In real estate, we often use the term “under market” to describe a home that is priced or purchased for less than its fair market value. But I sometimes see an unrelated real estate phenomenon I think Webster’s dictionary would rank as a second definition for “undermarketing”: to list a home and fail to mention features the homes have that buyers would have been attracted to, had they seen them in the home’s listing description, flier or online marketing.
For example, my first home was a modest rancher, lots of fixing needed, located in a quiet part of town that I’d never heard of. At my agent’s insistence, I finally went to see it. Only then did I realize that the property just so happened to be situated with panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. Bizarrely enough, this massive selling point had not received even a passing mention in the listing.
If your home has commercial-grade European appliances, sits on acres of land, or is in the most prestigious neighborhood in town, it’s pretty easy to know what to lead with in your marketing. But if you have a normal house in a normal neighborhood, there could very well be things you take for granted which a first-time or relocating buyer might be magnetically drawn to ‘“ if you mention it in the listing.
1. Storage. When aiming to avoid undermarketing, keep this in mind: Showcasing your home in its best light is not just about what you love about it. You might already have outgrown the place and started to see its flaws more than its finer points. That’s why you’re moving. But the goal of good marketing is to highlight the things that will allow your home to shine in the eyes of your target buyers and against the competition.
So, it’s important to know what buyers care about and how your home offers a more comfortable lifestyle than the competition. First-time buyers, for example, are not simply comparing your home to other homes; they are also comparing it to the lifestyle of being a renter and to every bad rental property that inspired them to move forward with becoming a homeowner. One common beef of renters is that rental homes lack storage, which leads to belonging overflow and a cluttered life. The vision of having a place for storing everything is a big motivator for many first-time homebuyers. So, if your home has been tricked out with extra closets, pantries or other built-in storage amenities that you plan to leave, make sure your agent boasts about that in your home’s marketing materials.
2. Organizing systems. In the same vein, if you have made the investment in upgrading your home with customized or built-in closet, kitchen or garage-organizer systems, desks or bookshelves, make sure buyers see and know this from your home’s online listing. From the first-timer craving to have a clutter-free existence to buyers who are moving up into a family home and want each family member’s space to have at least the possibility of order, built-in organizers can represent value and appeal to a wide range of prospective buyers.
3. Proximity. You might be thinking the right buyers for your home will be finding it online precisely because of where it’s located, so it’s silly to call out the property’s proximity to amenities and attractions. Not so fast. First, some buyers simply might not know to search for your ZIP code, or might not be aware that your hidden gem of a neighborhood also happens to be tucked within a half-mile from a subway station, entrances to three freeways and two regional parks.
Second, buyers’ proximity wishes might be different than the location requirements of their online search. They might be looking at all homes in town in their price range, but the fact that yours is walking distance to a major employer or university could push yours to the top of the list.
Finally, relocating buyers might not have the core knowledge of the area that would allow them to connect the dots about the property based on location basics you are assuming everyone in the market for a home like yours will know. Don’t assume: If your home is particularly well-located vis-a-vis major employers, universities, recreational amenities or walkable shopping and dining districts, talk with your agent about showcasing this in your home’s marketing.
4. Senior-friendly features. Boomers are not necessarily looking for homes with built-in disability features, but they are often looking for homes they could live in for the rest of their lives, aging in-place, without necessarily being located in senior-only communities. That means homes with level-in entrances (no stairs to the front door), single-story layouts and low-maintenance landscaping have a massive new audience attracted to these features which would otherwise not warrant a mention in a home’s marketing, especially if homes near yours tend to have loads of stairs or other features that are difficult for people to navigate as they age.
Similarly, the movement toward aging in place has caused many more families to move aging relatives in with them, versus moving them out to retirement homes. These extended families often are looking for homes with a well-appointed “mother-in-law” or “outlaw” units or a second master suite located on the home’s ground floor. If your home has multiple bedrooms with bathrooms en suite or completely independent living quarters, marketing these features to extended families is a must.
5. Energy efficiencies. If your home runs entirely off-the-grid or on gray water, chances are good you’ll be mentioning that. But even buyers who don’t identify as hunting for a “green” home can be attracted to the budget-friendliness of energy-efficient features of the less extreme sort. So, if your home is a pretty no-frills property but has a tankless water heater, dual-pane windows and new insulation, mention it. If you’ve managed to get your energy bills down way below what’s normal in your area, this could be a selling point you don’t want to overlook; your agent can help you navigate how to broadcast this message to buyers.
6. “Light” green lifestyle features. That said, if you have configured your home to allow inhabitants to live a greener life, beyond just the energy bills, these might warrant a mention in your marketing. You might think things like your little organic kitchen garden, backyard compost bin or that $50 recycling center you installed are so low in cash value they don’t rate a line in your listing materials. But there are loads of buyers out there who are attracted to these sorts of features already being in place in a home, so calling them out (especially if you’re in a market with tons of competition) can call your home to their attention.
7. Natural, chemical-free and hypoallergenic home maintenance. In a similar vein, if you have a hypoallergenic HVAC system or have only used nonchemical cleaning products for the last few years, you might want to call these sorts of things out, as well. Marketers say today’s consumers are careful about not only what they put into their bodies but also what they put on and around their bodies. Your home and the cleaning and maintenance products you’ve used may implicate both “on” and “around,” so if you’ve taken care to create a home that works well for people with physical or philosophical sensitivities to common household chemicals, make sure light-green buyers know it.