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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How do I get my house ready to list?


Part 2 in a series of 12 posts for people who want to list their house for sale.

Let’s look at getting your house ready for market. Here are some tips:

GET RID OF CLUTTER! The biggest thing that I see, both as a listing agent and when showing houses to a potential buyer, is unbelievable clutter in many houses.  Junk everywhere. Clothes everywhere. Dishes and food lying around everywhere! Too much furniture in every room. Get rid of it! It is hard for most buyers to look beyond the clutter to see the underlying house for what it might be. Your stuff, no matter how much it might mean to you is just getting in the way. Get organized to attack this problem.  
If you don’t have enough room to neatly store stuff away, consider renting at a local storage facility (size depends on how much clutter you have). Box everything up that you don’t need to have right at hand up and move some of your stuff out. Even consider moving some furniture out, if you have rooms that are too full of furniture. Your precious collection of Beanie Babies all over the bedroom just looks like clutter to someone else. Get them out! Even your knick knacks and hobby stuff may just look like clutter to someone else. Store them off site.. If you don’t want to store it, have a garage sale and get rid of your excess stuff. Read this article on getting rid of clutter before you even attempt to spiff the place up a bit for listing.

Clean the place up. Beyond clutter there is just common cleanliness. If your place smells bad or is excessively dirty, it’s a turn off that will sink the chances of anyone wanting to buy it or will cause them to low-ball the house, since they see a big clean up ahead. This is particularly true of anything that smells of mold or rot. Clean it up. Disinfect and get the smells out! Pay to have the carpets cleaned, so that the buyers won’t automatically be subtracting for replacing the carpets. Cobwebs, spider webs, dust bunnies, dirt tracked floors and other obvious signs of un-cleanliness are red flags to potential buyers that there may be other issues caused by the same slovenly behavior. If you have to, hire a cleaning crew to come in and give the place a good deep cleaning. Here’s a link to a house cleaning guide that can be downloaded. It was put together by professional house cleaners.

Paint or touch up the paint. A $20-30 can of paint could add thousands to the perceived  “value” of a house. I see many houses where the walls are nicked or marked, due to normal wear and tear and the owners have done nothing to make them look better. How cheap can you be? Repair the walls and paint them if they look bad. If you have walls with tons of pictures hanging (especially family pictures); take them down and repair the holes in the wall and put on a fresh coat of paint. Kids’ rooms, especially teenager’s rooms are usually riddled with holes or places where tape has pulled off the paint. Buyers hate to think of having that kind of project right away after moving in and they don’t care about your pictures.

Many kids’ rooms have also been painted in colors that only a kid cold love. Dark purple or black rooms may appeal to a moody teen, but they are a turn off to would-be buyers. The cute clouds with stars on the ceiling of your little Princess’ room also need to be painted over, as well as the mural of the Unicorn on the wall.  Good clean, repaired and painted walls are inviting to buyers and they can envision putting their tons of pictures up. If they want to have clouds and stars for their little Princess, they’ll put them up later.

Get on the “deferred maintenance” items. That’s a polite way of saying to do all of those little things that
you’ve been meaning to get to or which you’ve just learned to live with; but, that need fixing. Put plug and switch covers on those open wiring boxes or replace the ones that broke. Replace that piece of shoe molding that the dog or cat crewed or clawed up or that door molding that got roughed up when you were moving something in or out. Replace those light bulbs that burned out and you never got around to replacing. Put up a new curtain rod to replace the one that pulled out of the wall when the cat got snagged on the curtain. Replace or fix that dripping faucet in the laundry room or in the bathroom. If you need help identifying these little projects, ask your Realtor to walk through the house and make recommendations. You know that those little maintenance jobs are there, but maybe you’ve been in denial so long that you just can’t see them anymore.

Be an informed seller. Get a professional home inspection done. Here is link to a Home Inspection Checklist that you can use yourself to do an “inspection” of your home. It is not meant to substitute for a professional job, just to get you thinking about all of the areas of your home that an inspector will be looking at later. You can make these visual inspections without having to get into the depth that the inspector will, but they will tell you a lot about your home and what may need attention. A good home inspection will cost $300-500 depending upon the size of the house, but it is well worth it to avoid show stopping discoveries later. Once you have a buyer in hand you do not want them finding something during their home inspection that will cause them to walk away. Many times this inspection will uncover something that is also bad for your family’s health and must be fixed anyway. It’s better to find out now.


In the next post, we’ll look at whether making major updates at this point make any sense.

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