Even in today’s hot housing market, selling your house quickly isn’t automatic, especially if you want to get the highest price you can. Here are 5 tips for preparing your home for a quick and highly profitable sale.
De-Clutter your Home
You’ve spent years decorating your home in a way that makes you and your family the most comfortable. And to you it looks great, with everything having a purpose and place. But to a potential buyer, all the extra stuff may make the house seem smaller than it actually is. Start by removing all extra furniture and keeping just the basic furniture components. For example, in addition to the sofa and recliner in your living room, you may have an entertainment center or a desk. Consider removing those items to free up space. The same goes for the kids’ bedrooms. Gather up all their toys, stuffed animals, hanging mobiles and posters and put them out of site. You may want to consider renting a storage unit temporarily for the purpose of housing all these extra items.
Next, turn your attention to the kitchen. Any extra counter top appliances such as toasters, blenders, coffeemakers and like should be stored away. Also remove odds and ends such as salt and pepper shakers and kitchen utensils. You want to give potential buyers the image of a lot of counter space. Take off any refrigerator magnets along with the kids’ report cards and artwork.
While not as important, you may also want to de-clutter the garage, especially if it’s filled to the brim with stuff. Potential buyers want to envision themselves actually parking their cars in the garage. If you need to, purchase some shelves and/or overhead hanging storage racks to neatly store the items that remain. Now is not the time to be frugal when sprucing up your home. The amount of extra money you’ll gain through a higher sale price will more than outweigh the incidental costs that you incur in preparing your home for sale.
Lastly, focus on the walls. Take down all personal items such as framed photos and awards. While the occasional piece of artwork is fine, make sure it is of neutral taste. Not everyone has a fervor for that vintage velvet Elvis painting.
Neutralize your Walls
No doubt you’ve painted a wall or two in your home over the course of your ownership. And you’ve most likely painted some rooms in warm and vibrant colors that you enjoy looking at or that match your furniture. But as we mentioned above, you want to set the stage for the buyer to imagine themselves living in your home. Your boldly colored walls detract from that effort. We suggest that you paint rooms a neutral color (something in the beige family) in order for them to be a backdrop not a focal point. Buyers can then focus on the space itself. If you don’t have a steady hand, you might want to hire a painter to do this work.
After you’ve taken down the art, but before you paint, you should give close examination to the condition of the walls themselves. Chances are, you’ve got nail holes, nicks, gouges and other damage to the walls. For smaller damage, fill these with spackle, making sure the leave the surface smooth. For larger issues, you may have to replace drywall. Again, hiring a professional to do this might be a good investment, especially if you have textured walls.
Clean, Clean, Clean
It should go without saying, but having your home in the cleanest possible state is of paramount importance to selling it. Prospective buyers use all their senses when they walk into a home they’re considering purchasing.
The first thing they use is their sense of smell. If the house as an aroma that is not pleasant or even slightly off-putting, a buyer’s subconscious will implant a negative first impression of your home.
You’ll want to do a thorough dusting and cleaning of everything. This means mopping floors, steam cleaning carpeting, wiping out the refrigerator, deep cleaning the oven, scrubbing fingerprints and dirt from kitchen cabinet doors, wiping down the baseboards, and even dusting areas you think they’d never look at, such as the tops of cupboards. Use a critical eye to clean everything you can think of.
For wood surfaces, apply a good furniture polish to make those surfaces pop. You may have to wash these surfaces with a mixture of soap and water prior to applying the polish to get off grime that’s rubbed into the grain.
Now wash the windows, making sure to keep them streak-free. You’ll also want to clean out the window tracks. If needed, remove the screens and power wash them to remove built-up cottonwood or other grunge that can build up.
Prior to showings, as corny as it sounds, baking cookies or pie before a buyer walk through can pay off huge.
Fix the Problems
When you were searching for a home, you probably walked into a few places where things didn’t work or look right—whether it was a loose hinge on a cabinet door, a faucet handle that jiggled, or a chipped piece of tile. This most likely left an impression on you. If your home has some of these issue, you’ll want to fix them. If you can’t do it, hire someone who can. If your fixtures are out of date, you might even consider replacing them with something more contemporary. This is a bit costlier, but again, it pales in comparison to net increase in profit you’ll make.
Keep it Looking Good
Now for the tough part—keeping the house clean after you’ve listed it. This can be a real challenge for a busy family with kids. Institute a policy of no shoes in the house. Get the kids to keep their backpacks and toys in their bedroom closets or under the bed. Don’t cook foods that will leave a lingering odor in the house.
Selling a home isn’t as simple as listing it and waiting for the offers to roll in. But if you do your due-diligence and get the house in tip-top shape, you’re putting yourself in position to get the best offer and a quick sale.
Derek Hines writes extensively on storage, moving and life for West Coast Self-Storage, based in Mill Creek, Washington.