Top 5 Unusual Features That Can Help You Sell

You don’t have to sanitize your design to sell your home, as long as it stands out in the right way

In this "Designed to Sell" world, many people try to market their home by appealing to as many buyers as possible. But during a tough housing market, having a home that stands apart can be a boon to your sales prospects -- as long as it stands out in the right way.

Here are five features that can give your listing a little more pizazz:

A Backyard Oasis

When Will Csaklos and Susan Harrow went house-hunting in the San Francisco Bay area, they weren’t expecting their quest to take a year. But the couple just couldn't find anything that felt right to them -- until they discovered a small home in San Rafael, Calif. But it wasn’t the structure that sold them on the property; it was the backyard.

"When we saw this house and the garden, the first thing we both said is 'this is such a sanctuary,'" Harrow says. "Neither of us had any gardening skills whatsoever, but we felt something for this home that we hadn't felt in a year of looking at other homes."

That feeling of being wrapped in a green oasis can be a huge selling point, especially for people in a city environment, says Amanda Lopez, Realtor and Eco-Broker with City Life Realty in Baltimore, Md. But she cautions that some buyers who are initially attracted to the space may be scared away by the idea of tons of maintenance.

"It can be breathtaking at first, but then buyers start to wonder how they’re going to take care of a beautiful landscape," says Lopez, who advises homeowners to either find a local landscaping company they can refer buyers to for garden upkeep, or simply create a beautiful space that is also easy to maintain.

Perfect Playroom

Many parents create a playroom to give their children an area where they can let loose. But while spaces where crayon-covered walls and toy clutter abound may turn off most buyers, a well-constructed, deluxe play area can be a selling point for many house-hunting families.

In fact, Janie Glover says her High Point, N.C. home sold quickly thanks to her daughter's decked-out playroom. Initially, the family's Realtor had advised them they might want to dismantle the area, which had been a labor of love for the entire family and had been featured in local design stories. But Glover held off, choosing to first feature it as a selling point. It was a good decision.

"We put it on the market on Thursday and it sold on Friday to the first couple who looked at it," she says. "They'd been looking for a home for more than a year. They had a little girl who spent hours in the playhouse while the parents toured the rest of the home. They said the playhouse was what sold them on the home."

Glover's experience with her daughter's playroom was so positive, says Lopez, because a playroom with excellent craftsmanship and artistry can help sell a property. "But if an area is sort of half done or not really that well-constructed, it would be best to neutralize the area," she says.


Unusual Architecture

Tired of cookie-cutter floor plans and rows of similar looking homes? There are buyers who are, too. In Sedona, Ariz., Lin Ennis was one of those house-hunters looking for something different. Her quest led her to her current home, which she says "doesn't have a right angle in the house."

Known as "The Kiva House," Ennis says the unusual curves and interesting look of the property drew her to the home. "Every window was hand-placed by the builders and the walls were built around the window placements," she says. "The many doors and winding floor plan make it fun for a party, as does the comfy outdoor space."

Selling a home with unusual design and an interesting story can be wonderful for marketing, says Lopez. "When homes like this go on the market, they may initially get a lot of attention and be written up and such," she says. "But even though they may be shown a lot, it doesn't mean your house will sell immediately."

Lopez says while those who live in an unusually designed home should decorate the interior to match the "feel" of the home, they need to understand buyers may have trouble imagining themselves and their stuff in the space.

"When the right buyer comes along, they'll snap it up because of the style," she says. "You just have to find the right person."

Bathroom Bliss

Real estate experts will tell you buyers love to see updated kitchens and baths in homes, but if you really want to blow away the competition, think about going above and beyond in your bathroom retreat.

That's what sellers in Memphis, Tenn.'s popular Midtown neighborhood did. Briscoe Ellett, associate broker with Weichert Realtors - Chapman & Associates in Collierville, Tenn. says the bathroom in a historic home he just sold was the key to the deal.

"In this area of Midtown, buyers in this price range would usually see a small bathroom with maybe a pedestal sink, laminate floors and a cast iron tub, not always in great shape," he says. "This property had a walk-in shower, 36-inch vanity, tile floor, jacuzzi tub and a walk-in closet. I held an open house after I listed it and had multiple offers the next day. The property sold for 100 percent of list and closed within 30 days, and the bathroom was a major factor in the sale."

Green Features

If you know what the terms FSC-certified, Low-VOC and passive heat gain mean, you're probably fairly eco-savvy. More and more buyers are too, says Lopez, who thinks going green is a good way to build buzz about your property.

"More buyers are coming to me asking about things like energy efficiency and other green features in homes," she says.

This is especially the case in markets like Manhattan's, where Elie Pariente, executive vice president of the New York City-based realty company Urban Sanctuary, is marketing "green" townhomes in the trendy Tribeca neighborhood.

"Potential buyers have responded extremely well to the green features in the condos," Pariente says, citing the property's solar panels, super-efficient central air and water heating system and high-performance double-paned south-facing windows to increase passive heat gain. "They're much more familiar with the eco-friendly features than we initially expected. They've been asking very specific questions about how much energy each design element saves."

Lopez says if you have green features in your home, it can be a big selling point, but it's important to use a Realtor who understands how to communicate and market the attractive features to potential buyers.

Setting Your Home Apart

Lopez says working with your agent to evaluate any unusual features in your home and decide if they should be emphasized or downplayed is the key to making sure your home is a real standout.

"Of course it's good to have a home anyone can see themselves in, but in this market, with so many homes available, having a property that sets itself apart can be a big plus," says Lopez. "When someone's going through home after home, seeing something that can make them say 'ooh, this one is different!' and catch their attention can help you sell."


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