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!