This blog post is the second in a series about beginning the process of preparing to sell a house, and getting ready for showings.
Now, you’re used to the idea of your house as a product and not your home. What should you do to make it appealing to a large majority of buyers?
Think of yourself as a buyer.
Try to remember back to when you looked at homes to purchase. Maybe you’ve been perusing the internet now and dreaming of your next home. What kinds of things do you notice that make you think, “Why did they do x, or why didn’t they do x?” Those x’s will likely be on the minds of others as they look at those listing photos of your home when it hits the market.
It may sound cliché, but I have to say it because it is extremely important in this context. You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
What is the first impression someone will have when they see your house? The first time a buyer sees your house is driving by and noticing the For Sale sign in the front yard. So, take a walk. Walk outside and stand on the sidewalk across the street and face your house.
Blink a couple of times and try to look with fresh eyes. If you wear glasses, be sure to put them on! How does it look? Is the grass in your yard green or brown? Is the paint chipping or peeling? Do you have overgrown grass or weeds? Do your shrubs need to be trimmed? What about the mailbox and the exterior lighting? These all may sound small, but they contribute to the overall first impression someone will have of your home.
I can hear it now. “Well, the right person will come along and love my house in spite of the messy yard (or insert your home’s shortcoming that really stands out to you here.) Maybe, but probably not.
What is your goal? If you don’t expect to obtain the most money you can get from your home in the shortest time possible, I guess you can take that chance. Also, depending upon the type of market, you may not have anyone look at your home let alone make an offer to purchase it.
If you are unable to repaint your home if that is necessary, at least repaint your front door. Ask your real estate broker or home staging professional for some colors that will go great with the current color of your home. It doesn’t cost a thing to pull weeds or trim shrubbery. Sweep the walkways, porch and the area around your front door. Don’t forget the light fixtures. Make sure they are clean and free from all cobwebs and that the bulb is in working order.
How’s the roof? Your roof is your home’s first line of defense against moisture that can cause sometimes irreparable damage. Don’t neglect it. Buyers will note the condition of your roof. Be sure your gutters are clean and moss has been properly removed should there be any growth.
Cleanliness is Key
If you’re an individual who believes that cleaning your windows is too difficult, hire a professional. Clean, clean, clean is of utmost importance when converting your home to product for sale. Would you buy a car that looked like it had just been driven through mud flats or smelled of animal urine?
Speaking of smell – let’s go inside the house now. According the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES,) only about 3% of Americans can’t smell. For the rest of us, the sensitivity of our sniffer varies. I’ve been in homes in which I had to turn around and walk out to get some fresh air immediately. This is not a good impression for a prospective buyer.
When a prospective buyer walks through the front door, we don’t want them to be hit with a blast of stench as their now first impression of the interior of the home. When you live in your home, its sometimes impossible to smell what others are going to smell upon entering for the first time. You may need to ask somebody about the smell of your home. Most people err on the side of being overly polite. Ask your most brutally honest friend or relative to help you out here. Your real estate broker or staging professional will also be great resources in this department.
There are things you can do to help alleviate the smell. Again – clean, clean, clean. The smell of clean is what will appeal to most prospective purchasers. Try to avoid masking unpleasant odors with products such as air fresheners and strong oils or deodorant sprays. Many people are just as easily “put off” by these types of strong aromas.
There are some odors that are nearly impossible to eliminate in a home by the usual methods of cleaning. Among these are pet odors and tobacco. Depending upon the pet, this may be the simpler unpleasant smell to eliminate. If you have an indoor cat, be sure that the litter box is changed frequently with fresh, odor-eliminating litter, and you are using a high-quality cat food. If your cat is older and/or has issues with spraying, you may wish to consider finding a place for him/her to vacation while your home is on the market.
Smokers, if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t smoke inside your home. If you’ve been smoking in your home for any length of time, you may need special sealants applied to all of your interior surfaces as well as new paint and flooring throughout. Even after a home has been thoroughly cleaned without inhabitants for extended periods of time, the lingering smell of stale cigarette smoke abides.
Light & Color
When it comes to sight, where can we get the biggest impact? Light and color. Depending upon where your home is located, light can be of HUGE significance! I am located in the Pacific Northwest. Here in Oregon, certain times of the year can be characterized as being very dark and gloomy. Because of this, many prospective homebuyers look for as much natural light as can be attained.
Some ways you can achieve this are cleaning the windows, and removing any dark, heavy drapery. Be sure all window coverings are also clean and in good working order. You’ll want to be sure to open them and raise blinds for showings. Use adequate wattage in the light bulbs you utilize. Be sure you have enough lighting, and add lamps or other light fixtures where necessary.
Believe it or not, adding mirrors to a space can help give it a feeling of light and spaciousness. Be sure your wall colors aren’t too dark as they can actually absorb the light and make the space even darker than it is. And, since we’re talking about color, what’s the fundamental rule? Use neutral paint colors. Paint is a great way to add character and personality to any space, but let a new homeowner add their own. You should make this product a clean and blank slate for somebody else to personalize.
Your real estate agent or home staging professional can recommend good neutral colors to use depending upon current trends. They will also show you when and where to add pops of color through your décor.
What’s That Sound?
You may ask yourself, how is it that we can address sound when striving to make a positive first impression? It is important to think about what most people look for when they’re looking for “home.” For most people, they want their home to be a retreat from the rest of the world. They are looking for a place in which they can escape to after a busy day at work.
We should assume that most people are looking for peace and quiet. I know it can be difficult to avoid the neighbors’ dogs that bark, the sound of a passing train or other outside noises which may be prevalent. However, there are things we can do to lessen their impacts or things to avoid which may add to the cacophony. Make sure the house is empty when people come for showings.
Be sure you take all of your pets with you. Not only can they be noisy, having strangers in the house without you can create avoidable stresses to your pets. Make sure your plumbing isn’t running, the Roomba doesn’t make its rounds, the grandfather clock is on silent, etc. You can also have quiet, calm instrumental music playing during showings.
Make sure to read part three of this blog series for the rest of the information on what you can do to get ready for showings and sales.