -2. The thinking on this is that the last things you see, much like the first things you see, will be the ones that are most memorable, and therefore carry much more impact when thinking back on the property.
4) Things of average quality should not be given a value. For example new appliances would be a +1, and damaged or very old appliances would be a -1, but if they are in good condition and acceptable, there is no value to score as there would be no visual impact one way or the other. You need to score only the things that make you go “Ohhh” or “Ewww”.
You should not only try to come up with a total, but more importantly review the order in which these items are seen. The most desirable distribution of pluses and minuses is to have the negatives mostly in the middle and most of the positives when first entering the property, and just before leaving so they sandwich the negatives.
This is, of course, a pretty subjective and arbitrary way of evaluating a property. It should only be used to understand how other people may view it when they walk through.
The highest benefit obtained for doing this evaluation is that you can identify the problem areas of the property and decide how important it is to take care of them.
While It is true that the goal should always be to fix everything until it is perfect, in my experience, there is a sort of triage that sets into a project when there is pressure to start marketing the home, yet not enough time to get everything done. This +/- list can help evaluate what will be most significant in the minds of the potential buyers.
One thing I have to point out is that there will be some people who will feel that the weighting of each item will depend on the route you take when walking through a property, and that each person may choose to walk through it differently.
In my experience, most single family homes tend to have a natural path or flow that is followed as people walk through them for the first time. You can alter this path, but will only want to do so if you can stack more positive items toward the front or very end of the showing.
Also keep in mind that these numbers are not intended to adequately reflect how easy or difficult it is to repair an item, but rather the aesthetic aspect of how heavily it will impact a potential buyer. A deck might be a +5 but it may also be out of the range of the budget.
A good exercise would be to have a partner of friend go through the property with you to compare totals and distribution.
Below are some numbers that I would assign for certain items. This is far from a comprehensive list, but does give a general idea of how I tend to see it.
Remember to weight these items heavier if they are seen at the beginning or end of the walk through.
Dishwasher + 1
Garbage disposal +1
Stained/ dirty carpet -1
Two car or larger garage +3
Hardwood floors +1 per room
Tile floor +1 per room
Bad odor/ pet smell -2 (depending on severity)
Small sized rooms -2
Poor layout -3
Attached garage +1
Any needed small repair ( I.E. drippy faucet) -1
Overgrown landscaping -2
Marks on walls -1
Small crack in window -1
New appliances +1
The +/- theory of showing a home