In this challenging market, it is imperative that sellers commit themselves to the process of selling. This process is not short and it is not easy. As a Realtor, I try to make sellers understand that this will be a true partnership in every way. I cannot produce a successful closing without their help, input and cooperation.
Since there is a large pool of houses, the buyers are being very discriminating. These other homes are your competition! It is not enough to vacuum and dust. I urge all sellers to go visit their competition with your agent. You must know the market conditions as well (if not better) then the buyers.
The following list is what sellers must do to beat out the competition to receive top dollar. If there are steps that a seller doesn't want to take, then that reflection has to be in a reduced listing price.
•1. Curb Appeal - You've heard it forever and at last count from at least 8 or 9 different TV shows that deal with this entire subject. Mow the grass, edge your planting beds, put down new mulch, put fertilizer down to green the lawn, power wash the exterior, sweep off decks, plant flowers, hang pots, prune shrubs and trees, clean front door, spruce up driveway. Some of these things need to be done only once, the rest have to be done on a consistent basis - commitment.
•2. Clean, Clean, Clean - The number one complaint I hear (almost every week) is "The house smells!" Be it cooking odors, basement musty odors, or Pet odors. When we live with our pets we get used to their smells, we don't come home and walk inside and go "eek! , what is that horrible smell" why - because we don't smell it or them. We don't smell the litter box, we don't smell their food, and we don't smell the lingering effects of a wet dog on carpet. But guess what? The buyers smell everything and it doesn't smell good to them. Even if they have pets, they are used to their pet's odors, not yours. So wash out litter box and start fresh and place it in a small room or garage if possible. Clean your bathrooms, windows, kitchen (thoroughly please and every appliance in the kitchen!) wash all dirty clothes, clean all rooms, make all beds, clean all floors at least 3 times a week. Are your curtains washable, are they dusty... you know what to do.
•3. Paint - Painting is the least expensive way to redo and refresh a room, plus it gives a big bang for the buck. A good rule of thumb is, if it hasn't been painted for 5 or more years, paint!
•4. Carpets - Have all the carpets professionally cleaned. If there are any carpets showing traffic spots, or matted areas, or pet damage; pull it up. If there are hardwood floors underneath, that's a big plus (even if they're not in good shape). The ideal situation would be to refinish those floors. If you don't have hardwood under the carpets, replace with a neutral, medium grade carpet.
•5. Décor - is such a personal taste. Try to put away knickknacks, and pictures. The least amount of clutter lets buyer's minds free to use their imagination to picture their stuff there.
•6. Furniture - ever hear the words "white space"? It is the absence of anything. It is the space around words or graphics in an advertisement. It gives the eye a rest and makes the rest of the ad "pop". A room needs "white space". There cannot be a piece of furniture, plants, artwork, and knickknack in every corner or along every inch of the wall. Put furniture in storage.
•7. Closets - Organize all linen and clothes closets. Install closet organizers if possible. If people see closets that are overflowing with your stuff, they'll think how is my stuff ever going to fit.
•8. Access - One of the most important factors a seller can grant is easy access and reasonable showing hours. A lockbox is essential in today's market. If a buyer's agent calls to make an appointment to show the house, and the seller has put unreasonable restrictions on hours, the agent will not show and move on to one of the many other homes on the market. Reasonable showing hours are 10am to 8pm everyday with a 2 hour notice. But be prepared for the agent who has a buyer and is anxious to see the house in 15 minutes. If the seller has kept their commitment to keep the house clean and organized, then those last minute showings will not be such a nuisance.
•9. Playrooms/Children's rooms - Buy big nice looking toy chests and try to get the children in a routine to put all their toys away every morning or every evening. Try to make it fun and reward them on a job well done.
•10. Fish Bowl - Yes you will feel like you're living in a fish bowl, and strange people are walking through your house, looking at your personal spaces. It is natural to feel "invaded" in your home which is your private sanctuary. Try to keep your eye on the big picture, you are selling to move up, move away, change your lifestyle, whatever the reason, it does get easier with time, the first 2 or 3 weeks are an adjustment. If you are having doubts, or concerns, about the whole process, please speak with your listing agent. He or she should have ideas and suggestions to help mitigate any problems that may arise.
Once a seller can fully understand their role in the selling process, it truly becomes a partnership and a large commitment must take place between both parties, seller and listing agent. Don't be afraid to be honest and open with your sellers, it is your duty to make them see their house through the eyes of a buyer, before they walk into the house.