Even in today’s sluggish market there are some things you can do NOW to help your home sell while the others in your neighborhood or city sit stagnant. The trick is to make YOUR house show better than the others flooding the market. You can even sell your house in a market overwhelmed with foreclosure “deals” by making it speak, in a personal way, to the potential buyer. Below are some great tips to get you started.
Exteriors: First Impressions
Make sure that the first glimpse of your house is a flattering one. From the street to the threshold, everything needs to be properly maintained.
While the yards of other “for sale” homes might look o.k., yours should look perfect. If you don’t have the time or energy to do these tasks yourself, hire in a lawn service. Make sure that the sidewalk and walks are edged, the grass is trimmed and clippings are removed.
Bushes and flowerbeds should be tended and well-manicured. You don’t want your house to look like another project the new buyer will have to tackle – you want it to be something they don’t even have to consider maintaining – because it already looks perfect!
If your trim work or front door needs a fresh coat of paint, do it before you start showing. Ditto for the exterior paint, for power-washing and cleaning out gutters. Anything that isn’t perfect to the first glance needs to be polished until it is. Remember… the longer your house stays on the market, the less attractive it becomes to a buyer.
Put it on the market in the best shape possible to move it quickly.
If you haven’t already eliminated all the clutter, do so now. Rent a storage unit if you must, but get rid of the excess. A potential buyer will want to buy a house that will fit their own lifestyle, their own things. If your house is bursting at the seams with your belongings, they will assume it is too small for theirs.
It’s not a conscious thing, it’s just an impression they get. For this reason, it’s important that you:
- Clean out all the closets – Toss anything you no longer need. Donate, sell or gift anything you can. It will make moving easier in the future, will make your house show better now and will improve the quality of your life in between. Remove any seldom-worn or out of season clothes. Leave only enough clothes for the current season and plan to wash often enough to survive with the rest of your outfits in storage or donated. If your closets are overfilled or disorganized, the potential buyer will see them as inadequate — and will apply that same feeling to your entire house.
- Organize the Kitchen – If your kitchen is loaded with stuff, it will appear too small and the cabinets will appear too sparse. If you have dishes, pots/pans, and small appliances that you use rarely or never, get rid of them. They simply aren’t worth the storage space now — or in your new house. Evaluate the things you keep – are they really used, or are they something that you just like the IDEA of having on hand? If they aren’t essential, but you can’t bear to part with them now, pack them up. Put them in the storage unit (in properly labeled boxes with the date you packed them). You may be surprised once you get down to the basics, how much more enjoyable your kitchen is to use. You may decide to donate the boxes from storage before you move without even unsealing them!
- Get Rid of Clutter – Over stuffed bookshelves don’t make you look smart, they make you look disorganized. Too many trinkets displayed make the house look claimed, rather than claimable. Stacks of anything need to go. Evaluate what can be eliminated permanently and what needs to be packed away and shuttled off to the storage unit temporarily.
- The Storage Unit is NOT in Your Garage – The storage unit is an offsite location to hide the spoils of your lifelong holdings. Don’t assume that you can save a few dollars by stacking the boxes in the utility room, attic, basement or garage. You can’t. It will only make the storage areas of the house appear cluttered, which is counter-intuitive to selling a house — especially in a tough market.
- All Storage Areas Should Be Neat, Clean and Understocked – Your linen closet should NOT be stuffed with extra linens, your pantry should not be stacked with open boxes of various types stacked willi-nilly, nor should your bathroom cabinets be filled with toiletries and/or medicines. The linens that are there should be neatly and uniformly folded. Food stocks should be culled and organized — and labels should be forward facing and easy to read. Toiletries and meds should be minimal or non-existent. Be sure to eliminate anything that signals a problem – bug spray, harsh cleaners, drain clog chemicals.
- Don’t Stuff things in Found Spaces - If you have always stored things under your bed or behind clothing in your closet, now is the time to stop. Floors (even under furniture) should be clear and clean. No exceptions. You should also consider weeding out the furniture collection in each room. If there is any crowding, remove the offending pieces. You want the space to appear ample and the furniture to appear a little less than adequate. The potential buyer needs to have the visual space to imagine their things in your rooms. If it’s already too-full, that won’t be possible. Give the extra furniture to other family members, sell it, or donate it to charity. As a last resort, if you simply can’t bear to part with it, haul it to the storage unit.
- Don’t Litter Surfaces with Stuff - Your collections are precious to you, but may not be that special to a potential buyer. Remove them. Surfaces should be clean and clear. Think minimal, zen-centric styles. A fresh vase of flowers, perhaps, but no more. You aren’t decorating to show your personal taste in this house — that’s for the house where you live your life and entertain your friends. THIS house is decorated to allow any potential buyer to be able to imagine themselves living here. That’s impossible if it’s so full of YOUR personality that there is no room left. You need to create a comfortable, vanilla house. The rule of thumb is if you love it, it probably needs to go. Pack it away for your next house, where you get to let your style shine again.
This time we talked about the exteriors, organization and depersonalization. This will take some of your time, but very little money. Your efforts in these areas will push your house well ahead of the competition on the market.
While you work on these, we will start work on another installment of “do-it-yourself” home selling preparation. Be ready, because next time we will get into the more “nitty-gritty” aspects of preparing a house to sell!