How to Save Time and Money Creating the Perfect Listing™

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

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!

“Houston We Have a Problem…”

When selling or buying a home beware of the disconnect!  In a seller’s mind their objective is simple: I want to sell my house as quickly as possible for the highest possible price, spend the least amount of money and do the least amount of work.  

Stuck in Emotional Quicksand? It’ll Cost You Both Time and Money

The decision to sell your home – a large financial asset – is a complex one for most families, but when it’s time to price your home to sell is where you may really struggle.