10 things to do that will get your house ready to sell:
1. Make a plan.
Maybe your house is in perfect, show ready shape. But it probably isn’t. Just like you wouldn’t go out to a fancy restaurant without looking your best you shouldn’t list your house without it being in top form. Getting it into shape is going to take a little planning.
Go out to your mailbox with a notepad. Starting from the street carefully examine your house as if you were a stranger. Look for defects and write them down. Some issues are minor, like putting new number decals on the mailbox or trimming the hedges. Others can be major and it is good to take stock of them before they impact your sale price. Write down everything even if you don’t think you will have time to address it.
Your planning stage should only take a few days. Decide what you can do easily and then weight the cost vs return on the other issues. Everything you do should add value or save value on the sale of your home.
2. Get a fresh set of eyes to get a second opinion.
Even when we are looking for faults we can miss them, but having someone unfamiliar with your house walk through gives you a new perspective. They will see it in the same way as a potential buyer. Tell them to be brutal and do not take offense. You may not care that there is a wear spot on your cabinet door but it might stand out to them. If you already have a realtor they will be happy to help out. Another opinion can help you finalize your to-do list and make sure you get top dollar for your house. The idea here is to remove as many barriers as possible that would prevent a potential buyer from falling in love with the property.
3. Set a schedule.
Even if you just found out about your new job and have to move within a month you still have time to get things done. Granted, depending on your timetable you might not be able to accomplish everything you want to from your list of repairs. Try to pick the things that are going to impact your bottom line the most. As a realtor I often give my clients the benefit of my years of experience to help streamline which repairs they should do.
If you don’t have the time or the inclination to do a repair you can always put an allowance in your listing. Giving so much for paint or flooring lets potential buyers walking in know that something needs to be updated but that you are putting money towards that at closing.
Just know that the more you can do before you list the more money you will make. Once you have your repairs and fixes scheduled don’t let anyone see the house until they are finished. That includes pictures for online advertising. You only have one chance to make a first impression.
4. Separate your feelings from your goals.
Get into the right mind set. You are no longer living in a home, you are living in a house. There are a lot of emotions tied to your old place but you need to put those away and focus on your new home. This is a necessary step in making your house less personal to you and more appealing to a wider audience. Declutter by packing away a lot of your personal effects. Keep enough to make the house feel lived in, but with fewer distractions. The one mindset to stay in is that the house is an asset. You want the most money in the least amount of time. To do that you need to make sure it will appeal to everyone.
Another thing to be prepared for is to be flexible. There will be people who will be coming to look at your house. It will be inconvenient at times but you need to remember you can always say no to a a showing. Just remember that one person that is turned away may never come back and they may have been the one that bought it.
As your agent I try to build excitement before your home goes on the market, use my contacts to have people clamoring to see your place and have as many showings as possible once it is on the market. This can lead to multiple offers and make you even more money. To do this you may have to get used to going out more in the evening while strangers walk though your house. Be ready for that and look forward to it.
4. Pre pack and divest.
You are already planning to move. This is a great time to get rid of things and pack what you aren’t planning on using anytime soon. The rule of thumb is if it isn’t of sentimental value and you haven’t used it in a year give serious thought to selling or donating it. Selling extra things not only will save you money on the move but give you some extra cash now to help with expenses and donations can be tax deductible. Besides, why move things that you aren’t using?
Next take a look at things you will use but not soon and start packing those away as well. You will make the house feel bigger, make it simpler for people to see the house instead of your things getting in the way and make it that much easier for you to move once the house sells.
Think about catalogs that sell furniture. They have a couch, chair, some end tables and a few odds and ends for accent. They do not have an overstuffed bookcase and a shelf full of beer steins. This goes back to appealing to the broad taste of the public. Which leads me to our next point.
5. Think about staging
Maximizing flow is key, as is defining space. A buyer may not have the vision to see a rooms potential unless you give them a little help. Again, the idea here is to help people see your house as their new home and in the best possible light.
Little things, like new towels on the rack in the bathroom or a bowl of fresh fruit in the center of the breakfast nook table give a homey feeling to the house. These small touches can make a big impression, especially on buyers who have seen several houses that day.
6. Elbow grease to make the house look fresh.
Deep cleaning your house, or having it professionally cleaned makes a world of difference. Odor makes a huge impression on buyers. Get drapes cleaned, blinds and light fixtures dusted and floors cleaned. If you have carpet get it professionally cleaned or if it is in bad shape get it replaced. This one step goes a long way to giving a positive impression of the house.
Fresh paint is another great selling tool. If you are a competent painter you can do it yourself, otherwise get some bids and hire a professional. New paint is great but a bad paint job is almost as bad as keeping the old paint in place. A good paint job will freshen every room, take care of all the little scratches and imperfections and make the home feel newer. It will also help you neutralize the home from any personalization to make it appeal to a wider audience.
Now let’s talk about the windows. When you change colors on the wall you normally want to put up some curtains that fit the new color scheme. It shouldn't be that expensive to get some nice curtains and rods or blinds. The impact they will have in a newly painted room will be significant.
7. Curb appeal is your first impression.
I have looked at a lot of houses. When I roll up into the driveway of a house and see shoddy landscaping, a neglected yard, worn facade and other maintenance issues my value estimate of the property goes down quickly. The odd thing is that while some of the houses interiors match the exterior more than half do not. That is why I stress the importance to my clients of looking at the total package. If the outside is not pretty many people will not bother to come inside.
You not only want to have your house look good from the street, you want to have something that helps it stand out from the dozen or so other houses buyers are looking at. The bare minimum you should do is keep everything trimmed and in good repair. I suggest putting flowers in beds in the front and putting some thought into how to best showcase your unique house. An hour or so of work can help you sell your home that much faster.
If you can, powerwash your driveway and walkways. If you have vinyl siding spray that down as well. There are several places that will rent you the machines and videos online to show you their proper use. Touch up any paint issues and make sure to keep the yard looking its best at all times once you have it on the market. Once you have a sign in the yard you can capture a buyer driving by with great curb appeal.
8. Figure out what you are going to do when you have to leave for a showing.
Most agents use some sort of showing service that will call to set an appointment for your house to be shown. This can be simple if everyone is out of the house but the time will come when you have your evening interrupted by a call. Normally the rule of thumb is to give you at least an hours notice. It is a good idea to make sure that you give potential buyers as much access as possible, within reason. So when you get the call it is in your best interest to already have things planned for the family to do. It can be as simple as heading over to visit friends or relatives or heading out for ice cream.
Your place should already be show ready. Before you leave the house put everything in order and if you get a call in the evening set everything right before you head out the door. It is a pain to make sure the dishes are always done, the beds are made and things are always as perfect as can be, but it can make the difference between selling and not selling.
9. A picture is worth a thousand words.
A good realtor will take good pictures. It’s not just about the picture being good, it’s how they tie together. The idea is to give as honest and clear a view of the house as possible. It does no good to get a buyer in the door if they have no interest once they are there. So a good quality camera and an eye for the shot is imperative. Some realtors use professional photographers while others can take great pictures themselves.
In the other catagory, both professional and amatuer, are the bad photos. Misleading photos that do not truly reflect the house or bad quality photos. Dark, off frame, even fuzzy pictures. Some done from smartphones are so bad that people just click off the property. It is amazing to me the high priced homes out there that have a dozen poorly taken photos in place for their marketing. Or only have exterior shots. These days the lion's share of house hunters are going to see your property online. If your house isn’t represented well there is little chance they will take the next step and come look at it in person.
With digital cameras you can take an unlimited amount of pictures so there is no reason to have bad photos. Knowing how to take them, what time of day is best and having the ability to showcase your house can help you sell for the most money in the least amount of time.
10. Make sure that your price is right.
Price can be a guessing game because the market can change week to week. The first thing to understand is that a realtor does not set the price of your house. They look at the market, at what has sold recently in the neighborhood, what is for sale (IE your competition) and what amenities they have in comparison. Finding the sweet spot that will sell your house for top dollar is important. Price it too high and the market passes you by. Price it too low and you may leave money on the table.
A good realtor can help you understand the current value, advise you on things you can do to improve that value and make the process of selling your home that much less stressful.
While the house is being put on the market their is a gap of time that I use to create buzz. Sending listing information out to other agents as a Coming Soon is one way of doing it. Buyers who are interested in your type of house will want to get in and see it as soon as it opens on the market. I personally love to create buzz then set up an open house weekend the first weekend it is on the market. This gets as many people as possible in to see the house which can lead to multiple offers coming in at the same time. This can drive your price up as they compete for the house.
In the end the idea is to get your house sold for the most money in the least amount of time so that you can move on to the next stage in your life. If you are looking to buy or sell in the near future give me a call and we can make an appointment to sit down and talk about your options.