Preparing Your Home
We see a lot of homeowners make the mistake of hanging a “for sale” sign in front of their home and waiting to see what kind of offers they get.
This is a huge missed opportunity.
There is a strategy when it comes to selling your home that allows you to attract the right buyers and get the maximum sale value. Here’s what you should know.
It’s never too early to start preparing your home for sale. There is often a number of questions about things around the house that should be done to maximize the return on your home investment. As experts in home sales, we are happy to be hands-on with our clients and we will talk about what needs to be done at your house specifically before selling, as well as things that aren’t as high priority.
Investing some time and effort up front to prepare your house for showings will generally increase the likelihood of receiving offers soon after you list your home. The longer your home stays on the market, the harder it can be to sell because buyers might think there is something wrong with it, especially when it goes under contract quite a few times and the buyers keep cancelling.
Start with these major steps - they will make a big difference and you will be happy it is done and when you are packing to move:
Clear the clutter. Starting the process of de-cluttering can be one of the best things that prospective home sellers can do. Start by packing up photos or other rarely used items. This is a great way to prepare for your move mentally and physically. Box up any items that you haven’t used in the last 60 days and organize the rest of the items neatly on bookshelves, storage bins, closets, or in the attic. Remember you will be packing this all up anyways, so just get started early!
Big kitchens, bathrooms and storage tend to be big selling points so it can help to make your rooms look as spacious as possible. A good rule of thumb is to remove 50% of your items if you have been in your home a while.
Don’t shove belongings in closets, cabinets, attics and basements, as buyers look inside all of those places. Use storage bins that can be tucked under beds or neatly stacked in a basement or closet. Baskets or cubbies inside cabinets can make things look neat and clean.
Decluttering also includes furniture. The scale of your pieces should match the size of the room, and buyers should be able to easily walk around spaces without bumping into furniture. Make sure furnishings don’t block doors, windows or architectural features. In a small living room, for example, consider removing end tables or accent chairs. Such moves aren’t convenient, but remember, they’re temporary.
You may need to rent a storage unit during the home-selling process. Keeping your belongings offsite is the best way to maximize the space in your home. Storage units can range in price from $100 to $300 per month, depending on size, location and features like climate control and security.
Did you know there are professional organizers to help declutter? He or she can help you identify items to discard, store or donate. Organizers typically charge hourly fees ranging from $30 to $80.
After decluttering comes deep cleaning. Hiring a professional may prove the most effective way to do the job quickly and thoroughly. You’ll also want to clean carpeting, bringing the fibers and colors bring back to life.
2. Identify repairs and make a plan
Normal wear and tear can add up, especially if you’ve lived in your home for a long period of time. From a door that squeaks to a window that sticks or a toilet that runs until you jiggle the handle, it’s easy to ignore minor issues that seem like quirks.
Buyers, however, may see these quirks as problems that lower the value of your home or as bargaining chips during the closing process. If you have too many noticeable repairs, buyers may also wonder if more serious issues lurk below the surface, and that could prevent them from making a good offer. Some buyers will take an opportunity to negotiate the offer once the home inspections comes back.
Look for holes or dents in walls. Floors should be free from cracks or chips.
In the kitchen, appliances should be in working order. Examine cabinets and drawers to ensure that they open and close properly. Kitchen and bathroom faucets, fixtures and drains must be leak-free and operational. Bathroom tubs and showers should have no broken tiles. Also, look for signs of water damage
Your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system should work and be leak-free. So should your water heater, smoke detectors, electrical panel and circuit breakers.
Examine exterior surfaces, weather-stripping, eaves and windows. Look for damage such as peeling, cracks or rot. Decks and patios should be in good condition. Fencing should be free from damage, like rot or rust and standing straight. Landscaping should be trimmed back from your home, eliminating the potential for causing damage.
Clean the outside. A sloppy exterior will make buyers think you’ve slacked off on interior maintenance as well. Be sure to clean the gutters and pressure wash your home’s siding. A fresh coat of paint on the front door is inviting, especially in a color that contrasts with the home, it will be sure to stand out. Replace faded house numbers so buyers can see them from the curb.
More serious or complicated repairs may require hiring a professional. If your roof leaks, outlets don’t work, or you have cracks in your foundation, having the job done by someone who has the right tools and know-how can save time and ensure the repairs are done correctly.
Improve your landscaping. Curb appeal is crucial to a good first impression, so make sure your home’s lawn is immaculate. Mow the lawn, prune the bushes, weed the garden, and plant flowers.
Repairs and upgrades can increase the value of your home so you’ll need to consider the time and cost it will take versus the impact on your home value.
4. Home Inspection
A pre-sale inspection can ensure all repairs necessary for the sale are handled before buyers walk through. If the inspection unearths costly issues, such as needing a new roof, you can decide to make the fix or price your home a little lower to account for the needed repair. An inspection typically costs between $250 and $500 depending on the square foot of your home. Most buyers will include an inspection contingency in their offer so if both parties aren’t able to agree on repairs following an inspection, the buyer can walk away without a penalty.
5. Home Interior
Walls and ceilings - Repair nail holes and minor dings and dents in the drywall. If you see discoloration, such as water damage that’s been repaired, repaint the walls. Painting is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to refresh a room. Massachusetts-based real estate agent Bill Gassett recommends removing wallpaper since it’s unlikely buyers will share your style.
Flooring - From laminate to carpet, everything should be in good condition. Replace any chipped or cracked floor tiles, or refinish scratched or dented hardwood. Replace torn carpeting, or have it steam-cleaned, especially if you have pets.
HVAC - Your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) should be in good working order, clean and free of leaks. Your thermostat should operate properly. If you have any doubts, hire an HVAC technician to perform a tune-up and give you an assessment of your system’s condition.
Water Heater - Similarly, your water heater should be in good working order and not leak. All pipes should be insulated.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Your detectors should be in good working order, and less than ten years old. Test your detectors, and replace the batteries if needed. Make sure your water heater is securely fastened to a wall - something home inspectors flag.
Electrical panel and circuit breakers - Not everything should meet code, but make sure all wires are buttoned up in exposed areas so everything looks nice and tidy. A home inspector will definitely note if your panels have been updated.
Eliminate bad odors - Hide the litter box and spray air neutralizer throughout your home. When showing the home, fill it with inviting smells by putting out fresh flowers and baking a batch of cookies.
6. Depersonalize your home and help buyers to see its full potential
In addition to cleaning and decluttering, you should consider depersonalizing your home. The goal when selling is to have a buyer fall in love with your house, picturing themselves living there and imaging their belongings inside. That can be difficult if your home has your personal stamp all over it.
Neutralize the space by removing items such as family photos, souvenirs, religious symbols, diplomas and certificates, hobby supplies, and collections, including CDs and DVDs. You don’t want a buyer to feel like they’re intruding in your space or, worse, take offense at your lifestyle.
Also, consider updating your accessories and furnishings if your décor is outdated or avant-garde. You don’t want buyers to miss out on key features of your home because they’re distracted by your belongings.
7. Paint where it needs it most
Take color down a notch. You might like your lime-green bedroom, but it may sour buyers. Paint your walls a neutral color that will appeal to a wide range of buyers.
A fresh coat of paint can make a home feel new. In fact, painting is one of the most common recommendations real estate agents make to sellers before they list. Paint can help small rooms appear larger and highlight architectural details, such as crown molding and trim. Be mindful of your color choice, however. We recommend warm neutral colors, such as beige, tan, gold, gray, and “greige,” a blend of gray and beige. Because these shades go with anything, they can help buyers to picture their belongings in your home.
If you don’t have time to paint your entire home,paint the kitchen, bathrooms, entryway and foyer. If you’ve had your house painted in the past few years, you can likely just touch up scuff marks or stains on walls or baseboards.
8. Set the stage—make it feel like home
The goal is to create a great first impression so that buyers put your home at the top of their list. On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than those that aren’t staged.
You don’t need to stage your entire home. Focus instead on rooms that impress buyers most, such as the kitchen, living room, master suite, and bathrooms. In the kitchen, for example, place a bowl of fresh fruit on the countertop and set the table with beautiful dinnerware and linens.
In the living room, toss a decorative blanket on the arm of the sofa and add a vase of fresh flowers to the coffee table. Update bathrooms with fluffy new towels and display a dish of decorative soaps.
Put a tray with a book and teapot on the edge of the master bed. Create a single focal point in each room, hanging a simple piece of artwork that enhances your staging, or highlighting architectural details, such as a fireplace or beautiful windows.
While staging is mostly about the details, you might need to update your furniture, especially if your current furnishings are dated or in bad condition. If you were thinking of replacing your worn out sofa, for example, it might be a good idea to do that before you sell your home. You can also rent furniture while your house is on the market. This is a good idea if you’ve already moved into your new home, and the home you need to sell is vacant. Unfurnished rooms look smaller, and placing furniture in rooms helps buyers better understand where they would put their own belongings.
Staging also helps you give rooms purpose, giving prospective buyers ideas about how they might use an extra bedroom, basement or nook. Choose a function that might appeal to your demographic. For example, if your house is a starter home in an area that appeals to young families, set up a bedroom as a nursery or playroom. If your condo appeals to single buyers, think about designing a home office or home gym. Staging is about design and lifestyle.
Don’t forget to stage the exterior, creating curb appeal. A buyer’s first impression happens when they pull up in front of your house. The appearance of your home’s exterior can increase your home’s value up to 17%.
Stage your exterior by keeping your yard tidy. Mow the grass, trim bushes and shrubs, and freshen your mulch. Add color by planting flowers in your front yard or in pots on your front porch. In winter, consider seasonal touches like a wreath or holiday lights.
Staging your home will helps set the stage for creating the best listing photos—and that can boost interest and showings.
9. Keep it clean and consistent
Once your home is ready to sell, the trick can be maintaining that level of repair and decoration. Showing requests can happen at a moment’s notice, and you won’t always have time to ready your home.
Create a cleaning schedule and stick to it. Control of clutter by putting things away when you’re done using them. Enlist the whole family, so the responsibility is shared. Make a habit of wiping kitchen and bathroom fixtures and surfaces daily. Keep wastebaskets emptied. Vacuum or sweep before you leave the house. Mow your lawn and remove weeds every week. Keep your walkway and porch clean and accessible.
If you have children, keeping things tidy can be more challenging. Streamline their toys for the time being, or create a rule around how many toys can be out at one time. If you have pets, keep their belongings and food put away, and pick up your yard.
Nothing would be worse than a potential buyer walking around your yard and getting an unwelcome surprise. If possible, consider boarding your pets with a relative, friend or kennel for a few weeks or during showings to help eliminate pet odors.
Ask friends or family if you can stay with them, look for a month-to-month rental, or consider an extended-stay hotel. You might plan a vacation for the first week, or weeks, after listing the home. The initial two weeks of listing can bring a flurry of showings and getting away can reduce the stress.
10. Get Feedback
When you live in a home, especially for a long time, it’s easy to overlook the things that can make or break an offer. Selling your home is about taking an objective look from a buyer’s point of view. Remove yourself and your memories from the equation, and imagine that you are seeing your home for the first time.
Consider asking friends or family for their honest feedback so you can be sure you’ve done everything possible to make your home look its best before you put it on the market. You’ll impress buyers who, in turn, will impress you with good offers.