It’s go-time, the decision has been made to sell the house… now what? Any Realtor® will tell you that people are passionate about their homes, their style, their things, so trying to objectively decide what needs to be done before a house gets listed can be fraught with emotion and push back.
RE Rule 101: The seller wants to maximize the value of the asset and the buyer wants the best deal they can get for the property. Period. The seller needs to maximize their time and spend as little as possible in order to get the house ready to show.
One thing I always tell sellers, it’s not about YOU, it’s about the BUYER. A seller’s job is to allow a qualified buyer up to one-year occupancy without making any material changes – no one wants to move into “an immediate project.” The seller needs to present a house that is as visually close to what current buyers expect, in a manner that reflects values to them from the minute they get out of the car and walk up to the front door.
The Devil is in the Details. As you create the plan to get the house ready. Organization is key and much can be done by the seller, saving time and money.
- Organizing and clearing out rooms of extra furniture and personal items. Touch everything you own once. Clean, sort (keep, store, donate or dump) the entire house and remove your personal footprint. Only keep out the furniture and accessories you will use for staging purposes only.
- Deep Clean. Whether you do it yourself or hire a service, do a detailed thorough cleaning of the house, including windows and store the screens. There is a psychology behind clean houses that helps the home selling process – a study at Indiana University found that clean houses were perceived by people to be linked to healthier individuals.
- Set the Interior and Exterior Template. When staging a house or what I call setting the template, you do not have to break the bank. Below are some guides for common, inexpensive, cosmetic updates and home improvements that can be done to increase the visual value of the house. As you go through each room and look at the furniture, be open to and look for new ways to stage the space that will open up the room.
- Paint – white or light grey walls, white trim and ceilings. New paint is an easy and inexpensive way to make your house look fresh and new.
- Carpet/Flooring/Lighting – new carpet and pristine floors are a must and worth the small investment. Make sure all lights work (inside and out) and have as least soft white 60-watt light bulbs – you can use 100-watt
- Foyer/Living Room/Dining Room – showcase a tiny space in the entrance/foyer to welcome buyers and create a focal point in the living room and arrange furniture from there. Remove the leaf from the dining room table to create a smaller piece of furniture, making the room look more spacious. Purchase and place the correct style and size plant material to provide a tasteful accent near the entry, on tables or mantels.
- Great Room/Family Room – place the furniture in a visually and physically logical format that highlights the width, depth and unique assets of the room.
- Kitchen – Severely limit what you keep on the countertops – only essentials and pack or remove the rest. Appliances in working order.
- Master Bedroom/Other Bedrooms – Buyers are looking for a sanctuary and are willing to pay for perfection in the master bedroom. A mirror over the dresser will make the room look bigger. Bedrooms should contain the same basic furniture, a bed, side table, lamps, chest of drawers, area rug or new carpets.
- Bathrooms – clean and if necessary, install new vanity and countertops in white. I use the Home Decorators Collection at Home Depot.
- Laundry Room/Basement/Bonus Space: Washing machine and dryer must be functional, vented and have adequate drainage. Basement or lower level family rooms need to be clean, bright with new carpet or polished floors. They don’t necessarily need to be staged but can be vacant if the rest of the house is visually and physically perfect.
- Garage/Exterior Lighting/Landscaping – garage must be clean enough to see width and depth, including storage capacity. Exterior lighting must work and be clean. Trim trees and landscaping that blocks the façade. Remove dead trees, limbs, shrubs and plant material, edge gardens and spread brown mulch (not red or black).
- Exterior Paint/Shutters/Front Door – no chipped paint. Replace house numbers with Baldwin 4-inch polished brass, nickel or black.
- Exterior Cleaning – Power wash everything, including the outdoor furniture and grill
- Outdoor Furniture – create conversation areas
I realize that no one actually “lives” this clean, but you must try to exist in deep clean mode in order to sell. Transitioning a principal residence is an emotional, financial and physical challenge. While the journey is different for everyone, the home transition process is the same. Saving time and money is key for any seller.
Read more about The Devil is in the Details in my book: SMART MOVES: How to Save Time and Money While Transitioning Your Home and Life. Be A Smart Mover!