Few things are as exciting as putting a home on the market — for many clients, it is a rare event that precedes major life changes and milestones. Many have also found a new house that they love and are eager to sell fast so that they can get out of paying two mortgages or waiting to move.
That said, listing a lived-in home without some spruce-ups can seriously downplay its potential. As the agent, you get the pleasure of keeping your clients’ eagerness at bay and making sure they do the little things that will ensure their house sells for as much as possible.
“Gone are the days of throwing it on the market and seeing what happens,” Cara Ameer, a top-producing broker associate from Florida, wrote in an article for Inman. “Prepping for sale is a highly choreographed dance of repair along with a bit of renovation and presentation.”
Here are the six things sellers need to check off before putting a home on the market:
1. Clean, clean and clean again
You’ve seen the home makeover shows. Sometimes, a deep clean is all it takes to get the same home from looking like an abandoned dump to a cute lived-in nest with lots of potential.
Whether your clients choose to hire a cleaning team or do the work themselves, a basic scrub-down is necessary before getting any house on the market.
Scrub the walls and the carpet. Clear the junk drawers, and organize the cupboards. Put up plants and coffee table clutter. Put any stray toys, garden equipment or home tools in storage.
No one — seller nor buyer alike — wants to be surprised at the last minute by an inspection report. Having one’s own inspector go over potential problems and issues in a pre-listing inspection will give homeowners a realistic picture of what they can get for their home and arm them with the knowledge they need to decide what repairs to make before selling.
HouseMaster President Kathleen Kuhn recommends getting one’s house evaluated for mold, cracks and piping and heating problems.
“Having the listing professionally inspected and disclosing the condition up front to a serious buyer should help minimize last minute surprises and renegotiations,” Kuhn once wrote for Inman. “No party benefits from surprises in a real estate transaction.”
3. Make the necessary repairs
And now comes the part with serious decision-making. Although some will debate whether it is best to put money toward repairs or sell a house as-is and invest into the new one, anecdotal evidence shows that most buyers are drawn away from homes that clearly show signs of needing improvements.
Lights, ceiling fans, faucets and doorknobs are, according to Ameer, just a few examples of fixtures that are inexpensive to replace but breathe new life into a home.
“Let’s face it: buyers buy with their eyes, so now is the time to go through the interior in detail,” she writes. “Are there dents and dings on the walls, scratched moldings or worn paint?”
4. Get the paintbrushes out
A fresh coat of paint is another easy way to get a house looking fresher and newer. At the very least, encourage sellers to cover up any wall stains, cracks and splotches. That said, it might also be a good idea to also give a fresh coat to rooms that simply look stale.
“At $25 a gallon, paint is an inexpensive material that can do wonders for the look of a home,” Jackson Cooper of Jensen & Company wrote for Inman. “If the sellers have it in their budget, they can pick a neutral modern [palette] and paint the whole house.”
5. Don’t ignore the exterior
It’s easy for clients to forget about the home’s exterior and focus on what’s on the inside — it is, after all, where they spend a vast portion of their time. That said, the front of the house, or curb appeal, is the first thing clients notice before they walk into the door.
So make sure the lawn is trimmed, the front door is painted, and old lawn furniture and children’s toys are not blocking the entry to the home.
“When potential buyers pull up to the home and notice how clean and beautiful it is on the outside, they won’t be able to help but get excited for what’s inside the front door,” Cooper wrote.
6. Make the home buyer-friendly
Now that your clients have spruced up their home, it’s time for the open houses. There is a whole art to staging homes beautifully, but the main idea is that the home should allow buyers to envision themselves living there.
Make sure all personal items belonging to sellers are stored out of sight, forget the over-the-top art and furniture arrangements, and declutter hidden areas like closets, the basement and the garage.
“In general, the fewer things your seller has out during the open house, the better,” Anna Johansson wrote for Inman. “Furniture and personal items should be kept to a bare minimum, to allow for more open space and a more neutral scene for your visitors.”
So lay out some potted plants, roll up some towels for the bathroom, and bring out the fresh chocolate chip cookies.