10 Steps to a Quicker House Sale
Most buyers select their home based on emotion and then rationalize their decision after the fact. As a home seller, you likely have a hectic lifestyle that doesn’t include researching ‘house dressing’ techniques. Below are some tips to help you make your home as pleasant and inviting as possible to prospective buyers. You are competing with model homes, homes that may have been professionally decorated and homes that have no children, no pets and owners who have time to keep the property and home immaculate.
1. Outside Your Home
Are shrubs overgrown? Oil in the driveway? How does the grass look? Do the flower beds need weeding and mulching? Try very hard to see your grounds through an objective observer’s eyes. Trim the shrubs or plant new ones if they are lacking. Houses with no landscaping in the front lose thousands of dollars of value in the mind of the buyer. Adding a few well-placed blooming flowers also adds appeal.
If the grass in the front yard is particularly non-existent, consider sodding. Do some price shopping on this; sod is not cheap but there are some good prices available. Let’s say it cost $600 to sod the front yard, but your house payment is $800 per month. If you save one month of selling time, you are $200 ahead. (By the way, you can probably get away without sodding the back yard.)
Kitty litter in the driveway will absorb the oil and grease stains. (Then remove the kitty litter.)
Next go around and clean up the yard. Remove any toys, tools, and/or building supplies. Here’s the acid test: if you don’t see it in a model home yard, don’t have it in yours. That goes for the bag of charcoal by the grill, too; however, the (non-rusty) grill can stay. If your grill has rusted, remove the rust spots by scrubbing with a wire brush or with coarse steel wool dipped in kerosene. After the rust is removed, clean the entire piece with mineral spirits. When the grill is completely dry, paint with a brush or spray paint.
2. Your Home’s Exterior
Is the paint fading or chipping? Is the color outdated or too personal? Is mildew or mold growing? If the house needs painting, choose a neutral color. White, cream (not yellow) and light gray are good colors for appealing to most people. Use contrasting colors for shutters; black, rich brown, and medium gray are all good. (One note about gray; avoid blue-based gray; it usually turns out looking like you painted your houses blue and that is something you would not want to do for resale purposes!) Doors and molding may match the house or may match the shutters depending on the amount of contrast created. If you want some ideas for paint combinations, go look at 3 or 4 model home communities that cost $20,000-$50,000 more than your neighborhood and copy one of them.
One last note on painting: always give the front door and door trim a fresh coat of paint or stain even if you paint nothing else. Buyers stand at the front door waiting to get in; give them a good first impression.
If your house was painted recently or if it is a non-painted surface but is dirty, have it pressure-washed. Also pressure-wash mildewed wooded decks. Have it professionally done or do it yourself using a solution of 2 gallons of water, 2 cups of chlorine bleach, 1 cup of powdered detergent, and 1 cup of powdered dish washing detergent. Caution: to prevent damage to shrubs or grass, wet surrounding areas thoroughly before cleaning the wood as well as rinsing the greenery of all cleaning solution afterwards.
Go through room by room and pack up 30% of the accessories. If you doubt the wisdom of this, go back to those model homes and compare their countertops with yours, their coffee tables and end tables with yours. See what I mean?
The cardinal rule is this: The way you live in a home and the way you sell a home are two different things. I know this will take some time and may seem like a nuisance, but remember you are in competition with other properties. He who wins the Good Housekeeping Award probably sells his house first and for the highest dollar. Also, you are going to be moving anyway, so just consider this advance packing. By the way, label the moving boxes and stack them neatly in the garage-floor to ceiling.
Specifically, pack any collections and family photos you have displayed. Too much of your personality in evidence does not allow for the potential buyer to “mentally move in”.
Pack everything from the cabinets and all closets that you do not need on a routine basis. You want to create the perception of roominess. In the linen closet, remove everything but a week’s worth of linens. Fold them neatly and color coordinate them. I’m not kidding; this is the stuff sales are made of.
In the clothes closets, remove out-of-season clothes. Pack them away and put them in the garage. Arrange your shoes neatly. Hang your clothes by category: all blouses together, all shirts together, and so on.
Now take another walk through the house. Are there rooms that are cluttered with too much furniture? Remove extra chairs, side tables, and maybe even the sofa which is really too big for the room. (Notice how decorators use small pieces of furniture.)
Minor redecorating is recommended. If your carpet and vinyl are outdated colors or style, change them. Off-white carpet and vinyl are best; this make the rooms look larger and cleaner. If the existing carpet padding is 5/8″ thick or more and is not worn down, reuse it (unless the pets have done a number on it). If replacing the pad, select a very thick one and then install just a modest grade of carpeting. The feel will be plush and expensive, but it’s not.
If carpeting is in good condition and neutral in color, have it cleaned.
If your vinyl flooring is worn or outdated, replace it with off-white vinyl. If the vinyl is in good condition and light colored, scrub it thoroughly paying special attention to buildup of dirt or wax around the baseboards and in corners.
4. Off-white painted walls are best.
If painting is required, use flat latex except in kitchens and baths where you will use semi-gloss latex. If walls are dirty, experiment to see if scrubbing them is easier than painting. To remove finger smudges on wood work rub them with kerosene. Clean wood paneling with a mixture of 1 tablespoon of turpentine, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 quart of warm water. Wipe dry.
If you have wallpaper, make sure it is clean and up to date. If not, strip it. (Hint: some wallpaper is easy to strip if first sprayed with window cleaner.) After stripping it, either paint or re-wallpaper, depending on the condition of the walls. Sponge painting is also an easy, attractive alternative.
Repair badly cracked plaster, loose door knobs, and crooked light fixtures. Correct faulty plumbing. Leaky faucets can discolor porcelain and call attention to plumbing defects. To remove mineral stains from such leaks, pour hydrogen peroxide on the stain, then sprinkle with cream of tartar. Leave this for 30 minutes before scrubbing. Bad stains may require 2 or 3 applications.
5. Adding the ‘Sizzle’
If you do not have time or the inclination, hire someone to thoroughly clean the house. Clean windows inside and out. Clean with white vinegar using newspaper. Clean mini-blinds, curtains and drapes.
In the kitchen, clean appliances inside and out. Remove grease and grime by scrubbing with undiluted vinegar. Scrub the inside of the refrigerator with baking soda; not only does it not scratch, but it removes odors. Get rid of kitchen odors by pouring hot salt water down the drain twice a week. Grind citrus peelings or apple cores in the garbage disposal. Leave a small uncovered container of vinegar in the corner of your kitchen counter.
Have bathrooms scrubbed to pass a white glove inspection. If tubs or sinks are rusting, have them reglazed. Clean grouting of the tiles with Tilex. Recaulk the tub and shower. Clean fixtures with white vinegar. Scrub rust spots from chrome with grade number .000 steel wool dipped in kerosene. If you have some appliqués in the tub that have seen better days, remove them by scrubbing with a kerosene-soaked cloth. Then rub the remaining adhesive with a cloth and cooking oil until all traces of the adhesive are gone. If you are at home, light a small candle for atmosphere and pleasant (not overpowering) aroma. Hang a set of designer bath towels on the most prominent rack complete with verbal instructions to your family not to use them! (Remember, you’re in show biz now.)
If you have pets, you need to get rid of pet odors and it is recommended that the pets themselves be kept out of the way and out of the house during showings, if possible. Some people are uneasy around animals and they may detract from the prospect’s attention. Getting pets out of the way is, unfortunately, much easier then getting pet odors out of the way.
If flooring has been repeatedly stained with animal urine, you’ll probably have to replace it to get rid of the smell. And that means the carpet, the pad, the carpet strips, and baseboard trim; the sub flooring will need to be treated to kill the odor. Put a small uncovered dish of vinegar in the room where your pet sleeps; this will remove “doggy” smells. Of course, put the dish off the floor so the dog doesn’t drink the vinegar! To absorb odors in the cat litter box, add a cup of baking soda to the litter. (By the way, please remove the litter box from the shower or tub. To non-cat lovers, you have just made your shower or tub mentally off-limits.)
7. Food Odours
Food smells can work for you or against you. Baking bread, cookies, and pies all smell good. Spaghetti sauce is a delicious smell. Frying fish or liver and onions is objectionable. And of course, nowadays the smell of cigarette smoke is offensive to many. If your house has an unpleasant smell, use scented candles, fragrant fresh flowers, or the proverbial vinegar in a dish. Two other options are Ozium, a commercial preparation to remove odors from the air rather than mask them, and Glade Plug-in’s which you find at your grocery store.
This area is the catch-all where everything goes that has no place to go, so it is usually a mess. Therefore, if your storage area is neat, one would surmise that you must really take good care of the whole house. Now you are going to say I am becoming extreme, but believe me, this works every time. Empty everything out of your garage. Hose down the floor; if there are any stains remaining, paint it porch gray. Paint the garage walls off white using a flat latex paint. If the hot water heater is in the garage, wipe it down so it looks brand new. Polish the copper pipes.
Now-after the paint is dry-put everything back in the garage piece by piece. Throw out what you will not be taking with you. Pack what you can and add to the stack of neatly labeled boxes. Then organize what’s left.
If you have a storage shed, organize it the same way and if it needs a coat of paint or stain, do it. An open bag of charcoal will absorb moisture in the storage shed.
If you have too much “stuff” for the shed, rent a small storage unit. Uncluttering can make all the difference in the world.
During the day have all your curtains and blinds open. If the day is cloudy, turn on all lamps as well.
Lower blinds but leave them open
Leave the curtains open
Turn on all lamps
Dim overhead lights a bit
Same lighting as at dusk but close curtains and blinds
Light a few candles for a warm atmosphere
10. Final notes:
Turn off the televisions during all showings on your house as they are distracting. Put on soft background music. Once you have “set the stage”, leave the house for the agent to show it. Prospects can more easily look at the house with no distractions. They will also feel freer to ask questions of the agent. Finally, buyers can mentally move in better without the current owners around.
Your house should be comfortably warm in cold weather and moderately cool in hot weather. Make sure your air filters are clean; not only does this decrease your utility bills, but it make the house smell cleaner.
Once you have read this, make a list of what you intend to do. We can get together to go over your list, room by room. We will give you an objective opinion and many times may be able to save you time and money.