The real secret to selling your home is in the “packaging.” When buyers are looking for a home, they are subconsciously waiting for an emotional reaction when they step in the door. Even the most pragmatic buyer will probably not buy an otherwise adequate home that evokes a negative response, or even a neutral one. When buyers and their agents walk into your home, they form a positive or negative impression within thirty seconds. If that impression is negative, there is little that can change their minds, even if the home has everything they are looking for. If the impression is positive, they will enthusiastically explore the rest of the home to see if it will realistically work for them.
Here are some areas of the house to think about when you’re getting ready to sell:
Exterior – Start here with “curb appeal.” Basics: A trim lawn, well-proportioned shrubs. Remove garden hoses, lawn tools, doghouse and toys from the yard. Check for flat-fitting roof shingles; straight lines on gutters, shutters, windows and siding; solid caulking around frames and seams; paint. Clean, or even paint, the front door. Keep walks and steps free of snow and ice. Extras: brass doorknocker, seasonal door decorations, wrought iron lampposts, small landscaped courtyard, flower beds.
Front Hall/Foyer – Aura and atmosphere give a hint of what’s inside. Basics: Light from window, skylight, lamp or overhead fixture; perhaps even use a stronger light bulb. For evening showing, turn on every light in the house for a welcoming glow. Make sure the house smells fresh and clean, but not “perfumed.” Make sure that the woodwork is unmarred and the carpeting spotless. A fresh coat of paint is a good investment, and it’s most appealing in a neutral tone, since strong color is so subjective. Remove unsightly or worn throw rugs. Extras: door chime, dead bolt lock and chain.
Living Room – Strive for a lived-in, cozy feeling. Discard worn, chipped or frayed furniture. Open curtains. Furnishings here and throughout the house should be well placed and in good repair. Set out fresh flowers.
Kitchen – Many buyers judge a house by the way the oven and stove are kept. Basics: appliances should be spotless and in perfect working condition; replace or repair anything that sticks, squeaks or drips; counter, cooking, cabinet and eating spaces should be kept open and uncluttered, without countertop appliances. Floors and walls should be in inviting light colors, and serviceable (resistant to grease and moisture).
Master Bedroom – The second-most appealing room to the buyer (after the kitchen, before the garage). Basics: uncluttered furnishings; defined areas (sleeping, dressing, sitting) by furniture arrangement. Show the true size of closets by removing or packing items that can be stored elsewhere (since you’re moving away), like off-season clothes.
Bathrooms – Practicality combines with attractiveness. Basics: sink, toilet, bathtub, tile, even shower curtains should be immaculate. Fix leaky faucets – rust stains suggest faulty plumbing. Repair caulking and grouting – minor flaws suggest neglect. Light should be soft (no harsh fluorescents), but bright.
Family/Recreation Room – An atmosphere of relaxation, fun and activity should prevail. Basics: open space to accommodate an assortment of activities; make sure the fireplace or wood stove is clean, with fresh logs. Extras: track lighting, ceiling fan.
Garage – Convenience is the key here: the perfect garage holds only cars. Basics: uncluttered space; sell, give away or toss unnecessary articles; clean oily cement floor; strong overhead light (fluorescent or bulb); orderly storage area; tidy workbench.
Basement – Organize, hang tools on pegboards, and put items on shelves. Cure damp smell by placing bag of limestone in damp area. Clean the water heater outside, change the furnace filter and make inspection access easy. Brighten the basement by painting the walls.
Attic – Yes, it’s for sale, too. Light it. Tidy it up. Again, pack anything you’re going to move. Get rid of the rest. Be sure your energy-saving insulation is apparent and the air vent works.
Should we redecorate? The big problem with major redecorating arises because it is very difficult to anticipate the tastes of someone else. It’s usually best to stick to fresh paint in neutral colors (preferably not white) and present a sparkling clean house without the redecorating expense.
Is it possible to over-improve? You bet. Your landscaping may be divine. You may have the only cabana and swimming pool in the neighborhood, but it may be difficult to sell a castle or mansion even in an area of really nice homes.
Clutter. We all have it, even the most obsessive among us. But it’s not what buyers want to see – they want a model home, so the clutter has to go. It’s important to understand that there is psychology involved. The more organized and neat the closets and cabinets are, the more clean, organized and arranged you will be perceived to be by buyers. This in turn means the house has been well-maintained, helping to justify your asking price.
The best approach for dealing with clutter is to do it in small doses, one room at at time. No matter how much stuff you have to deal with, it all has to be dealt with eventually for you to move, so do it now and be ahead of the game. The most influential rooms to buyers are the kitchen and master bedroom.
Let’s start with the Kitchen:
- Closets, cabinets and drawers – Remove anything you do not use on a regular basis. Items removed go into one of three piles: trash, donate, pack. Everything remaining in cabinets should be arranged in an organized fashion; cans together, boxes together, etc. (Pack up the holiday stemware, extra coffee mugs, and most of that Tupperware) Your objective – clean, organized, and spacious.
- Appliances – Clean inside and outside of all appliances. Replace damaged or worn stove burners. Clear off top of refrigerator and remove all magnets, notes, and photos.
- Countertops – Start by clearing everything off counters. Wash windows, counters and cabinets. Adding cabinet hardware or replacing old hardware will add perceived value. To add color and depth, strategically place a few accent pieces, such as a large platter, cookbooks, or assorted oils on counters.
- Sink Area – Clean the sink, faucet and drains. Keep paper towels, soap and sponges under the sink. Never leave a rack or dishes in sink.
- Personal Items – Use a basket or box to keep keys, mail, bills, address book, and other personal items off counter and out of view.
Now it’s on to the Master Bedroom, where we want an impression of calm sophistication:
- Remove all toys, stuffed animals, pet items, and hobby/craft items. Ideally, the TV should be removed.
- Organize the closets, repeating the procedure used for kitchen. Remove anything you are not using regularly and sort into trash, donate, or pack.
- Remove personal items (jewelry, lotions, paperwork, medications) from nightstands and dresser.
- Remove all family photos and religious items.
- Remove exercise equipment and computer/desk. The master bedroom should not double as gym or home office.
The key to the Master Bath is achieving a spa-like atmosphere. The bathroom is a very personal room and buyers don’t want to be reminded that other people use it:
- Start with the closet, cabinets and drawers. Towels should be stacked neatly, paper products arranged neatly, and all personal hygiene products should be stored in a storage container out of view.
- Remove everything from the tub surround and vanity. Never leave your toothbrushes and other personal items in view – keep them in a plastic tote that you pull out to use each day and then return to hiding.
- Clean the tub, toilet, sink, faucets, vanity and mirror until they shine.
- Add color and texture using rolled towels by the tub and rolled face cloths by the sink. For color, add a pair of candles, silk florals, and baskets or glass jars with bath salts or soaps.
- Purchase new towels, soaps and accessories for your new home and use them now to help you sell this home.
Once you have completed these key areas, you can go on to work with the rest of the house, starting in the most visible areas – places like the living room and family room – but you can’t ignore even those places where you keep the doors closed all the time like the laundry room. You can’t imagine – well, perhaps you can – how impressive an organized laundry room can be to a buyer.
Try not to let up. Even if you have to pack your garage half full, be sure it’s in neatly organized boxes. Remember, these are items you are moving to your next home anyway!
Top Ten Reasons You Should Professionally Stage Your Home
1. You will make more money.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development reports that a staged home will sell, on average, 17% higher than a non-staged home.
2. Your house will sell faster.
Statistics show that the average number of days a non-staged home is on the market is twice as long as a staged home.
3. The longer your home is on the market, the lower the price will be.
The first 30 days are critical – after that, it gets “stale” in the minds of buyers. Don’t be in a position where you have to lower your price.
4. The more traffic you get, the faster you sell.
Staged homes look better in photos both printed an online. Buyers know that the staged homes are the better ones to see.
5. The cost of staging doesn’t cost a dime.
In a 2007 Home Gain Survey, it was found that sellers who spent typically $500 on staging services for their home recovered over 300% of the cost in the sale.
6. Most home sellers cannot view their house objectively.
If you can’t see objectively, you can’t “package” effectively. Have a staging professional give you a step-by-step action plan so you can get your home into its most advantageous condition for showing.
7. Less guesswork and “Do It Yourself”
A professional home stager can manage your projects OR give you a detailed report based on their extensive knowledge and training to help you “do it yourself.”
8. Only 10% of home buyers can visualize the potential of a home.
This is why staging a home is critical! You don’t want the advantages of your home overlooked and left up to the buyer’s imagination.
9. The money you make is tax-free.
Take advantage of your tax-free capital gain by getting every dollar possible!
10. Leaving your house in “as is” condition will help sell your competition.
It’s a buyers’ market. Competition is stiff and buyers have very high expectations when they walk in the door.
Should You Offer A Home Warranty?
Yes. Next question?
Seriously, a one-year Home Warranty is a great investment for both the seller and the buyer. For about $400, not payable until settlement, the seller can have most of his appliances and systems covered while the home is on the market, and can offer the buyer coverage for a year after purchase. That’s a strong selling point because it gives the buyer some peace of mind.
Most home warranties cover your home’s air conditioning system, central heating unit, ductwork, electrical system, ceiling fans, plumbing system, water heater, refrigerator, built-in dishwasher, built-in microwave, oven/range, garbage disposal, built-in trash compactor, washer, dryer and more.
How it works: the homeowner calls the warranty company, who arranges for the service call. The homeowner pays a service call fee-from $50 to $100 depending on the policy-but repairs and/or replacement (company’s decision) of the broken item are covered.
The most common complaints about these policies are that they don’t let you choose your own service company, and they occasionally question whether the problem was pre-existing (i.e., the appliance was broken before coverage was purchased). A recent report from a recognized home inspection service is usually accepted as proof to the contrary, if necessary.
You can choose a program that suits your needs from a number of reputable warranty companies.