HGTV’s ‘Unsellable Houses’ turns stale homes into sizzlers


Who knows if the groovy 1963 and ’75 Volkswagen buses driven by twins Leslie Davis and Lyndsay Lamb contribute to their stellar success in real estate? Such vintage vehicles are treasured by hipsters (if sometimes ironically) in the Pacific Northwest, home to their new HGTV show “Unsellable Houses.”

Or maybe they’re just reminders that something rehabbed and updated can look outta sight. The real estate mavens are experts in transforming tired homes that won’t bust out of listings into sizzlers that sail off the market within days. They founded their Mill Creek, Wash., firm Lamb Real Estate in 2009.

The whip-smart sisters — Lamb handles design and renovation, while Davis negotiates and crunches numbers — banter, bicker and offer up blunt assessments to homeowners, always with good humor. The twins’ show premiered Feb. 4.


They also lead an exuberant carpool karaoke in those classic VWs. We caught up with Lamb as she piloted the ’63 bus to an appointment; her sister joined in from their Mill Creek office.

According to Zillow, the average days on market for U.S. homes is about 82. What’s the average for Snohomish County, north of Seattle, where you do business?

Leslie: We’re at about 28 days, and for our company, it’s 13 days for listings across the board. Days on market is incredibly important, especially in a market like ours where it’s expected that your home will sell quickly. When you have a house that sits, buyers start to assume that something’s wrong so they discount things, ask for concessions.

What’s your formula for ensuring that your homes sell in less than two weeks?

Lyndsay: We are adamant about not rushing a listing. We get homeowners all the time that say, “Just throw my house on the market and then put up pictures, or then come in and stage it.” You only get one chance to make a first impression with a buyer. With the short days on the market, houses move so quickly.


How does today’s swipe-right, swipe-left culture affect home buying and selling?

Lyndsay: We watch buyers do that constantly in our office. They sit there and say, “Oooh, I love this house.” Or they swipe right past if it doesn’t catch their attention. It’s that feeling they get from a first online look. That first impression is everything. Buyers feel empowered to find a home themselves, do the research themselves, and it’s so fun and rewarding nowadays with all of the cool apps. We have to make sure listings are going to stop and get their attention.

You offer a sweet deal to cash-strapped owners: You front renovation costs, and also guarantee both a sales price and that the home will sell within 30 days. If it sells for more than the list price, you split that extra profit with the seller.

Leslie: We’ve been doing this awhile and it’s worked out great. We show them the facts and comps and it’s kind of a no-brainer. More often than not, we’re able to sell homes for an extra $10,000 to $15,000, sometimes substantially more, and that’s when it really pays off for all of us.

Millennial buyers often look for daring decor elements, such as a risky color. How have you catered to that market?

Lyndsay: Yellow and orange doors, and we just did one that was pink that people freaked out over. It was a really fun risk to take and it was a really good place to do it. The home sold in less than a weekend.


Is it hard for sellers to detach from questionable decor, to realize that getting top dollar means treating their home sale as a pure business transaction?

Lyndsay: More often than not we get people who say, “Well, that’s so easy to fix, why can’t the buyer do it? It’s just paint.” We have to tell them, “Well, yours isn’t the only house they have an option to purchase. So you need to remove that obstacle for them.” Now, a roof or foundation — they get that they have to fix that. But the cosmetic stuff they think, “What’s the big deal?” So we kind of just want to say, “Yeah. We know. That’s why we want you to fix it first.”