Is Your Home a Blank Slate?
(It's Not Necessarily a Bad Thing)

My colleagues, friends and I have been talking about a category of home for sale that we're calling
Blank Slate Properties.

They are nice homes in lovely neighborhoods, but they haven't been updated since they were built
in the 1980s and 1990s. (Which doesn't seem like a very long time to me, but in "house years,"
when you're competing with new construction and homes built in the past five years, it can be
forever.)

During those two decades, homes started getting larger and amenities that were luxurious for the
time began to be added.

For example, a mid-1980s home might offer a main level laundry room when just a few years
earlier, all laundries were in the basement. Today buyers sigh if the laundry area is not in close
proximity to the bedrooms.

Kitchens? It goes without saying that buyers are expecting granite countertops, enough cabinets
to store all of their family's collections of dishes and doo-dads, and stainless-steel appliances.

That same house might include a master bath en suite. That's a huge luxury when one is moving
up from a three bedroom 1950s ranch with one bath. However, the master bath may be small
and include just a shower. Or, heaven forbid, it might just be a half bath.

Other bells and whistles from the 80s and 90s could be trash compactors, aging dishwashers,
and a host of items that were the hip of heights for their time, but just aren't cutting it with today's
picky buyer. Many of these same homes also are left with "unfortunate" wallpaper issues, the
bane of every Realtor's existence.

And let's not even get started talking about the garage space. Now three bays are required when
just a few years ago, two bays were a great luxury.

Theories abound as to why these spacious and very well located homes can linger on the
market. Are younger buyers spoiled from life in their parents' higher-end homes? Is there so
much inventory on the market that a buyers of all ages actually can afford to be extremely picky?

I think it's a little simpler than that:  Standards have changed -- not just for homes, but for many
things in life today.

For example, let's equate this housing situation to teeth. The standard for "white" teeth has
changed over the past decade. Now to sport a gleaming mouthful of teeth that are considered a
"normal" color of white requires bleaching or veneers. Whitening toothpaste and sparkling mouth
rinses are flying off the shelves.

Same thing goes for houses. So what are you supposed to do if you own a perfectly nice 1980s
or 1990s house that some buyers are going to see as functionally obsolete?

My answer? Create a blank slate. Here are some ways to accomplish that:

  * Neutralize your wall colors.

  * Polish or expose hardwood floors.

  * Replace worn or stained carpet in a neutral color complementary to the newly painted walls.

  * Eliminate overgrown landscaping.

  * Clean all surfaces, appliances and windows until they sparkle.

  * Empty and organize all closets and cabinets.

  * Eliminate excess furniture to create open and airy spaces.

  * Open blinds and curtains.

  * Remove personal items, including family pictures.

Now you've created a blank slate -- the kind of home anyone can enter and imagine as their own.
It's now a home a buyer can take and build -- over time -- into their own style. They can see the
floor plan because you've removed clutter. They can understand the size and functionality of the
kitchen. They can imagine their favorite furniture in your big, neutral rooms.

This approach helps your Realtor market the home as buyer ready for someone to come in and
make it their own.

Think about it. You'll never be able to raise your main floor ceiling height to today's standard of
nine feet (or higher). You'll never be able to create walk-in closets in those secondary bedrooms.
And you probably won't get that laundry room off the main level. But you can make your property as
clean and uncluttered and neutral as possible, allowing potential buyers to see the beauty in your
home's bones.

Your buyers will fill out the blank slate of your home themselves, adding improvements that are
important to them, not improvements that you guessed would make a future buyer happy --
saving you time, out-of-pocket money and frustration.
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Goshen Realty Group is led by REALTORS Nancy Milton and Kristina Pratt. We are proud to be affiliated
with RE/MAX Preferred Partners in Edwardsville, IL.

RE/MAX Preferred Partners
One 157 Center
Edwardsville, IL 62025
618-791-8007 Nancy Milton, REALTOR/GRI
618-917-0775 Kristina Pratt, REALTOR/SFR

Copyright © Goshen Realty Group, Kristina Pratt & Nancy Milton, 2007-2009. All Rights Reserved.
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