What can sellers do to make a positive and memorable first impression on buyers and agents? What can they do to eliminate (or at least tame) the scrutiny and instead inspire buyers to visualize a future in the home?

Putting a home on the market is like being on stage for all the world to see, so sellers must prepare to have their homes scrutinized six ways from Sunday, inside and out.

Although drone photography, video and 3D imaging have proven to be advantageous in many ways, allowing buyers to virtually experience the home and neighborhood like never before, they can also be very unforgiving.

So what can sellers do to make a positive and memorable first impression on buyers and their agents? What can they do to eliminate (or at least tame) the scrutiny and instead inspire buyers to visualize a future in the home?

Below are five things to consider:

1. Start with the exterior

It’s been said many times before, but it bears repeating: if you can’t get buyers in the door from the outside, it doesn’t matter how nice the home is on the inside.

Walk across the street, and take a good hard look at the sellers’ home. Walk around it. How does it appear from each side?

Now, go behind it and stand at a distance. How does the landscaping appear? Is it old, overgrown or hiding the elevation of the home? Are trees and large bushes in need of a good trim? It may be time to call a landscaping and tree-trimming crew.

You want to show off the home, not the bushes that camouflage it. And if you want to make it “pop” in photos, bring in some fresh plantings and ground cover, such as new mulch or river rock.

Check out the exterior of the home itself. Is it in need of a pressure wash or paint job? Are the walkways and driveway old, cracked or dingy? And last, but certainly not least, look at the front door, door hardware and doorbell. Is anything in need of painting, cleaning or replacement?

Investing time, effort and money into making the exterior shine will show buyers that the home has been well-maintained, and they’ll want to go inside.

2. Tidy up the interior

Now is the time to conduct an interior walk-through. Trade those rose-colored glasses in for a magnifying glass, and examine everything.

Look at the floors, walls, moldings and ceilings. What is the condition of the paint? Are there any drywall cracks, gauges or scuff marks? When was the last time the interior of the home was painted? How do the wall colors affect the look and feel of the home? Is the home too dark or taste-specific?

If painting is in order, chose a neutral color. Remember: the buyer’s style may not mesh with that of the sellers.

How does the decor look? Check out the furniture, rugs, artwork, accessories, etc. Does everything coordinate, or is it a hodgepodge of pieces thrown together? Is furniture in good condition or in need of replacement? It could be time to toss that 20-year-old couch full of worn cushions and pet scratches in favor of something new.

How does the decor work with the floor plan? Does it define the space or interfere with it? Is there anything that should be removed or rearranged? Is the overall style something any buyer can relate to?

You want to make sure every piece helps accentuate the space in the home, not the other way around. Consider bringing in a stager to assist with pulling the look together.

Also, updating accessories, pillows, lamps and slipcovers can go a long way when you’re trying to create an updated look.

3. Declutter and clean

Now that edits and updates are being made to the home’s look, it’s time to go through closets, cabinets and the garage to get rid of unused or unnecessary belongings. Avoid taking up valuable space or cluttering an area that should be shown off. Closets should appear roomy and in good order. (It’s easier to keep things clean and orderly when there isn’t so much stuff.)

You’ll also want to hire a professional cleaning crew to scrub every inch of the home from top to bottom. Don’t forget window sills, the tops of doorways to rooms and the kitchen cabinets.

Appliances matter too — so that oven that hasn’t been cleaned in 10 years needs a good wash. Flip the switch to self-clean, and consider changing the oven racks to brand new ones if they are too old and charred.

4. Take care of repairs

Get the home in tip-top shape. Service the heating and cooling system, caulk and/or regrout any shower tiles, and consider having tile floors steam-cleaned and grout-sealed.

Don’t forget to check the windows. You’d be amazed by how many window issues arise during home inspections — sometimes windows won’t open or close properly, some have broken springs and others have fogged glass. And what about those missing screens? Make sure you put them up, or at least know where they are.

If you aren’t really sure about the condition of the home, get a “pre-listing inspection” prior to putting the home on the market so you’re aware of what issues need to be addressed (and can get a plan together for how to tackle them).

5. Remember ambiance and style

Buying a home is as much an emotional transaction as it is a financial one. And now that all the hard work is done, it’s time to create a memorable experience for everyone involved.

Whenever possible, have all the lights on for showings, and play music that evokes feelings of relaxation but also entertains. Avoid elevator music or songs that may be too trendy. That latest rap mix may be great for working out but not so good when buyers are walking through.

Music should be turned up enough so you can hear it, but it shouldn’t interfere with a walk-through or a conversation. Think of music that would be appropriate for a dinner party where people can still comfortably have a conversation without having to compete with it.

Homes that have been properly prepared for sale often take several weeks or months to appear in show-perfect condition. The stakes are high when a property comes on the market, and that initial view — whether online or driving by — really matters.

The old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” has never been more relevant in real estate than it is today.

Cara Ameer is a broker associate and Realtor with Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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