Preparing Your Home To Be Sold

Are you thinking of selling your home? The first thing you need to do, hey, is get your house ready to sell. Am I right? Selling your house can be very chaotic and very stressful. Let's think about getting the house ready before you do anything else.

Fix Everything

Most home buyers are looking for a home that doesn't have a lot of major issues, maybe not a lot to do because, let's face it, they're moving in and they're having to unpack and get settled in and figure all their stuff out. Buyers don't want to have to deal with issues or painting or any kind of projects or anything. First thing we should to do is take care of the known deficiencies before the buyer comes in, before the appraiser comes in. You know they're going to have to hire, more than likely, an inspector. The inspector's going to come and they might end up finding other problems. Why not take care of the known deficiencies first and then you'll be ahead of the game?

The best way you can do this is to do a walkthrough of your house. Maybe you'll start at the front door like the buyer would. Look around. Inspect everything. Go through all the rooms. Look from top to bottom. Make sure you're catching everything. Do you have a light bulb out? Are there too many dents and dings or scrapes on the wall? Do you need to paint or do you just need to touch up the paint?

While we're talking about paint, what kind of paint to use? I highly recommend you go with a satin finish and not the flat. The flat paint shows all the marks, all the fingerprints. When you want to wash something off the wall, if you've got something on there, you're washing, when you look at your rag, it's got paint on it. Now, it looks worse. It just smears. Pay a little extra money. Get the satin finish. In the wet rooms like the bathroom and the kitchen, go ahead opt for the semi-gloss. It gives you a little bit more sheen, a little bit more protection so you can really wipe down if you get some grease or some food particles or whatever it might be. A good option for the wet rooms. At the minimum, do the satin finish.

Look at your floors. Does any of the wood floor need to be replaced? How old is that tile? How does the carpet look? Do you need to shampoo the carpet or do you need to replace it? Shampooing your carpet goes a long way. It really does. The good thing about that is you can hire somebody to do it or you can just rent a machine and do it yourself. It's really not that hard. There's going to be quite a few things you're going to have to do to get you home in order, so whatever you can do yourself is probably a good idea. Unless you just want to pay the man, you don't want to do anything, that's okay too.

Start your home-selling strategy by identifying and completing any known repairs and take care of any issues around the property. You can also hire your own home inspector before listing. That way, you can avoid unexpected major issues when you're in the contract phase of selling, but most people don't do that. You're too busy doing everything else. Whatever it is, it's up to you. Buyers do tend to feel like they're overpaying for a home if the home has major issues or any immediate upkeep they have to do.

You'll typically net the most money on your home by addressing all of the issues before you find the right buyer, before they even step foot in your house. That cover the "fix everything" part. How about the next part of it? Let's talk about upgrades.

Upgrades

Evaluate whether or not your home needs updating to solicit the best offer. Look at other homes in your neighborhood, online and in person. Maybe attend a couple of open houses or you can just go look at any houses that are for sale. That will give you the best idea of where you stand. This could be your competition. A month or two from now, you're competing. You want to know what this house has and you want your house to sell faster and for more money.

Look and see what houses have to offer in your neighborhood. Do they have granite countertops? Do they have solid wood floors? It would really be in your best interest to add those things to your home as well if it's in the budget and if you have time. Everybody's on a different timeline. I get it, but these are just some things to keep in mind. It helps the home sell faster. If you have a home on the market too long, the listing gets stale. Doing these things makes your home competitive and appealing, so that can be a smart investment.

For best results, meet with your real estate agent to get advice on which upgrades have the greatest impact. Not all upgrades are created equal. The goal really is to make your home look new again. Take the wear and tear out of it. This usually involves refreshing the paint, shampooing the carpets, or replacing flooring. Maybe you need to touch up the baseboards or spruce up and add landscaping outside.

Clean Everything

Have your home professionally cleaned. We clean. We tidy up. We do the best we can. The truth of the matter is only about 10% of us keep our homes as clean as it needs to be for the showings, for the caliber of clean that the buyer is going to expect. Cleaned and detailed homes usually sell faster and they're more appealing.

Now, you're going to want to take the "you" out of your home. That's right. That doesn't mean you have to sleep outside, but take the "you," the personal stuff out. Buyers often emotionally attach to a home that they really like, but they can't do that if all of your personal things are in every room. Your home should be as clean and neutral as possible so that the homebuyers can imagine themselves in each of the rooms. They can imagine what would they do with this room and how would they use it. One way to do this is de-clutter. Get your personal things. Put them away.

Set The Stage

The other thing you can do is have a professional stager come in. You can stage yourself if you know some things about staging, otherwise hire a professional stager. It could be worth your money. Professional stagers can help you arrange your home for an amazing presentation for homebuyers. Really, that's a very common thing. Some of the homes that you're competing with are probably going to be staged, so keep that in mind as well.

Now, we know we need to do to start getting the home ready to sell. Get everything fixed. Check all the upgrades. Do you need to paint? What do you need to declutter, depersonalize, and what do you need to stage?

Curb Appeal

We talked about fixing everything, adding upgrades, and making it look new again, but we talked mostly about the inside. The outside is just as important because this is what draws people to your home. If they drive by and it looks crummy and there's leaves everywhere and nothing's been trimmed up in a long time, they might think the same thing about the inside.

Let's talk about the return on your investment for your outside curb appeal. The return on your investment for lawn and landscaping is typically 100%. That's a great bargain. Keep that stuff tidied up out there. A new front door may cost about $1,000 depending on if you get wood or aluminum or whatever you choose, but that's got a return over your investment of 91%. That's pretty good.

Replacement windows, it's not for everybody. It's a high dollar, high price tag purchase. But for the buyer, they're looking at what they get out of it. They get savings on their electric bill for cooling and heating, especially here in Galveston and the greater Houston area, it gets pretty hot and humid. So having upgraded windows is very good. Not only that, but it helps to block out some of the extra noise. If you live in a noisy area, near a park, a school, or just on a busy street, good to have. Now that's a return of your investment 90%. That's still a good deal. It's just a higher price tag.

Another option, how about a wood deck? Do you have a wood deck on your home? Maybe somewhere to entertain? If you do, you might just want to refurbish it. Wood decks give you an 82% return on your investment, and that's great. You may not want to go and add one just for that, but having that is another good return on your investment.

Let's talk about a garage door. Most homes have garages. If you have a garage door that looks like it's seen as better days, maybe it has a few dents, maybe it just doesn't work well, it's getting stuck, hard to open, consider getting a new garage door. They are a few thousand dollars depending on how big your garage door is. It might be a one-car, it might be a two-car door, but it's got a 95% return on your investment. Another good investment and adds to your curb appeal.

Again, the more that you put into the home, although doing it for somebody else, you can price it higher. You can compete, you can make it more appealing, and you can sell it faster. The other thing to talk about is paint and replacement siding. If you do replacement siding, it's pretty costly and you get a 97% return on your investment. Painting, you can't go wrong with painting the outside. It is a lower cost and adds to the curb appeal. Unless you've painted it recently, it probably needs it and it makes all the difference in the world because people are going to be walking around and really scrutinizing the home so keep those things in mind.

Lawn and Landscaping

Let's move to curb appeal and the lawn. The first impressions are so important, and the same is true for the neighborhoods and the homes where the buyers are shopping. According to the landscape economist John Harris, keeping up with good lawn maintenance can contribute to 28% of your home's overall value. That's a fourth of your home's value! Studies also indicate that a home with landscaping and attractive curb appeal can increase the home value by up to 15%, but on average, homes with good curb appeal sell for about 7% more than the other homes that are similar to theirs with less curb appeal.

Either way, anything you can do to up your chances of competing, selling faster and getting more money, and making the whole process easier, is a win. The buyer gets something, a good product, and you can get on with your transaction and get to your next home and get settled there. Now, due to the incredible impact that curb appeal has on a home's value, it is recommended that you invest about 10% of the home's value in landscaping. I know that seems like a lot, but this is for a long-term consideration, over the years when you're keeping up with it. If you're going to be more conservative or if you don't have much time and you haven't really thought about it over the past couple of years, you might consider last minute putting in about 1% of the overall value of the house.

Since landscaping is so impactful on a home value, you want to choose landscaping projects that are impactful as well. What do you have a lot of? What about grass? We mow it, we water it, we play on it. We have St. Augustine grass around here, which I don't love. It sometimes does well, sometimes it doesn't. What if your lawn is not looking so good? Did you know that you can paint your lawn? If it's not doing so well, maybe you didn't water it so much, maybe it's just a dry time of the year. You can paint it with lawn paint. It's a real thing! Lawn paint is made from non-toxic and biodegradable ingredients that cling to the grass blades and anything else you spray it on by the way, so be careful how you paint. It's harmless to humans and pets, and it won't contaminate the watershed. It'll last for about two to three months, depending on how quickly your lawn grows and how often you mow it. If you're going to think about selling and you want to have a big impact and make your yard stand out a little bit, think about lawn paint. You can apply it yourself or you can hire somebody else to do it. It would surely make your home more compelling and appealing to any buyer.

The most important thing is to walk around the perimeter of your house, look and see what kind of things you need to appeal to the public, to your buyer. Make sure you remove clutter, the barbecue grill, the kids' toys. Things that don't need to be out, like trash cans, put them away, put them around the corner or something where they're not out in the open. When people drive by or the photographer comes to take photos, then it'll already be ready for them. Also, don't forget to check your rain gutters if you have them. They do get clogged up. Do they need to be cleaned out? Do you need to pressure wash the driveway or the walkway? That goes a long way too. It doesn't cost a lot to do those kinds of things, but it makes your home stand out.

Hire a Real Estate Agent

Now that your home is ready to be sold and put up on the market because you've done the upgrades, you've fixed things and you've made things like new. You have the snazzy curb appeal too. So let's talk about the next thing, which is getting your house listed for sale. It's time to hire a real estate agent. Licensed agents have the knowledge and the expertise you need to get the job done correctly and timely. They understand contracts, deadlines, earnest money, option periods, financing and everything you need to know.

Agents can even help you with staging and other things to do with the appraisals and the inspections. Find a good agent. Don't just use somebody in the neighborhood that you've seen before, that you've talked to a few times and you think you know them, but you really don't. Family members and friends are okay, but are they the right fit? Find somebody that's right for you, that has strong reviews, has a strong online presence because we need the online presence these days. We need to market your home.

Aunt Sally is nice and everything, but is she the right fit for you? Does she understand your local market and what's going on there or is she just trying to do you a favor? There's a big difference you know. Here's a good list of questions. Not all-inclusive, but some good questions asked before hiring a real estate agent:

Do they hire a professional photographer to take the pictures and the video? I've seen some pretty sketchy photos before and they don't do any justice. You have to have professional photographs if you want to make your house stand out and you want to highlight the good things about it and the special things, what makes you special compared to the other homes on the market? Does the agent you're looking at offer a 3D tour, an online 3D tour? It's very nice to have that option should it be there.

Does the realtor use a professional showing service or are they responsible for coordinating all of the showings? Having a professional showing service is essential. Things don't fall through the cracks. Everything's automated. You don't have any delay time. It's much better to have a professional showing service if you can get that.

How about your lockboxes? Does the realtor use a secure electronic lockbox or some cheap combination lock boxes? You don't want to use the cheap lock boxes. You want to use secure electronic lock boxes, they're much safer and this is your home. You haven't sold it yet, so you want to have to be secure.

How about the online reviews and strong online presence? You want to have a brokerage that's out there, that's active, that's got a presence, is looking to market your home and do the work for you. Look for somebody like that.

Do the agents communicate in ways that you prefer? These days we have email, text messages, social media, instant messenger, and have phone calls. Some people don't like to talk on the phone, maybe you want to text. Hopefully, they have all those options for you and they're willing to work with you because that's what they should do. You're the client so make them do it your way.

Now you've gotten that out of the way and you know what to look for. Well, it's not an all-inclusive list, but you have some things to look for, some things to consider.

Price Your Home Right

How about looking at the price? We have to price it right. Pricing is imperative. To do that, we need to get comparable sold properties from the agent and ask their advice. We don't want to look at other homes that are currently on the market because they haven't sold yet. Maybe that price isn't right or maybe there's some other reason why it's not selling. You want to look at homes that have sold, not ones that are currently on the market.

The challenge is to find the right price that will sell your house fast, but not leave any money on the table. That's kind of an art and a science. You need to have that just right balance. There are essentially four things that sell homes, price, location, condition, and marketing. Of those four points, price is the most critical. People will often look past the condition and location if the price is right. People will also look right past your entire property if the price is wrong and just go somewhere else.

Statistically, the longer your home is on the market, the lower offer you'll receive. It's a common scenario for sellers to list their home for too much and then drop the price later after a few or no showings. Your best chance for a great offer is often the first offer you get when you list the property. Price it to be attractive, but not bargain basement. It's better to negotiate up and get multiple offers and a lot of interest than having to negotiate down due to there being no interest or it being on the market too long. You don't want to give anybody the chance to get any of your money. Don't leave it on the table. It's better to negotiate up.

You want to make your house compelling. One of the ways you can do that is with the price, not only with your upgrades and amenities and how it looks and maybe what's going on in the area where you're located, but the price can always be compelling. "If it's not compelling, it's not selling" is a common belief in real estate. Why would someone be interested in a home that does not compel them to look at or buy it? 

For example, 27 homes sold in Galveston this month, but none so far this year in your neighborhood. How do you compete? Make your home compelling. It has to stand out. You have to have special upgrades, amenities, prices, and marketing. You have to stand out and the price is a very big part of that. Your agent can also help you highlight and market the compelling things about your home and neighborhood.

Keep Your Home Show Ready

You've got your home ready to sell. The home is all prepared and looking pretty, and you've hired your real estate agent and you've got it listed for sale. Now what? The final step, keeping your home presentable. Sometimes it's the hardest step. Let me tell you. Keeping your home presentable and ready for showings is no easy task. As I said before, only 10% of us keeps a home as clean as it needs to be for your showings.

I've toured many homes over the years, and I am surprised at how many homes are dirty and not ready for the showings at all. Homes should be ready before the realtor arrives, as the professional photos will soon be taken. That's why we're having you get everything ready and fixed and made pretty and addressing curb appeal before you even get the agent. Soon after the agent comes, you get your listing, and now they're going to hire a photographer and the home will be ready for the inspection and appraisal that follows. You don't have a lot of time to get things ready, so you have to do these things in advance to give yourself time to get it presentable.

Speaking of that, you want to have it properly done for the professional photos, like we talked about, professional photos. Have you ever been looking at a listing online and seen a pile of clothes or stuff left behind a door or in a corner in the listing photos? You want to avoid that. That's why we put everything away. We declutter. Keep that in mind. If you don't want it in the photos, clean it up or get rid of it yourself. The photographer that's there is not there to move things or clean up for you. He's just there to take photos. He's probably not going to give you any suggestions or anything like that. He's just going to take photos of all the rooms and keep going, right?

This is where staging comes in handy as well because you can hire someone to stage your home, or just to help you, and move things that don't belong. A stager can tell you what you need to remove, what you need to put in there, and make it look more spacious. A good stager will get things out of the way if they don't belong there. Believe that.

A professionally staged home is likely to sell faster, and don't forget that the other homes on the market may be doing the same, and you need to stay competitive. We have to "keep up with the Joneses" when it comes to selling the home. Above all, you want to make sure that your home smells good and is clean. This is not negotiable because if somebody walks in and they smell something foul or it just looks dirty, of course, they're not going to stay long. They're going to be there five seconds and then walk out.

Can You Smell Success?

I personally have walked into several homes that I knew right away had pets. Pay special attention if you have pets. When you live in the home, you may not smell it like someone who doesn't normally go into your home. Smells sometimes even remain in vacant houses. Even if you move out, you have no furniture, you have no nothing, that smell might still be there. For me, I recommend using a disinfectant called OdoBan. There's no affiliate link, I'm not getting anything from it. That's just my preference, and I've used it for a long time. I like OdoBan. It's a disinfectant, so if you're just trying to wipe everything down, keep the germs away, that kind of stuff, it has a nice fresh fragrance that shouldn't be off-putting. It's really good for mopping or for spraying. You can spray your furniture with it. It's not toxic. There is a special one for the pets too, which I like. It comes in a large concentrated jug that can be diluted with water. But use what you like if you have another preference. Just ensure that the home smells and is clean.

Some owners light candles or have scented plugins to inject nice fragrances, but be careful, again, with the scent. Be careful of having too much, too strong, or the wrong scent because it can be off-putting to some potential buyers. Not everybody wants their house to smell like a cupcake or like lavender. If there is some kind of a neutral scent or a nice, light scent, go for that. You want to appeal to the biggest buyer.

Clean Windows Highlight a Good View

In addition to getting the smells and the fragrances taken care of, open the blinds and the curtains in strategic areas to allow the natural light in to highlight the best views. Hopefully, you have some good views to highlight. Remember to clean the windows! Clean the windows inside and out because I have been in several homes where they opened up the windows and it was all dirty on the outside. There was bushes on the other side and it was all green. That does no good. Keep those curtains closed if that's the case.

Preferably, you'll clean the windows on the inside and on the outside, too, because that allows more of the natural light to come in, and you need the natural light in your home. It really showcases the home better that way. Nobody wants dirty windows. Most people don't like to clean windows, so buying a home with clean windows is already a step in the right direction. Before showings, leave some lamps on, leave some lights on. Home buyers don't want to have a dim or sad-looking home. You want it to be bright and light.

Living In a Showroom

Then the question comes, "How do I live in a show-ready house?" It is not easy, I understand. Sometimes you can feel like you're living in a confined and "I'm not allowed to touch anything. I can't move anything. Oh, I might get fingerprints on this. What if somebody wants to see the house 10 minutes from now?" You really want to spread out because you'll live there, but you still have to keep it show-ready.

The house looks beautiful. You've cleaned it, decluttered it, and cleaned more. How can your family continue to live there without ruining all that hard work? Well, use containers. You need a place to put your keys and the mail and the TV remote and toothbrush and toothpaste and makeup, and all the other little things you use day to day. Those usually end up on a horizontal flat space and all over there's a landing place for all your mail and your keys when you come in the door.

Consider using a basket or a plastic container. Something that can corral all those smaller things that you use daily. That way, when it is time to leave, either for the day or for a showing, you can just take that basket, put it in a cabinet, or put the lid on the container and put it away, or even take it with you if it's something that you don't want to leave. That's a good use of your containers right there. Try not to spread out too much. The other thing you can do, especially if you have kids or pets, it does become more difficult is to pick a room.

Having kids and pets, it's going to be hard to keep them corralled, and they're going to want to throw the Legos out and the dog's going to bring all the toys out to play. Pick a room where you can live in it normally. That way, they have a place to dump all their stuff. An area where you can put "this, that, and the other," the dog food, the water bowl. When it's time for a showing, the mess will all be in one place and hopefully be just easier to manage. Instead of having to run throughout the house and look at every single room, you can just have that one room to deal with. It's should be much easier to manage, especially when you're short on time.

Make a Checklist

Now, the next thing you want to do is make sure that you create a checklist because when you do leave, you won't want to forget anything. Did you forget to turn on the lights? Did you forget to open the curtains? "Did I put the toothpaste away? Nobody wants to see my toothpaste." They might not even like that brand. People scrutinize everything! Let's make a list. Make the beds, put out the good towels, empty the litter box, put the containers in the closet. Remember those containers you're corralling all your stuff with? It needs to happen every morning before you leave the house, and then bring this whole property back to a show-ready condition.

Putting out the good towels brings up another good point. Some people want it to be really special for the buyer, so you have your good towels and then you have the towels that we can't use on a daily basis, right? I've noticed in several houses, and I really like the way they do this staging, where they put out some rolled up towels on a tray, with maybe a candle and some bath wash and little things, maybe a little flower. They put it on the corner of the bed or on the nightstand and make it look almost like it's a bed and breakfast or a hotel, and it's very inviting. That really gives off a really good vibe, like, "You are welcome here. Look at the special stuff we put out for you. Wouldn't you like to be here?" That's another good tip right there. Putting out the good towels. It could just be putting them on the towel rack in the bathroom or it could be arranging them special, like, "Hey, I'm inviting you here. Don't you want to live here?" Do with that what you will, but first impressions are our lasting impressions. Again, staging helps the home stand out, which makes you home compelling!

Now that you have your home prepared to be sold, you are ready to pack and move. Check out my upcoming article on packing and moving so you are ready when the time comes.

 

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