In the past three years I have listed more than 70 homes for my clients. Many people assume that when it comes time to sell, all that is required is some light cleaning, contacting a real estate agent and signing some paperwork. But, in truth, selling your home quickly and for the most money possible may actually require a bit more work.
After living in a home for years, it is very hard to see it objectively. That is why my first meeting with a seller is really more of a walk-through. I take a tour of the inside and outside of the home with the seller looking at it with the eyes of a potential buyer. What am I looking for? I am looking at the general condition of the home. Are things in good working order? Have the kitchen and bathrooms been updated? How do the walls, flooring and trim look – are they clean and in good condition? As I walk through the home I talk with my clients and make recommendations on strategies to help get the home ready for the market. I have been selling homes for more than 38 years, so I know the market and what buyers are looking for and most importantly I understand what will help a home sell faster and for more money.
The value of your home depends not only on recent home sales in your neighborhood but on the condition of your home relative to those sales. In other words, is your house in as good, better or worse shape as the other homes for sale? It is my job to help you get your house in the best condition possible so that we are ready and able to compete for the available buyers and get you the best price possible.
I specialize in making sure homes are ready when they are listed and that is why my listings consistently spend less time on the market than most other agents in my area. In fact, last year my listings spent an average of 60 days on the market while the average listing spent more than 118 days on the market. Making sure that homes are in the best shape possible before going on the market is why my sellers and I have been so successful at selling homes so quickly.
Perhaps the easiest solution to this issue is to maintain and update your home during the lifetime of your ownership. Addressing leaks and maintenance issues as soon as you find them will not only minimize further damage but will be rewarded when it is time to sell. Likewise, if you are able to afford even small updates to your home as you are living in it, you get the benefit of both enjoying those updates, and getting a boost to your home value when it comes time to sell. The real estate market has changed. You can no longer expect your home’s value will automatically appreciate over time. Without some effort on your part to maintain and update your home, you may find that it has depreciated and is no longer worth what you once paid for it.
While not every seller can afford to update their entire house to get it ready to sell, I thought I would put together a list of some important and relatively inexpensive things you can do to get your home ready when it is time to put it on the market. Your goal is to present your home in the best light possible. Make sure there are no glaring maintenance issues and make it easy for a buyer to imagine themselves living in your home:
1. Make the inside sparkle & shine
Probably the most important thing you can do is to really clean your house. Get on your hands and knees to wash baseboards and flooring. Hire a carpet cleaner or rent one yourself. Detail clean the inside & outside of all kitchen appliances as well as the windows in your home. Make sure bathroom and kitchen counters, faucets and mirrors sparkle. Check ceiling fans and cold air returns to make sure they are dust free. Then, once it is clean make sure that you keep it that way until you hand those keys to the buyer.
If you have a lot of nick knacks or collections, it’s time to pack them away. You want buyers focused on the details of your home, not on the things you have collected. Removing seldom used counter top appliances and clearing off other surfaces will make your home seem larger and will better allow buyers to picture their own things in the home. Clean out closets and cabinets to show off how much storage your home offers.
3. Update lighting fixtures
Outdated brass fixtures can be a red flag to buyers. They signal that the current owners have not updated things in a long time. You can purchase updated lighting fixtures quite inexpensively from your local big box hardware store. Don’t go for anything too trendy or modern. Look for something that will go with the style of your home and that will appeal to the most buyers possible. Dining room and bathroom lighting should be your priority followed by entry, hall and exterior lighting. In the photo below we replaced an outdated brass fixture with one that worked better in the space.
4. Remove wallpaper
If your home has wallpaper, consider removing it. Buyers today have trouble looking beyond wallpaper. I have had more than one client rule out a house completely because of it. If the whole house is papered and too large a project for you to tackle, at least try to remove the paper in a few of the rooms.
Neutrals are best for appealing to buyers with grey & cool khaki colors leading the way. If you have rooms with vividly painted walls, consider toning them down. If your home is already neutral, look at the walls closely and make sure they are still in good shape. If you cannot clean off the scuff marks, a fresh coat of paint may be in order to make the place look new again.
6. Replace cabinet hardware
If you haven’t been able to update your kitchen and bath cabinetry, you may be able to freshen the way they look with some updated pulls. Chrome, nickel and bronze hardware are popular with buyers and will help improve the look of dated cabinetry. If you are also updating your lighting, make sure you match the color of the pulls to the new lighting for a more cohesive look.
7. Clean & pressure wash exterior surfaces
Make sure the outside of your home is as clean as the inside since it will be the first thing buyers will see. Knock down spider webs, wash your front door and make sure leaves from last fall are picked up. Look at your siding and concrete surfaces. Are they stained with mold or mildew? You can rent a pressure washer or hire someone to do the work for you. You will be amazed how well the exterior surfaces of your home look with a little elbow grease. (Be careful when using a pressure washer on the siding of your house, especially if it is older. Don’t use too much pressure and make sure to test a small area first.)
8. Mow the grass, pull weeds, mulch the planting beds
If you are selling in warmer months, make sure that your yard is looking good. Ensure that the lawn is mowed and that the dandelions and other weeds are gone. Place some mulch in the planting beds closest to the house and if you are able, plant some annuals to help with the curb appeal.
9. Make repairs
Look for items like leaky faucets, burned out light bulbs, and doors that don’t work properly and fix them or have them repaired by a professional. Have your furnace and air conditioner serviced to ensure it is in good working order.
It’s hard to see your home with a critical eye, but it is crucial when you are getting ready to sell your home. Your Realtor can be a great resource to help you decide what items need the most attention. I work hard with all my sellers every step of the way to make sure that we do everything to sell quickly for the highest price possible. If you or someone you know are thinking of selling, please let me know. I would love to be of service!