In our current market, where we keep reading about how fast houses are selling and how prices are still rising, one could easily decide to list a home without doing anything to get it ready. However, the home’s appearance can significantly impact both the total time it takes to sell a home and the amount for which the home will sell. It only makes sense to spend a little time and a little money to maximize your return.
The exterior is important because of curb appeal and first impressions. The most obvious first step is to ensure the address is clear and can easily be seen from the street. I cannot tell you how difficult it is to figure out addresses for some homes. Other suggestions include:
- Buy a new front door mat
- Keep grass freshly cut and edged
- Remove all yard clutter and pet waste
- Weed and mulch flower beds
- Clean windows
- Pressure wash exterior, driveway and sidewalks
- Tighten and clean all hardware
- Clean gutters and downspouts and ensure they are attached
- Store garbage cans, hoses, toys, etc.
- Replace burned out bulbs
- Caulk around windows, etc.
- Clear out and clean garage
In thinking about all storage areas (garage, closets, pantry, cabinets, etc.), go ahead and get ready for the move. You should throw away anything that will not be moved, organize the space, and make enough room that someone could easily see storing more in that location. The hall closet should only have a couple of coats. It should not have all your winter clothes. The two car garage should have room for two cars and additional room to see where items could be stored. Obviously, this may also require renting temporary storage.
Actually, the garage example is a good way to think about the interior as well. Every room and closet should show there is plenty of room and be organized. If a room is crowded, remove furniture until it is not. And, de-clutter. You should put away toys, clothing, dishes, towels, etc. If you have children or pets determine how you will have a 10 minute de-clutter process for showings. For the adults, this 10 minute de-clutter process probably applies to all bathroom and kitchen counters. Shoe boxes to be put under the cabinet will probably work for the bathroom. A toaster oven can go in a kitchen cabinet. Other interior items include:
- Clean ceiling fans and light fixtures
- Repair grout issues
- Replace bedding
- Consider buying new shower curtains
- Add or replace accent pillows (a good way to add color)
- Add a throw in the living room
- Replace rugs for updating or to add color
- Hide trash cans
- Repair all plumbing leaks and drips
- Keep toilet seats and lids down
- Add light by keeping curtains open and, subject to fixture limitations, increase bulb wattage
- Clean walls and shampoo carpet
- Paint should be taken to a neutral color
- Remove items from the front of the refrigerator
- Consider adding fresh flowers to add color
In my experience, the key issues which negatively affect first impressions are:
- Inadequate lighting (natural and interior)
- Clutter and disorganization
- Too much furniture, knickknacks, personal items (the accumulations of our life)
Texas Realtor magazine recently published a list of the mistakes sellers make during the process of selling their home. The ones most applicable to this discussion are not making cosmetic repairs, failing to remove pets, leaving personal items and decor in place, not maximizing natural light, and letting emotions get in the way. We get attached to our homes. The longer we have been there, the more memories and attachment we have to the home. However, to the extent possible, you need to start thinking of your home as an investment in a building and land. It is going to be somebody else’s home. They need to see themselves in the home and not you. You will need to de-personalize the home. Your knickknacks may be somebody else’s clutter. You should consider removing family photos, especially those of younger children. And, religious symbols may be inappropriate for the buyer who may be from India or Asia.
With respect to cosmetic repairs that may cost some money, key items would be:
- Painting the exterior or interior
- Replacing damaged siding
- Replacing wallpaper
- Eliminating popcorn-style ceilings
- Replacing light fixtures
- Painting cabinets
- Replacing hardware in kitchen and bathrooms (handles and faucets)
- Taking out half-walls or turning them into bookshelves or storage
A professional stager can help you in suggesting additional steps which will get your home ready to be viewed by the public, including changes in color, de-cluttering and room arrangements. In my experience, stagers are worth the money.
One last item to consider is to ensure the safety of expensive or personal items in your home. Checkbooks, bank statements, tax returns, etc. should be stored in a safe place. Prescription drugs, jewelry and other valuables should be stored in a locking cabinet.