How to Identify the Right Buyer for Your Home

Help potential buyers picture themselves in your home before they even make an offer.

U.S. News & World Report

How to Identify the Right Buyer for Your Home

Modern living room(Getty Images)

The best strategy for selling your home is to keep the largest possible pool of buyers in mind. The more potential buyers you have, the more likely you are to get offers.

Of course, factors such as location, price and your home's architectural style will likely play more to one group of potential buyers than another. Not everyone wants to live 40 minutes from downtown in the same way not everyone wants to live in a townhouse or is capable of paying $1 million for their next home.

The key to effectively preparing, marketing and selling your home is understanding who's represented among the potential buyers – and how you can appeal to them.

Home stagers make it their job to assess a home as it compares to both the real estate market and its location, and then decorate rooms that appeal to the aspirations of the most likely buyer. Those aspirations get reflected in artwork, fabrics and even table settings, explains Meridith Baer, a home stager and owner of Meridith Baer Home, a staging company with locations throughout the country.

"Often a buyer's own preference and lifestyle determine the direction of the design," Baer says. "The interior should tell the story of the person or persons who will be living there, including unique pieces that speak to the life they have lived, where they have traveled and what interests them."

Here are six things you can do to appeal to the most likely buyers for your home.

Get professional help. Real estate agents and stagers make it their job to know how to cast a property in its best light, and they're also familiar with buying trends in the local market.

A professional opinion won't just help you identify the most likely buyer pool, but it will also help determine what work you can do to make those buyers put in an offer.

Look at what's on trend now. In this golden age of home renovation shows, Instagram and Pinterest, buyers know what's in style when it comes to interior design. If you can give them that, you've got more than a few interested buyers, says Mark Parrish, a luxury real estate agent in the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area.

"If we can get the seller's home to look similar to what the current, new trends are, that's going to be a win-win for the buyer and the seller," Parrish says.

Parrish notes that buyers are flocking to all-white kitchens, gold and bronze fixtures, utilizing different kinds of woods and gray walls rather than beige or brown. Not every home can easily be brought up to date on all the latest trends, but if simple fixture changes can make your home look like an HGTV renovation, you'll likely see buyers get excited.

Consider the neighborhood. Buyers typically don't venture too far outside their ideal neighborhoods, so examine recent home sales: Who's buying, how updated was the home and how can you make your property even more enticing to the buyers still looking?

"A traditional home with lots of bedrooms in a great school district would encourage us to design bedrooms for kids and teens of different ages. One room might get twin beds, lots of stuffed animals and colorful artwork," Baer says.

The style changes, of course, when the scenery does, Baer adds: "If we're staging a sleek modern home near the boardwalk in Venice, we'll include eclectic original artwork or perhaps a vintage surfboard along with contemporary and eclectic furniture to attract a buyer that is keen on calling the artistic coastal community their future home."

Play up key features. Consider neighborhood features and amenities that a buyer with certain hobbies or work-life balance demands would be most intrigued by. "Is it convenient to what [the buyer does] on a day-to-day basis?" asks Eric Zollinger, executive manager of sales for real estate firm Douglas Elliman Real Estate in New York City.

As the executive director of sales for new condo development 196 Orchard in Manhattan, Zollinger says a big selling point for many buyers is the Equinox gym located in the building. Buyers who like their exercise regimen can easily picture themselves having the luxury fitness club right below them, and playing up that proximity works in attracting buyers.

As another example, walking distance to public transportation helps to open up the potential buyer pool even further because it doesn't limit buyers to those who own a car, work in the neighborhood or are willing to endure a long commute.

Always consider the larger group. While it can be beneficial to try to develop an image of the potential buyer, don't get carried away in terms of who you imagine will purchase your property.

Federal fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability or family status. You want to think of the most likely buyer for your area and type of home, not who the "ideal" buyer is, and especially not in regards to any of the protected classes.

"You would never prejudge a buyer," Zollinger says.

You want to keep a broad perspective, while helping potential buyers envision themselves in the home. If you live down the street from popular bars and restaurants, chances are many house hunters in the neighborhood will be seeking close proximity to nightlife options. Secondary bedrooms set up as guest rooms and a bar cart in the living room could help potential buyers envision themselves in the space, without ruling out the possibility that a family with kids could live there as well.

When in doubt, broaden the buyer pool. Sometimes getting top dollar on your home means you're going to have to renovate everything, and that simply doesn't make sense. If you're not able or not willing to make major changes to your home, keep in mind how that buyer pool may change as a result.

Parrish says he previously sold a midcentury modern house that hadn't been updated since, well, midcentury. Renovations would have been too extensive to bring the home up to date, but its prime location on a lake made for a much wider buyer pool.

A house like that in a highly desirable spot can easily sell to a builder, an owner looking to redevelop or renovate or even a person who doesn't mind the dated look.

"People tend to overlook some things in exchange for something like lot location or location in general," Parrish says.


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