Getting your house ready to sell can seem like a daunting task. But the good news is, it doesn’t have to be! Knowing what to do, and giving yourself enough time to do it, are the key to keeping it a manageable, and (hopefully) stress-free, experience.
Follow these tried-and-true guidelines to get your home ready to sell.
Tip #1: Clean your home.
It may seem obvious but a dirty home discourages buyers and also can actually influence home appraisers and inspectors. Cleaning your home not only gives the impression that you take care of it, but when you clean, you will also start to notice things that you may want to address before putting your home on the market. For example, you might see a wet spot that indicates a leak or mold. Chances are you’d have to fix that before the sale goes through, so add it to your checklist. Remember, when you clean, make sure that all areas are easily accessible.
Tip #2: Install safety equipment.
Your state may require smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. These are important safety devices that save lives. Understand your local safety requirements and make sure that your home meets them before putting it on the market.
Tip #3: Clean your yard.
As the saying goes, you never have a second chance to make a first impression. The first time that potential buyers will see your home will be from the outside. Therefore, curb appeal is key. Cut the grass, rake the leaves, weed the garden, and trim overgrown shrubs. Take care of obvious problems such as leaves clogging gutters, rotting trim boards, and dead trees. Power wash your house, driveways, and deck. Remove clutter such as toys and bicycles. And if you have the time, plant flowers or greenery.
Tip #4: Make easy home improvements.
Appraisers tend to measure your home’s value in increments of $500. Therefore, if you have obvious damage or you’re missing key items, it could add up against you. Walk around and look with a critical eye. Address the improvements that are easy and affordable: broken doors, nonfunctional locks, faulty light switches, leaky faucets, and other minor issues. If you can, take on the slightly more advanced items such as roof leaks, damaged siding, broken tiles, peeling paint, or anything that looks like neglect. Remember that the kitchen is a key room for buyers. The fastest and easiest way to update this room is with paint and new cabinet hardware.
Tip #5: Get the appraisal done early.
If you’re selling your home, you have to get it appraised. An appraisal* is a professional estimate of your home’s market value. A low appraisal means a lower selling price, so it’s important to present your home for its best value. Schedule it early; this way, if the inspector finds a defect, you can fix it before putting your home on the market.
*Note: An appraisal and a home inspection are not the same thing. A home inspection is a detailed inspection of a home’s plumbing, electric, HVAC systems, roof, and more. It’s almost always the buyer’s responsibility to cover that cost, and it’s done before the sale is closed.
Tip #6: Make a list of upgrades and share documents.
An appraiser won’t automatically know the home improvements you have made, especially since some aren’t easily visible. That’s why it’s helpful to put together a list of improvements. Include dates and warranties if you have them. There are other documents that will be helpful to have ready for your appraiser, including comparable sale numbers in your neighborhood and the home survey that was done when you purchased your home. Your lender or title company may have the property survey on file. If not, try the local tax assessor’s office.
Tip #7: Ask your real estate agent to attend the appraisal.
You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for the appraiser to give your home the value it deserves. Ask your real estate agent to join you at the appraisal and bring comparable sales data to support the sales price. Have him/her talk up the neighborhood and any other selling features: a good school system, a central location. Even having a Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, or Whole Foods nearby can influence home valuation.
Tip #8: Stage your home.
Now the fun begins! Here’s when you or your realtor team can update your home’s décor for a more modern and neutral look. Here are some ideas.
- Repaint walls, hang new curtains, change out lampshades.
- Install shiny new hardware such as doorknobs or faucets.
- Let the light in: clean windows, trim bushes blocking windows, and take down heavy drapes. Increase the wattage in your light bulbs.
- Empty half of the clothes in your closet. Rearrange the remaining clothes so they’re beautifully organized, and box up the rest.
- Take a third of your stuff and put it in storage. Include items like family memorabilia, pictures, etc. You want to depersonalize your home as much as possible.
- Conceal evidence of your pets. If you’re expecting visitors, move their food and water dishes, litter box, and other items away from the main areas. Make sure your home doesn’t smell like pet, too.
- Create a welcoming mood with an entryway that has a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers, or some cookies.
- Keep your home at a comfortable temperature and make sure it’s ready to be shown at a moment’s notice.
For more tips, see our blog on Real Estate Tips for a Hot Market.
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