Selling your home will bring in an exceptional financial windfall, but it’s not easy. The average home in the U.S. is on the market for one to two months, minus closing, and some experts say you should take at least that long to prepare your home to sell.
So what exactly can you do to make your home more appealing to prospective buyers?
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Clutter isn’t just unsightly; it’s scientifically proven to make you feel bad. A cluttered house is the worst possible first impression you can make on potential buyers.
Start by making the entryway as clean and welcoming as possible; if you’re like most families, you have a lot of coats and shoes in that area. Remove them, and give the area a thorough cleaning. Next, look at transitional spaces like hallways and staircases. Remove wall hangings, artwork, lamps, and tables to make them seem as wide as possible. Consider removing as much as half of your furniture, to create a sense of space and openness. Just be careful not to remove too much furniture, as it makes a home feel cold.
Note that you can’t just shove all your clutter into closets and storage spaces. If you’ve bought a house, you know that once you start to seriously consider a property, you quickly go from surveying the yard and main rooms to assessing the closets and storage. Having a buyer investigate your hall closet only to find it packed solid with miscellany is a bad look. De-clutter these storage spaces (don’t forget the kitchen cupboards, too), and invest in industrial shelving or organizers to make them visually appealing.
While de-cluttering makes your home more physically welcoming, de-personalizing makes it more psychologically welcoming.
One of the keys to provoking interest in your home is getting them to project themselves into the space, to see themselves living there. That can be difficult if your unique furnishings and personal touches are everywhere. You should strive to present buyers with a “blank canvas.”
Start by removing family photos and artwork from the main rooms, and aim as much as possible for a neutral color palette. In the bathroom, put personal products out of sight, and do the same in the kitchen. If you need suggestions, your agent will be happy to advise you.
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Start by scrubbing all the walls clean; make sure you remove all noticeable dirt and smudging. If there are areas that won’t wipe clean, mark them for paint touch-ups. Next, go through and wipe/dust all surfaces. Make sure you hit window sills, door frames, shelves, mantles, and wainscoting. When that’s done, go through and do the floors. If you have hardwood floors, consider using a polish or wood soap to make them really shine. If your floors are carpeted, rent a steam cleaner to remove all stains and odors.
Paint the Walls
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Painting is one of the most cost-effective improvements you can do to prepare your home for the market. A fresh coat of paint makes a space look brighter, cleaner, and more modern, and it can cover up minor dings and flaws in the wall. Just don’t get too bold with your color choices; opt for soft, neutral tones like eggshell or light gray. White might seem like a good idea, but it can look harsh and off-putting.
Staging Your Home
Now that your home is fresh and clean, it’s time to make it look warm and inviting. Staging makes a home look cozy, but does it in an inconspicuous way. Agents suggest buying new, showroom-ready furniture, or renting furniture just for the staging. Don’t push the furniture against the walls; “float” it out into the center of the room, grouping into small, intimate configurations. Make sure you arrange it to allow for natural, obvious traffic paths through the room.
If you go to all the trouble of staging your home, make sure it’s bright enough that potential buyers can appreciate your hard work. Remove heavy, obstructive window coverings like drapes or blinds, to admit the maximum amount of natural light, and consider adding extra lamps or higher wattage light bulbs to the main areas of your home. Just don’t get harsh white bulbs; softer golden tones are easier on the eyes.
Do Small Repairs
Make a list of all the small, easy repairs needed around your house. Look for tasks like fixing leaky faucets, patching small holes and cracks in the wall, or replacing burned-out light bulbs.
Improve Your Curb Appeal
First impressions are key, and the first time buyers will see your home is when they walk up to the front doors. Experts suggest power washing your home’s facade to brighten it up, and landscaping improvements generally recover much more than 100% of their costs; trim shrubs and trees, and consider planting colorful seasonal plants. If your mailbox and front door are weathered or outdated, consider replacing them.
Bring In Some Plants
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Plants make a home look more vibrant and appealing. Invest in some large potted plants for the living room, and ornamental plants for the kitchen and the home’s exterior. Fresh cut flowers on the day of showings add a sophisticated touch that’s sure to be appreciated.
Do a “Smell Test”
Odors can be off-putting to potential buyers. Since you’re likely used to the way your home smells, bring in a third party to do a “smell test” in your home. Give special attention to areas like the kitchen, bathrooms, and any pet-related areas. Sometimes you can’t smell the odors in your own house, so bring in a friend or family member who you don’t mind being honest.
If you find odors in the home, you have a few options. You can do another concentrated deep clean on those areas, you can use deodorizers, or you can try to cover up the odor with candles or diffusers.
What *Not* to Do
Don’t undercut your preparations by making one of the following common mistakes.
Some professional stagers bring in dramatic artworks, oversized plants, and elaborate furnishings, but these can draw attention away from the home. Your staging should frame the house, not draw attention to itself. A good general rule is that, since the buyer’s eye always goes to the windows first when they enter a room, you should be careful not to obstruct that sightline.
Don’t Expect the Asking Price
The asking price is just a starting point for negotiations. The buyer will almost certainly try to get the asking price reduced, and if you want a smooth, amenable sale, you’ll want to meet them halfway. Remember the old adage that a good compromise is one in which both parties are dissatisfied.
Don’t Sell In Winter
The slowest period in almost every market is in the winter months. It’s not just weather-related; the holidays are a huge drain on people’s wallets and attention. Lower attendance at your showings equals less competition, and less competition equals a lower sale price. You can still put your home on the MLS, but you can expect lower offers and fewer buyers.