How To Prepare Your House For Sale

Every seller wants her home to sell fast and bring top dollar. Does that sound good to you? Well, it’s not luck that makes that happen. It’s careful planning and knowing how to professionally spruce up your home that will send home buyers scurrying for their cheque books.

Here is how to prep a house and turn it into an irresistible and marketable home.

1. Disassociate Yourself With Your Home.

  • Say to yourself, “This is not my home; it is a house — a product to be sold much like a box of cereal on the grocery store shelf.
  • Make the mental decision to “let go” of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours.
  • Picture yourself handing over the keys and envelopes containing appliance warranties to the new owners!
  • Say goodbye to every room. Don’t look backwards — look toward the future.

2. De-Personalize.

Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms. Buyers can’t see past personal artifacts, and you don’t want them to be distracted. You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they can’t do that if yours are there! You don’t want to make any buyer ask, “I wonder what kind of people live in this home?” You want buyers to say, “I can see myself living here.”

3. De-Clutter!

  • People collect an amazing quantity of junk. Consider this: if you haven’t used it in over a year, you probably don’t need it.
  • If you don’t need it, why not donate it or throw it away?
  • Remove all books from bookcases.
  • Pack up those knickknacks. Clean off everything on kitchen counters.
  • Put essential items used daily in a small box that can be stored in a closet when not in use.
  • Think of this process as a head-start on the packing you will eventually need to do anyway.

4. Rearrange Bedroom Closets and Kitchen Cabinets

  • Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors. Think of the message it sends if items fall out! Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if she sees everything organized. It says you probably take good care of the rest of the house as well. This means:
  • Alphabetize spice jars. Neatly stack dishes.
  • Turn coffee cup handles facing the same way.
  • Hang shirts together, buttoned and facing the same direction.
  • Line up shoes.

5. Rent a Storage Unit

Almost every home shows better with less furniture. Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage. Since your bookcases are now empty, store them. Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger. Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room’s purpose and plenty of room to move around. You don’t want buyers scratching their heads and saying, “What is this room used for?”

6. Remove/Replace Favorite Items.

If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you, remove them now. If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great grandmother, take it down. If a buyer never sees it, she won’t want it. Once you tell a buyer she can’t have an item, she will covet it, and it could blow your deal. Pack those items and replace them, if necessary.

7. Make Minor Repairs.

  • Replace cracked floor or counter tiles.
  • Patch holes in walls.
  • Fix leaky faucets.
  • Fix doors that don’t close properly and kitchen drawers that jam.
  • Consider painting your walls neutral colors, especially if you have grown accustomed to purple or pink walls. (Don’t give buyers any reason to remember your home as “the house with the orange bathroom.”)
  • Replace burned-out light bulbs.
  • If you’ve considered replacing a worn bedspread, do so now!

8. Make the House Sparkle!

  • Wash windows inside and out.
  • Rent a pressure washer and spray down sidewalks and exterior.
  • Clean out cobwebs.
  • Re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks.
  • Polish chrome faucets and mirrors.
  • Clean out the refrigerator.
  • Vacuum daily.
  • Dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.
  • Bleach dingy grout.
  • Replace worn rugs.
  • Hang up fresh towels.
  • Bathroom towels look great fastened with ribbon and bows.
  • Clean and air out any musty smelling areas. Odors are a no-no.

9. Scrutinize.

  • Go outside and open your front door. Stand there. Do you want to go inside? Does the house welcome you?
  • Linger in the doorway of every single room and imagine how your house will look to a buyer.
  • Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense.
  • Make sure window coverings hang level.
  • Tune in to the room’s statement and its emotional pull.
  • Does it have impact and pizzazz? Does it look like nobody lives in this house? You’re almost finished.

10. Check Curb Appeal

  • If a buyer won’t get out of her agent’s car because she doesn’t like the exterior of your home, you’ll never get her inside.
  • Keep the sidewalks cleared.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Paint faded window trim.
  • Plant yellow flowers or group flower pots together. Yellow evokes a buying emotion. Marigolds are inexpensive.
  • Trim your bushes.
  • Make sure visitors can clearly read your house number.

Renovations That Do Not Add Value To Your Home:

Even though the current homeowner may greatly appreciate an improvement, a buyer could be unimpressed and unwilling to factor the upgrade into the purchase price. Homeowners need to be careful with how they choose to spend their money if they are expecting the investment to pay off.

1. Swimming Pools

Many potential home buyers view swimming pools as dangerous and expensive to maintain. Families with young children may turn down an otherwise perfect house because of the pool. A would-be buyer’s offer may be contingent on the home seller dismantling an above-ground pool or filling in an in-ground pool.

2. Overbuilding for the Neighbourhood

While a large, expensive remodel, such as adding a second story with 2 bedrooms and a full bath, might make the home more appealing, it will not add significantly to the resale value if the house is in the midst of a neighbourhood of small, one-story homes. In general, home buyers do not want to pay $650,000 for a house that sits in a neighbourhood with an average sales price of $525,000. The buyer will instead look to spend the $525,000 in a $525,000 neighbourhood.

3. Extensive and Elaborate Landscaping

A beautiful yard may encourage potential buyers to take a closer look at the property, but will probably not add to the selling price. Many buyers view elaborate landscaping as a burden (even though it might be attractive) and, as a result, are not likely to consider it when placing value on the home.

4. High-End Upgrades

Putting stainless steel appliances in your kitchen or imported tiles in your entryway may do little to increase the value of your home if the bathrooms are still vinyl-floored and the shag carpeting in the bedrooms is leftover from the ‘60s. Upgrades should be consistent to maintain a similar style and quality throughout the home.

5. Wall-toWall Carpeting

There is growing concern over the healthfulness of carpeting due to the amount of chemicals used in its processing and the potential for allergens (a serious concern for families with children). Add to that the probability that the carpet style and colour that you thought was perfect might not be what someone else had in mind. Removing carpeting and restoring wood floors is usually a more profitable investment.

6. Invisible Improvements

A new plumbing system or air conditioning might be necessary, but don’t expect it to recover these costs when it comes time to sell. Many home buyers simply expect these systems to be in good working order and will not pay extra just because you recently installed a new heater. It may be better to think of these improvements in terms of regular maintenance, and not an investment in your home’s value.

There is no simple equation for determining which projects will garner the highest return. Some of this depends on the local market and even the age and style of the house. Homeowners frequently must choose between an improvement that they would really love to have and one that would prove to be a better investment. A bit of research, or the advice of a qualified real estate professional, can help homeowners avoid costly projects that don’t really add value to a home.

When Staging Your House: Don’t forget the Garage

Although you normally may not even think about it, the appearance and tidiness of your garage is important as the staging of the rest of your home. The garage is an extension of the home even though it isn’t living space. Coming out of a beautifully staged home and viewing a garage that’s a mess, might cause the buyer to reconsider especially if there is a lot of competitive listings around. Neglecting the garage is a mistake and it should be staged like the rest of the house.

  • Garages may be larger than most rooms in a house and to fill it with catchalls is a waste of space.
  • Get things off the floor by having proper shelving units and cabinets, which can be purchased inexpensively, as well as hanging bicycles and ladders.
  • To make a garage stand out more, finish any unfinished studding with drywall and paint as well as sealing the concrete floor and then painting it in a light colour.
  • After the garage is looking good and organized, improve the lighting so that its bright and inviting.
  • Buyers would be able to visualize how their car would look like in a neat and spotless garage.
  • Depending on the neighbourhood, style of house and budget, garages can be turned into living spaces, workshops or home offices.

Remember, there are a number of variables that are out of your control when trying to sell your home, such as market conditions, timing and location but what is entirely in your control is the look and feel of your home both inside and out, including your garage.

As a Seller, Should You Consider a Home Inspection

If you are putting your home up for sale, should you consider having your own building inspection? Keep in mind that this process is traditionally done by the buyer.

The answer is “Yes” and let me explain why.

Subject Clauses in Contracts

Once a buyer makes an offer to purchase and you accept it, you have a contract. One of the most common conditions of that contract is a subject clause which states: “purchase and sale of the Property is subject to a successful home inspection.” The buyer will have a home inspector go through your house to make sure there are not any hidden problems. The last thing that you want is to have your sale unravel because of an unknown problem uncovered by the buyer’s building inspector. This is especially true if it is a minor problem and could easily have been repaired ahead of time — if only you had known about it.

Getting your Home Ready for Sale

When preparing your house for sale, you are going to do many things to make it look good. You are going to clean, declutter, paint where necessary, have the kitchen and bathrooms at their best, and improve the outside to enhance the curb appeal of the property. Why not be proactive and have a building inspection? Find out if there are any hidden problems and correct them in advance. If you don’t, you can be assured that the buyer’s inspector will find them.

Finalizing the Sale

The buyer will ask you to fix the problems found by their inspector or no deal. If you do not want to fix the problems, they will ask for a reduction in price or no deal. In some cases, the buyer may even cancel the purchase entirely, not giving you a chance to fix the problems.

Property Disclosure Statements (PDS)

If you hire your own home inspector and find problems but elect not to repair them, it is most important that you disclose this in the PDS. Prudent buyers will insert the following clause in the contract of purchase and sale: “The attached Property Disclosure Statement, date (date)20__, is incorporated into and forms part of this contract.” Home sellers and their REALTORS® who have known of problems but not disclosed them have successfully been taken to court for damages.

If there is a problem that you decide not to repair, discuss with your REALTOR® and disclose it. Indicate that the estimated buyer’s cost to fix it has been reflected in the listed price of your home. A home inspection by the seller will make the process of listing, showing and most importantly, the negotiations with the purchaser much smoother and successful.