It’s still a great time to sell, but make sure you check these items off to set your home apart from the rest.
OK so maybe you missed out on last year’s history-making housing market. The numbers are in and 2021 was the most competitive – and most profitable – in U.S. history with home values rising nearly 20% in just one year. It was a perfect storm of intense demand, dwindling supply and record-low interest rates. The market is expected to cool in 2022, but experts predict a large number of buyers, especially first-time buyers, will be looking for homes this year so here are 11 tips to keep in mind before you sell.
Find the Best Listing Agent
As anyone who has been through this process before will tell you, the right agent can make all the difference. A good listing agent will be your best friend and cheerleader, but also able to give you the tough love you need to get the job done. They might even need to step in as a temporary therapist or shoulder to cry on – whether they’re tears of joy or pain, so make sure it’s someone you’re completely comfortable with. Personal feelings aside, it’s also important that the agent is very familiar with your home and your neighborhood so they can best market it to buyers.
The Price is Right
There’s an old saying in real estate that a house is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it, so naming the right price is key. Experts differ on the best strategy. Some say you should find out the most accurate price for your home and then reduce the listing price by about 15-20% to incite a bidding war, while others take a more cautious approach and list it as close to the actual value as possible, while some people will tell you to shoot for the moon because you just might get it. No matter what approach fits you best, be patient and don’t make major changes too quickly. Your home will sell.
Call for Repairs
Or do them yourself. It’s time to go through the house with a fine-toothed comb and fix all the little things that didn’t bother you enough to do before. We’re talking about loose handles, nail holes in the walls, small cracks, broken glass, scratched baseboards. Anything that your mother-in-law might frown at. Think of an open house like a blind date. Your home needs to look flawless to get those buyers swooning.
Ditch the Clutter
We know it’s hard to let go, but it’s only temporary. And, who knows, you might even like the light and airy feeling an organized house brings you and keep it when you move into your new home. But goals aside, the more spacious you can make your current home feel, the better. This goes for everything. Baskets of toys or shoes on the ground? Put them out of sight. Packed closets (even if they’re color coded)? Get rid of half the clothes and shoes in there to make them look bigger. Kitchen counters lined with every new cooking gadget? Put them away, Julia Child. Professional home stagers say the rule of thumb is no more than three items on any surface so try to stick to that when you go through each room. You might need to rent a storage unit temporarily, but it will definitely improve your home’s chances of selling quickly.
Be Less Personal
And while you’re in the mood to purge, this is a great time to put away overly personal items. Buyers want to be able to envision your home as theirs so all those pictures of your kids, your pets, or Aunt Annie’s 80th birthday party might make them feel like they are just visitors and that could land your home on their B list. This is also true for anything that might be polarizing like politics or religion. But don’t worry. We don’t want you to get rid of your treasures permanently, just find a safe spot for them until after the house is sold. It’s a great opportunity to start your packing early!
Now that you’ve gotten all the knick knacks out of the way, throw a drop cloth over everything and splash on a new coat of paint, ideally in every room. It will immediately give the house a new feel, even if it’s 100 years old and, just like with cars, there’s nothing like that new paint smell. Try to stick to neutral colors if possible since that gives potential buyers a chance to imagine their personal style in your home. If a total re-painting is not an option, grab those cans out of the basement and touch up walls, ceilings, or baseboards where they might have marks or scuffs. A fresh coat of paint on the front door is a secret weapon for successful home sellers.
After you finish painting that front door, take a look around the entrance to your home. This will be your buyer’s first impression so make sure it’s a good one! Little, inexpensive additions can go a long way. Think about a new welcome mat, simple planters on either side of the door, or accent pillows on the couch. We don’t want you to hire anyone to do elaborate decorating, just a little something extra that will make buyers feel welcome and make the home look inviting. Fresh flowers on the table when you have showings is another effective and cheap way to add luxury to your home.
Hire a Professional Photographer
Your iPhone might take amazing pictures, but when it’s time to showcase your home, a professional real estate photographer is the way to go. Your listing agent will surely have some references for you, but you can also find one in your area using an internet search or asking friends and family who have been through the process. A recent Cinch study found that 90% of millennial home buyers would buy a house sight unseen. That means the photographs of your home may be the only thing a buyer will see until they move in so investing a little more in them upfront is sure to pay off in the long run.
We mean every light. You can let the photographer worry about the lighting when the pictures are being taken, but for open houses and tours, make sure every light in the house is on and that all the bulbs are working. Have plenty of extra bulbs on hand as well. The more light in the home, the more spacious it will look and the better it will show.
The Smell Test
Of course, looks aren’t everything. Buyers will notice how your house smells as soon as they walk in. This should seem obvious, but just like the advertisement says, you can become “nose-blind” to your home’s odors when you are there all the time. New paint and fresh flowers are good smells. Old sneakers and wet towels are bad smells. One real estate agent says she would have her sellers bake cookies before every open house and the house would sell that day. Of course that might not be possible unless you’re Betty Crocker so you might have to fake it with scented candles. But beware. While some smells are cosmetic, other smells are a result of something wrong in the house like mildew, leaks, or septic issues. If that is the case, make sure you address those problems and get them remediated or repaired before the house goes on the market. A savvy buyer or buyer’s agent will notice attempts to cover up smells and that could be a deal-breaker.
Bye Bye, Buddy and Bailey
We love your pets as much as you do, but potential buyers might not be fans. Aside from the odor factor we mentioned above, pets cause mess (think hair everywhere!) and noise (imagine how much your dog will be barking at an open house!) and won’t improve your home’s chances of selling quickly. In addition, people touring the home could be allergic or afraid of animals or they might be bringing young children who could create a dangerous situation if left unattended. Take some time before the showings start to have a plan for where they will go when the house needs to be on display.
It might feel like a lot and, depending on how hot the market is where you live, you might not need to do everything, but we promise if you take some of this advice it will increase your chances for a quick sale. If you’re not sure what to do, call a friend over, but not your nicest friend. Call the friend who would tell you not to buy those jeans. May the force be with you, sellers!