Preparing your Home for Sale
Disassociate from Your House
Letting go of your home can be difficult. You've lived there, possibly for years, and the house holds many memories. To detach from it emotionally, you must realize that without you in it, the house is just a shell to be filled by other occupants. Look to the future, where you can make new memories in your next home.
Depersonalize Your House
The goal when selling is to have a buyer fall in love with your house, picturing themselves living there and imaging their belongings inside. That can be difficult if your home has your personal stamp all over it.
Neutralize the space by removing items such as family photos, souvenirs, religious symbols, diplomas and certificates, hobby supplies, and collections, including CDs and DVDs. You don’t want a buyer to feel like they’re intruding in your space or, worse, take offense at your lifestyle.
Also, consider updating your accessories and furnishings if your décor is outdated or avant-garde. You don’t want buyers to miss out on key features of your home because they’re distracted by your belongings.
Declutter Your House
People tend to collect an amazing quantity of items over the years. Reasons for keeping items include an emotional attachment, an intention to reuse or fix the items in the future, or a wish to pass them on to others. However, for many items, if you haven't used them in over a year, you probably don't need them.
Big kitchens, bathrooms and storage tend to be big selling points so it can help to make your rooms look as spacious as possible. Professional home stagers recommend that you remove 50% of your items.
Go through your home, decluttering and organizing spaces. Don’t just shove belongings in closets, cabinets, attics and basements, as buyers look inside all of those places. Use storage bins that can be tucked under beds or neatly stacked in a basement or closet. Baskets or cubbies inside cabinets can make things look neat and clean.
Decluttering also includes furniture. The scale of your pieces should match the size of the room, and buyers should be able to easily walk around spaces without bumping into furniture. Make sure furnishings don’t block doors, windows or architectural features. In a small living room, for example, consider removing end tables or accent chairs. Such moves aren’t convenient, but remember, they’re temporary.
Discard items in a useful way by donating them to a charity or nonprofit organization such as Goodwill. Not only will these items help those in need, but some may be tax-deductible. For items that are not accepted, call your town to inquire whether the items can be picked up. Many towns schedule this service once or twice a month.
Remove books and other knickknacks from bookcases, and clean everything off your kitchen counters. Essential items that you use daily can be tucked away in small boxes you can place in a closet when they're not in use. Consider this process an efficient start to your packing.
Organize Bedroom Closets and Storage Cabinets
Buyers will be curious about storage space and will want to check closets and cabinets. It's important to ensure these are organized, as it sends a negative message if your storage spaces are cluttered with items falling out.
When a buyer sees everything organized down to the last detail, it shows that you take care of your possessions and likely took good care of the house. In kitchen cabinets, alphabetize spice jars, neatly stack dishes, and turn the coffee cup handles so they're facing the same way. In closets, shirts should be buttoned and hung together, and shoes should be lined up neatly.
Consider Renting a Storage Unit
Almost every home shows better with less furniture. Remove pieces that block or hamper paths and walkways, and put them in storage, along with distracting furniture, artwork, and empty bookcases.
You may need to rent a storage unit during the home-selling process. Keeping your belongings offsite is the best way to maximize the space in your home. Storage units can range in price from $30 to $300 per month, depending on size, location and features like climate control and security.
Consider hiring a professional organizer to help you declutter. He or she can help you identify items to discard, store or donate. Organizers typically charge hourly fees ranging from $30 to $80, according to Angie’s List. This process also makes moving easier since you’ll have fewer items, and others already boxed.
Remove or Replace Favorite Items
If you plan on taking certain window coverings, built-in appliances, or fixtures with you, remove them prior to showing the house. If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great-grandmother, be sure to take it down before a buyer sees it and asks that it be included with the house. Telling a buyer they can't have an item that appears with the house and enhances its appeal can hurt the sale.
Paint where it needs it most
A fresh coat of paint can make a home feel new. In fact, painting is one of the most common recommendations real estate agents make to sellers before they list. Paint can help small rooms appear larger and highlight architectural details, such as crown molding and trim. Be mindful of your color choice, however. Experts recommend warm neutral colors, such as beige, tan, gold, gray, and “greige,” a blend of gray and beige. Because these shades go with anything, they can help buyers to picture their belongings in your home.
If you don’t have time to paint your entire home, most commonly recommended is painting the kitchen, bathrooms, entryway and foyer. If you’ve had your house painted in the past few years, you can likely just touch up scuff marks or stains on walls or baseboards.
Homeowners often tackle painting projects themselves. For best results, prep the rooms by cleaning the dust and dirt from walls, repairing any damage or holes, applying painter’s tape to trim, and covering furniture and floors with a drop cloth. While painting isn’t difficult, it can be time-consuming. The average bedroom will take 30 minutes to two hours to prepare, and one to two hours per coat to paint, according to the paint company Glidden. Hiring a professional painter runs from $380 to $790 per room, not including ceilings, trim or paint costs, while doing the project yourself can cost between $200 and $400 per room.
Make Minor Repairs
Replace cracked floor or counter tiles, and patch any holes in the walls. Fix leaky faucets and doors that don't close properly, as well as kitchen drawers that jam. Consider painting walls neutral colors, especially if they're currently hot pink or purple. Don't give buyers any reason to remember your home as "the one with the orange bathroom."
Replace burned-out lightbulbs, and also consider replacing those that have been in service for a while. Avoid the potential of having a bulb blow out when you flip the light switch during a showing. It's a small incident that can easily be avoided if you are mindful. You want the buyer's experience to be as positive as possible.
Make the House Sparkle
Preparing your home to be viewed by potential buyers may require hiring a professional cleaning crew. Cleaning may include washing the windows inside and out; renting a pressure washer and spraying down sidewalks and the exterior; re-caulking tubs, showers, and sinks; and polishing chrome faucets and mirrors. Make sure all of the dust is removed from under the furniture, in the cabinets and closets, and everywhere else it could be hiding.
Try to maintain this cleanliness by vacuuming daily, waxing floors, dusting furniture, and keeping the bathrooms and kitchen spotless. Hang up fresh guest towels, and keep the toilet lid closed when it's not in use.
Hiring a professional may prove the most effective way to do the job quickly and thoroughly. You’ll also want to clean carpeting, bringing the fibers and colors bring back to life. Rent a machine from a home improvement store for about $50, or hire a professional.
Set the stage—make it feel like home
Now comes the final step: staging your home. The goal is to create a great first impression so that buyers put your home at the top of their list. On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than those that aren’t staged, according to Realtor.com.
When you prepare your home for sale, staging is the art of highlighting your home’s features without drowning them out, creating an attractive vision to help buyers to see your house as their future home. And while it may seem simple in a way, staging is a skill, so you may want to hire a professional.
You don’t need to stage your entire home. Focus instead on rooms that impress buyers most, such as the kitchen, living room, master suite, and bathrooms. In the kitchen, for example, place a bowl of fresh fruit on the countertop and set the table with beautiful dinnerware and linens.
In the living room, toss a decorative blanket on the arm of the sofa and add a vase of fresh flowers to the coffee table. Update bathrooms with fluffy new towels and display a dish of decorative soaps.
Put a tray with a book and teapot on the edge of the master bed. Create a single focal point in each room, hanging a simple piece of artwork that enhances your staging, or highlighting architectural details, such as a fireplace or beautiful windows.
While staging is mostly about the details, you might need to update your furniture, especially if your current furnishings are dated or in bad condition. If you were thinking of replacing your worn out sofa, for example, it might be a good idea to do that before you sell your home. You can also rent furniture while your house is on the market. This is a good idea if you’ve already moved into your new home, and the home you need to sell is vacant. Unfurnished rooms look smaller, and placing furniture in rooms helps buyers better understand where they would put their own belongings.
Staging also helps you give rooms purpose, giving prospective buyers ideas about how they might use an extra bedroom, basement or nook. Choose a function that might appeal to your demographic. For example, if your house is a starter home in an area that appeals to young families, set up a bedroom as a nursery or playroom. If your condo appeals to single buyers, think about designing a home office or home gym. Staging is about design and lifestyle.
Don’t forget to stage the exterior, creating curb appeal. A buyer’s first impression happens when they pull up in front of your house. The appearance of your home’s exterior can increase your home’s value up to 17%, according to a study from Texas Tech University.
Stage your exterior by keeping your yard tidy. Mow the grass, trim bushes and shrubs, and freshen your mulch. Add color by planting flowers in your front yard or in pots on your front porch. In winter, consider seasonal touches like a wreath or holiday lights.
If decorating isn’t your strength, you can hire a professional stager. An initial consultation costs between $300 and $600. If the stager brings in new furnishings, you’ll pay a rental fee. Some professional home stagers require a minimum contract, even if your house sells quickly. The home staging can run between $3,000 to $20,000 depending on size and requirements. So consult with your Agent. Staging your home will helps set the stage for creating the best listing photos—and that can boost interest and showings.
Scrutinize Curb Appeal
A potential sale is lost quickly if a buyer won't even get out of their agent's car because the exterior of your home turns them off. Make the exterior more appealing and welcoming by painting your front door and, perhaps, adding a wreath of dried wildflowers, or placing one or two flower pots on your front porch. Hire a landscaper to clean up your lawn and add a few shrubs or flowering plants. Consider hiring a contractor to fix any cracks on your front steps or walkway. Make sure visitors can clearly see your house number.
The Final Step
Back inside your home, linger in the doorway of each room, and imagine how your house will look to a buyer. Examine how the furniture is arranged, and rearrange pieces until the room achieves visual appeal. Make sure window coverings hang evenly. Once you've cleaned and gotten everything repaired and organized, you can begin staging your home.
With a top-producing real estate agent at your side, and a solid game plan, you can successfully sell your home and make a seamless transition to the next stage of your life.