By Lisbeth Calandrino
You all know what doesn’t sell a house, a dirty ‘1950’s shag.’ By the way, luxury shag is back, is used in very upscale design and is still 41% of industry sales.
Let’s face it; flooring is expensive, and if it has to be replaced, can break the buyer’s after sale budget. With many new products, it behooves the real estate salesperson to be up on the new choices and their costs. Like other industries, technology and upgrades in manufacturing have added new products and changed some of the old favorites. In the last ten years, a new carpet has been produced which is virtually stain proof to household stains. Unless flooring is your industry, it’s doubtful you are aware of these changes.
Today’s homebuyer expects more, and many items that were considered luxury options a few decades ago are now considered essential to a home’s salability. Upgraded appliances, hard-surface flooring, and professional landscaping are just a few examples of how home-buying trends have shifted, and how homes without these features are at a sales disadvantage.
Let me tell you about a conversation I had last week with a REALTOR®. She was telling me that she was standing at the top of the staircase with a potential homebuyer looking at the floor downstairs:
“What a beautiful wood floor, she said to the client. As they descended the staircase, she looks in horror at the floor. “Not only wasn’t it wood, she said, it was linoleum!” I felt bad for the agent.
Unfortunately, the realtor didn’t have enough expertise to help her client see the positive aspects of the flooring. By the way, the word ‘linoleum’ has all but disappeared from our vocabulary. It’s likely the product was an upscale luxury vinyl which may have been used for a variety of reasons. It’s easier to clean and can be installed below grade. Instead of a liability, it may have been an asset.
Why don’t we know much about flooring? You’ll probably buy more cars than you will floors—that’s why. With a change every 7 to 10 years, you’re likely to be hit with ‘sticker shock’ when you go shopping for flooring. I believe you should have this information for both, you and your potential clients.
If you haven’t noticed, flooring has radically changed and technology has turned many consumer buying habits away from traditional flooring. There’s luxury vinyl that looks like wood and is being used in upscale boutique hotels and throughout luxury homes. Because of luxury vinyl’s heritage, there’s a tendency to think ‘cheap.’ Don’t get your hopes up; technology has come to this industry in a big way with the ability of these products to replicate wood, tile, and stone. Porcelain tile can imitate wood and stone and is being manufactured in 1-meter by 3-meter sheets that are replacing stone on the exterior of buildings.
Wood is still wood and is now available in hundreds of species and is preferred by many home buyers. A study of home buyer preferences by USA Today using data from the National Association of Realtors found that 54% of home buyers were willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring. A majority of real estate agents surveyed by the National Wood Flooring Association said houses with hardwood flooring are easier to sell and sell faster. This indicates the value of hardwood floors as well because homes that sell quicker tend to sell closer to their asking price. Homes that sell faster result in more profits for their sellers, and if wood floors are able to help sell the home quicker, they add to the overall value of the home.
When we talk about wood flooring, most people immediately think of solid wood flooring. These days engineered wood, which is a laminated system, is as exquisite as solid wood. Many people get this confused with laminate flooring, which is manufactured essentially the same way but is not made of wood. Engineered wood, when installed, looks no different than solid wood. In terms of price, it may be just as expensive as solid wood if not more. It’s often hard to get homeowners to understand why this is; in this case, you are paying for technology and the type of wood used. Solid wood cannot be used below grade because of moisture issues; engineered wood, on the other hand, can be installed below grade and in other areas where solid wood would be a problem such as adjacent to a lake. When engineered flooring is installed, it looks no different than solid. It can be refinished like solid wood—but why would you do that? The only reason to refinish a wood floor is to change the color; everything else can be accomplished by a process called ‘screen and recoat.’ The cost to the homeowner is a lot less work and less money.
Lisbeth Calandrino is considered a floorcovering expert and has recently been recognized by Floor Covering News as one of The Top Ten People Making a Difference in the Flooring Industry. For the past twenty years, she has produced floor training classes for major manufacturers and retailers including Mohawk Industries and The Home Depot. As a certified independent flooring inspector, she is technically savvy on maintenance, warranties and flooring problems. Lisbeth is currently Associate Publisher of Fabulous Floors Magazine and author of “Red Hot Customer Service.” For more about Lisbeth, go to her web page, lisbethcalandrino.com.