Preparing Your Home for Sale
Get the House Ready
A house that "sparkles" on the surface will sell faster than its shabby neighbor, even though both are structurally well-maintained.
From experience, REALTORS also know that a "well-polished" house appeals to more buyers and will sell faster and for a higher price. Additionally, buyers feel more comfortable purchasing a well-cared for home because if what they can see is maintained, what they can't see has probably also been maintained. In readying your house for sale, consider:
- how much should you spend
- exterior and curb appeal
- preparing the interior
How much should you spend
In preparing your home for the market, spend as little money as possible. Buyers will be impressed by a brand new roof, but they aren't likely to give you enough extra money to pay for it. There is a big difference between making minor and inexpensive "polishes" and "touch-ups" to your house, such as putting new knobs on cabinets and a fresh coat of neutral paint in the living room, and doing extensive and costly renovations, like installing a new kitchen. Your REALTOR, who is familiar with buyers' expectations in your neighborhood, can advise you specifically on what improvements need to be made. Don't hesitate to ask for advice.
Maximizing exterior and curb appeal
Before putting your house on the market, take as much time as necessary (and as little money as possible) to maximize its exterior and interior appeal. Tips to enhance your home's exterior and curb appeal:
- Keep the lawn edged, cut and watered regularly.
- Trim hedges, weed lawns and flowerbeds, and prune trees regularly.
- Check the foundation, steps, walkways, walls and patios for cracks and crumbling.
- Inspect doors and windows for peeling paint.
- Clean and align gutters.
- Inspect and clean the chimney.
- Repair and replace loose or damaged roof shingles.
- Repair and repaint loose siding and caulking.
- In Northern winters, keep walks neatly cleared of snow and ice.
- During spring and summer months consider adding a few showy annuals, perhaps in pots, near your front entrance.
- Re-seal an asphalt driveway.
- Keep your garage door closed.
- Store RVs or old and beaten up cars elsewhere while the house is on the market.
- Apply a fresh coat of paint to the front door.
Maximizing interior appeal
Enhance your home's interior by:
- Giving every room in the house a thorough cleaning, as well as removing all clutter. This alone will make your house appear bigger and brighter. Some homeowners with crowded rooms have actually rented storage garages and moved half their furniture out, creating a sleeker, more spacious look.
- Hiring a professional cleaning service, once every few weeks while the house is on the market. This may be a good investment for owners who are busy elsewhere.
- Removing the less frequently used, even daily used items from kitchen counters, closets, and attics, making these areas much more inviting. Since you're anticipating a move anyhow, holding a garage sale at this point is a great idea.
- If necessary, repainting dingy, soiled or strongly colored walls with a neutral shade of paint, such as off-white or beige. The same neutral scheme can be applied to carpets and linoleum.
- Checking for cracks, leaks and signs of dampness in the attic and basement.
- Repairing cracks, holes or damage to plaster, wallboard, wallpaper, paint, and tiles.
- Replacing broken or cracked windowpanes, moldings, and other woodwork. Inspecting and repairing the plumbing, heating , cooling, and alarm systems.
- Repairing dripping faucets and shower heads. Buying showy new towels for the bathroom, to be brought out only when prospective buyers are on the way.
- Sprucing up a kitchen in need of more major remodeling by investing in new cabinet knobs, new curtains, or a coat of neutral paint.
Tips for Making Your Home More Salable
Before you put your home on the market, there are some things you can do to differentiate your house among the competitors.
When preparing to put your home up for sale, your first concern is the home's exterior. If the outside, or "curb appeal" looks good, people will more than likely want to see what's on the inside. Keep the lawn and landscape nicely manicured. Trim the bushes and season permitting, plant some flowers. Be sure your front door area has a "Welcome" feeling. A fresh coat of paint on the front door looks great.
Of all the rooms inside your home, pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. They should look as modern, bright and fresh as possible. It is essential for them to be clean and odor free. A fresh coat of paint just may do the trick. Have any leaky faucets taken care of. A call to a plumber is a wise investment.
Since you want your home to look as spacious as possible, remove any excess or very large furniture. Make sure that table tops, dressers and closets are free of clutter. Don't use your garage, attic, or basement to store these extra things. These areas also need to have the impression of space. Instead, put them into storage. Make sure walls and doors are free of smudges and look for anything that might indicate a maintenance problem, such as cracked windows, holes in the wall or stained ceilings.
Finally, if your basement shows any signs of dampness or leakage, seal the walls.
Quick tips for showings:
- Keep counter tops cleared
- Replace all burned out light bulbs
- Open all drapes and window blinds
- Put pets in cages or take them to a neighbor
- No dirty dishes in the sink
- No laundry in the washer/dryer
- Clean or replace dirty or worn carpets
- Put on soft music
- Burn wood in the fireplace on cold days, otherwise, the fireplace should be clean
Always look at your home from the buyer's point of view. Be objective and be honest.
Setting the Stage Sells Your Home
The age-old observation that "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" certainly applies when it comes to attracting buyers to a for-sale home.
Making a good first impression can mean the difference between receiving serious offers for your home or being subjected to months of lookie-loos dropping by but never buying.
How can you ensure that your home will make the best impression possible? Here are six tips for savvy home sellers:
- Focus on curb appeal. The outside of your house can be the source of a very good first impression. Keep the grass well-watered and mowed. Have your trees trimmed. Cut back overgrowth. Plant some blooming flowers. Store toys, bicycles, roller-skates, gardening equipment and the like out of sight. Have at least the front of your house and the trim painted, if necessary. Sweep the porch and the front walkway. After dark, turn on your front porch light and any other exterior lighting.
- Clear out the clutter. Real estate agents say buyers won't purchase a home they can't see. If your home has too much furniture, overflowing closets, crowded kitchen and bathroom counter tops or lots of family photos or collectibles on display, potential buyers won't be able to see your home. Get rid of anything you don't need or use. Fill up your garage or rent some off-site storage space if that's what it takes to clear out your home.
- Use your nose. Many people are oblivious to scents, but others are extremely sensitive to offensive odors. To eliminate bad smells, bathe your pets, freshen the cat litter box frequently, shampoo your carpets, dry clean your drapes, and empty trash cans, recycling bins and ash trays. Place open boxes of baking soda in smell-prone areas, and refrain from cooking fish or strong-smelling foods. Introduce pleasing smells by placing flowers or potpourri in your home and using air fresheners. Baking a fresh or frozen pie or some other fragrant treat is another common tactic.
- Make all necessary repairs. Buyers expect everything in their new home to operate safely and properly. Picky buyers definitely will notice-and likely magnify -- minor maintenance problems you've ignored for months or even years. Leaky faucets, burned-out light bulbs, painted-shut or broken windows, inoperable appliances and the like should be fixed before you put your home on the market. These repairs may seem small, but left undone they can lead buyers to question whether you've taken good care of your home.
- Introduce lifestyle accessories and make your home as comfortable and attractive as possible. Set the dining room table with your best dishes. Put out your only-for-company towels. Make up the spare bed. Hang some fresh curtains. Put some logs in the fireplace. Use your imagination.
- Get a buyer's-eye view. Walk up to your home and pretend you've never seen it before. What do you notice? How do you feel about what you see? Does the home seem inviting? Well-maintained? Would you want to buy this home? Your answer should be an enthusiastic yes!