Selling your home? It's time to clean house
What can you do to boost your profits dramatically when you sell your home? Most real estate salespeople will answer with one word: clean.
Don't be offended. No one's saying your house is dirty, but it does need to be showcased to its greatest advantage if you want to get the best possible price for it. REALTOR® call this "staging" your home for sale. It involves time and effort and may cost you from a few dollars up to a few thousand, but the payoff will be there.
How much can a little elbow grease and attention to detail actually be worth? "A house in tip-top shape priced at $100,000 will get its asking price or close to it, while you might have to take up to 10 percent less - $10,000 - for one without the finishing touches," says Marie Powell, president of Marie Powell and Associates, Better Homes and Gardens.
A real estate professional can advise you on specific ways to present your home. Keep in mind that their recommendations aren't meant as criticisms. Rather, your home is competing against dozens of new and existing houses. So enhancing your home's market value may involve one or more of these factors:
- Curb appeal. "You have just one chance to make a good first impression and this is it," says Michael W. Owen, a REALTOR® with Arvida Realty. Does your house need painting? Is the driveway free of stains? Are the lawn and shrubbery manicured? Do the screens need to be replaced? Buyers believe the condition of a home's exterior speaks volumes about the interior. Be sure your house makes a good impression.
- Front door. A freshly painted door, new or polished kickplate and a pot of flowers are warm and inviting. Stains, scratches, dents and cobwebs create an entirely different mood.
- Odors. "Every house has a distinctive smell that its owner gets used to," notes A. Michael Hickox a REALTOR®. "But pungent odors - pets, tobacco, food - can turn a buyer off. A deep cleaning and deodorizing may be essential. Consider hiring a service if you don't want to do it yourself," he says.
- Lighting and general appearance. As the song goes "let the sunshine in." Even if you prefer a dark house, most buyers react positively to a light, airy home. Besides, it makes your rooms seem more spacious. Open up the curtains and blinds, make sure the windows sparkle, wipe the baseboards, remove fingerprints from the doors and dust blinds and light fixtures.
- Carpeting and painting. Sellers often concede that carpeting should be replaced or rooms painted but decide instead to subtract the cost of these improvements from the sales price. The problem is that buyers inflate the cost of these improvements. "Buyers begin making mental deductions from the moment they arrive," says Hickox. "If something will cost $2,000, they may mentally figure $5,000, or if it's $100 they may think $1,000. In many cases they just don't want to bother. Seller are usually better off having the work done before putting their house on the market."
- Colors. Bold, vivid colors may suit your style, but neutral tones will appeal to the widest range of shoppers. A new coat of paint will earn you far more than it costs, including labor.
- Furnishings and keepsakes. If your rooms look crowded and your closets filled, your REALTOR® may suggest that you rearrange or even temporarily store furniture and hold a garage sale before showing. You may also want to protect your collectibles by packing them away. The goal is to highlight your house, not your possessions.
- Kitchens and bathrooms. Kitchens and baths sell houses and a thorough cleaning of those rooms is critical. But don't forget the extra touches, says Arlene Carozza of The Prudential Florida Realty. "You might put some place settings around the kitchen table, dab a little vanilla on a light bulb with a cotton ball for a nice pleasant scent, organize the cabinets, put out fresh towels and decorative soaps."
- Clutter. "Whenever you leave your home, the beds should be made, the sinks empty, the clothes hung up," Carozza adds. That's not all. Newspapers, magazines, books, trophies, mementos and even large clusters of photos can all be costly distractions if they become the one thing a prospect remembers about your house. In this case, less is more.
Perhaps you're thinking that all this staging will strip the personality from your home. Well, experts do find that depersonalized homes sell faster and at a better price than those left as is. Just think of the new, furnished model home down the road - that's your competition.
Some real estate pros suggest that you compare selling a house to looking at a used car. The dealer keeps it in spotless condition, with no reminders of the previous owner, so shoppers can picture the car as theirs.
That's just the reaction you want when you clean to clean-up on your real estate investment. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.