Prioritized Steps to Prepare Your Home to Sell.
1. REPAIR: Remove obvious eyesores, defects, damage that would allow buyers to eliminate your home from consideration.
Repair examples: damaged roof, gutters, pealing paint, drips, overgrown lawn, damaged driveway, front steps, damaged drywall, water stains, caulk, pet smell, grout damage on tile, etc.
2. CLEAN & DECLUTTER: This step is relatively easy, but extremely effective. Make the home spotless. Remember, buying a home is a very emotional process and buyers often engage in a concept called projecting. In this case, if a home is spotless, they project that if the Sellers are this particular and show this much pride in their home, then everything must be in good order. Conversely, if the home is kind of dingy, the Buyers project that it must not be very well cared for. Often times this is not true, but it is the perception that matters. I have often observed Buyers being much more favorable to a spotless home that has dated features over a home that has updated features, but shows poorly. Objectively, the updated home is often superior, but buyers often don’t “feel” that way about it. Cleaning is cheap and just takes effort, but pays back in a big way! You also want to remove personal clutter. A cluttered home makes it look small, messy and distracts buyers from the positive features of your home. A good rule of thumb is to have about 2-3 nice accent pieces per vertical or horizontal surface. It’s really important to have the counters in your kitchen and bathrooms virtually clear.
Cleaning examples: Deep clean the home or consider having it professionally cleaned. Clean windows and carpets. Shine your wood, tile and vinyl floors. Oil your cabinets and wood trim. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms.
3. COSMETICS: The next step is neutralizing colors and freshening up the look of the home. Often, a can of paint is your most cost effective investment in getting a home ready for the market. I find buyers first start with a “macro” view of the home. As a result, it makes sense to address the major surfaces that are going to impact them the most. These are your walls and flooring. I suggest that a Seller’s walls be painted with warm, neutral colors and the same for the carpet and floors. I always focus on cost effective strategies to increase value and reduce marketing time. Because the walls and flooring are the largest surfaces, and the majority of what the buyer sees, they are a great, cost effective opportunity.
Cosmetic examples: Paint interior walls a warm, neutral color and/or touch up existing paint. Replace worn or dated carpet and other flooring surfaces. Though more expensive and time consuming, consider painting the exterior if required. Another great, cost effective trick is to paint dark cabinets in the kitchen and bathrooms with a light color and change out the hardware with updated knobs and handles.
4. UPDATING/REMODELING: Often, Sellers ask me about remodeling work. These types of improvements have to be considered very carefully as may not return in the short run. Updates are currently high value to buyers and some updates may need to be considered. I like to consult on these options on a case-by-case basis.
Updating/Remodeling examples: Kitchen updates. Flooring. Carpet. Update bathrooms or add one in the basement. Roof. Install replacement windows. Lighting. Add a deck or patio.
5. STAGING: The last level of preparation is what I call “staging” the home. This has to do with the presentation of the “final product” that the buyer is going to see on a showing.
Staging examples: Shades and blinds opened up, lights on, soft music playing, nice smells, place setting on the dining room table, a centerpiece, nice color property flyers and information, maybe some candies, etc. Again, we show the buyer that we are going the extra mile to show the home. In this very competitive market, I see that it makes a big difference. Professional staging companies are becoming more common. This may be an option to consider. In my system, we actually do a “dress rehearsal” before we open the showings to agents and buyers.