Getting Started

When conversing with real estate agents, you will often find that when they talk to you about buying real estate, they will refer to your purchase as a “home.” Yet if you are selling property, they will often refer to it as a “house.” There is a reason for this. Buying real estate is often an emotional decision, but when selling real estate you need to remove emotion from the equation.

You need to think of your house as a marketable commodity. Property. Real estate. Your goal is to get others to see it as their potential home, not yours. If you do not consciously make this decision, you can inadvertently create a situation where it takes longer to sell your property.

The first step in getting your home ready to sell is to “de-personalize” it. You should remove all photographs and other small items from table-tops. Buyers should be allowed to imagine their personal possessions in the home, not look at yours. You should also put away your personal collections so that buyers don’t get so interested in looking at them that they forget to look at the house.

Here’s a critical bit of home selling advice: don’t even think of putting your house on the market until you’ve taken a close look at its condition. You usually only have one shot at impressing potential home buyers, so take some time now to prepare the house for showings and you might be rewarded with a faster sale and a higher offer. In order to do so though, you must trust your instincts. Ask yourself what changes would make immediate improvements and what features you want to show off the most. Evaluate your own home as if you were a first time buyer.
You will find some other various home prep advice tips below.
* Remove clutter from the kitchen. Keep the sink clean, free from dishes. Clean the refrigerator and degrease the oven. Take drastic action to get a Spartan look.
* Get rid of any odors. Get rid of ashtrays. Use an air freshener if the house does not smell right. Eliminate the smell of dogs, cats, kids, spicy food, etc. Odors are hard to explain away and are always noticed. If necessary, bake cookies or an apple pie – a good smell for the open house!
* Put away small kitchen appliances and other items that are sitting on countertops and tables.
* Organize closets and cabinets so that they do not appear full and busting at the seams.
* If the house is somewhat vacant, staging antiques appropriately can create a dramatic emotional statement. There are professional companies that do just that, usually for more expensive estates.
* Live plants look wonderful with nearly any decor.
* Get rid of any junk. If it has value, take it to a recycle establishment, have a yard sale or donate it.
* Remove rugs if they hide nice hardwood floors.
* Are the walls in the house dingy? Are the colors dated? Paint them if possible. Clean curtains and other window coverings. Clean dirt from overhead fans.
* Tighten and repair loose knobs, sticky doors and windows.
* Replace burnt out bulbs. Repair light switches that do not work.
* Fix cabinet doors that do not work right. Oil hinges. Repair minor flaws.
* Repair caulking and grout in bathroom. Fix leaky faucets. Equip bathroom with fresh soap and neat towels. Keep the bathroom spotless.
* Skylights should be crystal-clear.
* Replace faded wallpaper.
* Shampoo carpets, polish floors. Consider replacing carpet that is faded, excessively worn or out of date.
* Repair cracks in the dry wall. A five-dollar repair job may keep a buyer from raising an alert flag on a major repair and be worth $2,000 in the buyer’s eyes.
* Turn on the lights and open the curtains and let in the light. Obscure unappealing views. Show all rooms bright. Increase the wattage if necessary. On overcast days take special care to show it bright. Keep the room temperature comfortable. Consider mirrors to make a dark room look larger as well as reflect outdoor light.
* Take extra furniture out so that the room looks larger. That also goes for pictures on the wall too.
* Vacant homes often blast home buyers with stale or mildew-laden air, and once buyers smell mildew, they are out the door. During cold months, the interior of a house without heat always feels colder than it is outside. Leaving the heat or air conditioning running while a home is on the market reduces odors and makes the house more inviting.
* Store boxes in an out of the way location or rent a temporary storage unit so you can de-clutter every part of the house.
* Paint the front door and front entrance. The door is the face of the house and one of the first things people notice. Make sure front entrance lights work.
* Keep the lawn and landscaping tidy, even if you have to hire someone to do it.
* Store or organize items that make the yard look messy.
* Outdoor lighting makes the home inviting in the evenings.  (*Many potential buyers do drive-bys of properties.)
* Put potted flowers on the front steps. Water them and keep them healthy looking.
* Fill and repair holes or cracks in the driveway or walkways.
* Sweep the driveway and pressure wash the house or sidewalks if necessary.
* Repair cracks in cement blocks. Likewise, a ten or twenty-dollar repair job may be worth $3,000 in a buyer’s eyes.
* Paint the shutters. Paint or touch up the trim.
* Clean the outdoor furniture. Paint the rust or toss it.
* Clean the drain gutters.
* Straighten gutters, planters, mailbox, or things that sag or tilt.
* Close the garage door. Hide the garbage cans. Put away toys. Remove extra cars.