Back in college, I had this stance against list-making. I was pretty proud of how well I kept up with my obligations sans “A List.” Remember, this was before you could just say, “Hey Siri, remind me to do my laundry next week.” Back when making a list involved an actual piece of paper and a writing instrument.

How was I able to manage this, you ask? Well, for starters, like a lot of college kids, I didn’t have a whole lot going on. And furthermore, I’m pretty sure I frequently forgot things that I wouldn’t have, had I been keeping… A LIST.

Of course, it’s silly to think that lists are unnecessary. But here’s the thing I’ve come to realize—even as an adult, not all lists are written down. Oftentimes we’re still creating tabulations in our heads. And while the list may not be numbered or have neat check boxes next to each item, the overall weight of the list has bearing on our decisions.

This is especially true in the world of real estate. First, let’s pretend you’re getting ready to sell your home. Step one is to tally up all the projects you’ll need to do to prepare it for the market. Sure, this may involve a written list of “to-do” items. But c’mon… we all know there are things on that list that you’re afraid to write down.

How old is our roof exactly? Can we get away with not replacing this carpet? Do homes in this price range have granite now instead of laminate? All valid questions, and ones that you probably know the answers to. Are you brave enough to put those on the list? If you do, it means you’ll have to address it.

See, as a home seller there is a list of things you’ll need to do to get the most money for your home and to sell it ahead of your competition. Depending on how long you’ve been in your home—and how well you’ve kept up with it—that list could be daunting or it could be perfectly manageable. Either way, no matter who you are, if you’re selling a home—there’s a list.

Ok switch gears now. Let’s pretend you are out looking to buy a home. Every time you look at a house, from the minute you set foot on the porch, you’re creating a mental list. What will you have to do if you buy this home? Sometimes you’ll verbalize those things—but not always. And here’s another catch—if you’re married, your spouse has a list too.

She’s thinking: “this blue was popular in 2010, we’re going to have to paint this whole main level…”

He’s thinking: “this deck space doesn’t look big enough for the grill I want…”

She’s thinking: “these light fixtures are all builder-grade, we’ll need to replace most of them…”

He’s thinking: “does this master bath have room for a double vanity?”

Bottom line: buyers create a mental (and sometimes verbal) list of things they’ll need to do to any house. Sometimes those things need to be done before they can even move in—or very shortly thereafter. The longer the list, the heavier the burden the house becomes.

Okay now here’s the surprising reality: all that stuff is going to be on one list or the other. The two lists are really the same. Projects will either be on the seller’s side—things to do before the home goes on the market. Or they will be on the buyer’s side—things they’ll have to do if they buy this house.

Really think about that.

New carpet: seller’s list or buyer’s list?

Paint the bedrooms: seller’s list or buyer’s list?

Pressure wash and stain the deck: seller’s list or buyer’s list?

ALL of it is going on one or the other. It’s all the same list of stuff.

Once you really grasp that, the next step is understanding how that impacts both sides. As a seller, you are addressing things on that list so you can sell your home and ideally cash out your equity. By reducing the list on your side, you are making money. But as a buyer, the longer the list, the more you’ll have to spend on top of the purchase price of the house. By creating a list on your side, you are spending money.

So sellers, listen up! Make that list as short as possible—because it means more money for you, and less money for the buyers. And everyone is happy…

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