Many agents don’t think to prepare their clients up front about what it will take to sell their home for the most money possible. Here are a few tips to prep your home, and just mentally prepare yourself before putting it on the market.
1. Curb appeal is EVERYTHING
It is the buyer’s very first impression of your home. It’s the first photo they see when they are searching online. You want them to open your listing to see more, and eventually ask their agent to show them your property. First impressions matter. Fresh mulch, weeds and dead plants removed, a powerwash of the exterior of the home, a fresh coat of paint on the front door and shutters, new exterior door knobs, and any fresh vibrantly colored plants and flowers planted do wonders for a listing’s desirability. You will definitely get the money back that you invest in sprucing up your yard and flower beds, especially if done professionally. While you’re at it, make sure your irrigation system works and goes on regularly.
2. Do NOT over-improve
Many people think that adding every upgrade will price their home higher and higher. Often times that is not the case. Take note of the comps in your area and what they sold for. There will be a price that buyers are not willing to pay to be in your neighborhood regardless of all of your upgrades.
3. If you must make improvements, choose the kitchen
If you are going to make any improvements to your home let it be the kitchen. The kitchen is the single most important thing to most buyers (next to floor plan, which is too expensive to fix). I have seen people not buy a home otherwise perfect for their needs because of a cabinet color is too outdated. Make sure that kitchen is completely updated with the most up-to-date and neutral style. You don’t need to spring for the most expensive appliances, countertops, and cabinets, just updated ones. You will very likely make all of your money back when you go to sell your home. A buyer will underbid your home much more than it cost for you to just update your kitchen. Make sure the colors and design are neutral and not personalized to your liking.
4. Fix any big problems beforehand
Much like the kitchen, anything that will cause buyers to be nervous about buying your home, take care of it before listing. If you have a roof that needs to be replaced, the $15-25k cost of replacing your roof will be much less than what you will lose when buyers underbid your home for $30,000 or more. Consult with 3-4 vendors with the needed expertise, and find out what should be done to solve the problem. Speaking of roofs, if your roofers have all told you it needs to be replaced, listen. Buyers applying for a mortgage will not be approved for their loan if your roof is found by an inspector to need replacing. That will forever taint your listing for the next buyers because everyone will wonder what happened to your home, and why was it put back on the market. It won’t matter that you decided to fix the roof after a contract fell through. Your listing will now never sell for even close to what you wanted for it. This is why I highly recommend getting an inspection and taking care of big problems before listing.
5. Declutter & Depersonalize
Remove anything personal from the home including religious and political effects. One or two photos of the family go a long way, so leave only the top 1-2 in each room. People need to be able to see themselves living in your home. The more personal things that are in your home, the more they see it as your home, not theirs. You will be moving once you sell the home, so just start boxing up all of the personal effects, and put them in storage, a closet, or the garage. Organize your overflowing closets, and get rid of anything you aren’t taking with you. Any excess, dated, or mismatched furniture should be put into storage. Again, neutralizing is the way to sell your home. Think of it as starting the moving process 🙂
6. Deep clean
No one wants to see your crumbs on the floor, see grease stains on your stove, see your laundry, or smell your pets or your unclean bed sheets. Trust me when I say, when people don’t know you, they are very easily put off by these things. Best advice is to hire a cleaning crew to come in and and clean everything, from under the stove, to vacuuming your couch and corners, to cleaning all of your windows. Your house will show it’s true potential when clean.
7. Always be ready to show
Once you have the house clean, now you have to maintain it. It’s a pain in the rear, but it’s more of a pain to have to run around cleaning like a crazy person every time you have a showing. You have better things you can be doing with your life.
8. Maximize light
When staging your home to sell, maximize all elements that brighten your home. Remove dark curtains and dark bulky furniture, and replace with light neutral colors, with maybe a pop of some brighter colors. Keep blinds open and all lights on when showing your home. No one is looking for a dark home. They want a bright and happy home. Make it so.
9. Remove all pets and evidence of them
You love your pets. I love your pets. Not everyone loves pets. Some people are allergic, and some people just don’t prefer the smell of animals. Regardless of how clean you think your pets are, they have an odor like the rest of us. By keeping them out of sight, they will stay out of the buyers minds. You will avoid the buyer’s potentially making a decision to not place an offer because of your pets.
10. No smoking indoors or even near an exterior door
This goes without saying, but I was once a smoker, and I understand that the smell doesn’t seem strong to you. To a non-smoker the smell is very easy to detect. The damage that smoking does to a house is very expensive to fix, and many buyers do not want to have to change the air filtration system and rip up the carpets, on top of the cleaning and painting of the walls and ceiling they will need to do as soon as they buy your home. The smoke can seep in even when you just smoke right outside your front door. I have witnessed many buyers pick up on it right away. Save yourself the headache of losing an offer because your home smells of smoke.
11. Price it right
This is a constant point of contention with sellers. They figure they will price high, and let the buyers come in and offer lower. This almost never happens. Buyers are looking for value, so if your home is priced much higher than the other most recent sales in your neighborhood, they just won’t bother coming to look at your house. Now your listing will just sit on the market. If you are listed on the MLS, have nice photos, but have had little to no showings, you are priced too high. There is no other reason a buyer wouldn't want to come see your home, as the MLS listings feed straight to all of the real estate websites such as Zillow.
Now your listing has been sitting on the market growing stale. When you eventually price reduce, the buyers will wonder what’s wrong with your home. As the time on the market increases, the offers on your property will steadily decrease. Pricing too high is pretty much a guarantee that you will get far less on your home than if you had priced it correctly from the beginning.
The trick is to price it RIGHT. You want to be within you comps range or even lower. Homes that are priced lower than comps in the neighborhood will often get multiple buyers wanting it, thus creating a bidding war, and a sale price higher than expected.I witness both scenarios on a daily basis.
Unfortunately what determines the ultimate price and value of your home is not you or I. It is what BUYERS are willing to pay for your home. In a seller’s market where inventory is scarce, buyers are willing to pay top dollar. In a market with lots of inventory, buyers aren’t willing to pay too much because they have plenty of other options. Here in the Sarasota-Manatee area, we are in a balanced market where home values are rising, but there is a good amount of inventory for buyers to be okay with walking away if they don’t get the price they want.
12. Hire a market and tech-savy agent
You want an agent that knows the local market, knows your neighborhood, uses social media for advertising, and stays up with the real estate and mortgage markets. I might know one I can refer you to 😉