In many parts of the country it is a seller’s market…certainly in the greater Boston area we are seeing more buyers than there is inventory. Some towns are particularly frenzied right now with multiple offers, properties selling before hitting MLS and homes selling above asking price. But no matter what kind of market you are facing, you always want your home to show at it’s best and spend as little time on the market as possible. To that end, here are six tips if you are thinking of putting your house up for sale.
I cannot stress this enough. You are going to be moving, hopefully sooner rather than later…you might as well start the weeding out and packing up before you put your house up for sale. When I sold my house several years ago I had been living there for 11 years…it is amazing the amount of stuff I had accumulated in the basement, attics & closets. Take the time to clean out before listing your house…buyers will open closets…if they are crammed with stuff buyers will not think “wow, look how much stuff I can pack in here!” but instead will see the closet as small and an indication of the house not having enough storage space. As you go through your house think about what you are going to take with you and what you plan to get rid of…anything in the latter category should be removed from the house before listing it. Then pack up some of the things going with you that you will not have an immediate need of…remove these things to a storage locker if possible. Alternatively, store neatly in a basement or attic space (preferably boxed up). Decluttering also means removing unnecessary knick-knacks (aren’t they all unnecessary?), reducing or eliminating personal photos and clearing off countertops…your countertops should not look like those above.
2. Clean, clean and then clean again.
Before listing your house needs a thorough cleaning…this goes beyond the everyday cleaning you do and includes cleaning carpets (it is amazing how much better an old worn out carpet can look with a good professional cleaning) and having windows professionally cleaned inside and out. I have a personal story about this last item…when I sold my house my real estate agent wanted me to have the windows cleaned…they didn’t look that bad to me and I resisted her a bit. Finally I gave in…and could not believe the difference…the windows literally sparkled and the house seemed brighter…spend the money and have them cleaned! Other things to consider included power washing the exterior of the house if needed and cleaning grout in kitchen and bathrooms.
3. Make small repairs and minor updates
If there are small things that you are aware of that need repair, do it now, before listing your house. Replace broken or missing outlet covers, replace burnt out light bulbs, make sure all closet doors are on track, have leaky faucets fixed, and fix any broken or cracked windows. Buyers tend to overestimate the cost of repairs by 2-4 times the actual cost, so it is worth spending the money upfront to fix things. Also consider making small updates that have little cost but can update the house…easy things include replacing outdated light fixtures, changing cabinet hardware and giving rooms a fresh coat of paint.
4. Make a Strong First Impression
Potential buyers will begin forming an impression of your house from the moment they pull up to the curb. If bushes are overgrown, the yard isn’t neat and the house looks tired or unwelcoming they may not even come inside. Make sure the grass is mowed, bushes are trimmed, beds are mulched and the yard is picked up and neat. Consider adding some flower pots in front, a seasonal wreath to the door and putting out a fresh welcome mat. Consider painting the front door a fresh new color to give the house some pop.
5. Work with a Real Estate Agent
Yes, I am biased, but working with an agent gives you many benefits. 90% of home buyers start their search on the internet. A good agent will have professional photos taken of your house (which look much better than anything you can take with your iPhone), may add video and may even set up a website specifically for your home. Your home will be listed on MLS (multiple listing service) which will give you access to the greatest number of buyers. An agent will walk you through the entire home-selling process, making sure you understand things like radon and lead paint testing, passing Title V (for private septic in Massachusetts), and what you are required to disclose to buyers. Having an agent show your house removes you from the showings, which is a good thing. It allows a buyer to feel comfortable opening closets and asking questions. A good agent will be able to meet a potential buyer’s schedule to see the house, whatever time of day or day of the week. And most importantly, a good agent will help you price the house accurately. Sellers often overestimate the value of their home…pricing too high will discourage potential buyers in those critical first weeks when your home attracts the most attention. A listing agent will also work on your behalf to negotiate the best price and help you sort out multiple offers if you are so fortunate (the highest price may not always be the best offer).
6. Have an Exit Strategy
Having your house on the market is not fun. You will need to keep it picked up at all times as you never know when someone is going to want to see it. While you will often have a day’s notice, you can just as likely get a call that a buyer would like to see your house in a half hour. One strategy that can help is to take a laundry basket and walk through the house throwing everything into it that needs picking up/putting away…kid and pet toys, clothing, mail and piles of paper on the counter top, etc. Throw the laundry basket in the back of your car, along with the kids and any pets, and leave the house during the showing. Before leaving also consider turning on all lights (your agent can also do this if they arrive in advance of the showing) and open up all shades and drapes…you want your house to look as light as possible.
My final piece of advice is this…when your house is on the market, you need to think like a seller, not a homeowner. To the degree possible you need to detach yourself from the house and do whatever is needed to make it appeal to as many buyers as possible. Do not take comments and criticisms personally. Discuss every offer with your agent and don’t dismiss any reasonable offer. If you are motivated to sell, your house can sell quickly. Good luck! (If you are a buyer, see my post Surviving the Spring Market: 6 Tips For Buyers.)