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 with multiple offers, properties selling before hitting MLS and homes selling above asking price. But no matter what kind of market you are facing, if you are a seller, 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 seven tips if you are thinking of putting your house up for sale.
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 (bikes with training wheels despite one child in college and one in high school).
- Take the time to clean out before listing your house…buyers will open closets…if they are crammed with your 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 lacking in storage space. To the extent possible, try to remove half of the contents of your closets.
- Don’t forget to clean out attics, basements & garages. People want to know if they can fit both of their cars in the garage, and even if the basement is unfinished, buyers need to be able to move around freely in it.
- 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 (if you are in the general area of Walpole, MA, consider donating any household items in good condition to New Life HR…they will come pick up your furniture and take it away…click here to see what they take and don’t take). 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 knickknacks, reducing or eliminating personal photos and clearing off countertops…ideally I like to see nothing on kitchen and bathroom counters (you aren’t selling reality here).
2. Clean, Clean…and then Clean Again!
Before listing your house it needs a thorough cleaning…this goes beyond the everyday cleaning. Wipe down baseboards & window sills, wipe down switch plates, and clean grout in kitchens and bathrooms.
- Cleaning includes cleaning carpets…it is amazing how much better an old worn out carpet can look with a good professional cleaning. In my previous home the living room and guest bedroom had carpet that had been in the home when I purchased it 11 years ago (and it wasn’t new then). I had it professionally cleaned, and it really made a difference.
- Have windows professionally cleaned inside and out. Another one I have personal experience with…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! [Note…I now work for that agent!]
- To the extent possible, erase evidence of pets. You love your pets (I LOVE my dog), but people looking to buy your house don’t. Keep the home free of pet hair and place litter boxes in inconspicuous places (keep them clean and make sure your yard is clear of pet waste).
3. Make Small Repairs and Updates
If there are small things that you are aware of that need repair, take care of them 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 replace 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.
- Have old wallpaper removed and give the walls a good coat of a neutral paint color (one of my favorites is Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore). While wallpaper is making a bit of a comeback, your wallpaper from 1990 isn’t really going to cut it. Consider fresh paint in any room with an unusual color or if the room just looks tired…honestly, fresh paint can transform a room and it is something you can tackle yourself in a weekend. If you have wood trim, you may want to paint it white...this is a bigger project, and I would hire a painter to do this one…but it is what buyers want today, and it can make a house look fresh and updated (there are a few exceptions to this, depending on the style of your home…consult with your real estate agent).
- Undertake small projects that have little cost but can update the house…easy things include replacing outdated light fixtures and changing cabinet hardware in kitchens and baths, projects that most people can tackle as DIY.
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 (bushes should not be blocking windows), 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.
- In winter, make sure driveways and sidewalks are clear and free of ice.
- Consider giving the house a power wash if it appears dirty.
5. Accept Staging Advice
Staging doesn’t have to mean bringing in all new furniture and making your home look like it stepped out of a magazine…generally it is much more simple (and cheaper) than that. A good real estate agent can either help you with this, or may provide a third party who can come in and assist in making your home show it’s best.
- A lot of what staging is about is removal...removal of too much furniture, removal of carpets and rugs that hide beautiful floors, and removal of heavy window treatments. I know those were custom window coverings that cost you an arm and a leg…but they are often specific to your decor, may be outdated and definitely block sunlight. Staging is also about making your home less personal. You do not need to remove all of your family photographs, but you may need to remove some. Artwork or other decor that isn’t neutral in style may best be removed. Some things are very personal in taste, and you don’t want buyers responding negatively to your home because they cannot see past the decor.
- Staging can involve rearranging furniture and bringing in some accent pieces…don’t take it personally. The purpose is to make your home appeal to the greatest number of buyers, it is not a critique of your decorating style.
6. 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 drone photography 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 (MLS feeds to Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, etc).
- 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 home 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.
- 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 real estate 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).
7. 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 a potential buyer 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 home in a half hour. You DO NOT want to turn away showing requests.
- 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 turn on all lights ~ your agent can also do this if they are doing accompanied showings (as opposed to a lockbox). Open up all shades and drapes (unless, of course, you removed those drape, like recommended above!)…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 6 Tips For Home Buyers.)
If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, if you are interested in learning what your home is worth, or if you have any questions about real estate in general, please give me a call (508-308-4436), send me an email (Lvandore@LandmarkNE.com) or send me a message via Facebook. I would love to help you!
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