- Curb Appeal Counts - Most buyers get their first impression before they even walk through the front door. When potential buyers and their agent drives up to your residence, you want to make sure they don't continue driving! Make sure your yard is nicely manicured, free of weeds, trees trimmed back (added benefit - cutting back excessive tree branches allows light inside the house), and Christmas lights are removed (yep, some people leave theirs out all year long). Simple additions such as mulch and pretty flowers can brighten any front yard and make potential buyers want to come in and see your house. Also make sure you keep your yard well maintained until your house sells. Nothing worse than someone seeing your house after it's been on the market awhile and it is overgrown with a falling over or dangling sign. The Ghost Town look doesn't sell houses; it makes buyers run away as fast as they can!
- Clutter, Clutter Everywhere - Most homeowners and their agents don't go far enough when eliminating clutter. Rooms overstuffed with furniture, wall of pictures, shelves full of knick knacks, countertops full of personal products or appliances and overstuffed closets and drawers are considered cluttered. Pack up all personal items including pictures and trophies. Although these items may be personal for homeowners, they are a distraction to buyers and make the house seem small. Remember you are selling square footage, not your stuff! Pack it up for the move or get rid of it altogether. Great solution is turning some of your excess clutter into cash. Have a garage sale or sell it on Ebay.
- Clean It Up - No one wants to buy a place that looks like a pig sty! Most homeowners surface clean their house but to sell, the house must be white glove clean. Hire professional cleaning services if you must. Housecleaning, window washing and carpet cleaners are a great investment if you don't have the time or desire to do it yourself. If you want to do it yourself, make sure you pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. These two rooms are what sell houses. Other places you need to pay attention to are windows (inside and out), baseboards, light fixtures, ceiling fans and fingerprints from doors, drawers and cupboards. Clean it up as if the President of the United States or your picky mother in law were coming for a visit .
- Let There Be Light - A dark house feels small. An easy way to make rooms feel larger is to eliminate clutter. You are selling square footage and not your belongings after all. If you have dark colored walls, paint them a lighter color (dark wall colors make a room feel small). Remove heavy window treatments, cut back vegetation from the window areas and make sure windows are clean, inside and out to bring in natural light. Add more lighting to rooms such as table and floor lamps. These are all ways to lighten and brighten your house.
- Move It or Lose It - You want to accentuate your house's positive selling features. These features include great views, high ceilings and fireplaces. Create focal points which will draw a buyer's eye to these features by moving around your furniture. Most buyers have their furniture facing their TV rather than their fireplace or views. Fireplaces and beautiful views are what buyers are seeking. Not only does moving your furniture allow buyers to appreciate the great selling features of your house but it also allows buyers to envision themselves living there. If buyers don't love the way your place looks and feels you may lose a sale. NOTE: Do not, repeat DO NOT try to hide anything! If you have dirty carpet, do not put furniture or a throw rug over it. If you have a hole in the wall, do not try to cover it with a piece of furniture or a picture. Any problems or conditions within the house must be disclosed ahead of time. Do not be dishonest. You're setting yourself up for a lawsuit.
- Fix It or Forget It - If you have anything broken or missing, even something minor, fix it. If you don't, your house will be viewed as a "fixer upper" and it will bring in a lower asking price. Buyers feel if your house has broken or missing items (such as missing outlet covers and burned out light bulbs) than the homeowner most likely didn't deal with major problems like plumbing or electrical. In addition, when your house is in escrow, the home inspector will inform the buyers of any problems he encounters. These deferred maintenance problems are a renegotiating tool for buyers. Don't let this be a deal breaker. Fix any problems now!
- Smells Don't Sell - If a potential buyer walks in and they are bombarded with the smells of your house, they may turn around and head back out the door. Smells such as cigarette smoke, pet smells, cooking odors and other "excessive" odors are a real turn off to buyers. Smells are imbedded in carpet, window treatments, your furniture, in trash cans and sinks and can be easily eliminated by thoroughly cleaning your house and belongings. Don't try to cover up smells with candles, sprays or potpourri. Sometimes even "good" smells are too overbearing. Best way is to eliminate the odor source and then air out the house. You may not be able to smell offensive odors (you are use to the smells in your house), but buyers can whether they are bad or "good" smells. Don't chase them off.
- Broaden Your Buyer Field - Many homeowners are quite proud of their house, as they should be, and feel others should appreciate it. Unfortunately not everyone has the same tastes as you. Homeowners don't realize they are marketing their house to a small group of buyers when they choose not to remove wallpaper, personal paint colors and theme rooms. When it comes to selling a house, it must be neutral in style in order to appeal to a wide variety of buyers. If your house is too "taste specific", the longer it will be on the market (waiting for a buyer with same taste to come along).
- Turn Key House - Buyers are savvier these days and they have the time to visit a lot of houses before they choose which one to make an offer. Buyers want a house they can just move into and start living. They don't want to have to strip wallpaper, paint neutral colors or replace outdated or worn items. If they did, they would buy a fixer upper. Don't let buyers think your house is a fixer upper! Simple and inexpensive renovation can make a house seem like it has been overhauled. Paint is the easier and least expensive way to update anything in any room besides the walls. Paint can make an ugly fireplace look new and fresh. Paint can refurbish cabinets in your kitchen or bathroom. A can of spray paint is a lot less expensive than replacing all your drawer handles. Paint (done by a professional company) can revamp bathtubs and sinks. There are even specialty paint products to update your ceramic tile and appliances. Other simple renovations include new light fixtures (sometimes it just takes new light covers) and new plumbing fixtures. The more "updated/upgraded" a house is, the less bargaining power potential buyers have.
- Dress Your House For Success - Once you have followed all the suggestions (clean, declutter, lighten and brighten, renovate, repair, etc.), now it's time to accessorize. If you don't accessorize your house, it won't give off as much of an impact as you should be trying to achieve. Just like adding jewelry, shoes and handbag to an outfit, accessorizing finishes the look of a house. Accessorizing your house is the hardest thing to accomplish if you don't know what you are doing. Simple accessorizing can be completed using pictures, mirrors and art work, pillows, candles and certain types of "knick knacks". Group these items in odd numbers (1, 3 or 5) and display similar items as a "theme" or display at different heights.
- Naked Houses Are Harder To Sell - Most buyers cannot visualize the potential of a house. Rooms look smaller in a vacant house. Buyers cannot picture size and scale so furniture placement helps give them a frame of reference. Have a few rooms staged to allows buyers to see how a room can look or be set up.
- If You Post It, They Will Come - You must make sure your pictures posted on the MLS are the very best. 4 out of 5 buyers first look at photos online or in print ads when deciding which houses they'll tour. If the listing has no photos posted or if the house looks too dark or small, most buyers won't even bother viewing it in person. The purpose is to get buyers to your house so it can sell in the shortest amount of time for the best possible price the market will allow. Don't blow it with bad listing photos. Take lots of pictures of your focal points in the best possible light. Only post those which show your house at its very best. Even better, add a Real Estate Show to your MLS listing. Not all listing do this and it will make your house stand out.
By following these suggestions, your house will look great. I you want to make an even bigger impact, hire a home staging consultant to make sure you have covered all the bases. Then you will definately be the envy of all your neighbors.
"The above information, authored by Becky Fields of Styled to Sell, appeared as a FEATURED POST June 5, 2007 on ActiveRain.com. ActiveRain is an on-line informational resource serving the real estate industry."