Sellers Guide

Preparing the Interior for a sale…

You should normally invest in Improvements that are cosmetic in nature and can be readily seen by potential buyers. It is usually difficult to get a full short term return on your investment with extensive remolding. Also borrowing money on credit cards or making loans for extensive improvements can reduce your credit scores and make it more difficult for your next purchase.

Remove Clutter
Most people have emotional attachments to most of the things they have in their house. It is easy for clutter to collect after years of living in a house and the clutter affect may not be evident to those living with it and seeing it every day. You can be assured the potential buyers see it. You may have to place your emotions aside as a seller and let an objective third party tour your house and make suggestions of what needs to be moved, hidden or stored during the selling process. Clutter can distract from the other assets of the house.

Give your house an intense and thorough cleaning. This cleaning should go well above the routine cleaning you perform on a regular basis. After the initial thorough cleaning, perform frequent less intense cleanings during the entire time your house is for sale to maintain that cleanliness appearance. Not only does it contribute to the overall appeal of your house, it conveys an image that the house has been well maintained. Even If you can’t perform all of this cleaning yourself, hiring someone will be a good investment.

Painting can be your best investment in preparing your house to sale. It is not expensive in the whole scheme of things and may be something you can do yourself. The more neutral colors you use the better. It will minimize the risk of turning off potential buyers who may not like your favorite colors.

Carpet and Flooring
If your carpet is very worn or faded and looks like a sore thumb after you make other cosmetic improvements, such as painting, you may need to hire a professional carpet cleaner for your carpet and give attention to your other flooring as needed. If some of your flooring is hardwood or tile, a number of inexpensive easily applied products are available that clean and enhance the finish and greatly improves the appearance. In most cases don’t replace tile floors completely, but clean, replace grout where necessary and replace broken tile. You should limit extensive repairs or upgrades where possible to avoid the risk that you can’t recoup your investment upon a sale. The goal is not to make improvements for your continued residency, but to minimize the most obvious defects that will be the most likely to lead to negative impressions for your potential buyers.

Maximize Lighting
Light and color have an impact on people’s emotional response. Most buyers react more positively to a well lighted, natural or artificial, house than one that has the feeling of walking into a cave.  Higher levels of light will also make the house appear more spacious. Most features of a house that increase the level of light can be addressed at no cost or a reasonable cost. Minimize the number of objects that hinder or block natural light introduction to the interior of the house. For example, remove objects in front of windows that block natural light from the outside. Increase the number and wattage of the artificial light were possible. The use of light color paints, especially in smaller rooms, can also help in this effort. If you use darker colors in smaller rooms be sure to increase light sources in that room either by natural or artificial means. Before any showing, open all drapes, blinds or shutters to allow more natural light into the interior. Also turn on all electrical lighting through out the house.

Control the Odors
Distinct odors will quickly distract most buyers during their tour of your house. They are less likely to spend as much time viewing all aspects of your house and will probably consider your house less favorably. If you smoke or have indoor pets you may have become conditioned to the odor. You may consider asking an objective third party to walk through your house and give you a non-bias opinion regarding possible odors. If you have cats, maintain litter boxes frequently. Keep all pets outside as much as possible during the sales process. In addition to the thorough cleaning mentioned earlier, apply products that help counteract the odors. In using these products, be careful not to over apply and merely swap an odor for an overwhelming masking smell.  

Doors and Windows
Examine all doors and windows to determine if they operate easily. If you find some don’t operate with ease, apply lubricant to the operational areas. Check for cracked window panes and replace were necessary. These are basic things that a Home Inspector would find that you would have to fix anyway before closing. Fixing these items before showings eliminates the possibility that a buyer would discover them during a tour and think less of your house. You should clean all windows inside and out. Dirty windows distract from other improvements you may make and it also can reduce the amount of natural light introduced to the interior.

Preparing the Exterior for a Sale…

Curb appeal is a major factor in attracting buyer’s interest in your house.  Many buyers initially search for houses themselves online or by driving by to identify the ones they may be interested in seeing before they call their real estate agent for a showing appointment.  If the buyer’s first impressions of your house based on its exterior appearance are not good, they may not seek an appointment. If they do seek an appointment, their first impression may still bias their overall evaluation and may ultimately dilute many other positive aspects of your house.

House Exterior
As is the case with the interior, painting can be one of the most cost effective improvements you can make in preparing your house for a sale. Does the house’s exterior look worn or faded? How does it compare with other houses in the neighborhood? As recommended with the interior, chose your colors carefully. Stay with a commonly acceptable color to minimize the possibility of turning off some potential buyers. If you choose not to paint the entire house, at least touch up areas that are in that are most noticeable and in need.

Evaluate your landscaping especially in comparison with your surrounding neighbors. You want your landscaping at least comparable and preferably better than your neighbors. If you have mulched areas, refresh the mulch. Trim shrubs and trees to project a neat appearance and keep them from blocking windows or other important features of the house. During the summer months keep the lawn, shrubs and trees watered well to avoid brown spots in the lawn and dead or unhealthy looking shrubs and trees. Over seed any bare areas of the lawn. Remove unhealthy looking shrubs and prune overhanging or dead tree limbs. Fertilize your lawn to insure that it looks as green as possible.

The Back Yard
As is the case with the interior, remove and/or organize all clutter. You want the backyard to have a neat appearance and look as spacious as possible. If you have decks or patios in the back yard, you may need to pressure wash them. Also clean any patio or deck furniture.

Front Door and Entry
The front door is an important focal point of the house and should be attractive and in excellent condition. If it needs to be painted or refinished, that should be a priority. You should also clean, or replace if necessary, the door hardware. If your door mat is aged, replace it. If the front door lock doesn’t work well, it can make a negative first impression when the agent or buyer has problems getting into the house for a showing. In that case, repair or replace it before the house is shown. You may also consider hanging a seasonal ornament on the front door

These recommendations are based on years of experience in the real estate industry and are predicated on the best case for preparing the house for sale. It is recognized that it may not be feasible, necessary, or the choice of some sellers to implement all recommendations outlined. However, implementation of any combination of these recommendations will increase the likelihood that the house can be sold in a shorter time period and at a more desirable price.

Preparing Yourself for the Sales Process…

Preparing yourself for the sales process is as important as preparing your house. These are some of the primary areas that need your attention:

Prepare emotionally
You have lived in your house for a period of time and probably consider it more than a house, it is a home. You may have raised children there or have some other fond memories that related to the “home”. At the very least you probably have invested “blood, sweat, and money” into the “home” above the mortgage payments and feel that should be recognized and appreciated by any buyer. You need to condition yourself to personally view the process as a business transaction and take the necessary steps to make the buyers view it as their potential home. You should take steps to minimize the personalization of the house. For example, remove family pictures, personal trophies and the like. This helps remove your brand on the buyer’s potential home.

In the negotiation process you must not be offended at a low ball offer and view it as a starting point in a business transaction. Substituting emotion for reason may increase your chances of making a mistake in the negotiations.

Cooperate with your Realtor
Be as flexible as possible about scheduling showings of your house. This is especially important when a buyer’s agent has out of town prospects who have a limited amount of time to view potential homes for purchase and numerous listings to see while they are in town. If you can’t be flexible, you may be dropped from the list of showings. In the case of local potential buyers you can’t schedule the day of the request, they may become interested and make an offer on another house that was available to tour that day.

When your agent holds an open house, leave for that time period. Many times when the owner is present during the showing, the potential buyers are uncomfortable and may not ask needed questions of your agent or hurry their visit. This sometimes eliminates the opportunity for your agent to address their questions or make their sales pitch. If you have to be there, don’t engage the prospects and let your agent have their full attention.