All right, so you’re planning on putting your house on the market. You know we’re in a slow market now and you’ve looked around the neighborhood and noticed there are multiple homes on the market already that don’t seem to be selling. The ones that are selling seem to take a long time to attract an interested buyer. So what can you do to make your home the one the buyers want when they look at homes in your neighborhood?
A Few Words About Maintenance
First, nothing takes the place of routine homeowner maintenance while you’ve living in your home. If you’ve been in the house for several years and haven’t done routine maintenance and upkeep, you may have a lot of work ahead of you. Buyers in the local real estate market (Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk) know there are tons of homes on the market and any little discrepancy in your home could mean the next home they view is more appealing to them.
The rule of thumb is, if something needs repair, fix it! There are probably many things in your home that you have simply become used to over time. Things that you have been promising yourself that you will attend to, now is the time. The buyer will mentally add up the cost of repairing all those minor flaws and end up with an amount that is generally much higher than what it would cost you to do the repairs.
You might be saying to yourself, “these repairs aren’t any big deal.” But the buyer is thinking, “If the owners didn’t care for these little items, then what about the roof and the furnace?” Needed small repairs and perceived owner neglect will either lower the purchase price or lengthen the time required to sell. People always want the best for themselves, and your home should represent the buyer’s answer to this goal. Remember, they arrive at your front door wanting to find the right home. Don’t make them search somewhere else for it.
If you want a really good idea what maintenance needs your home has, have it inspected by a professional Home Inspector prior to placing it on the market. This will cost you anywhere between $250 - $400 depending on the size of the house, but the inspector will do a thorough check of the house and compile a list of things he finds wrong. If you do hire an inspector make sure to ask him if he is certified through ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). The home inspection is useful for two purposes. First, you can decide what to fix prior to placing the home on the market. Second, if the buyer knows you already had a home inspection and you are willing to share that report with them, they may forgo their own inspection and that means one less contingency on your contract. Keep receipts of everything you had already fixed so the buyer has proof the work was completed.
Every area of the home must sparkle and shine! Each hour spent will be well worth it. Would you rather buy a clean car, or a dirty one? Would you hurry to buy a pair of shoes with mud on them? Also, a clean smelling house creates a positive image in the buyer’s mind. Be aware of any odors from cooking, cigarettes, pets, etc., that may have adverse effects on potential buyers. Remember that some people are much more sensitive to odors than others. Smokers and pet owners tend to become immune to these odors that fill their homes.
· Thoroughly clean your kitchen and appliances, including the insides of the range, microwave and refrigerator.
· Clean your bathrooms from top to bottom and keep them clean.
· Touch up paint if your walls have some rough spots. Check the house room by room and don’t forget to patch holes and sand if needed before painting.
· Don’t be afraid to invest a few dollars to paint whole rooms if needed. This may be the best bang for your buck when selling. Nothing makes a room look more appealing for the cost than a fresh coat of paint. If you’re not an experienced painter, it’s OK to hire a professional.
· Clean all windows, inside and out. This helps make the house sparkle.
· Clean and polish all woodwork if necessary. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bath cabinets.
· Clean the exterior bricks and glass doors on your fireplace.
· Clean and polish all light fixtures.
· Clean all wall-to-wall carpeting and area rugs.
· If carpets smell of pet urine, or they are heavily soiled and spotted, and cleaning does not make it better, don’t hesitate to make the investment in new carpet. It will increase the value of the property and won’t turn off buyers like the smells and heavy soil do.
· If smoking, pet, or cooking odors have permeated your home, you may have to clean your furniture and drapes to rid the house of these odors.
· Clean and polish linoleum, tile and wooden floors.
· Now that your flooring is clean, keep it clean. Vacuum and dust mop as needed each morning.
· Once offensive odors are removed, consider adding delightful ones. Recent studies have shown that humans have strong, positive responses to certain smells. Cinnamon, fresh flowers, breads baking in the oven are all excellent ways to enhance your property for sale.
Staging Your Home
Staging has a positive effect on the sale of your home. If you still live in the house look at using your belongings to get the best effect. If selling a vacant home, you may want to look at renting furniture temporarily.
· It’s important if painting rooms that you use neutral or crème colors on your walls and trim. Add accent colors in your draperies, furniture, wall art, or items placed on shelves, etc.
· In your entry hall, try placing some flowers or a small plant to create a striking focal point. Also a well placed mirror can create the sense of a larger space.
· Think of you living areas as individual furniture showrooms. Your job is to create a positive response and make them each seem truly inviting.
· Place something colorful on the mantel, but don’t overcrowd it. When staging, less is more!
· Removing excess or over sized furniture will improve the traffic flow and create a larger looking room.
· Draw attention to exposed beams or cathedral ceilings through creative lighting if possible.
· Remove over sized televisions or entertainment centers if they dominate the room.
· Pack up collectibles and excess knickknacks. This is to protect them, and to give the room a more spacious feel. Leave just enough accessories to give the home a personal touch. Dispose of items you don’t need anymore.
· Remove all clutter and make it a habit to pick up clothing, shoes, and personal possessions each day in case of possible showings.
· In the dinning room, set the scene by setting the table with an attractive place setting and add fresh or silk flowers as a centerpiece.
· You can enlarge a small dinning area by removing one or two leaves from your table, removing extra chairs and placing over sized pieces in storage until you move.
· In the kitchen, clear all the small appliances off the counter space and clean the clutter on and around the sink.
· Clean and organize all storage spaces in your kitchen. A neat and organized pantry looks larger and more adequate for potential buyers.
· Clean off the top of the refrigerator and remove all magnets, notes etc. that may be hanging there.
If your kitchen has a large window, take advantage of it by handing crisp, up-to-date window treatments. Clean the blinds if needed.
· If you have an eat-in-kitchen, set the table with bright colored place settings and put a bowl of fresh fruit in the middle.
· Buyers love large bedrooms. Make your bedrooms seem larger by painting them a light color, and remove one of the bureaus if the room looks crowded. Aim for a subdued, restful look.
· Clean up the bedroom closets by storing away any seasonal clothing, removing objects from the floor and organize everything that must stay neatly on the shelving.
· Make sure the children keep their rooms clean and orderly on a daily basis. Beds should be made and toys stored when not being used.
· Remove any crowded, unusual or personal wall hangings until the home is sold.
· In the bathrooms, replace worn and dirty shower curtains, clear off counter tops and store any personal care products.
· Clean and organize drawers, cabinets and the medicine chest.
· Play down dominant colors with contrasting neutral colored towels and accessories. If your bathroom is mostly white, add a few colorful accents. Don’t hesitate to buy a few new matching towels, washcloths and rugs.
· Make all the rooms in your home as bright as possible. Replace any burned out light bulbs and use the maximum wattage in your light fixtures Open curtains and blinds, bringing the outside in.
For tips on improving your curb appeal read this article.