The Smart First-Time Home Seller's Guide (2015)

Chapter 3: Preparing The Home For Sale – First Impressions



   Now that you have professional help, it is time to prepare your home for future showings. Your real estate agent will no doubt have an opinion on this subject, but you are about to learn everything you need to know to transform your home. Try to see your home from a buyer's perspective. You must ensure that your home is “show ready” to attract buyers willing to pay your asking price. To do this, improvements must be made. Making a good first impression is key.


   First, tackle both minor and major repairs. Maintenance takes up a lot of time, but does not have to cost a lot of money. Clean out your gutters, re-grout tiles, replace light bulbs, fix leaky taps, polish wooden flooring, oil creaking hinges, and anything else in need of improving. This will give viewers the impression of a maintained, well-loved home.


    If you want to make a great impression, “Staging” is going to be your best friend. Staging your home involves making a lot of changes, but there are ways to “paint a picture” without going overboard. The aim here it to simplify, rearrange, re-purpose, and “renovate”, all while using mainly pieces that were there but were just improperly utilized. You want to create a neutral, updated environment that buyers can imagine themselves actually living in. The first thing to consider when painting a picture is the disadvantage of too many personal touches.


   Who knew that taking down family photos and clearing off counter tops helps you achieve top dollar for your house? Family photos and personal items make people feel like they are invading your space. These are just two secrets to the art of staging. You can clean up, rearrange, and style your home to command top price.  This means anything from putting excess books in storage to cleaning up moldy buildup in bathrooms to filling up bare spaces. The goal is to make your home clean, organized, and inviting so potential buyers can picture themselves moving in.


   You want to de-personalize your home. If you want viewers to immediately envision themselves living in your home, “you” need to move out by removing personal things like CDs, DVDs, theme items, and so on. You may adore your deep purple walls but viewers prefer a blank canvas they can stamp their own personality on. 


   A great tip when staging your home is to replace mismatched pictures with chic, artistic photos, along with generally appealing art pieces to accent any bare walls. Be very considerate about placement. Look up examples of rooms staging experts have recreated on a budget. They will usually specify where they found expensive looking pieces for a bargain while re-purposing bigger items for a whole new look. Keep neutral colors, like black and brown, in mind while adding pops of color and texture. Fur pillows and area rugs are a great way to add texture in a room. Try placing a couple of decorative lanterns on the coffee table for a more modern appeal. A wonderful tip is to add touches that invoke an emotional response in buyers, such as placing a book by the arm chair or baking a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. If you are creative and do some research, you can stage your home without spending a lot of money.


   Do not take on too many projects, but have fun making a home someone would want to live in. There are a lot of great low-cost projects and tips. Try painting the walls a warm, neutral shade. You can also add an accent wall by painting it two shades deeper or a complimentary color. Repaint cabinets and furniture as needed and replace cheaper items like knobs, light switch covers, and electrical outlets. Buy new neutral colored towels and shower curtains.

   Lighting is also important. Try changing lampshades and replacing old light fixtures with colorful pendants. Also, it is important to choose light bulbs that have the right spectrum for a given space. Soft bulbs that emit a yellow or red undertone are best in “hanging out” areas such as the living room. Bright bulbs that emit blue undertones do well in “study” areas such as the office or library. New blinds and curtains add a charming finishing touch, along with molding, trim, and other accents.


   Before listing your house for sale, getting a home inspection is absolutely essential. A pre-sale inspection will help you address any larger repairs you were unable to pinpoint so you can properly price and market your property. The inspector's report will give buyers the confidence they need to make an offer on your property. Fixing the issues will help you get a higher offer. Home inspections should be part of the preparation process. Too many sellers make the mistake of waiting until later to deal with the home inspection, risking lower offers and scaring away buyers.


   When preparing your home, de-cluttering is an important process. Get rid of knick-knacks and clear out any bulk items, such as toys, newspapers, clutter, and so on. Rearrange to create a different flow throughout the house. The idea is to create the illusion of space. A secret technique to do this is the use of mirrors. Put two large decorative mirrors on opposing walls across from each other. The reflections create the feeling of a larger space while drawing in more light. If you have a “junk room”, convert it to a tidy office or study.


Tackle the garage, shed, loft, underneath the stairs, cupboards, and kitchen units. When you are finished it should be apparent what each room is for. Open rooms and welcoming accents, such as a vase of flowers, may seem overly plain, but do not underestimate the value you are adding to your home just by clearing bulk.


   You will want to put your bigger possessions, along with any other items you cannot bear to part with, away. You may want to consider renting a storage unit. Alternatively, you can opt to turn your clutter into cash by using online auction sites, such as eBay, or having a garage sale. If you are the giving type, charity shops welcome donations and many will pick up the items for you. You can also give family or friends anything you no longer need.


   Now that you have de-cluttered, a good clean is required. Vacuuming, flicking a duster, and spraying air freshener is not enough. You are going to have to deep clean the house from top the bottom. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. Scrub grime and grout clean to make them sparkle. Move furniture, clean behind everything, wipe down the walls, clean the corners, wash windows on either side, and dust and polish everything. Make sure everything is spotless, including appliances like the oven and dishwasher.


   The outside of your home is just as important at the inside. It is proven that buyers decide within the first six seconds whether or not they like a home. They are going to see the outside first, so make sure you consider curb appeal when making a strong first impression. It should be obvious how to enter your home. Each side of the doorway should welcome them through and into the threshold. Paint the front door a color that stands out against the greenery, like red, or buy a new one. Give the outside of the house a fresh coat of paint. Clear pathways, mow the lawn, tidy the garden and parking lot, repair and repaint the fencing, and make sure the house number is prominent and the doorbell works. Adding a few tubs of flowers or plants is a big plus point and you can take them with you when you move. Just do everything you can to get the home in excellent shape and be prepared to make some minor concessions at closing time.   


   If you are not decorative or creatively inclined, remember that your agent can recommend a plan of action to get your home “show ready”. If you can manage to get creative and do your research, you can save a lot of money while at the same time adding thousands to your home's sale price. View other show homes online to give yourself an idea of how to present and market a house. Study examples posted by professional stagers from their portfolios. This will also show you what you are competing against and if you need to step up your game.