Get Rid of the Clutter This is the first and most difficult step in the process because of the emotional attachment most people have to things they’ve collected over the years. Most people have organized their “clutter,” and no longer see it for the mess it may be. But most buyers will still see it that way and it can greatly affect their perception of the home.
You should make sure that counter tops, closets, shelves, drawers and all storage areas (basement, attic, garage, sheds and utility rooms) are as clean and open as possible. This will not only allow buyers to see your home for what it is, but it will create the appearance of more space.
Repairing the Interior Keep Costs Low You should not do anything too drastic or expensive, such as remodeling or adding rooms, unless it happens to be absolutely necessary. Try not to run up big bills, especially on credit, to pay for the changes. The last thing you want to do is make purchases that could affect your credit rating and prevent you from qualifying for your next mortgage.
Repairing the Exterior A homebuyer’s first impression is based on his or her view of the house from the curb. They call that first impression “curb appeal.” If your home doesn’t have it, they won’t want to buy it.
Keep Costs Low You should not do anything too drastic or expensive, such as remodeling or adding rooms, unless it happens to be absolutely necessary. Try not to run up big bills, especially on credit, to pay for the changes. The last thing you want to do is make purchases that could affect your credit rating and prevent you from qualifying for your next mortgage.
Exterior of the House As with your interior, painting can give you the highest return on your investment. If your house looks faded and tired, buyers will notice immediately. Be smart with your color selection. The house should blend well with the neighborhood, but the color should also blend with the style of the house. Don’t forget about the roof. If it is leaky, repair it before the house is sold. Ask the home inspector if you need to. Don’t spend money if it is not necessary.
Plumbing and Fixtures One of the most instantly recognizable details about a home is the fixtures. Everyone interested in buying a home turns on light switches and faucets and flushes the toilet. Buyers will notice if your fixtures are dirty and worn and this will effect their impression of the house. You should clean all fixtures, or purchase new ones if necessary. It’s a relatively small investment that could pay off big for you. Most importantly, make sure all switches and faucets are easy to turn on and off and that there are no leaks of any kind in your plumbing. Also check the water pressure. It should not be too high or too low.
The Front Yard Try to at least keep up with your neighbors. It is not necessary to make your home stand out, but you don’t want it to be below average. As usual, avoid spending too much money. Some nice bushes and mature flowers will do the trick. Mature trees will cost you a fortune and new trees don’t have any character yet, so try to keep it simple.
Lawns should be evenly mowed and free of brown spots. If there are any problems with your lawn, take care of them before working on the inside of your home. If you need to re-sod it could take a while for the sod to grow in, so leave as much time as possible. And always keep it clean by raking away loose leaves and grass cuttings.
Carpet and Tile If you can get by with a good cleaning, it’s best not to replace your carpets entirely. If the carpet is terribly worn, stained beyond repair, or hopelessly out-of-date you should look into replacing it with something inexpensive and neutral in color.
Cracked floor tiles should be repaired or replaced as well, but remember not to spend too much. All you are looking to do is eliminate a few negative impressions.
The Front Door & Entrance The entryway of the house should be as clean and sharp as possible. Polish anything that needs it and refinish or repaint if you have to. A nice doormat also makes the house look more friendly and inviting.
Windows and Doors All windows and doors should open and close easily and without creaking. Creaking noises make a house feel old. A few squirts of WD-40 should take care of this. Also, make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes and clean all the glass. Clean windows let in more light and can brighten a home significantly. Take a good look at your doorknobs. They should be cleaned and polished and always easy to turn. Remember that buyers will be turning every knob in the house.
The Back Yard Cleanliness is the number one factor here. If you have a pool or hot tub, make sure it is clean and free of debris. If you have a dog, keep the yard free of any remnants. If you have a swing set, or any other non-portable toys installed for your children, leave them in place. Though they take up space, they also create a nice atmosphere and a feeling of family, especially with younger buyers.
Walls, Ceilings and Paint Eliminate all water stains on the ceilings and floors. Water stains mean leaks, and leaks can mean costly repairs. Make these repairs before selling your home. If a buyer realizes, after-the-fact, that he or she has to sink money into a house, it could lead to litigation. Once the repairs have been made you may need to paint. This is usually a good idea anyway, since clean, bright walls can make a big impression. A fresh coat of paint can be a great investment since it is inexpensive and you can do it yourself. If you do decide to paint, it is best to use colors that appeal to all, like white or off white.
Setting the Price Be careful not to set the price too high. When your home is first listed, it is marketed to other agents in the area who, in turn, market it to buyers. If the price is a turn-off, you won’t be able to capitalize on the initial flurry of activity that surrounds a new listing.
The higher the asking price, the fewer the agents who will preview the home. If the house is listed far above its market value, they will stay away.
Dropping the Price A good salesperson never drops his or her price. A decrease in the asking price gives the impression that there is something “less than desirable” about the house and buyers will be turned off. If you do manage to sell your home above its market value, your buyer will need a mortgage. Mortgage lenders require an appraisal, and, if comparable sales for the last six months and current market conditions do not support your sales price, the house will not appraise. At that point, the deal is dead unless the buyer is willing to renegotiate. By setting the price too high in the beginning you may actually be forced to settle for less than the house is worth in the end.
Showing the House
Lighting If someone is coming to see the house, turn on all the lights, inside and out. A dark and dreary home, especially at nighttime, is not inviting to buyers. A bright and cheerful home makes your visitor feel welcome and creates a feeling of “homeiness.”
Stay Away Buyers don’t want to feel like they are intruding. If they walk in on you and your family they will feel rushed to get out of your way, or worse, they may not want to stay to see the house. If, for some reason, you cannot leave the house, try to stay out of the way.
Smells Don’t use scented air fresheners. Many people do not like them, are allergic to them, or may think you are covering up an unpleasant odor. Natural scents, like flowers, fresh fruits, or cooking smells are best. Bake some cookies, or put a small drop of vanilla on a hot stove. This will fill the air with a pleasant, but not overwhelming aroma.
Pets If you have pets, make sure your listing agent puts a notice in the mls. You don’t want any surprises during a showing. If possible, it’s best to remove pets, or at least keep them out of sight when perspective buyers drop by. Try to remove any harsh pet odors as well. If a buyer has allergies it could present a huge obstacle.
Cleaning Make the beds, get rid of any dirty dishes or empty drinking glasses laying around, pick up newspapers and toys, dust, vacuum, mop, sweep the front, clean the bathrooms, etc. A clean house makes a lasting impression. A dirty house makes an even longer lasting impression. When homebuyers think back to the houses they have seen, they seldom remember “the dirty one” with fondness.
Take Out the Trash Nobody likes to see garbage-especially someone else’s. The kitchen garbage is most important since that is often one of the rooms buyers will spend the most time in.