Would You Pay Top Dollar for Your Own House?

If the answer is a resounding yes, you’re ready to list. If the answer is no, you’ll need to understand why it is a no and create a strategic plan of attack to create a yes. Realtors are often called upon to outline exactly what a seller may need to do to get their house ready to sell at top dollar. Do you know what to do to get your own house ready to list?

Most sellers realize they are expected to do a few things to “spruce up” their home before they sell. Do you understand exactly what you need to do and why? This information is vital to understand to positively position your house to sell. This is just one part of the larger “total home transition”, but a critical part that will directly affect the list price, DOM (days on market) and ultimate sales price of your house. The biggest mistake sellers make is not looking at their house through the eyes of the BUYER and not making the necessary visual and cosmetic updates in order to meet BUYER expectations. Ask yourself, would you pay top dollar for your own house? If not, you need to understand why not and what to do about it.

We strongly encourage sellers to do a thorough (buyer-based) interior and exterior assessment of the house and property, in order to determine what “negative” issues need to be addressed to entice todays buyers. Be objective and non-emotional when you do the assessment to create a task list and remain in control of the process. Gather the estimates to make a decision on which items will create the most positive impression and ensure the highest ROI (rate of return) on your investment. Don’t get overwhelmed or be discouraged, it’s just a list. You have control of what you will ultimately decide what you will do and what you are willing to spend to do it. Understanding the financial impact of the decisions you will make is part of the process.

The next step in the Total Home Transition process is to create your 5-step plan of attack to turn your home into a marketable asset that is ready to list and sell at top dollar:

  1. Determine a launch schedule and define the scope of work to be completed.
    Download a blank calendar to use as a planning tool and create a transition binder for yourself to stay organized during this part of the sales process. Decide on the date the house will be listed with your REALTOR and work backward on the calendar to schedule the work that needs to be done and add all key dates, notes, vendor estimates, meetings, receipts, etc. This binder is a critical part of the organizational process and you will refer to it frequently throughout the course of your home transition.
  2. What can I afford to do? What can’t I afford NOT to do?
    Once you have compiled the task list of items to be addressed, sellers tend to look at the list from a financial point of view only and have likely pre-determined the cost of what is “fair” to prepare their house to sell. Fight this basic instinct to save money or hassle in the short-term and prioritize the list by visual and physical impact to the buyer. If funds are limited, consider painting the walls white and installing new neutral carpeting and repair or replace flooring that is old, scratched, peeling, cracked or generally in disrepair.
  3. Working with a Pro and dealing with the Trades.
    You will need to hire professionals for most if not all the work that needs to be done. If you don’t have a list of the required trades at your fingertips, your REALTOR, friends and neighbors can make trusted recommendations. Don’t rush. Get several estimates to compare apples to apples, check for online reviews, ask for licenses and inquire about Workman’s Compensation insurance. Do your homework. Establish deadlines and financial consequences for not meeting them. Expect to pay a deposit and hold the balance payment until the contracted work is completed.
  4. Decide to stage or not to stage.
    Will you be using your own furniture, rugs, lamps, artwork and accessories to accentuate the width and depth of each room and highlight the unique assets of the house for the buyer? Or, will you hire a staging company to install a more updated color palette with right-sized furniture? Don’t make the mistake of believing that you can and should stage only the main floor of the house to save money. This is NOT a smart move. While you may save money in the short term, the positive visual impression does not last when the buyer goes to the second floor and sees vacant or sparsely furnished rooms. The energy drop is often negative and creates needless questions in the mind of the buyer.
  5. The Roller Coaster Ride Continues.
    You have identified the timeline, task list, budget and vendors and have scheduled the work that needs to be done. You have made the decision about how you will stage the house. Now it’s time to begin strategically sorting and packing the household goods you will not need access to over the next few months. Stay focused on the “big picture” and understand that you are sorting and packing now to put yourself in a position of negotiating strength to accept a cash offer with a fast closing. The next phase will be much easier if you are already are 60% packed to move.

Remember: Procrastination is enemy number one! Home Transition is an emotional, physical and financial roller coaster. To succeed over time, you will need to focus, pace yourself, stay organized and set aside time each day to breathe and center yourself. This process can weigh heavily on your mental well-being and physically strength and endurance. It is truly challenging and often the most difficult part of the process. Understand what to expect and commit to accomplish this with determination and as little drama as possible.

Read more about the Plan of Attack in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!

Selling your House? Why a Buyer-Based Interior Assessment is Critical

You have made the decision to sell… now what? The life changing event of selling one home and moving to the next is an emotional, financial and physical roller coaster for most sellers. This event ranks among the top five most stressful events along with death, divorce, illness and loss of a job.

Fear not! Find an ally and partner with an experienced REALTOR® in your local market who will educate you on what to do to sell-don’t guess. This process will surely entail conducting a , buyer-based interior assessment. You can do this yourself, by using the guidelines below, understanding you will look through the lens of the BUYER, as you make decisions on what needs to be done. One of the biggest mistakes’ sellers make is not realizing these decisions are not about YOU, they are about the BUYER. Ask yourself, would you buy your house in its current condition?

During the interior assessment, tour each room in the house (including attic, basement, garage) from an altitude of 30,000 feet, there is no need to open each drawer or cabinet at this point. You are looking for opportunities to make meaningful visual and physical (if needed) updates to the space that will welcome someone walking into it and entice a buyer to want to live there. Look at the furniture, carpet, rugs, lamps, artwork, accessories and discuss ideas of how to use them in new and interesting places. You will need two-and-a-half (2.5) feet to walk comfortably through the rooms without feeling physically or psychology crowded. Clear a natural path to easily navigate without stepping over or side-swiping your things – this is the perfect time to consider removing unwanted or extra items in order to open-up the rooms and help guide the buyers visual tour of your house. Also pay attention to the condition of the floors, walls, paint, lighting, odor, fans, exhaust, water damage, as those will be things that need to be addressed as well.

It’s critical to understand that most buyers will insist on a home inspection once they have a ratified contract on your house and while a house can’t “fail” a home inspection, it can receive a “poor” grade and require the seller to agree to a list of repairs or make financial restitution for these repairs as they scramble to save the sale. If you have real concerns, you may want to schedule a pre-inspection with a certified home inspector now to prepare yourself to address any big issues that may present a problem later.

There are fast, easy and inexpensive cosmetic updates you can do that will positively affect your bottom-line. Regardless of the listing price, all sellers want to maximize the sale to its full potential. You stand to gain, or to lose, both time and money in this unique transaction.

Your goal is a quick sale at top-dollar and it all starts on the inside. Conducting your own non-emotional interior assessment of your home from a buyer’s point of view is the first step.

Remember, your job as the seller is to make sure your home is delivered in a condition that will allow a qualified buyer up to one-year occupancy without making material changes. No one wants to move into an immediate project. Providing a 12-month window may be the difference between an offer and stagnation on the market saving time, money and emotional stress.

Your interior assessment is over, now what? You’ve complied a task list of some of the issues you’ve noticed that will need to be addressed before you house can go on the market. The list is typically longer than you would like, but this is not uncommon. Take a deep breath and keep moving.

Fast, easy and inexpensive updates to help achieve The Perfect Listing™:

  • Remove Your Personal Footprint. Packing up your personal footprint allows you to offer a clean, de-cluttered, clearly defined blank slate for buyers to clearly see the space they are considering for their own family. Don’t distract them with your personal photos and mementos.
  • Paint. Neutralize the walls, ceilings and trim. A neutral color palette let’s buyers see and feel the value of the room size and flow of the floor plan. It visually unifies and amplifies usable space and highlights the distinctive features.
  • Carpeting/Rugs/Flooring. Should be in excellent shape or replaced. Carpeting should be new or recently cleaned. It should be a neutral color, low pile like a sisal/berber blend. Area rugs must be in almost new condition, the right color and style and size proportionate to the room.
  • Light (natural and electrical). Recessed, overhead fixtures and lamps should all be utilized to provide adequate interior light sources.
  • Kitchen and Bathrooms. Cosmetic updates to kitchens and bathrooms to create a “move in ready” house. Upgrade hardware on cabinets. Utilize white bedding and white towels to dress bedrooms and bathrooms.
  • Appliances and systems. All are in working order or repaired or replaced.
  • Add Plant Material. Live plants and flowers must be in proportion to the area or room in which they are placed and not distracting. Elegant and simple, while adding a touch of beauty.
  • Deep Clean. You’ll have to deep clean and organize the entire house (this includes attic and garage), but especially your kitchen cabinets and drawers. Take everything out of every cabinet and drawer, remove shelf and drawer lining and pack up, donate or toss non-necessary items to create space. Gather all warranties and critical house documents the new homeowner will need and place them in one drawer.

More than likely, this house is your most valuable asset, make sure to present it to the buyer in a manner that reflects value to them from the moment they got out of the car and are on their way to the front door. (Not your front door because remember… you are moving).

You can refer to the Pre-Home Inspection Checklist in my book, SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life.

Be a Smart Mover and good luck!

The Top 5 Biggest Mistakes Sellers Make When Listing their Home and How to Avoid Them

You or your client has made the decision to sell, and if you are a Realtor, you have told them what they need to do. You’re done, right? Wrong. Once the listing agreement is signed, the seller begins to panic. They are thinking, now what? They are asking themselves… How do I pack up a lifetime? Where do I start? Who do I call? What do I do first? They need help.

It’s emotionally overwhelming to them; and you, as their agent, can only offer so much guidance and emotional support. Assure sellers that it’s normal to feel discouraged at the beginning of a home transition process and very common to know little about the real estate and moving industries. No one escapes the uncertainty of the sales and moving process, as it’s universal no matter where you live, the size of your home, what you’re packing or where you’re going. There is no way around the process of selling and moving… only through it. So, how can you help?

Keep in mind that your initial focus is to guide the seller to create a visually well-designed listing to sell at top dollar. They need to create order out of chaos and achieve a high-end look for less. They need to re-define the process of visually packaging their homes to sell, saving as much time and money as they can. They must strip the emotion out of the process and, rather than approaching the sale of the house with fear, nostalgia or even anger, step out of the emotional quicksand. Encourage them to view their house as a valuable asset without emotion. Once they change their mind-set and approach the sale of the home in a business-like way, it becomes easier to get the ball rolling and logically prepare the home for a sale that will generate immediate buyer interest.

The 5 biggest mistakes sellers make and what you can do to help them:

  1. It’s not about YOU, it’s about the BUYER.
    Explain to the seller that the process is actually about buyers wants, needs and preferences and not about them. The buyer is in the “driver’s seat”. The seller’s job is to present a house as visually close to what current buyers expect and are determined to find. This dictates that cosmetic changes within their home will almost certainly need to be made to create a modern, up-to-date listing that appeals to a wide cross section of potential buyers.
  2. Believing your house is the exception to the rule.
    Explain that there are NO exceptions to the rule! Their job as a seller is to deliver a house in a condition that will allow a qualified buyer up to one-year of occupancy without making material changes. No one wants to move into “an immediate project.” Providing a 12-month window may be the difference between an offer and stagnation on the market — thus saving time, money and emotional stress.
  3. Not removing your personal footprint.
    Explain the importance of removing their personal footprint and stylized, seller-specific design choices. Their job as a seller is to understand the visual, financial and emotional impact of them NOT removing their personal footprint and how it may impact the buyer. Today’s buyers are easily distracted. Instead of focusing on the actual bricks and mortar, they’re suddenly intrigued by your personal items, asking themselves –” Who lives here? Are they happy? Why are they selling?” Packing up your personal footprint allows you to offer a clean, decluttered, defined blank slate for buyers to clearly see the space they are considering for their own family.
  4. Not conducting an interior and exterior buyer assessment.
    Tour the exterior and interior of the house and each room, looking closely at the way each space presents, but from an altitude of 30,000 feet. There is no need to open each drawer at this stage, but looking at overall presentation, identify “issues” that will need to be addressed and look for opportunities to make meaningful visual and physical updates in order to create value in the mind of the buyer. You will need 2.5 feet to walk comfortably through rooms without feeling physically or psychology crowded. Clear a natural path to easily navigate without stepping over or side-swiping your things. Their job as a seller is to gather the estimates for the recommended updates and make educated financial decisions based on the visual impact of these changes on list price and DOM (days on market).
  5. Believing your buyer will see the value of your home the way you do.
    Explain the importance of visually packaging their house to “speak” to buyers. The buyer and their agent have done their research, viewed the virtual tour, assessed the location; and based on THEIR personal parameters, want to tour the listing. Buyers will give themselves less than 10 minutes to decide if this could be “it”. Many will only devote 4 or 5 minutes and make a snap decision – yes or no. This means they will fly through your rooms in less than a minute or 2 and if they are distracted and a few things seem odd or cause them to pause and question, you’ve probably lost their attention. Their job as a seller is to ask themselves (and be honest): What will buyers see and remember in the 10 minutes they tour my house, and can they imagine themselves living there?

This is an emotionally exciting but stressful life-changing event for sellers. Realtors need to provide the guidance needed to make financially strategic and visually impactful cosmetic updates to their homes that will save them time and money. Empower them to take responsibility for their home transition to ensure a successful sale and smooth move to the next home. So, as their REALTOR and valued resource, guide them to make SMART MOVES!

Brace for Impact: Successfully Navigate the Uncertainty of a Home Transition

Consult with an experienced professional home stager. The most important first step is to truly understand how to best position your home to sell for top dollar.