Selling a house in today’s challenging real estate market can be difficult. The values in many neighborhoods are being decimated by short sales and foreclosures. And, even though mortgage rates are at historic lows, buyers are having a hard time getting approved. Plus, they don’t want to overpay – so they sometimes make offers that are insulting and unpractical.
Here are a few things you can and should do to get your house ready for market. Most of these cost little or nothing – but if you follow this advice, you will make your house more attractive to more people and greatly improve your chances of selling it for the price you want.
1) Consider the curb appeal. As an experienced Realtor®, I can tell you that buyers will sometimes refuse to even go into a house when it looks messy and in poor repair. They turn up their noses and instruct you to keep driving.
So – be sure that your lawn is mowed and neatly trimmed, the flower beds have been weeded, there is fresh mulch and all toys are out of sight. In the winter, make sure your drive and walkways are shoveled and free of ice. You should also consider recoating your driveway – and painting your front door a bright, friendly color. Invest in some new brass house numbers or a brass kickplate. Get a new WELCOME mat.
Place a festive wreath on the door. In nice weather, add a flowering plant to your front porch. Power wash your deck and siding – and patch any peeling paint.
Most builders plant foundation landscaping too close to the house – so that after a few years it is too big and blocks the sunlight from the house. Trim back unruly bushes and shrubs and trim any unsightly trees. Make sure pathways are easy to navigate – shore up uneven flagstones and trim back shrubbery.
When you give your Realtor® a key for the lockbox, make sure it turns easily in the lock and the door opens without a problem. I usually spray WD40 into the lock to make sure I don’t get a call from a Realtor® who is having trouble opening the door.
2) Keep your garage doors closed. Store recreational vehicles, boats and old cars someplace else while your house is on the market.
3) When the Realtor® opens the front door, be sure the first impression is a good one. Eliminate unpleasant odors from pets, cooking or smoking. Invest in a big bottle of Febreeze and spray it around liberally. Remember the old real estate adage: “If you can smell it, you can’t sell it.
Be sure the entryway is neat and clutter free. Remove everything from the stairs. Clear out your coat closet to make it appear roomier.
4) Make simple home repairs like dripping faucets and running toilets. Make sure all lights work – and install higher watt bulbs to make your home brighter. When a showing is scheduled, turn on all the lights in every room. Take down the fancy window treatments that are blocking out the light – especially if they are not going to be included in the sale. Be sure drapes are open, blinds are up and windows are clean. Buyers are turned off when looking at dark, gloomy houses. Playing soft classical music in the background is a good idea, too.
5) If there are installed items like shelving or the dining room chandelier that are not going to be included in the sale, take the items down and replace with something you will be leaving. Same thing goes for fireplace equipment. Be sure you are clear about what is included and what is not. If you are downsizing and would consider leaving the deck furniture or the yard equipment, be sure to communicate this to your Realtor®. These items can often come in handy when you are trying to negotiate a final price.
6) Remove all wallpaper – especially in the more public areas of your home. Wallpaper selection is a very personal matter – and getting rid of someone else’s wallpaper choice is perceived as being time consuming and difficult. You want prospective buyers to imagine themselves living in your house, and for some reason wallpaper often prevents that from happening. So, if you have wallpaper, take it down and repaint in a neutral color. Believe or not, I have had several listings with wallpaper that have languished on the market for months without an offer. When the wallpaper was finally removed, buyers were suddenly interested and offers ensued.
7) Repaint rooms that are now wild and crazy colors. If you or your children have gotten carried away with hot pink or lime green paint on the walls, invest in some water-based KILZ and get the walls back to something neutral. And, while you are at it, remove family photos, wedding portraits, college degrees and sporting trophies. Buyers are often distracted by these, and they tend to get involved in your life instead of imagining themselves living in your home. Same thing goes for your collections of figurines, dolls, baseball memorabilia…whatever. You would be very upset if something happened to your precious things – so pack them up and out of harm’s way. A lot of very personal items in the home make it hard for the buyer to imagine his own family living there.
8) Remove the leaves from your tables and take the extra chairs out of the rooms. Store them in the basement or the garage. Your rooms will look much larger and more inventing. Same goes for occasional tables and extra lamps and seating. Try to remove at least 1/3 of the furniture from every room.