'Tis the season! No, not the holiday season, the house-selling season! Spring fever is a well-known phenomenon in the real estate business as buyers start looking for a new home and sellers queue up to attract their attention. But before you hang out that For Sale sign, there are a few things you need to know to get the best price possible for your humble abode.
Carolyn Henderson, from Cochrane, Canada, has learned a few tricks in getting her home ready for sale. She has become adept at making the home as welcoming as possible for that all-important first impression and knows which upgrades are worth the investment. "We have repainted the entire house in a neutral tone," Henderson says. "But, to make it more attractive in the 'showing' process, I always put out a fresh bouquet of flowers and make sure everything is very clean."
Henderson has taken clues from what she sees in show homes by getting rid of all the extra clutter so the home looks as big as possible. "I do put a lot of effort into the presentation of my home when I'm selling and, if nothing else, it makes me feel good for trying," Henderson says. "My house always looks more beautiful when I'm selling it than when I'm actually living in it!"
First Things First
Holly Slaughter, senior marketing manager for RealEstate.com, says the No. 1 thing sellers overlook when getting their home ready for market is a professional presale home inspection. "If your home is more than a couple of years old, it is better that you know of the major as well as the minor flaws before your home goes on the market," Slaughter says. "A potential buyer will hire a home inspector, so it is better that you know of any concerns in advance so that you can either have them repaired or know that home improvement might be a negotiation factor in the sale of your home. Either way, you have the control to make pre-planned decisions, not rash choices."
By doing your own home inspection prior to putting your home on the market, you are gaining knowledge about your home, which will be invaluable, not only for attracting buyers, but to forestall any delays in the selling process.
When potential buyers are walking up to your home they are imagining what it would be like to live there. It is your job as a seller to make that very easy for them.
"First impressions count," Slaughter says. "You don't want a prospective buyer to keep on driving by because the look of your home is lacking in curb appeal. Quick and easy modifications can take your home from drab and old to sold, in a matter of minutes."
Slaughter says that adding a fresh coat of paint to your mailbox, front door and door trim will make your home appear fresh and new. Scrubbing your driveway and sidewalk will also make your house look well tended to.
"Place a pot or two of flowers by the front door," Slaughter says. "Even colder weather climates have flowering shrubs or cabbage that will add warmth to your front door. Yellow is one of the most welcoming colors."
Home staging is making your home look as attractive and welcoming as possible. From fresh flowers, the perfectly tossed throw or a plate of homemade cookies, home staging helps sell homes.
Nanci Rands is a principal and associate broker at Snyder, Kinney, Bennett and Keating, a real estate agency in Birmingham, Mich. Her advice to home sellers is to walk through their house as if they are doing it for the first time. This will give you an idea of how it looks to others and what you need to do to make it as eye-catching as possible.
"Many people don't see or visualize their homes," Rand says. "When it is time to sell their lived-in and loved home, owners forget to look at their house not as the place they have called home for years, but as a stranger or guest who is seeing it for the first time."
Rand says attention to detail brings big returns. She suggests that homeowners cover or refinish any worn wood and give the interior a fresh coat of paint. "Have a plumber check your pipes and faucets," Rand says. "Fix loose doorknobs, squeaky hinges or sticky windows and try to keep pets and their odors out of sight. They can be distracting."
Bringing in a Professional
If the subtleties of home staging are beyond you, it may be time to hire a professional. Sites like Stagedhomes.com can help you find an accredited home-staging professional to help you show your home in its best light.
Cynthia Ivie is a master simplifier and founder of White Space, a professional organizing business in Chicago, Ill. Her business specializes in home staging and says that listings that are staged sell 75 percent faster and sell for 3 to 6 percent higher than asking price.
"White Space has helped its clients to sell their homes for more than they expected by staging their homes," Ivie says. "Obviously first impressions are important, but in my experience most people are more interested in the interior space and how it suits their lives than a less-than-perfect exterior. This is why staging one's home to welcome the prospective buyers inside is so important."
Ivie gives the following tips to those sellers wishing to stage their home effectively.
- Get an objective opinion about the home; if not from a professional like White Space, at the very least ask a friend or neighbor to give you some insights into how your home "shows."
- Eliminate any unnecessary items from your home – photos, furniture, clothing and books. Allow space in all storage areas to make them appear roomier, even if it means renting a storage space while your home is on the market.
- You have to give prospective buyers the opportunity to visualize themselves living in your space, which means paring down personal effects like too many photos, etc.
- Detach yourself – as the homeowner – from the property enough to see its assets and liabilities.
- Understand that your objective is to sell the home, not to hang onto it. If your home is highly stylized to your taste, make it a little more "vanilla."
Selling your home can be a complex and stressful period of your life. By creating an atmosphere that is both warm and welcoming, you will not only reduce your stress, but set yourself up for a successful sale.