Fixing your house up for sale is highly recommended in the current market if you hope to sell within a reasonable period of time and for an acceptable price. Today’s buyers want turnkey houses that they can move right into without having much work.
In addition to repairing defects that might turn a buyer off, your house should be clean, tidy and look attractive. From a marketing point of view, most homes contain too much furniture and knickknacks that make it difficult for buyers to appreciate what the place has to offer. If your home is too personalized with your own belongings, buyers might have difficulty envisioning living there.
To enhance appeal, many sellers hire a stager, which is a decorator who specializes in presenting homes for sale. Stagers help rearrange furniture and artwork. They also recommend work that needs to be done, such as painting; suggest what should be removed; and bring in furniture, house plants and accessories. The point of all this is to generate enthusiasm for your home. Real estate agents prefer to show homes that look great. The more showings your home receives, the higher the likelihood it will sell.
Turning your home into a showcase makes good sense. Just make sure you don’t cross the line between fix-up and concealment. Seller disclosure laws vary from state to state. However, the trend over the last decade or so has been to disclose material defects.
Sellers often fear that if they tell all about their homes, it will keep it from selling. Or if the house does sell, the price will be low. This is usually an overreaction. Buyers prefer to know about defects before they buy a home, not after.
Put yourself in the buyers’ shoes: Would you rather know before or after closing that the basement floods in heavy rainstorms? If you receive advance notice, you can research remedies and find out how much it would cost to keep the basement dry. This could result in a buyer asking the seller for a credit or modification in the price. The seller can decide whether to grant a concession. …CONTINUED
However, sellers who paint the basement walls and floor to conceal signs that there was water in the basement could be in for big trouble. One seller finished a basement room with Sheetrock walls and a carpeted floor and staged it as a den. The first time it rained after the buyers moved in, the den was so water damaged that it had to be torn out. The buyers sued the sellers and won.
HOUSE HUNTING TIP: It’s a good idea to make a list of all the defects you are covering or correcting before you do the fix-up work. Taking before pictures is not a bad idea. Then make sure the prospective buyers have the opportunity to review your list before they make an offer. This way, the buyers have a good idea of the property condition before the seller accepts your offer.
Sellers often wonder what they should disclose. Generally, if you’re wondering whether you should disclose something, it’s probably something you should disclose.
For instance, if your house sits on clay soil, cracks may develop on the interior walls as the soil expands and contracts during the wet and dry seasons. You might decide to paint the walls before selling the house so that it shows nicely. If so, you should also disclose that stucco cracks appear from time to time and that you recently painted the interior.
THE CLOSING: Consult with your real estate agent or attorney if you have any questions regarding what should be disclosed.
Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide."
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