TIPS TO HELP YOU SELL YOUR HOUSE
by Linda Byard
Selling your house is an enormous undertaking. Most people engage a real estate professional to help with this process. Choose a local agent with a proven track record. Your agent will be there to help you with the "business" of selling, but you are the one who has to make your house say "Buy Me!"
Here are some hints to make your house stand out.
1. First, get over the shock: There are new standards for how a house for sale should be presented. What was appropriate and adequate several years ago will not necessarily work now. Your house has to look perfect. It has to look like it doesn't even belong to you. The house needs to be set up so that a buyer can visualize how they might live there. They cannot do this if your own personal objects are out front and center.
2. Potential buyers and their agents do not care at all that you are stressed out. It's not about you; it has to be about them. You need to make it easy, no matter what is going on in your life. You should agree to show your house anytime and with very little notice, and remember that you should not be present when the house is shown. You may find it much easier to be out of town as much as possible after your house is listed. Some people even "stage" their houses and rent an apartment until the house is under contract.
3. Identify a basket, bin, or box for your house selling project. Stash all business cards, estimates, lists of things to do, people to contact, house records and anything else you might ever need in connection with your house sale. If it's paper and has to do with selling your house, it goes in this storage device. When your belongings are packed, you will be able to locate that little piece of paper with that important phone number.
4. Every buyer wants to think that the house they want to purchase is owned by someone who is obsessively clean and organized, and takes care of all messes and damages immediately. If that is you, you are all set. Read no further. Your house will sell more quickly and you will get a better selling price once your house is perfect both in function and form. Do all the repairs, little and big, and don't even think about complaining that a potential buyer is too picky. Your goal is to sell your house. Don't get distracted.
5. if your house is at the top end of what a buyer can afford, you can be sure that they want the house to already be in "move in" condition. They do not expect to make renovations and will walk away if they think the carpet needs replacing or the kitchen updated. Keep that in mind as you figure out what needs to be done.
6. Do not skimp in any way on getting your house ready for selling. While it is true that you may not take the money out in a larger selling price, it may make the difference between selling and not selling.
7. Get rid of all unwanted and unneeded things. Clutter is your new enemy. Go through every single closet, cabinet, and drawer, and thin out your belongings. This should create enough space for you to store objects that you are keeping. Buy plastic tubs or baskets and use them to organize loose items. People do look in closets, they do open drawers so make sure everything is neat and well organized. If you need to, rent a storage unit but that is still another hassle. Investigate "pods" which you can eventually move to your new residence. If you are moving, you need to pack up anyway, so start a little early. Best advice is still to thin out your possessions.
8. Have a major garage sale, possibly two or three. Ask low prices to maximize sales. Getting rid of things is more important than getting top dollar. Put things out on the driveway with a "free" sign. Give generously to other family members, friends, rummage sales and charity based thrift shops. Use Craig's list to sell and give away. Pack things to take to your new residence and if possible ask for a corner of a neighbor's garage or basement for storage so that your own basement and garage can have less in them while your house is on the market.
9. When you get down to nostalgic items that don't really have much value, take pictures of these objects to keep yourself happy, and get rid of the object itself. Cherish memories, not things.
10. Clear off your kitchen counters. Everyone wants lots of counter space. Possibly put a bowl of fruit out or maybe some fresh flowers. Otherwise less is much, much more.
11. Bathrooms need to be absolutely spotless. Make every surface shine. If at all possible, take your showers where you work or at the gym. Otherwise you need to keep every surface in perfect condition all the time.
12. Buy new towels, decorative pillows, and bedding to brighten up rooms. Keep these items looking new during the selling process by not using them. Just display them. You can use them in your new home.
13. Get rid of all dirt on walls either by painting or by using "magic eraser" products. Investigate other new products to help you clean problem areas. Think in neutrals. If you need to paint, choose a pleasant off-white.
14. Go through the entire house and pack up personal items especially family pictures. Remove your papers and pictures from the refrigerator. These may be fun and even interesting but it is visual clutter and is distracting to the buyers who needs to figure out if they want your house to become their house.
15. Your house should be pretty much "gender free." This is especially true in the master bedroom. Store the lace and other frills.
17. Develop a house "resume" for prospective buyers to take away after a showing. This should contain pertinent sales information that is not contained in the real estate sheet that typically your real estate agent will prepare. Include what you think are the strong points of your house: possibly room dimensions, age of appliances, history of utility usage, proximity to bus, schools, neighborhood amenities, and so on. A short narrative might be appropriate. If you have photographs of your house and yard in all seasons, include a few. If you are trying to sell your house in February, a glimpse of the house surrounded by summer flowers can only help. If you do a fact sheet for your house, do it well, do it attractively, or don't do it at all.
18. Think minimal! If you display anything, put out 3 or 5 objects, not 2 or 4. An odd number of objects works better visually.
19. Make sure every room in the house and that includes the basement passes the sniff test. If there is a persistent odor of any kind, you may not even smell it anymore. Ask your realtor to check. There should be no odors at all with the possible exception of freshly baked goods.
20. Check on your house's curb appeal. Does your house look inviting? Paint? Roof shingles? Are your lawn and garden area well maintained? Are there hedges creeping up against the windows? Flowers? The outside of your house has to be as inviting as the inside. First impressions are made quickly and you will have no chance at all for a sale, if the prospective buyers drive on by.
21. Check also how your house appears on the web on the various real estate web-sites. Is the information accurate? Are the pictures flattering to the house?
22. Think about what you can do to minimize the visual impact of your large screen television, plus the DVDs, games, remote controls, and so on. Prospective buyers don't necessarily want a single-purpose television room, but if that is what dominates the room, it is hard to visualize anything else.
23. Don't for one second even think that someone else will love your pet, food dish, or any other leavings. There should be no evidence of pets during house showings.
24. Do not forget that the basement and garage areas are also important. If you have a two car garage, make sure you can get two cars inside. If you can't, there is too much "stuff." People will also check out the furnace, utility hook ups, workshop possibilities. You check first! Those areas should be well-lit and clean.
25. Make your house appear light and bright. Do this by using mirrors, leave lights on when your leave and your house is being shown, If needed, buy more lights, and use more wattage. Take some curtains down.
26. Most people can take out several pieces of furniture and improve the visual appeal of their homes. Rearrange and then add some plants.
27. Hire someone to work on your yard, and another to clean your house. It will be much easier for you to maintain these areas if they are in great shape from the start. It's money well spent.
28. Often your realtor will arrange an open house for other realtors. Pay careful attention to the feedback from this event because realtors often steer their clients to particular houses. Don't make excuses. If there is something which needs changing or fixing, do it.
29. Be flexible and think about making compromises on an offer. Remember how much it costs every month to own your house for mortgage, taxes, insurance and so on. You will not want to carry the costs of two residences for very long.