There are plenty of posts that share advice agents should give to sellers as they prepare a home for sale. By now, most agents understand the wisdom of obtaining high-resolution photos, featuring homes online, designing professional property fliers, a possible open house here or there, and everything else that goes into good marketing. Yet, the most important factor still is what the buyer sees when visiting a home in person.
To avoid turning buyer “elation” into “deflation,” my advice to agents is to be a good “student.” I always listen to what people talk about at the closing table to find out why they selected the house they bought. Recently, I closed a listing on a home that was 34 years old. The furnace was original, which can be a concern, but the buyer pointed out a number of features that stood out and convinced him that this home was well-maintained and a “safe bet.”
What I took from the conversation with this homebuyer is advice all listing agents should be sharing with their respective sellers. These simple extras can help sell a home more quickly and for top dollar.
1. Fresh exterior paint. If the home has siding or trim and you can see wood “bleeding” through flecks of paint, then the property needs to be painted prior to marketing it for sale. This should include the trim and fascia!
2. New carpet. There are a handful of things that all buyers despise. Old or worn carpet is usually first or second on everyone’s list!
Compare a Fannie Mae HomePath listing and a HUD listing. What you will see at every HomePath listing is new carpet and fresh paint. What you will see at a HUD listing often is an abused home that needs renovation prior to anyone being able to comfortably live in it. The last HUD home I closed was “uninhabitable,” according to the appraiser. Fannie Mae is getting both a faster sale and a premium on the average closing in our market compared to HUD, according to our MLS. And what’s good for HomePath’s marketing can be good for your seller, too!
3. Remove wallpaper. Buyers tell me that wallpaper makes a home seem “dated.” And it is a chore to remove! I have seen painters who would almost tear up when asked if they would take wallpaper down, repair the walls and paint.
4. Turn up the lights! A builder showed me a trick once: Put high-wattage bulbs in a house to brighten it up for sale. They make everything seem to “pop” compared to underlit rooms or rooms where bulbs are burned out.
5. Change air filters and vacuum the vents! If your seller has pets, this is a must!
6. Remove litter boxes and anything that screams “pets.” Now, I am a pet guy. I have a dog and a cat. Not to show partiality to either, but nothing will kill a sale quite as fast as an odorous kitty litter box. And if door jambs and the woodwork have been gnawed by Fido, encourage the seller to fix or replace them prior to listing.
7. Fresh interior paint. The interior of a home shows best when walls are a neutral color, feature no more than two different colors, and have trim and baseboards that are painted a fresh white. I have been in houses where I could stand in one spot and see six different colors of paint! That is too busy for buyers to deal with, and it will make the house sit longer. Remember that dark colors make a room feel smaller, whereas lighter colors make a room feel larger.
I sat in a home once where the gable ceiling was painted mustard yellow on one side and ketchup red on the other! The seller went on about how much she loved the colors, but eventually the ceiling had to be painted to sell the house. There is a reason why builders typically use neutral colors. They sell!
8. Pressure wash. You have seen it, I am sure: the side or back of a house that was “green.” I always encourage my sellers to pressure wash the exterior of the house. If needed, pressure wash the side of the neighbor’s house, too! (Do so only with their permission, of course.)
There is some work involved in each step, but if you can appeal to the largest number of buyers and make the home feel like new, it will sell quickly and for a premium price!
Hank Bailey is an associate broker with Re/Max Legends and a Realtor for more than a decade who provides buyer’s agent representation and seller listing services related to residential real estate.