In my last blog I wrote about how to buy a house, just some of the basics like prioritizing and making lists. One of my clients wrote to me, “Great article – how about doing one on selling a house?” I thought sure, why not? So here are some of the basics to consider when selling your home.
Selling a house is a lot more complicated than buying. First of all, you not only have to ready your home but you have to keep it that way while living there. Not so easy. Getting started is a multistep process, but in a nut shell, you’ll need to begin by prepping your home, a service I, like many top producers, provide. Putting a home on the market without decluttering and maybe painting or carpeting, is a recipe for a lowball offer. I like to tell my clients that it’s all about the three P’s (Preparation, Presentation and Price) and if they follow my recommendations and invest in their sale, which sometimes can run upwards of $10,000, I will double and maybe even quadruple their return on investment. To be fair, I have no real way to measure this, but just as pricing strategy is a matter of opinion, I feel I’m pretty right on with this assessment.
Naturally you’ll want to hire a great Realtor (#1). What makes a great Realtor? A lot of things: experience, ethics, trustworthiness. Do they like your home, do they communicate well and in the way you like, ie: in person, by email or text? Do they explain things clearly and respond to your concerns quickly? I could go on and on, but rather than focus on the Realtor hiring process, I’m going to give you some practical tips that you can do on your own to become a smarter seller. The first step starts with getting your home ready for selling.
So what is prepping all about? I’m going to focus on the inside as the outside is a whole other discussion. Start by looking at all your horizontal surfaces and then take everything off and box it up since you’re moving anyway(#2). You’ll want to set aside large pieces like statuettes, candlesticks and picture frames to use later on. If the object is smaller than your fist, get rid of it. Harsh I know, but small items by definition are cluttering and the goal is to make your home as sleek and clean looking as it can be. I know you want to keep pictures of the kids and grandkids; the little snap shot of old grama holding you as a baby, but trust me on this, your buyer doesn’t want to see it. This holds true for your Elvis ashtray collection, tea cups, Victorian era spoons… you get the picture.
Next, look at your furniture (#3). An average family room for example, should have a coffee table, a chair and a couch, an end table with a lamp, but after that you have to ask yourself, is it a family room or a furniture store? Over the summer I helped a client fill her entire garage with furniture that was in her home (she had lots of antiques) and she still had a house full of furniture. I can tell you, she was not happy about it. She said she liked a home that looked “lived in.” I tell all my clients this: the way we live in our home is not the way we present it for sale. And while there are some buyers out there that like a home with lots of stuff in them, most folks just want to see the space. The more stuff, the less space; the less space, the lower the price. If your couch is the same one you had in your bachelorette apartment, if nothing else, find an afghan to toss over the corner, maybe add an accent pillow. Trust me on this, corduroy couches are not making a comeback. Offices are tough because if you’re like me, you’re using it all the time. Sometimes you’ll need to have bookcases or file cabinets removed so it’s not so crowded. Speaking of books, if you have a book case plan on packing up 2/3 of the inventory and FYI, there’s no reason to ever display paperbacks. If you’ve got those, you’re going to want to pack them. By the way, the library is happy to take your hard backs and give you a tax deductible receipt for them. Speaking of donating, you’re likely to want to organize a part of your garage for charitable donations. Most will pick up for you. Salvation Army even takes furniture. Word to the wise: don’t just open the garage and expect them to go in if you’re not at home, they will just drive off and you’ll have to reschedule.
Pictures, paintings, etc (#4). Last month I sold a home for a woman who was a painter, very much in the Thomas Kincaid style of thatched roof cottages and bridges etc. Most of the paintings were of the 18” x 24” canvas size… she had to take down 50% of them. Even though she was a very good artist, her home was too much like a gallery than we wanted to present to the public and because the canvases were all the same size, the walls looked symmetrical and boxy, so down they came. As for the family wall of fame, you know, it’s usually a stairwell or hallway that you’ve hung pictures of every generation or every school picture your kids ever took. There may even be several of Old Yeller, yeah I know, he was a sweet old dog, but your buyer isn’t interested in that. Aside from the obvious number of holes they’ll be thinking they have to patch and paint, it makes the space look small and we don’t want small, we want big, bright, clean and open. Though I’m making light of this process here, I want to point out there are bound to be a whole lot of emotions when moving. And the longer you’ve been there, the more emotions there are. If you are older or have lost a spouse or child, this is especially hard so you’ll want to leave plenty of time to go through the closets and cupboards. This process is often slowed by the memories of the items you are packing. So take your time. You don’t want to rush through this just to get on the market. That said, we’re always rushing to get on the market, so doing a little advance work before you call me is a good idea.
Clean (#5). Again, another one of those obvious things, but clean means what exactly? Mop the floor, wipe the counters and clean the carpets? Sure; but how about windows or grout? I sold another home recently where the tile was 20 years old, but in near perfect condition. The grout however was dark grey. It had been mopped so many times that there was years of soap embedded deep in the grout. To address this, we brought out a crew who does grout cleaning. They used a machine much like a carpet cleaner with a rotating brush. It steam-injected a solution and then sucked it out. The grout looked like new when we finished. A clean home is one of the most important elements of a successful sale. In that transaction we painted and put in new carpet. We also had some professional cleaning that included windows and screens. It cost the seller about $9000 but we sold in three weeks and for near top dollar. Had we not taken those steps, I have no doubt the seller would have had to accept $30,000 less. That’s about 350% return on investment, not to mention the quick sale.
Smell. Whether you have diaper pails, pets or kimchee, all of our homes have odors, some are just nastier than others. To combat this, open your windows regularly. A closed up home smells stale. Picking out a nice potpourri or fresh fragrant flowers is always helpful. Whatever you do however, do not use Glade plug-ins or any other of these overly perfumed products. Not only does it overwhelm a potential customer and make them not want to stay in your home, it makes them suspicious that you are trying to cover something up like pet urine or dirty dog. Woodsy smells are good. Cinnamon is especially good around the holidays.
Of course I have many other tricks; tricks of the trade as it were, that help my clients get good, fast offers. These are just a few basic ones. How successful is this approach to listing a home? As a rule, using these techniques sell my listings for more than a competitor’s every time. Other Realtors know they can show my properties cold without previewing because of my reputation for helping my sellers prepare. Knowing the tricks; having the trades that do the work quickly and affordably and knowing how to analyze the market for pricing strategy and marketing are what separate the great Realtor from the average Realtor. It’s also why it’s so hard to sell your home on your own without a Realtor. I tell all my prospective clients that if you hire me I will sell your home for the highest possible price, in the shortest amount of time and with the lease amount of hassle. It’s like that old saying goes, “Hiring a professional doesn’t cost, it saves” and when it comes to selling real estate, these words were never truer.