Are you ready to list your house? You’ve no doubt got some work to do to get it into showing shape.
Plenty of buyers obsess over the exact right time to list their homes or the “one thing” they can do to boost their home’s resale value. Real estate experts know that there’s no magic bullet to a quick sale—or an ideal market condition. More so than many sellers (and buyers) realize, selling a home is an individual endeavor that comes down to local factors—just like politics and sports.
“Every market is different, but all buyers are human,” says Peter Norden, CEO of New Jersey-based home lender HomeBridge Financial Services, Inc., and a 40-year veteran of the residential mortgage industry. “As a seller, you can take certain steps that, on balance, are more likely than not to increase your home’s appeal to prospective buyers.”
Bottom line: Stop fretting about factors beyond your control and start taking productive steps to brighten your home. Norden and other housing experts on socalhomebuyers.com recommend these eight straightforward, relatively low-cost moves to start.
- Professionalize Your Lawn or Garden
If you’re truly serious about selling your home quickly, there’s a strong case to be made for professional staging. Replacing your dated furniture and semi-embarrassing personal possessions with crisp, stylish furnishings and accessories can dramatically increase your home’s interior appeal.
But staging a home is costly. If you’re not sure that you can afford to shell out for a full-bore, in-and-out stage, concentrate only on the “out” portion: Lay down fresh sod or grass seed, thoroughly weed and trim your garden, remove dead vegetation or limbs, add a shrub or bush to fill in bare spots. First impressions matter, and nothing wows new arrivals like a front yard and garden in full bloom.
- Clean Out the Closets, But Not All the Way
One of HGTV’s best kept secrets for selling your house is also one of the most surprising: “Take half the stuff out of your closets…then neatly organize what’s left in there.”
Read that again. It’s not “clean everything out of your closets and vacuum the dust off the floor.” It’s (to paraphrase) “make your closets look less cluttered than they really are.” Half-cleaning is an ingenious tactic, and it just might boost your home’s interior “curb appeal.” Of course, you’re still left with the question of what to do with the stuff you’ve removed from your closets; a temporary storage unit, which you’re likely to need during the moving process anyway, might be your best bet.
- Do Your Best to Cover Up for Your Pets
If you’re a pet owner, you’re all too familiar with insidious odors. They’re the price you pay for a loving relationship with your dog or cat.
Prospective homebuyers aren’t likely to be so forgiving. They don’t know your pets, and they have no reason to sympathize with your desire for companionship. They’re just looking for a new place to live, and they want it to smell good.
In the weeks leading up to your listing, deep-clean litter box areas, pet rooms and anywhere else your pets spend lots of time. Remove hair and dander from furniture, carpeting and other places where it tends to stick. And keep your pets clean, even if it means more time in the dreaded bath. On the day of your first showing, make sure your pets are temporarily out of the house—with a friend, relative or reputable dog boarding facility.
- Patch Up the Roof and Siding
If your home’s roof and siding have seen better days, fix them up. You don’t have to completely redo your home’s exterior—that’s a huge job that, depending on the construction materials, probably only needs to be done every couple of decades. But even one or two wayward shingles or peeling tiles can turn off picky buyers. Better safe (and sold) than sorry.
- Keep the Driveway and Sidewalks Clear and Fresh
Little things matter. Just as you want your yard and garden to be in tip-top shape, you want your home’s access points to look better than ever. If you’re selling in the winter, make sure your driveway and sidewalks are completely free of snow and ice, even if that means using a professional plowing service. In the fall, rake or sweep leaves as soon as they hit the ground, then dispose of them somewhere out of sight (preferably off the property). And if it’s been a while since you’ve resurfaced your front drive, do so again.
- Maximize Natural Light, Even If It Requires a New Coat of Paint
Painting usually waits until after closing, but there’s a case to be made for slapping a fresh coat of paint in key areas before you list. The reason: Light, neutral paint tones improve natural lighting inside the house, especially in rooms that don’t receive lots of direct sunlight through open blinds. Be sure to paint well before your first showing to ensure that prospective buyers aren’t hit with unpleasant odors.
- Clean Everything
Before you list your property, you need to clean it like never before, in places you’ve never before cleaned (at least, not in a long while). This requires a surprising amount of planning, as you’ll need to compile a list of hard-to-access places in your house and determine how best to clean them without damaging anything or disrupting other pre-listing activities. Mouse from Own It Detroit, a professional property management company, shares his insights on places that commonly beg for a deep clean:
- Areas behind major kitchen appliances
- Utility rooms in basements or interior closets
- Outbuildings, including detached garages and sheds
- Hard-to-access corners of laundry rooms, including storage closets
- Crawlspaces and ventilation ducts
- Hard-to-access areas in bathrooms, including corners behind toilets and shower stalls
- Windows and trim (inside and out)
- Attics and other low-traffic storage areas
Consider using an air freshener throughout the house, but choose a subtle scent so it doesn’t smell like you’re trying to hide something!