You’ve made the decision. It’s time to put your home on the market. You’re ready to sign the listing agreement, but that’s only the beginning. Of course you want to maximize your selling price and your profit. And you don’t want to invest a fortune in the process. Here are ten simple, cost-effective steps you can take immediately to show off your home at its very best.
- Visualize. Look at your home as though you were seeing it for the first time. Better still, look at it like a prospective buyer would. What do you see? As a buyer, what would you like to see? Start making a checklist outside first, then move inside, and then look at structural issues. We’ll cover each of these areas in more detail below. Just remember that throughout the selling process, you need to forget it’s YOUR house and instead visualize what the buyer wants.
- Compare. Look around your neighborhood. How does your home stack up with others in the immediate vicinity? Are there other homes for sale? If so, how do you look next to the competition? You need to compete on price, of course, but you also need to compete with appearance. That means doing something creative to set yourself apart. Do all the front doors look ho-hum? Paint yours red. Make sure your home’s most appealing features are clearly visible. (And work to camouflage those that aren’t so appealing.)
- Repair. Starting at the front of the house, look for cracks in the sidewalk and driveway. Check the foundation, the patio, and the stairs. If it’s loose, tighten it. If it’s sagging, prop it up. If it’s broken, fix it. Squeaky screens and doors are not welcoming—a quick spritz of WD-40 can fix that right up. Make sure your garage door and any sliding glass doors open and close easily and with a minimum of noise.
- Wash. Before you invest a lot of money in an outside paint job, do a power wash. Just getting rid of the accumulation of dust and dirt will give your home a face lift. Hose down the roof and clean the gutters too. And then clean your windows, inside and out, until they sparkle.
- Plant. Depending on the season, add flowers or seasonal color to your landscape. Of course you’ll keep your lawn mowed and edged and your shrubbery trimmed. Even if you’re short on yard space, you can put some colorful pots by the front door and around the deck or patio.
- De-clutter. Moving to the inside of the home, remove at least 50% of everything that’s visible. Start with kitchen and bathroom counters. Even if there are tools and utensils you use every day, put them in containers you can access easily but keep them out of sight. A bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter looks great. A bowl of fruit plus a coffeemaker, a toaster, a dish drainer, a radio, a telephone, and a knife rack looks like—clutter. And remove those family photos, grocery lists, and kid art from your refrigerator while you’re at it.
- Store. Here’s a secret you should know: if your rooms and closets are full of “stuff,” prospective buyers will think there’s not enough space for them. Pack away everything you can, including linens, pots and pans, kids’ toys, books, and office supplies. Make your closets, cupboards and shelves look half empty. Some people even rent a storage unit and store some pieces of furniture in order to make the rooms look more spacious.
- Sell. Have a garage sale to get rid of unwanted items and use the money you make to buy some cosmetic upgrades, like new faucets or fluffy bathroom towels. Or splurge on a family day at the movies when your Realtor is having an open house.
- Paint. Your daughter’s Goth black or Barbie pink bedroom may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but buyers think in neutral. A few gallons of paint are a small investment that will pay big dividends. Stay away from stark white—it’s cold and uninviting. A pale taupe or light, warm beige will fit almost anyone’s color taste.
- Accessorize. You can add some attractive but inexpensive touches with new hardware on kitchen and bathroom cabinets, a polished brass knob and knocker on the front door, or a new mailbox. Think about lighting too. Make sure there are no burned-out bulbs anywhere and keep fluorescents off and soft lights on whenever the house is being shown. Ditch the artificial silk or plastic flowers and invest in seasonal potted plants and fresh flowers. A potted orchid is reasonably priced, needs almost no care, and will look elegant for months.
That’s it—you’re ready for the photographer and your first open house. Of course you’ll want to adapt these suggestions to your own home and market area, but with a reasonable investment of time, energy, and a little money, you’ll turn your home into a showplace and your listing into a sale.