GETTING YOUR HOME PREPARED FOR THE MARKET
“Tips to get top dollar for your home and to get your home ready to Sell”
DE-PERSONALIZE THE HOUSE
For some homeowners that have had their home longer than 10 years it is hard to consider removing personal items in the home. The reason for asking the seller to de-personalize is that buyers want to view the home as how they would want to live in it. If you are preparing for your own move, now is a good time to take down your family photos, any trophies and collectible items and box them up. It is a good idea to rent a storage unit or store your personal items with friends or family. It’s not a good idea to store your boxes in the garage because this leads to clutter. Having your home in a presentable condition will bring you a higher sales price.
REMOVING THE CLUTTER
This is the hardest thing for most people to do because they are emotionally attached to everything in the house. After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on shelves, counter tops, drawers, closets, garages, attics, and basements. Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help point out areas of clutter, as long as you can accept their views without getting defensive. Let your Realtor help you, too.
The kitchen is a good place to start removing clutter, because it is an easy place to start. First, get everything off the counters, even the toaster. Put the toaster in a cabinet and take it out when you use it. Find a place where you can store everything in cabinets and drawers. Of course, you may notice that you do not have cabinet space to put everything. Clean them out. The dishes, pots and pans that rarely get used? Put them in a box, and put that box in storage, too.
You see, home buyers will open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room for their “stuff.” If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers look jammed full, it sends a negative message to the buyer and does not promote an image of plentiful storage space. The best way to do that is to have as much “empty space” as possible.
For that reason, if you have a “junk drawer,” get rid of the junk. If you have a rarely used crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with every cabinet and drawer. Create open space.
If you have a large amount of foodstuffs crammed into the shelves or pantry, begin using them, especially canned goods. Canned goods are heavy and you don’t want to be lugging them around to a new house or paying a mover to do so. It’s best to just use them up.
Beneath the sink is very critical, too. Make sure the area beneath the sink is as empty as possible, removing all extra cleaning supplies. You should scrub the area down as well, and determine if there are any tell-tale signs of water leaks that may cause a home buyer to hesitate in buying your home.
Closets are great for accumulating clutter, though you may not think of it as clutter. We are talking about extra clothes and shoes, things you rarely wear but cannot bear to be without. Do without these items for a couple of months by putting them in a box, because these items can make your closets look “crammed full.” Sometimes there are shoe boxes full of “stuff” or other accumulated personal items, too.
Many people have too much furniture in certain rooms. If you are one of them it’s a good idea to downsize so that your furniture does not take up so much room. When a buyer walks into your home, he or she is visualizing how they would live in your house and how their furniture would fit in.
STORAGE AREA CLUTTER
Basements, garages, attics, and sheds accumulate not only clutter, but junk. These areas should be as empty as possible so that buyers can imagine what they would do with the space. Remove anything that is not essential, and take it to the storage area.
If you need to have a yard sale to downsize, go ahead and have one. I have found most people will have a yard sell and someone stopping by might just know of someone that is interested in your home.
INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR OF THE HOME
THE PLUMBING AND FIXTURES
All your sink fixtures should look shiny and new. If this cannot be accomplished by cleaning, buy new ones where needed. This can be accomplished inexpensively and they are fairly easy to install. Make sure all the hot and cold water knobs are easy to turn and that the faucets do not leak. If they do, replace the washers. It is not difficult at all.
Check to make sure you have good water pressure and that there are no stains on any of the porcelain. If you have a difficult stain to remove, one trick is to hire a cleaning crew to go through and clean your home on a one-time basis. They seem to be wonderful at making stains go away.
THE CEILINGS, WALLS AND PAINTING
Check all the ceilings for water stains. Sometimes old leaks leave stains, even after you have repaired the leak. Of course, if you do have a leak, you will have to get it repaired, whether it is a plumbing problem or the roof leaks.
You should do the same for walls, looking for not only stains, but also areas where dirt has accumulated and you just may not have noticed it. Plus, you may have an outdated color scheme.
Painting can be your best investment when selling your home. It is not a very expensive operation and often you can do it yourself. Do not choose colors based on your own preferences, but based on what would appeal to the widest possible number of buyers. It is wise to choose an off-white color because white helps your rooms appear bright and spacious.
THE CARPET AND FLOORING
Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or it is definitely an outdated style or color, you probably should do nothing more than hire a good carpet cleaner to clean it. If you do choose to replace it, do so with something inexpensive in a fairly neutral color.
Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money on anything. Remember, you are not fixing up the place for yourself. You want to move. Your goal is simply to have as few negative impressions upon those who may want to purchase your property.
THE WINDOWS AND DOORS
Check all of your windows to make sure they open and close easily. If not, a spray of WD40 often helps. Make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes. If there are, replace them before you begin showing your home.
Do the same things with the doors. Make sure they open and close properly, without creaking. If they do, a shot of WD40 on the hinges usually makes the creak go away. Be sure the doorknobs turn easily, that they are cleaned and polished to look sharp. As buyers go from room to room, someone opens each door and you want to do everything necessary to create a positive impression.
For those who smoke, you might want to minimize smoking indoors while trying to sell your home. You could also purchase an ozone spray that helps to remove odors without creating a masking odor.
Pets of all kinds create odors that you may have become used to, but are immediately noticeable to those with more finely tuned senses. For those with cats, be sure to empty kitty litter boxes daily. There are also products that you can sprinkle in a layer below the kitty litter that helps to control odor. For those with dogs, keep the dog outdoors as much as possible. You might also try sprinkling carpet freshener on the carpet on a periodic basis.
THE COST OF REPAIRS
I recommend to homeowners to avoid doing anything expensive, such as a major remodeling project. If possible, use savings to pay for any repairs and improvements. Do not go charging up credit cards or obtaining new loans. Remember that part of selling a house is also preparing to buy your next home.
Most real estate advisers tell you to work on the outside of the house first, but unless there is a major project involved, it is best to do it last. There are two main reasons for this; first is that preparing the interior of the house is easier. It helps you to develop the proper mindset required for selling. That is to begin thinking of your “home” as a marketable commodity. Second, the exterior is the most important. A home buyer’s first impression is based on his or her view of the house from the real estate agent’s car.
So take a walk across the street and take a good look at your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see how yours compares.
Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If it is not, buy a few bushes and plant them. It is also advisable to not plant new trees. Mature trees are expensive, and you will not get back your investment. Also, immature trees do not really add much to the appearance value of the home.
If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful flowers and plant them. They add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating a favorable first impression. It is also not advisable to purchase bulbs or seeds and plant them. They will not mature fast enough to create the desired effect and you certainly don’t want a patch of brown earth for home buyers to view.
Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well watered, and free of brown spots. If there are problems with your lawn, you should probably take care of them before working on the inside of your home. This is because certain areas may need re-sodding, and you want to give it a chance to grow so that re-sodded areas are not immediately apparent. Plus, you might want to get your lawn fertilized in enough time to be effective. .
THE EXTERIOR OF THE HOME
The big decision is whether to paint or not to paint. When you look at your house from across the street, does it look tired and faded? If so, a paint job may be in order. It is often a very good investment and really spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from potential home buyers.
When choosing a color, it should not be something garish and unusual, but a color that fits well in your neighborhood. Of course, the color also depends on the style of your house. For some reason, different shades of yellow seem to elicit the best response in homebuyers, whether it is in the trim or the basic color of the house.
As for the roof, if you know your house has an old leaky roof, replace it. If you do not replace a leaky roof, you are going to have to disclose it, and the buyer will want a new roof, anyway. Otherwise, wait and see what the home inspector says. Why spend money unnecessarily?
THE BACK YARD
The back yard should be tidy. If you have a pool or spa, keep it freshly maintained and constantly cleaned. For those that have dogs, be sure to constantly keep the area clear of “debris.” If you have swing sets or anything elaborate for your kids, it probably makes more sense to remove them than to leave them in place. They take up room, and you want your back yard to appear as spacious as possible, especially in newer homes where the yards are not as large.
THE FRONT DOOR AND ENTRYWAY
The front door should be especially sharp, since it is the entryway into the house. Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done.
If you have a cute little plaque or shingle with your family name on it, remove it. Even if it is just on the mailbox. You can always put it up again, once you move. Get a new plush door mat, too. This is something else you can take with you once you move.
Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits properly. When a home buyer comes to visit your home, the agent uses the key from the lock box to unlock the door. If there is trouble working the lock while everyone else stands around twiddling their thumbs, this sends a negative first impression to prospective home buyers.
GETTING READY FOR THE BUYER TO VIEW YOUR HOME
SHOULD I BE HOME WHILE THE HOME IS SHOWN?
Homebuyers will feel like intruders if you are home when they visit, and they might not be as receptive toward viewing your home. Visit the local coffee house, yogurt shop, or take the kids to the local park. If you absolutely cannot leave, try to remain in an out of the way area of the house and do not move from room to room. Do not volunteer any information, but answer any questions the agent may ask.
TURN ON THE LIGHTS
When you know someone is coming by to tour your home, turn on all the indoor and outdoor lights, even during the day. At night, a lit house gives a “homey” impression when viewed from the street. During the daytime, turning on the lights prevents harsh shadows from sunlight and it brightens up any dim areas. Your house looks more homey and cheerful with the lights on.
FRAGRANCES, DON’T OVER SPRAY
Do not use scented sprays to prepare for visitors. It is too obvious and many people find the smells of those sprays offensive, not to mention that some may be allergic. If you want to have a pleasant aroma in your house, have a potpourri pot or something natural. Or turn on a stove burner for a moment and put a drop of vanilla extract on it. It will smell like you have been cooking.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR PETS! If you have pets, make sure your listing agent puts a notice with your listing in the multiple listing service. The last thing you want is to have your pet running out the front door and getting lost. If you know someone is coming, it would be best to try to take the pets with you while the homebuyers tour your home. If you cannot do that, it’s best to keep dogs in a penned area in the back yard. Try to keep indoor cats in a specific room when you expect visitors, and put a sign on the door. Most of the time, an indoor cat will hide when buyers come to view your property, but they may panic and try to escape.
THE KITCHEN TRASH
If your kitchen trash can does not have a lid, make sure you empty it every time someone comes to look at your home, even if your trash can is kept under the kitchen sink. Remember that you want to send a positive image about every aspect of your home. Kitchen trash does not send a positive message. You may go through more plastic bags than usual, but it will be worth it.
KEEPING THE HOUSE TIDY AND NEAT
A GOOD HABIT! Not everyone makes his or her bed every day, but when selling a home it is recommended that you develop a good housekeeping habit. Pick up papers, do not leave empty glasses in the family room, keep everything freshly dusted and vacuumed. Try your best to have it look like a model home? A home with furniture but nobody really lives there.