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    Home Marketing Insight: Vacant vs. Occupied

    February 13th, 2012 by Howard Gimpel

    It’s a long-held rule-of-thumb that a vacant house suffers in the marketplace because it doesn’t view “like a home.”  The thinking went this way: Buyers need the visual completion furnishings provide to feel at home in a room, to make it seem “livable.”  This attitude grew from a time when the only enticement a buyer had to view a home was an exterior photo in the Sunday circular or a flyer taped to the window of the local Realtor’s office.


    Remember that it hasn’t been that long since buyers hunting for properties were captive of the real estate agents’ selection of candidates, and most buyers would see only a half-dozen or so homes before deciding on a purchase.  There was no chance for the buyer to preselect which homes were most appealing; they’d have their chance to form an opinion only upon arrival.  When leaving a furnished house, buyers remember the furnishings.  They say later, “that was the house with the big green couch.”  When speaking later of a vacant house they may have seen, they recall it as “the house with the big dining room.”


    Fast-forward to the internet age and the multitude of real estate websites offering interior views of virtually every home on the market.  Buyers now have the luxury (and nearly 95% of them indulge it) of viewing hundreds of homes online before deciding which ones are most appealing.  They’re making these choices on the basis of a series of pictures whose real purpose is enticing buyers to look further.  In the static experience of reviewing photos, furniture and furnishings crowd out the details of the room, while vacant spaces appear spacious and clean.


    It really comes down to one rule-of-thumb that stands the test of time: buyers have no imagination.  Put a buyer in a furnished home and watch them examine the furnishings.  They’ll be hesitant to open closets or cabinets or look behind the furniture and they’ll probably hurry through the visit as it can be discomforting to be so intrusive.  They’ll leave with an incomplete and probably misleading impression of the home.  Put that same buyer in a vacant house and they’ll immediately take the measure of the place as if they were preparing to move in.  What could be better than a buyer in an "I could live here” frame of mind?  Certainly not a buyer who takes away only disapproval of the owner’s taste in fabrics or curiosity at the collection of beer steins from around the world.


    Of course, homes that are impeccably furnished and kept uncluttered and spotlessly clean will always fare well.  Just as certain is that’s a tall order for most homeowners to fill.  For the average and even most above-average homes, the owner’s taste and lifestyle aren’t what sells the home.  The functionality, size, and condition of the home are features noticed when showing a vacant residence. 


    Draw your own conclusions by surfing the homes for sale on the internet real estate sites.  Notice that even a vacant home can show remarkably well.  Notice, too, that many photo displays of occupied homes are really just pictures of furniture, doing nothing to showcase the attractive features of the home.



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