Remember what first attracted you to your house when you bought it? What excited you about it most? When deciding how best to present your home for sale, it is helpful to try to get back into that buyer’s frame of mind.
A spruced-up house makes a great first impression on potential buyers. An attractive property grabs their attention and makes them excited about finding a house that looks and feels well cared for. Because buyers believe they’ll encounter fewer problems if they buy it, your house becomes more appealing and stands out from the competition. So if you prepare your home correctly, you’ll save time selling it when it’s on the market.
A good first impression makes an impact on a number of levels. It’s not just the way your house looks to potential buyers, but how it feels and smells to them, how their friends and family will react, how they imagine it would be to live there.
With simple improvements throughout your house, you can grab the attention of potential buyers and help them see why your house is right for them.
Removing Clutter, Though You May Not Think of it as Clutter
This is the hardest thing for most people to do because they are emotionally attached to everything in the house. After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it. Clutter collects on shelves, counter tops, drawers, closets, garages, attics, and basements. Take a step back and pretend you are a buyer. Let a friend help point out areas of clutter, as long as you can accept their views without getting defensive. Let your agent help you, too.
The kitchen is a good place to start removing clutter, because it is an easy place to start. First, get everything off the counters. Even the toaster. Put the toaster in a cabinet and take it out when you use it. Find a place where you can store everything in cabinets and drawers. Of course, you may notice that you do not have cabinet space to put everything. Clean them out. The dishes, pots and pans that rarely get used? Put them in a box and put that box in storage, too. Homebuyers will open all your cabinets and drawers, especially in the kitchen. They want to be sure there is enough room for their “stuff.” If your kitchen cabinets, pantries, and drawers look jammed full, it sends a negative message to the buyer and does not promote an image of plentiful storage space. The best way to do that is to have as much “empty space” as possible. For that reason, if you have a “junk drawer,” get rid of the junk. If you have a rarely used crock pot, put it in storage. Do this with every cabinet and drawer. Create open space. If you have a large amount of foodstuffs crammed into the shelves or pantry, begin using them. Beneath the sink is very critical, too. Make sure the area beneath the sink is as empty as possible, removing all extra cleaning supplies.
Closets are great for accumulating clutter, though you may not think of it as clutter. We are talking about extra clothes and shoes, things you rarely wear but cannot bear to be without. Do without these items for a couple of months by putting them in a box, because these items can make your closets look “crammed full.” Sometimes there are shoeboxes full of “stuff” or other accumulated personal items, too.
Many people have too much furniture in certain rooms, not too much for your own personal living needs, but too much to give the illusion of space that a homebuyer would like to see.
Storage Area Clutter
Basements, garages, attics, and sheds accumulate not only clutter, but junk. These areas should be as empty as possible so that buyers can imagine what they would do with the space. Remove anything that is not essential and take it to the storage area or have a garage sale.
Plumbing and Fixtures
All your sink fixtures should be clean and shiny. Make sure all the hot and cold water knobs are easy to turn and that the faucets do not leak. If they do, replace the washers. Check to make sure you have good water pressure and that there are no stains on any of the porcelain. If you have a difficult stain to remove, one trick is to hire a cleaning crew to go through and clean your home on a one-time basis. They seem to be wonderful at making stains go away.
Ceilings, Walls and Painting
Check all the ceilings for water stains. Sometimes old leaks leave stains, even after you have repaired the leak. Of course, if you do have a leak, you will have to get it repaired, whether it is a plumbing problem or the roof leaks. You should do the same for walls, looking for not only stains, but also areas where dirt has accumulated and you just may not have noticed. Plus, you may have an outdated color scheme. Painting can be your best investment when selling your home. It is not a very expensive operation and often you can do it yourself. Do not choose colors based on your own preferences, but based on what would appeal to the widest possible number of buyers.
Carpet and Flooring
Unless your carpet appears old and worn, or it is definitely an outdated style or color, you probably should do nothing more than hire a good carpet cleaner. Repair or replace broken floor tiles, but do not spend a lot of money on anything. Remember, you are not fixing up the place for yourself. You want to move. Your goal is simply to have as few negative impressions upon those who may want to purchase your property.
Windows and Doors
Check all of your windows to make sure they open and close easily. Make sure there are no cracked or broken windowpanes. If there are, replace them before you begin showing your home. Do the same things with the doors, make sure they open and close properly. Be sure the doorknobs turn easily, and that they are clean and look sharp. As buyers go from room to room, someone opens each door and you want to do everything necessary to create a positive impression.
For those who smoke, you might want to stop smoking indoors while trying to sell your home. You could also purchase or rent an ozone machine that helps to remove odors without creating a masking odor. Pets of all kinds create odors that you may have become used to, but are immediately noticeable to those with more finely tuned olfactory senses. For those with cats, be sure to empty kitty litter boxes daily. There are also products that you can sprinkle in a layer below the kitty litter that helps to control odor. You might also try sprinkling carpet freshener on the carpet on a periodic basis.
Costs of Repairs
Do not do anything expensive, such as remodeling. Remember that part of selling a house is also preparing to buy your next home. You do not want to do anything that will affect your credit scores or hurt your ability to qualify for your next mortgage.
Fixing Up Outside the House
A homebuyers first impression is based on his or her view of the house from the real estate agents car. So walk across the street and take a good look at your house. Look at nearby houses, too, and see how yours compares. Is your landscaping at least average for the neighborhood? If it is not, buy a few bushes and plant them. If you have an area for flowers, buy mature colorful flowers and plant them. They add a splash of vibrancy and color, creating a favorable first impression. Your lawn should be evenly cut, freshly edged, well watered, and free of brown spots.
The big decision is whether to paint or not to paint. When you look at your house from across the street, does it look tired and faded? If so, a paint job may be in order. It is often a very good investment and really spruces up the appearance of a house, adding dollars to offers from potential homebuyers. Many buyer loans in The Dalles and Hood River will require all chipping, peeling or bare spots be painted.
The Back Yard
The back yard should be tidy. For those that have dogs, be sure to constantly keep the area clear of messes. You want your back yard to appear as spacious as possible.
The Front Door & Entryway
The front door should be especially sharp, since it is the entryway into the house. Polish the door fixture so it gleams. If the door needs refinishing or repainting, make sure to get that done. Get a new plush door mat, too. This is something else you can take with you once you move. Make sure the lock works easily and the key fits properly. When a homebuyer comes to visit your home, the agent uses the key from the lock box to unlock the door. If there is trouble working the lock while everyone else stands around twiddling their thumbs, this sends a negative first impression to prospective homebuyers.