Before You Sell
No matter what your reasons are for selling, once the decision is made, you should immediately draw up a plan to prepare for the sale. The process of preparing a home for sale can take a month or more, depending on what needs to be done. Here’s how to start:
Take a Fresh Look at Your Home
Your home looks great to you, but a buyer wants to be able to see how they will live in the space. As you assess your house, step into a potential buyer’s shoes and view your surroundings in a different light:
- Does your home need washing or painting?
- Does the driveway need to be repaired?
- Is the landscaping in good shape?
- Is the yard neat and trimmed?
- Examine the smaller details outside and take note about the state of the paint, the entryway, the condition of steps or landings.
- Take a tour of the interior and explore what areas need updates and/or repairs.
Also, take note of things that might put potential buyers off:
- paint color choices
- family memorabilia
- broken furniture
- lingering scents: cigarette smoke, garbage, pets, etc.
- write out a list of the things that first attracted you to the house.
Clean Out the Clutter
Before putting your home on the market, get rid of clutter in every area—closets, attics, kitchen cabinets, drawers, bath vanities, shelves, etc. Potential buyers are put off by clutter, so remove almost everything non-essential.
Another form of clutter can be found in rooms overcrowded with furniture. Clear any unneeded furniture pieces to give the space an open feel.
As you clear, place items in Charity, Sell, Garbage, Recycle, and Storage piles. Take care of the items in those piles every week until you’re finished decluttering and are left with only the Selling and Storage piles. Then, sell all the possessions you’ve collected in the To Sell pile and use the proceeds to purchase what is needed to repair or paint your rooms. Place items and furniture in the Storage pile in attics or storage units—out of the sight of potential buyers.
To Sell, Sell, Sell—Clean, Clean, Clean
After you’ve cleared out the clutter, it’s time to clean. Have the carpets professionally cleaned, strip and polish the floors, scour the bathrooms, polish the furniture, scour the cabinets, wash the windows and window coverings, and spiff up the ceiling fans and kitchen appliances. Even pay attention to the laundry room and other non-living spaces.
Don’t forget the exterior: Paint or power-wash everything that needs work. This may not be a brand new house, but it will be someone’s new home.
Get More for Your Home: Repairs Pay Off
After you’ve cleaned, the next project is making all the repairs necessary to attract a buyer. Do what your home needs before the first buyer appears at your door:
- fix the grout in the bathrooms and on tile floors;
- make adjustments to faulty doors;
- fix scratches on the walls;
- remove or cover stains;
- fix plumbing problems;
- patch up the roof;
- touch up paint;
- repair the screens;
- spruce up the porch framing; and
- make your entry area really shine.
Also, take time to manicure the lawn and landscape beds by watering, trimming, mowing, edging, and eliminating dying plants.
It’s a good idea to get needed repairs done before listing your home—a good agent will advise you on what needs to be done. If you want a second opinion, ask friends to assess home appeal and make suggestions.
There is, however, an alternative to the sweat equity you get from a total fix-up—but it carries a price. An “as-is” sale keeps you from doing repair work, but a buyer may assess roughly twice the price you would have paid for the repairs. Then, the buyer will deduct that amount from your asking price before making an offer.
Putting Your Home on the Market: Show It to Sell It
After you have whipped your property into shape, it’s time to attract a buyer.
Regardless of who markets your home—you or a broker—there are other minor tasks to tackle that can make a big difference to possible buyers:
- open the blinds and turn on the lights (even if bright daylight);
- open all the interior doors to make the home appear roomier;
- remove kids and pets (and their personal effects), so a prospect can imagine themselves in the home; and
- remove any garbage to ensure the home smells clean and fresh.
Make sure your home is properly prepared and available to be seen by a prospective buyer with as little notice as possible.
Before putting your home on the market, take time to check out the competition: homes with similar prices and neighborhoods. After location, the most important item to a buyer is a well-maintained home.