Before you put your house on the market, there are several important things you can do to make all the difference in selling your house in a timely way – and for a better price. Consider the time, money and effort spent as an investment in the return on one of your biggest assets! Here is AHRN.com’s guide to the preparation process.
GET AN OVERVIEW
The first thing to do is to see your home through a buyers eyes. And it’s not just what’s indoors, but the exterior and any lawn as well. Start at the front door and walk through as if you were seeing it for the first time. Being objective can be hard, but it’s necessary. What do you see, smell, trip over, bang into? Run the water, flush toilets, turn burners on, try every light switch, window and lock. Keep a list of it ALL things that might need work as you go. You can prioritize it after.
Now step outside (even drive up and pull in the drive way). What do you notice? Is there paint peeling? Are bushes overgrown, are there blank patches in the grass, do the beds need weeding, is the front door light broken? Is the driveway or front walk dangerously cracked, the patio in need of a lift? If the list is long, don’t fret! You need know all of this and, you can get it done if you just take one step at a time.
START WITH A PLAN
There are two kinds of improvements to address – cosmetic and structural/mechanical. If your house is old, or some of the systems are long in the tooth, you might want to invest in an inspection with a reputable company. They will review the major systems – heat/AC, plumbing, electrical, as well as the foundation, exterior and roof. It will cost a few hundred dollars, but gives you the advantage to fix something major that the buyer’s inspector would find once you’ve accepted an offer as that could cost you by rendering you less able to bargain – or worse, become a deal breaker. You can also advertise that your place has been pre-inspected!
Cosmetic repairs can largely be done by yourself. A little can go a long way.
- De-cluttering can become a bigger job than you think. Marshall every family member/friend to help! Establish several containers for giveaway/tag sale, and big garbage cans within arms reach for throw away. Get a dumpster if needed. Have garbage bags, scissors, sharpies, tape, and boxes on hand to make it go smoothly.
- Organize closets, cupboards and drawers. You should be able to see closet floors. Clothes jammed on the rack actually make the closet look smaller. Shelves need to be neat. Yes, face labels front in the medicine cabinets and pantry and nest pots and pans. Toss or store what’s stained, old, worn.
- Edit furniture and accessories that make the place crowded or too personalized. This can be really subjective, so have a friend who has a knack for this stuff come over once you’re done to further edit. Realtors want you to remove almost everything so your buyer can get the best idea of the space with their own furniture and art in mind.
- Remove all personal items (kids drawings, family pictures). Keep mirrors and some scenic art. It can make you feel like your house is no longer your home, but just remember that it allows buyers to envision the home as theirs.
- You may need to consider short term storage. While you can keep things neatly stacked in the garage, it might impede sellers seeing what the garage offers.
- Walls – Do a good job of patching any holes, gouges, scratches and cracks, sand them, vacuum, then paint. This can take more time than you expect so you can hire someone but be sure they do all this. Choose neutral colors! White can be too stark and colors should be neither the pastel nor deep versions.
- Fix the little things – missing electrical socket covers, burnt out bulbs, a baseboard that needs gluing, etc.
- Cleaning –Some things you can wipe down, but others will be more challenging. Scrub floors, corners, sills, grouting thoroughly. Use anything you need to on stains. Google for advice and remedies or ask your hardware store experts.
- These two areas can drastically affect a home’s desirability and price. If yours are really outdated, weigh out a full or partial renovation. If you’re short on time and money, there are simple, cost effective improvements that can make a big difference:
- Change out all the hardware – handles, faucets, lighting fixtures, hooks and rods.
- New shelf paper everywhere makes things look brand new. Stick to neutral colors without patterns.
- Sand and paint cabinet doors.
- Update with blinds, shower curtains. Replace cracked toilet seats.
- Re-grout neatly, cover floor cracks or stains with nice new rugs, or consider new flooring in these smaller areas.
- If you need new appliances, you can cut corners by finding places that sell new ones at reduced costs for dings that might be minimal. If it’s just for looks, I knew a couple who bought stainless steel sheeting and cut it to adhere to their perfectly good dishwasher and refrigerator for pennies compared to replacing.
Put nice dishtowels and mitts in the kitchen, set the table with neutrals with a centerpiece in the middle, put a bowl of brightly colored fruit on the counter. Make the bathroom beautiful with a flowering plant, new soap and rolled towels in a basket (be sure to shut the toilet seat lid and have a new roll of TP!).
Let in all the light that you have!
Set it up to show how various areas can serve as a work room, game space, or where the family gathers. The master should be restful, kids areas open and fun. Check out the plethora of books, articles and YouTube videos about staging for ideas.
INCREASE CURB APPEAL
- Do whatever you can so it looks charming, well tended to and welcoming. Put flowers along the front path and in window boxes (or add the latter if you don’t have them). Weed and spread mulch in any garden bed – another simple thing that makes a huge visual improvement. Trim bushes and seed or sod blank patches in the lawn.
- Power wash and re-stain the patio. Borrow nice patio furniture if you must, or paint yours and run to Kmart for new cushions. Add a few potted plants and voila!
- You can at least paint the front door. If it really needs it, you may have to repaint the house. But you should be able to make that back in the sale price for the huge difference it makes.
- Make the garage as uncluttered and neat and broom swept – and by all means, paint it. This can be as important to some buyers as the kitchen and master bedroom.
- Lastly, the entrance way is key, as you want whatever is in view with the first step inside the house to wow. Be sure there are no unpleasant scents greeting your buyers nose, especially if you have animals. And yes, baking cookies or bread on open house days, or burning a neutral candle like almond, citrus or eucalyptus can help.
These projects can take longer than you expect. If time is short, or you’re just not handy with certain things, you may need to hire someone as your budget allows. Remember that improvements can help you get your desired price, so weigh and balance the pros and cons in choosing what to do and what will remain as is. Some things may be able to be written off as capital improvements – or aid you as losses. A quick call to your tax advisor is wise before you begin. It will get done!! Just look at your list, determine what’s most important to do in descending order, what you’d need to hire out, and get started!
We want to know:
What have you found to be the most valuable way to prepare your home?
Meet Your Contributor:
Rochelle Joseph is a Writer and Image Consultant who has had experience marketing, renting and buying/selling her properties for over 20 years. She has written and edited for several publications, including the Boston Book Review, The Emerson Review, ZooBorns.com, WildLife Magazine, the Houston Zoo, The Wildlife Center of Texas, One Spirit Interfaith Seminary as well as AHRN.com. She currently writes at her great gifts blog at https://lookyhereu.blogspot.com and her animal blog at https://naturegirrrl.blogspot.com.