Preparing Your Home for Sale
Most sellers put their home on the market with one common goal… selling the home for the most money and in the least amount of time. Below are some suggestions that should assist you in that effort.
The goal of “staging” a home for sale is to simplify, depersonalize and de-clutter the home in order for it to show larger and brighter. By utilizing some of the following ideas, this could help your home stand out over the competition. For instance, a lot of sellers could benefit from “pre-packing”. You will need to pack everything anyway, but doing so in advance will make it easier when the moving date arrives, and will also help your house show better.
One good way to think about “staging” is to try and imagine your home through the Buyer’s perspective. Most buyers have a tough time imagining a house based on what it will look like with their stuff inside. They are basing their purchasing decisions on what they see now. So spending some time up front to make the home show better now will either help you get more money, sell it faster and in many cases, BOTH!
Start by airing out your home. Most people are turned off by even the smallest odor. Odors must be eliminated especially if you have pets or are an inside smoker. All smoking should be done outside and ash trays should be put away when not in use while the home is on the market.
If the carpets have not been cleaned in over a year (or they need cleaning) now is the time to do it. Bare floors should be waxed and polished if needed. Any flooring needing to be replaced should be done so up front if possible. Many buyers have trouble imagining what things will look like once flooring is replaced using “at closing” flooring allowances.
Clean and wipe down any stained woodwork in the house including doors and cabinets with a wood maintenance product like “Old English”.
Replace/clean all HVAC filters and make sure all vents are clean and free of dust, dirt and/or mold.
During showings, the AC should be set at no more than 77 degrees and the heat no cooler than 72.
The use of air fresheners such as the Glade Plug-ins is not a bad idea for homes older than a couple years. You don’t want to have the home smell too “flowery”, so find a scent that is pleasant to those with sensitive noses.
Repaint walls, if necessary, in a neutral color such as antique white or a light beige. Paint is your best improvement investment for getting a greater return on your money. Remember, presentation is key! Especially in the primary areas of the home like the kitchen, dining, living room, and master.
Clear window ledges of all objects to give a nice, clean view both inside and out.
Ask yourself… Is there anything inside or out that “will not make the move”? If so, go ahead and throw it out. Don’t wait until you sell. Now is a great time for the garage sale!
Think positive… You are going to sell the house and move. Start packing small things up now, like knick knacks, family photos, extra toys, books, etc.
Keep it simple… Nothing should touch the floor unless it is a piece of furniture. Remove all baskets, luggage, shoes, etc. The more floor space a buyer can see, the bigger a room will appear.
Upgrade the wattage in dim light fixtures if necessary. (Make sure to follow the manufacturers rules for maximum wattage allowed)
Dust/Wash all light fixtures.
Dust/Wash all ceiling fans and blades. Both indoor and out. Some outdoor fans might need new blades if they are warped from the Houston humidity.
The new high efficiency light bulbs can be a great investment because you can feel better about leaving more lights on during the day in case buyers show up while you are away. Walking into a dark house can make a bad first impression. Leaving some lights on in the kitchen, dining and living areas is a great idea. Especially when you know potential buyers are coming by.
Dust/vacuum blinds, window sills, baseboards and plant ledges.
Clean the interior and exterior of all windows and glass doors.
Take screens off before washing and leave them off the front of the house. If they are dirty, they can be left off the entire house, but make sure to put them back prior to inspections to avoid it being noted in the inspection report. Replace/repair torn screens if needed.
It is best to leave the blinds open or pulled up during the days to allow the most light possible into the home for showings.
Clean all tubs, sinks and toilets. Shower curtains should be immaculate or replaced. No soap film, grime or hair. Be sure to clean and polish all hardware so it shines and doesn’t have any hard water spots.
If shower doors have water spots, clean them so they are spotless again with a product like CLR or something else. And using a squeegee on glass doors after showers helps to keep them clean with our hard water we have in Houston.
Keep any extra shampoo bottles, razors, soaps, sponges, etc put away. The fewer items in the bathtubs and showers, the better.
Dirty laundry and the laundry hamper should be kept out of sight.
Excess rugs and the toilet lid covers should be removed. Especially if the rugs cover up a nice tile floor. If the floor is laminate, rugs might be useful to distract buyers from that type of flooring.
Streamline the counters. Bathroom accessories need to be stored under the sink in baskets so they can be easily used and put back in place. Only keep 1-2 decorative items on the sink counters
Linen cabinets should be fairly organized and not stuffed beyond capacity.
Bathtubs, showers and sinks should be freshly caulked if needed. The shower grout and tile should be clean, free of mold and in good condition. There should be no leaks in the faucets or traps.
Remove any wallpaper that is not “conservative”. No need to re-paper, just paint over with a neutral white or beige color.
Decorate the towels using one or two colors.
Keep all flat surfaces (countertops, appliance tops and furniture) cleared off as much as possible. Kitchen counters should have very little on them so to show that there is plenty of available workspace. Keep small appliances like toasters and coffee makers stored away when not in use.
Go over the kitchen as if you were a health inspector. Clean the oven, stove (and drip pans), refrigerator, dishwasher, etc.
Remove all magnets, photos, calendars, etc from the front and sides of the refrigerator.
Stow trashcan in pantry unless it is extremely top of the line (i.e. matches stainless steel appliances)
Replace broken appliances and repair squeaks, and/or problems with cabinets and drawers.
Discard old food and leftovers from the refrigerator.
If it is on the counters and hasn’t been used in months… put it away.
Organize shelves and put away non-cleanser items.
Keep area clear of dirty clothes and other miscellaneous items.
Pantry / Closets:
Try and thin out closets as much as possible and organize remaining items.
Leave some space between hanging items and leave space on each shelf to show potential storage space.
Make sure each room is not too full of furniture. Select the pieces that look best and put others in storage or the garage if needed.
De-personalize your home by storing or pre-packing personal photos, pictures, etc so that potential buyers may visualize their own personal items in the home. Make sure to patch any holes left once pictures are taken down. This is a major concern for potential buyers… what will the walls look like once you are moved out?
Clear away all excess magazines, books, videos, newspapers, etc. You should store them or throw them away if not needed.
Keep the main living areas of the home light and bright during showings. This can be done by opening the blinds, turning on lights or adding small lamps in dark areas.
Clean the fireplace if needed and remove any items in front of it. If you have a gas fireplace without the gas logs, some people stage it with candles or even a fake flower arrangement.
Create a warm, easygoing and relaxed atmosphere in your living and gameroom areas. This is where most people spend the most time, so this area needs to look GREAT!
If you are leaving just before a showing, lighting a warm scented candle can be beneficial. Just make sure it doesn’t become a fire hazard if forgotten about for a few hours.
The Master Bedroom is the 2nd or 3rd most important room in the house to most buyers so it should be staged for showings at all times.
Define areas (sleeping, dressing, etc) by furniture arrangement. Keep it simple and open.
Be sure clothes and towels are hanging up and not laying around.
Make the bed each morning. If the bedding is old or dated, a simple neutral comforter and pillow cases can do wonders!
Open up closet space by pre-packing clothes and other items in closets that are not being used. You will have to pack it anyway once the home is sold.
The big challenge – Ask any children/teenagers to clean up their rooms each day, take down posters (especially any provocative ones) and keep the rooms organized, light and bright.
If any bedrooms have been custom painted in bright personalized colors, this is a good time to paint them back to neutral if it would make the home show better.
Thoroughly sweep down and/or power-wash all exterior sides and eaves of the house to remove any dirt, mold, cobwebs or wasp nests. Pay attention to the north side since siding mold tends to grow their first.
If you have dirty or dark screens on the windows, these can be removed while selling the house to let in more light. Also, clean the windows inside and out and make sure they stay clean while the home is on the market.
Check for broken or pulled up roof shingles. Also any trees that have branches within 3 feet of the home. Cut the branches back and repair any shingle problems.
Put away tools, garbage cans, hoses, toys, grills and building materials neatly in the garage (where applicable). Also, empty and store any excess flower pots.
Keep the yard mowed and trimmed. In the summer months, this may need to be done more than once a week. Be sure to fertilize when needed, treat any active ant beds, water often, etc. A nice yard is a great selling point and good first impression when buyers pull up to the home.
Trim trees and shrubs so they are well groomed and not rubbing up against the house or roof.
Clean out flowerbeds and invest in a few colorful flowers where needed. Re-mulching the beds is a cheap and easy way to spruce things up. Remember new flowers need plenty of water to survive.
Front Entry / Porch:
Be sure front door area is clean and free of dirt, dust, cobwebs and wasp nests. Some agents won’t show the home if they risk being stung while trying to get in the front door.
Repaint the front door and trim if it is not pristine.
Add a new “welcome” mat and keep it clean so buyers can keep their shoes clean when entering the home.
Make sure the doorbell is functioning properly to avoid any agents coming through the door when you don’t expect them.
Drastically clean and reorganize if needed and make sure the light works.
Sweep and clean – remove all cobwebs and any oil stains or grease from the floor. Consider painting the floor. Especially if you need to go in the garage to do laundry or get to a freezer.
Final Notes to Remember…
You never get a second chance to make a good first impression!
Agents show homes on their buyer’s schedules… not yours unfortunately. It’s hard to do, but the home needs to be ready to show at any time with a little notice. When appointments are turned down or the showing service (CSS) can’t reach you, it is highly unlikely the agent will be able to bring the buyers back. They may just try and sell them another house down the street.
Buyers paying market price are looking for well cared for homes that they can move into immediately without doing any work. Presentation and first impressions are essential!
For showings, please be out of the house whenever possible, or at least plan to take a walk with the pets and/or children upon arrival. Prospective buyers will feel more at ease when the sellers are not home.
Strong cooking, pet or smoking odors can ruin the potential for a sale!
When possible, turn on lights throughout the home and always leave bedroom doors open
A good to show to watch a few episodes of is “Sell This House” on HGTV or A&E for other ideas on decorating, neutralizing, staging and ideas on what buyers may say when you are not there.