Austin, TX (Vocus) July 24, 2008
The process of getting your home ready to put on the market is more than simply finding the right real estate agent and setting the right price. It is critical to make sure that you are presenting the most desirable product possible. You have a great deal of control over how your property is perceived, and there are several things you can do to prepare it for sale and maximize its value in the eyes of potential buyers.
The following list is certainly not exhaustive, but keep these tips in mind, and you will increase your chances of impressing buyers and landing offers.
PREPARE YOURSELF FIRST: Learn to separate your emotions from this process, and that will help you do the things you need to prepare. Stop looking at this as your home, and start treating it as a commodity that you need to market and sell for the highest price possible. You will likely be hearing a lot of opinions and criticisms from Realtors and potential buyers about the place you have called home, and some of it may not sit well with you. Do not take it personally. It is not a personal attack on you. This is strictly business.
"DE-PERSONALIZE" YOUR HOME: While you are getting used to your new mindset, go ahead and remove all items that mark the house as your territory. It may seem cruel, but a buyer wants to envision the property as his, not yours. Take family portraits off the walls, remove photos, and put away trophies, diplomas and any other personal effects that could distract a buyer who is viewing the property.
CONSIDER A PROFESSIONAL HOME INSPECTION: This will reveal any potential problems you did not anticipate, and may uncover some repair issues you will need to address well before putting your home on the market.
CLEAN LIKE YOU HAVE NEVER CLEANED BEFORE: This is definitely not the time for dirt, dust and grime. From bottom to top, the house needs to be spotless. From sinks to bathtubs, windows to doorknobs, attic to basement, make it immaculate. If you have to bring in a professional cleaning crew to give your home a serious scrub-down, do it.
DON'T FORGET THE CHIMNEY: When was the last time you had it cleaned? You could have years of accumulated soot, leaves, debris...and perhaps even small animals inside! At a minimum, it is probably dirty; worst case, it could be clogged, causing a safety hazard next time the fireplace is used.
PLUMBING: Make sure there are no leaks or water pressure problems. A smart buyer will order a home inspection anyway, so it is smart to correct these before they are discovered.
HEATING AND AIR CONDITIONING: Does it stay comfortably cool in the hot summer months? Is it sufficiently warm in the cold winter? This will likely be inspected too.
A NEW COAT OF PAINT OUTSIDE: If it has been years since the last time you painted the exterior of your home, a fresh coat will brighten its appearance and enhance the "curb appeal" to potential buyers.
EXTERIOR CLEANING: Pressure-wash stains off the driveway and sidewalk. Wash the windows.
LANDSCAPING: You do not have to spend thousands of dollars on a professional crew to push dirt and reinvent the look of your yard. But do keep it looking sharp! Keep the lawn cut, watered and raked. Allow time to re-sod bad patches if necessary. Trim the bushes; prune tree branches obstructing the house.
ROTTED WOOD? Replace it. Wood rot looks unsightly to buyers and could cause them to wonder what else might be in disrepair.
HOW IS YOUR ROOF? Are the shingles worn? Does it leak? If so, fix it now. If a buyer discovers a leaky roof during inspection, they'll be inclined to make you pay for an entirely new one, or else you risk scuttling the sale.
THE FRONT DOOR: This is likely the first place a buyer will gain entry into your home. Make a good first impression. It should be clean and freshly painted. The door knob should be in good shape, the lock working well. Clear the entryway of clutter.
LESS IS MORE: It is a good idea to consider removing some furniture in rooms to open up more space. Buyers want to get a good feel for the layout and space within the house. Also clear countertops, shelves and corners of appliances and miscellaneous knick-knacks and clutter, to create an open, clean look.
CLUTTERED CLOSETS AND OTHER STORAGE SPACES: Basements, garages and closets jam-packed with several years worth of old stuff are a big turn-off to buyers. Clean them out and rent storage space if necessary. Again, buyers expect access to the house and all the spaces within.
MINIMIZE CLUTTER IN DRAWERS, PANTRIES, AND CABINETS: The same is true for these spaces. Buyers like to look everywhere!
INTERIOR PAINTING: A new coat of paint on walls and ceilings goes a long way, especially if you need to cover old dings or stains or perhaps get rid of color schemes that are outdated or simply too "loud" for the average buyer. Use neutral, muted colors.
WALLPAPER: Consider getting rid of it. You may love the pattern, but the buyer may hate it.
KITCHEN CABINETS: Could discourage buyers if they are old and outdated. Perhaps you do not have the funds for a full kitchen remodeling, but if you can afford to do so, at least upgrading to new, modern cabinets will be a huge benefit.
BATHROOMS: Must be squeaky clean, sparkling and free of rust, mold and stains. New fixtures are a plus. Re-caulking tubs and showers is a good idea, as well as re-grouting tiles, especially if mold and dirt has built up.
ODORS: Along with sight and visual cues, smell is a powerful sense that you need to consider. Buyers can be turned off or offended by smells from pets, smoking, heavy cooking and other sources.
CARPETS: At the very least, they should be steam-cleaned, to remove dirt, stains and odors. If they are badly stained, worn or old, you should consider having them pulled up and replaced. If so, go with neutral colors.
FIX OR REPLACE BROKEN/CRACKED FLOOR TILES: They will be an eyesore to a buyer and leave a poor impression.
FIXTURES: If a full-blown remodeling job in the kitchen or elsewhere is not a practical option, at least make sure what you have now looks good and works. Fix leaky faucets. Polish the fixtures, or buy new ones. Remove stains.
STAGING: Think of this as dressing up your home. It is the process of tastefully arranging furniture, decor and accent pieces to create a warm, inviting look. Think in terms of a window display at a department store. It is more art than science, and some Realtors are well versed at staging with an eye on impressing the buyer.