Preparation is a critical element of success. When listing your home in a very competitive real estate market, being properly prepared for a broad spectrum of home buyers’ demands should be the top priority of every seller. Properties that show the best sell the quickest and for the highest price. Therefore, getting your home into the best possible show condition is in the best interest of sellers.
Remember, from the perspective of a buyer, the overall touring experience, or the way the home made them feel, is just as important as the neighborhood, schools, bedrooms and bathrooms, so making a positive first impression is critical to getting a top-dollar offer.
Here are seven ideas to help sellers get their homes market-ready:
• Deep cleaning: As simple as it sounds, having a thoroughly cleaned house is critical to giving the buyer a positive showing experience. Unfortunately, this is an often missed step by many sellers. If two identical cars were for sale on the lot, the one that was perfectly detailed — versus the one that had never been properly cleaned — would sell first and for a better price. Yet I’ve toured several homes with dirt and grime in every room, which inevitably sends loud unpleasant signals to prospective buyers. Spend the time and money to have a thorough housecleaning done days before going on the market. No matter what, do not allow a buyer to see anything other than a fully detailed home in its best condition starting on Day One.
• Painting: This is also a big deal. Fresh paint sells houses. Period. Having a house painted one, or in rare cases two neutral colors before listing will make a world of difference during the showing experience. This should include fresh white paint on the ceilings and trim, too. The goal should be to allow a buyer to navigate through the showing experience without noticing the paint. By having one bright neutral color on the walls you allow a buyer’s attention to remain on the overall space and features of the property.
I’ve been in a number of homes where there is a yellow dining room, red kitchen and a baby blue family room all on the same floor. Multiple colors may have been your preference while living there. But to a buyer it is distracting and probably not to their taste. Neutralize the walls to optimize your space and allow for a comfortable showing experience. By picking a lighter neutral color you will automatically brighten the house, which is always a good thing.
• Declutter: It’s as simple as it sounds — get rid of stuff. Having been in thousands of properties, I can say that most people live with way too many belongings in their homes. Unfortunately, when it comes time to court the potential buyer, having too much stuff in your home is a major liability to the showing experience. For context, think about how home builders approach the presentation of a model home. They maintain furniture in the rooms and clothes in the closets, but just enough to show off the space and allow the buyer’s imagination to take care of the rest. The closets have five blouses and pants hanging on the racks, not piles of clothes jammed in every square inch.
Go through each room and decide what pieces of furniture to ditch to open up the living spaces, or what belongings/clothes you will need for the next 90 days and pack up the rest. Use the motivation of selling your home as an opportunity to get rid of unwanted stuff before your list date. By doing this you have an opportunity to transform your space and simplify your life.
• Flooring: If you have older carpets or weathered wood floors, it would be a great idea to invest in new carpets or refinishing the wood. In both cases, you are looking at no more than a few bucks a square foot. But along with everything else pristine floors will make a huge difference to the showing experience.
• Landscaping: Curb appeal matters and having a freshly manicured yard with new mulch and seasonal flowers will add a lot to the buyer’s overall first impression of your home. Investing in what is best classified as a yard “tune up” is an excellent way to sparkle from the moment the buyers pull up to your home.
• Handyman repair: Details such as making sure all of the fixtures and outlets work properly and freshening caulk build confidence in potential buyers that you’ve taken good care of the property. Having a professional handyman come through and knock out that punch list of items before opening day is a great idea and will not only send positive signals to your prospective buyer but save you money on the home inspection.
• Staging: Bringing in a design professional is a great way to add wow to your home. Introducing strategically placed new pieces of furniture plus rearranging your living spaces will add better flow and enhance the overall showing experience.
The bottom line is that focusing your time, energy and resources on these seven areas before selling will not only add value to the sales price but allow your home to sparkle. Making these investments will help you improve the outcome of your sale.
Jonathan Fox is principal at the Fox Group with Compass in D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood.