Selling a home is complicated. It’s not just a question of selling a house, it can also be one of the most emotional transactions of your life. It involves relocating – saying goodbye to your old home and neighborhood, and embracing a new home and community.
For most homeowners, selling their house is not an everyday experience, and there are as many questions as there are pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. That’s where we come in… by working together, we can help make it as profitable and painless as possible.
Especially if you have lived in your current home for a long time, this can be the most difficult step in the process of getting ready to sell… so difficult, that even the thought of it sometimes stops people before they even get started. The nice thing about this step is that you can do it any time of year, regardless of weather and temperature.
The exterior is the first thing potential buyers will see, and first impressions set the tone for their entire visit… so make sure the outside of your home is clean and inviting. Touch up painting, landscaping, clean windows, inviting entry are all important and not major investments. In fact, replacing your front door can often give you the biggest return on your investment because it sets expectations for the whole showing.
If you live in a city that requires a Time of Sale/Truth in Housing inspection when you sell your home, that inspection you will give you a to-do list to fulfill their requirements. Depending on city requirements, you may consider getting a ‘pre-inspection’ first, so you have time to make repairs and then get a ‘clean’ final inspection.
The real inspectors you must satisfy when you sell are your potential buyers. Even minor flaws can become big deals. It is often said that buyers will ask for a price reduction or compensation of $3,000-$5,000 for every $1,000 of perceived defect. This means making repairs before listing your home for sale could save you money in the long run.
If you decide to do more significant updates, be careful of investing too much. Many buyers will make their own updates when they move in so this isn’t the time to invest in a major kitchen remodel, although moderate updates will likely reap benefits… paint and resurfacing can go a long way. Upgrades that are almost always worth it are refreshing paint and flooring. Windows can also be a good investment, depending on the condition of your current windows in relation to the rest of your home.
Little things like worn woodwork, caulking in bathtubs and showers, old wallpaper, marred walls and stained ceilings, loose knobs, sticky windows, doors and cabinets that don’t close properly, broken light switches, dirty or worn flooring can all add up to a bigger impact than you might think. Kitchens and bathrooms are the two most important rooms in the house… evaluate them with a critical eye. Again, keep in mind that buyers will over-estimate the cost of these repairs and their reduction in the price they are willing to pay. But perhaps most important, don’t overlook the importance of having your home sparkling clean… buyers notice!!!
After you have cleared the clutter and done your fix-ups you are ready for cleaning. This goes beyond just normal neat and tidy. It is deep cleaning including things like light fixtures, doors and door handles, drawers, cabinets, closets, under the beds and on top of cabinets, windows, carpets, tile… in other words, cleaning every nook and cranny so it is ‘q-tip clean’. Why is this so important? Because it sets the tone for buyer expectations. You have likely heard the phrase ‘you find what you are looking for’. This is a prime example. If buyers come into a home that is sparkling clean and in good condition everywhere they look, they expect the home has been well cared for so they tend to focus on what they love about the home rather than looking for things wrong with it. If the home isn’t clean just the opposite happens.
If you have a well that is in use, expect that you will need a water quality test as part of your sale. If you have a well that is not in use, expect that it will be required to be sealed. If you have a private septic system, expect that it will need to be certified to be in compliance with applicable regulations. When these testing requirements are part of a purchase agreement you usually have a 5-10 day window to provide the results. You can reduce stress by having them done ahead of time.
Buyers are nearly always concerned about the age and condition of the furnace, air conditioner and water heater. If they are at or near the end of their life, expect it to come up in negotiations. Again, buyers are likely to over-compensate in price reductions or may require that you have it replaced prior to closing before moving forward. If the furnace/AC are really limping along, replacing before listing could give you a double benefit… instead of being a negative it becomes a positive in your favor.
Staging is the final step in preparing your home for sale and not to be taken lightly. Buyers have been well trained by HGTV and other sources to expect homes for sale to look like model homes. This is an important distinction… not just neat and tidy and decorated for daily living, but showcased to be a ‘pretend’ home that potential buyers can picture themselves living in. This is also an important part of the ‘letting go’ process… at this point it ceases to be ‘your home’ and becomes a product for sale. The point of staging is to make a buyer fall in love with your home and say… WOW, I want to live here!