Once upon a time, back in the olden days, the Realtor told his clients to clean their house, and he/she put up a sign in the yard. The home sold, and the famiy moved on. Now, however, selling a home takes a lot more work than that to compete in today's market. Here are some ideas for ways to get your seller's or your own home ready to put on the market.
1. Get rid of all personal "stuff." Most agents will tell their sellers to remove photos, but it goes much farther than that. Any diplomas, awards, sports team memorabilia, religious items, collections, and unusual artwork needs to packed away for the move now. The seller should be a nebulous person, unidentifiable to buyers.
2. Get rid of junk. Now is the time to realize that you are not going to read all those old magazines, newspapers, or financial reports. Recycle them. Now is a great time to clean out closets and cupboards--and the ONLY way it should be done is to take everything out and only put back what you have used in the last year. One client ended up with 8 bags full of clothing to donate, some of which was from high school, and it was ten years later! She would not have gotten that much out of the closet if we had done what she wanted to--just take the unwanted things out of the closet. In kitchens, living rooms, dens, and bedrooms, clear everything off any flat surface. Only put back what is decorative/functional--after you've dusted it and the surface.
3. It's not a bad idea to hire an inspector yourself before listing because the best surprise is no surprise. Nothing is worse than receiving a good offer and then having the deal fall through when the buyer's inspector finds major structural or mechanical problems with the home. Find out what they are beforehand and fix them. This adds value to the home because buyers see that the home is well cared for. Rickety railings, ceiling stains from leaks, a hot water heater that breaks on the day you put the sign up, leaky faucets, missing shingles, improperly installed siding... these are signs of poor maintenance, and buyers will offer less if not pull away from an offer at all.
4. Invite a trusted friend in to "critique" your home's appearance. Someone who will be honest and will tell you to remove that floral wallpaper, repaint the lime green bedroom, or get your carpets cleaned. We are all emotionally attached to our homes, and we get used to things the way they are. The way you live in a home and the way you market and sell it are two different things, however. If there is no one you can trust, or you don't want to ruin a beautiful friendship, hire a qualified home stager, who will be tactful but also truthful. He/she comes in cold like a potential buyer, and can point out things you missed. Like why is there a line of dirt in the grass in the back yard? The seller's reply? "Everybody can see we have a dog." I don't have a dog, and I thought the yard had been dug up for a new pipe! Or why are there two rural-style mailboxes here? Get rid of the one that is not used.
5. Appeal to the buyer's five senses. No noticeable bad smells, and perhaps cookies or cinnamon rolls baking just before a showing. Peaceful music at a low volume. A beautiful setting that appeals to the emotions of "I could live here." Some texture that the buyers can touch--a soft, silky throw, a smooth kitchen countertop that is free of utensils and other distracting things. Taste? Leave those cookies out for them to enjoy! Leave a note inviting them to take some with them. Provide a substantial napkin to go with them. If it's really hot outside, place a couple of nice, frosty water bottles next to the plate of cookies. If it's fall, apple cider in a jug with portable cups. These all make the home memorable, and create those good feelings that move buyers to choose your home.
Before the pictures are taken for the Internet, make sure the home is spotless, clutterfree, and neutral in colors and decor. It should look like a model home, where nobody lives, but anybody could. If you take the time at the front end to have your house ready to sell, then, once the home goes on the market, it will be sell-ready for those first few weeks of hectic activity, and will sell more quickly and for a higher price. This is an investment that pays off at closing time. Isn't it worth it? You bet!