How to Prepare Your House for Sale
The little things can make a big difference
Every seller wants their home to sell quickly for a large profit, but it takes more than luck to make this happen. It involves careful planning and knowing how to professionally prepare your home to convince buyers to pull out their checkbooks.
Disassociate From Your House
Letting go of your home can be difficult. You've lived there, possibly for years, and the house holds many memories. To detach from it emotionally, you must realize that without you in it, the house is just a shell to be filled by other occupants. Look to the future, where can make new memories in your next home.
Sever your emotional attachment to the house by realizing that home is about the occupants who live there, not just the space or building. Your next house will feel like home before you know it because you will be personalizing your space and creating new memories.
Depersonalize Your House
Pack up your personal photographs, family heirlooms, and other objects and clutter that might distract potential buyers and hurt a possible sale. You want to present buyers with an impersonal, clean environment so they can imagine the home perhaps decorated with their own photographs, furniture, and art objects. Depersonalizing your home makes it easier for potential buyers to visualize how the home might look filled with their own items.
Regarding furniture, only leave understated pieces that are not a distraction and don't create an unintended impression. For example, it would be difficult for a buyer to visualize their own antique furnishings in place of the existing zebra couch, bright yellow chair, and bear rug.
The goal is to make it easy for a potential buyer to see the house as their future home.
Declutter Your House
People tend to collect an amazing quantity of items over the years. Reasons for keeping items include an emotional attachment, an intention to reuse or fix the items in the future, or a wish to pass them on to others. However, for many items, if you haven't used them in over a year, you probably don't need them.
Discard items in a useful way by donating them to a charity or nonprofit organization such as the Salvation Army or Goodwill. These items not only help those in need but are tax-deductible. For items that are not accepted, call your town to inquire whether the items can be picked up. Many towns schedule this service once or twice a month.
Also, remove books from bookcases and other knickknacks, and clean everything off your kitchen counters. Essential items that you use daily can be tucked away in small boxes that you can place in a closet when they're not in use. Consider this process an efficient start to your packing.
Organize Bedroom Closets and Storage Cabinets
Buyers will be curious about storage space and will want to check closets and cabinets. It's important to ensure these are organized, as it sends a negative message if your storage spaces are cluttered with items falling out.
When a buyer sees everything organized down to the last detail, it shows that you take care of your possessions and likely took good care of the house. In kitchen cabinets, alphabetize spice jars, neatly stack dishes, and turn the coffee cup handles so they're facing the same way. In closets, shirts should be buttoned and hung together, and shoes should be lined up neatly.
Consider Renting a Storage Unit
Almost every home shows better with less furniture. Remove pieces that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage, along with distracting furniture, artwork, and empty bookcases.
Removing extra leaves from your dining room table will make the room appear larger.
Leave just enough furniture to showcase the room's purpose with plenty of room for buyers to move around.
Remove or Replace Favorite Items
If you plan on taking certain window coverings, built-in appliances, or fixtures with you, remove them prior to showing the house. If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great-grandmother, be sure to take it down before a buyer sees it and asks that it be included with the house. Telling a buyer they can't have an item that appears with the house and enhances its appeal can hurt the sale.
Make Minor Repairs
Replace cracked floor or counter tiles and patch any holes in the walls. Fix leaky faucets and doors that don't close properly, as well as kitchen drawers that jam. Consider painting walls neutral colors, especially if they're currently hot pink or purple. Don't give buyers any reason to remember your home as "the one with the orange bathroom."
Replace burned-out light bulbs and also consider replacing those that have been in service for a while. Avoid the potential of having a bulb blow out when you flip the light switch during a showing. It's a small incident that can easily be avoided if you are mindful. You want the buyer's experience to be as positive as possible.
Throw open the curtains and blinds and turn on those lights. Houses show better when each room is clean and bright.
Make the House Sparkle
Preparing your home to be viewed by potential buyers may require hiring a professional cleaning crew. Cleaning may include washing the windows inside and out; renting a pressure washer and spraying down sidewalks and the exterior; recaulking tubs, showers, and sinks; and polishing chrome faucets and mirrors. Make sure all of the dust is removed from under the furniture, in the cabinets and closets, and everywhere else it could be hiding.
Try to maintain this cleanliness by vacuuming daily, waxing floors, dusting furniture, and keeping the bathrooms and kitchen spotless. Hang up fresh guest towels. Also, keep the toilet lid closed when it's not in use.
Kitchens are a big selling point for many buyers, so make yours as spotless and uncluttered as possible. In the event someone opens your refrigerator, make sure it appears clean and orderly.
Above all, clean and air out any musty areas. The night before a showing, avoid cooking particularly odorous foods such as fish, garlic or cabbage. These smells can linger the day after. Also, if you have pets, monitor litter boxes or any other areas affected by pets.
Scrutinize Curb Appeal
A potential sale is lost quickly if a buyer won't even get out of their agent's car because the exterior of your home turns them off. Make the exterior more appealing and welcoming by painting your front door and, perhaps, adding a wreath of dried wildflowers, or placing one or two flower pots on your front porch. Hire a landscaper to clean up your lawn and add a few shrubs or flowering plants. Consider hiring a contractor to fix any cracks on your front steps or walkway. Also, make sure visitors can clearly see your house number.
The Final Step
Back inside your home, linger in the doorway of each room and imagine how your house will look to a buyer. Examine how the furniture is arranged and rearrange pieces until the room achieves visual appeal. Make sure window coverings hang evenly. Once you've cleaned and gotten everything repaired and organized, you can begin staging your home.
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, CalBRE #00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.