Facts of Life for Sellers
What You Can Do To Prepare to List Your Home
Curb Appeal. When your home is on the market, curb appeal is more important than ever. Mowing and mowing and edging the driveway and curb during the spring and summer months is very important. If your driveway is stained, consider having it pressure washed. Pay special attention to your front porch and front door area, because while the agent is opening the lockbox, the buyers are looking around. Does your door need a fresh coat of paint? Is the door hardware in good condition? Do the door locks operate smoothly? Could you easily add color and interest to your front walk area in annual flowers?
Minimize. Clean out closets (buyers always open closet doors!), and pack, donate, or toss anything you do not wear regularly. The goal is to make the closets look as spacious as possible. Remove 2/3 of personal items and accessories from tabletops and mantels.
Clean and Move-In Ready. The very least that buyers and buyers agents expect is CLEAN and FRESH. If all you can afford is elbow grease, The least expensive way to freshen a home (especially if you can do it yourself) is with interior wall paint in a light, warm, neutral color. If the carpet needs replacing, or the hardwood floors need sprucing up, do it before your home is listed. Your listing is only "new" for three weeks, and you don't want to waste that prime time to present your home to its best advantage.
Pay special attention to baths, especially showers and tubs (grout and soap scum), and counter tops (limited number of items on the vanity).
Kid Stuff. If you have small children, pack, donate, or discard any toys they do not use regularly. Devise a plan to quickly stash remaining toys if you have little notice for a showing.
NEUTRALIZE THE DECOR
If your home is distinctive or extreme in decor, you'll want to take it down a notch to appeal to as wide a range of buyers as possible. This includes Victorian, Ultra Modern, Oriental, overly masculine or feminine, or any other specific style. Without striping your home, think about removing 2/3 of the style-specific decor. If you have a question about specific items, let's talk.
REPAIR OR REPLACE
If you have an older home, and if you can afford it, you may consider investing in a home inspection before listing. When you have a contract and are moving full speed toward a closing, the last thing you want to encounter is an inspection problem. Unless your home is a distress sale being offered "AS IS", buyers expect systems and appliances to be in good working order, and any improvements to have been performed to building codes at the time the work was completed.
If you cannot afford to repair or replace, be sure to disclosure the defect in your Seller's Property Disclosure.
UPDATE THE KITCHEN
If your home was built ten or more years ago, and you have not updated, you may run into daunting competition from newer or updated homes in the area. If you have the opportunity, visit a model home in a new home community in your area to get an idea of what is new and appealing to buyers.
Kitchens in newer homes typically include granite counter tops, black or stainless steel appliances, stained wood (or painted or glazed European style) cabinets. Expansive hardwood floors are more popular than ever.
Kitchen lighting is warm, with recessed and over the counter lighting. Hanging lights in the kitchen and breakfast areas may include pendant lights over the island. Colors and finishes vary in lighting and plumbing fixtures, from brushed nickel to polished stainless steel or chrome, to a rustic iron look. Brass and gold is OUT.
If you are in a higher price range and can afford to renovate your kitchen, I highly recommend doing so. In a buyer's market, an outdated kitchen will keep a house on the market for a long time, and it is bound to sell for less.
You do not necessarily need to replace or refront your kitchen cabinets. If your cabinets are white, consider updating them with new cabinet and drawer pulls. Update the sink, faucet, and light fixtures (replace a florescent overhead light or at least convert the tubes to a warmer light). Replace the breakfast room chandelier with a newer finish and style.
If your appliances are white, and still attractive and in good working order, consider putting most of your budget into granite counter tops and a complimentary backsplash.
If your kitchen is wallpapered, look at it objectively and determine if it will have a wide appeal to many buyers. If not, have it removed. You can add color in accessories. The same is true of window treatments (in the kitchen and throughout the house). Keep window treatments simple and neutral.
If your home is in a lower price range where major upgrades are not practical, there are many attractive laminate counter tops that look like granite! Get creative about how to achieve the "look" without breaking the bank.
Many of the latest colors and features for a bath are similar to those of kitchen. Colors are warm and neutral. Tile is in earthtones and often tumbled (textured). Shower enclosures are frameless, rustic iron, or polished chrome or stainless steel.
If there is money left in your budget, consider updating the master bath with a warm color, new lighting and plumbing fixtures and updated drawer and door pulls. This may be tricky if you have a gold trimmed shower enclosure. tone fixtures, and for a simple update you may find the best solution in bright chrome/stainless steel fixtures with gold trim. Add fresh, fluffy new towels and a few well placed accessories.
LIGHT AND BRIGHT
Add lighting especially in rooms that do not get a lot of natural light. Add ceiling fans to the family room and bedrooms, or add light kits to existing fans. Add neutral lamps and floor lamps. Check light bulbs, and keep plenty of long life WARM light bulbs on hand. White florescent bulbs and tubes shed a cold and uninviting light on a room.
At the time of your listing you will need your mortgage information, your Warranty Deed if available, Tax Bill if available, and Homeowners Association contact information, current amount of annual fee, and what the fee includes. If you have a termite bond and invoices for any repairs or improvements, gather them (perhaps organize them in a 3-ring binder). You will be completing a Seller's Property Disclosure Statement, and any paperwork for repairs and maintenance will be helpful. For marketing purposes, it's great if you also have a property survey (plat), a floor plan if it's a newer home, and photographs in different seasons. Some sellers create a list of what they love about their home and neighborhood, and it helps prospective buyers connect with the owners and the home.
While you are discarding, donating, and packing, be sure to leave a method of faxing, scanning, and e-mailing if you must sign additional documents and when you get an offer! Most offers have a time limit of 24 hours, and if you get an offer at 8:00 p.m., you don't want to have a printer cartridge that is low on ink! Decide in advance how you will handle offers or other written communication, and have plenty of ink and paper on hand!
SUGGESTIONS FROM MY ORIGINAL PAGE "FACTS OF LIFE FOR SELLERS"
IF ALL YOU CAN AFFORD IS ELBOW GREASE
1. Weed your flower beds, prune your shrubbery, cut and edge your lawn. Clean up any yard clutter. Plant bright annual flowers in concentrated splashes of a single color.
2. Pack up 80% of your family photos, collectibles, clothes, etc. to decrease clutter, create the illusion of space, and create a neutral environment. If someone in the family is a hunter, this is a good time to pack up the dead animal heads.
3. Clean your home top to bottom. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and baths. Remember, your Buyers would rather have a new home. Look up: notice cobwebs, dirty vents, ceiling fixtures. Clean all light globes and keep light bulbs changed.
4. Buy some cinnamon /spice or citrus air freshener, and use it in every room (plug-ins are great for this). Please don't smoke in the house- the smell permeates the carpet, the draperies, and furniture.
5. If you only have time to do minimal housekeeping in the morning, load the dishwasher, wipe off the kitchen counters, make the beds, and hide all the dirty clothes and towels! You never know when your house will be shown. If you have pets, do constant, vigilant clean-up.
6. Steam clean carpets. If any rooms of carpet need stretching , get them stretched now. This is an obvious cosmetic flaw and will invite lower offers or a request for you to replace the carpet.
7. Pressure wash the exterior of your home, the driveway and the walk, the roof, and patio or deck. Clean gutters if needed.
IF YOU CAN AFFORD A LITTLE SPRUCING UP, ADD:
1. Update your ceiling light fixtures and ceiling fans. Buy light, white, neutral. Avoid brass and styles that are particularly country, modern, etc.
2. Paint the interior walls and ceilings. Again, think WARM, LIGHT, and NEUTRAL. Remove any dated wallpaper and replace with light neutral paper, or prep and paint walls. Steer clear of any particular style, such as country, modern, etc.
3. Paint the shutters and front door of your home.
4. Replace the mailbox if it is old and battered.
5. Replace torn or missing window screens.
6. Replace any double paned windows on which the seal has broken. These appear to be foggy, because there is moisture trapped between the layers of glass.
IF YOU CAN AFFORD TO DO MORE, ADD:
1. Replace worn or outdated carpet and vinyl with a light, neutral color (light beige is good for carpet; a beige & white combination works well for vinyl flooring). Lightly buff and add a coat of polyurethene to your wood floors.
2. Paint interior and exterior as needed.
More Good Advice:
1. List your home with a REALTOR® who knows your area. Not every real estate agent is a REALTOR®
2. Check your phone messages. Typically, showing agents will call and leave a brief Voice Mail message. Sometimes, they request a return call from the Seller to confirm that the time is OK. Be easy to reach!3. If you know that your home is going to be shown, turn on all the lights and fans, turn on some soft music, and LEAVE if possible. If you must be there while your home is being shown, make yourself very scarce. Walk around the yard, go to the basement, be available for questions, but don't give the potential buyers and their agent a "tour." They will stay longer and give your home more consideration if you are not there.