This past year I had the opportunity to work with luxury home buyers from Silicon Valley, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle. They look at homes a little differently than your average buyer. Luxury home buyers have different concerns today than they did a few years ago. Having just sold the two highest priced Diamond Head homes last year, I can tell you why those homes sold at good prices versus other similar homes still waiting for a buyer. If you are thinking of selling your home in the next few years, this list will help you add value and increase its future marketability.
1. The high-end real estate market is global. So is style.
Your house will compete with houses in other parts of the world, and often with brand new homes. When the buyer is from Silicon Valley, Tokyo, or Shanghai, their primary home has often been built or remodeled in the past year or two. You don’t see homes remodeled in the late 1990s in those markets. (If you do, they’re listed as “tear-downs” or “major fixers,” and are priced accordingly.
Luxury buyers want to buy, but don’t have to buy. They usually aren’t determined to live in a certain location, so don’t give them a reason to buy in Malibu instead of Kahala. To give you an idea of what they expect to see in a luxury home, I’ll be happy to escort you on a tour of the new ultra-luxe condos being built in Kaka’akao. These condominiums are world-class. I’ll point out some style tips that you can apply to your own home.
2. Bedrooms are not home offices. Luxury home buyers work from phones, not rooms.
People buying at the highest price points often have an entourage of nannies, assistants, and relatives. They need places for these people to sleep. These additional bedrooms don’t need ocean views, the latest in furnishings, or even a lot of square footage, but they will be used as bedrooms.
New buyers often put their home in a rental pool when they’re not in residence, and rentals are priced according to bedroom count – not square footage. You can convert offices, hobby rooms, and bonus rooms to bedrooms by simply adding a closet. Feel free to add a new wing, but don’t add useless space such as large halls, landings, or oversized laundry and utility rooms. The average luxury home today is only 3,800 square feet: down from 5,000 plus just a few years ago. Bigger is not better. Smaller and smarter is.
3. Luxury home buyers don’t want issues. Get it fixed.
No matter how wonderful your house is, it will have issues. Find out what they are and fix them. You won’t regret the money spent on a home inspection: It’ll help you to put together a “to do” list that you can take care of before you put your home on the market. Prospective buyers will often use a long punch-list of small issues and defects, which they can leverage to get a big discount on price. Don’t give them ammunition. Fix what you want to fix, then disclose, up front, anything else that needs attention.
4. Luxury home buyers don’t like “stuff.”
Take a look at fashion and home magazines. People are living with less, even at the high end. You may love your collection of snow-globes, and it may be worth a lot of money, but most buyers will see it as junk – and will judge the home accordingly. That goes for furniture too. Nobody wants to see side tables, extra chairs, bookshelves, statues, curio cabinets, file cabinets, or desks. The home should look under-furnished and spare.
Store this extra furniture off-site. Don’t just stick it in closets or the garage. These need to be spare and look empty as well. If they are stuffed, buyers will think the home lacks enough storage.
5. If your home has a view, get everything else out of the way.
When prospective buyers enter a home with a view, they will walk straight to that view – every time. Make it easy for them to do it. Get the furniture out of the way. Get rid of drapes or blinds. Make sure the lanai doors open easily. Trim or remove any trees. Nothing should impede the view. The view is often the factor that makes the buyer decide to go for it. The view will make buyers ignore or forgive a host of other issues.
6. Kitchens and master baths sell your home.
These two rooms must be current, functional, and stylish. For these rooms, bigger is better. Newer is better. Simpler is better. Luxury home buyers don’t want projects, but if these rooms are done they are often willing to overlook a dated powder room. If the kitchen and master bath aren’t just right, they’ll often consider the whole house a tear-down. Work with an interior designer and a real estate agent to make sure your choices in these rooms are not too personal. You want the buyer to walk in the kitchen and say “I want this!”
7. Luxury home buyers have smart houses. So should you.
They’re probably running their California home from their iPhone, even as they’re walking through yours. If you don’t have a smart home, smarten it up now, before you decide to sell. You’ll enjoy it! Smart home features can be broken down into three main categories:
- practical use such as thermostats, kitchen appliances, and lighting systems
- entertainment use such as TVs, whole-house audio, and wireless connectivity
- security systems and door locks, all activated and monitored from your smart phone
All of these are “must-have,” but the security features are the ones that will most impress buyers. The agent, right at the front door, can demonstrate how up-to-date the home is when entering the code for access.
- Concentrate on the important rooms
- Style matters
- Think simple, clean, and smart