So you want to sell your home and move on to somewhere more suited to your current family size and needs? Most people in the market for a new home only visit a listing once, so as the saying goes, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Let potential buyers see a neat, clean, well-cared for home, one that has room for all their goods and furnishings, and you are well on the way to getting that second visit, the one that may clinch the deal.
Think back to when you bought the home. What did you see? You saw a place offering good value, where you and your family could be comfortable. You’ve struggled with mortgage payments, taxes, and maintaining it in good condition; now it’s time for a little payback.
There’s a lot of work involved in getting your home ready for a quick and profitable sale. Not everyone has the time, resources or money to do everything, so let’s prioritise.
First, the home needs to be clean and tidy. Wash everywhere – that includes floors, inside closets and cabinets, windows, light fixtures. This is especially important in kitchens and bathrooms; you don’t want a buyer thinking she’ll catch something, so don’t forget the refrigerator and oven, even if you’re planning on taking them with you.
Shampoo and deodorise rugs and upholstery, especially if there are smokers in the house. Don’t try to camouflage bad odours with scented candles and the like. Some people dislike or are allergic to the chemicals, and in any case, they’re going to wonder what you’re trying to cover up.
Depending on the season, clean outside paths, driveways, patios etc. with a pressure washer. Always make sure the lawns are mowed, the flower beds weeded, the leaves raked, the snow is cleared. Trim back overgrown bushes and hanging baskets, make sure the swimming pool is clean and free of debris, and consider spending a few dollars at the local garden centre on some colourful annuals to plant around the front of the house.
Get rid of anything in excess. Even if there is a place for everything and everything is in its place, the idea is to persuade the buyer that there is room for all their possessions, which can be difficult if all your stuff overwhelms them. Remember, you’re trying to sell your house, not run a flea market. Minimalism is the key. Let the buyer see there is lots of room for their own furniture and treasures.
Fresh paint is one of the best investments. Use fairly light, neutral colours. A dark blue wall in the living room might be attractive in itself, but if it clashes with the buyer’s sofa, they might decide to look elsewhere. A brilliant yellow kitchen with a white ceiling might feel cheerful and energetic, but if the buyer isn’t fond of lemon meringue pie, it might put them off. While painting, don’t neglect the woodwork. If you’re not sure, white goes well with most colours. And don’t forget the ceilings – many buyers will look at them closely, checking for cracks or signs of water damage.
Do all the little jobs that you’ve been meaning to do for the last few years – replace that light bulb in the basement, fix that dripping tap and loose door handle, bleach or replace the stained caulking around the bathtub. If your potential buyer sees no obvious problems or neglect, they won’t be so inclined to wonder what other repairs they’ll have to undertake when they move in.
If there are any major repairs needed, always be up front with your agent and get his (or her) opinion before undertaking any. Obviously the furnace, hot water and central air conditioning need to work, but changing windows, for example, can be a major expense. Will there be a payback?
All this preparation can be a lot of work, so try to make it a family project, and get everyone involved. Remember, too, that some of this work might not add to the final listing price, but if it helps sell the home faster, the less the stress, and the sooner you can be enjoying your new home.
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