HOW TO PREPARE YOUR HOME TO SELL…FAST!
By JoAnna Dougan, REALTOR®
The old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression is an understatement in the real estate business! You’re serious about selling and you want to expedite the process. Here are some tips learned along the way that will not only get you ready, but will help keep you ready to show throughout the time your home is on the market! It’s preferable that you do this BEFORE the photos are taken of your property for display on the MLS.
#1) Un-clutter, #2) Donate, #3) Clean & #4) Refresh Paint!
That’s it, now wasn’t that easy? Well saying and doing are two different things.
Un-clutter, de-clutter…doesn’t matter how you say it. You’ve got to make some decisions about what you should keep, dispose of, store, and what you should DONATE - an added tax deduction couldn’t hurt!
While clutter is what makes your home HOME, it’s not special to a potential buyer. You want a potential buyer to have a “clean slate” in which to picture their life with their belongings. Go directly to your local Target or Wal-Mart and invest in some Rubbermaid storage bins and a catchall carrier for each bathroom in your home (these will be for all your “keep” items that clutter your space).
It’s time to get everyone on board your campaign to sell. Give each member of your household a bin (or more for the sentimentals) and have them get to work on their personal space. It’s time to clean off all surfaces; put away desk/tabletop /dresser photos, unnecessary knickknacks/keepsakes, bag up those stuffed animals (except the extra special 1 or 2 that can’t be parted with), your pet rock…etc.
Assign at least one bin to the person in charge of the kitchen. It’s time to clean off those counters and put away any small appliances that aren’t used daily; remove all the cute photos, magnets, past birthday invites, Dr. appointment reminders, etc.; put that spice rack in a cabinet; - it’s your goal to have space to finally chop those vegetables you’re supposed to be eating each day; while being able to see the color of your refrigerator.
Assign another bin to each den/living room/great room and immediately fill them up with all the stuff you hate to dust; photos, knickknacks, those worn out pillows that don’t match your sofa. You get the picture…
Clean out those closets! Would you want to buy a house that had closets that were bursting at the door frames? More importantly, potential buyers won’t get injured when they open the closet doors. If you haven’t worn it in 6 months; donate it. If it has an odor; dispose of it. At this point, you may want to make another run for some additional storage bins so all your “stuff” will be concealed and organized.
How do your hallways look? Are you tripping in the middle of the night? You’ll want to find all those items a home.
Stack all of these bins with their priceless possessions neatly in a storage space that’s not already full to the brim in your home/attic/garage, or perhaps a family member/friend might store them for you until you sell.
“…Now that your home is so beautiful, clean, and organized, you can’t remember why you wanted to move in the first place.”
Remember those bathroom carriers you bought earlier? It’s time to fill them with all the health/beauty products that make you YOU each day. Tuck them neatly under the sink when you have a scheduled showing (I know, now you have to de-clutter under there too so they’ll fit).
C-L-E-A-N, what a dirty word. It’s time for Mr. Clean to get busy! Start with the front door, since it’s the first area your potential buyers will see. Work your way through your home and don’t forget the windows, baseboards, doors, light fixtures, molding, kitchen/bathroom cabinet door fronts, windows, pantry floor, small/large kitchen appliances, polish your wood furniture, vacuum/mop all floors…you get the idea. I told you it was a dirty word. Remember, there’s no such thing as too clean.
Tidy up the yard and remove anything that isn’t lustrous and green. If the season is right, plant some new annual flowers (don’t forget to water them). Keep the grass mowed and well kept! Pressure wash the exterior siding/patio/sidewalk.
You’ll want to repeat this process at least weekly, or right before a showing if you have enough notice/time. Aren’t you glad you de-cluttered? It makes cleaning a breeze. In fact, when you sell this house and move, you will have likely forgotten what was in all of those “special” bins and might just make another run to make a large donation.
Now that your home is organized and tidy; it’s time to think about touching up the paint on all walls/molding/baseboards in your entire home. Also, If you’ve got a really “bold” colored room that may not appeal to everyone, you may want to consider a $30 investment in a gallon of paint that might neutralize the color palette. Some Sellers wait and go this route only when they get feedback that potential buyers don’t like the paint color. It’s up to you!
A FEW EXTRAS:
Fix that leaky faucet, replace toss pillows on sofas/beds, add a fresh floral arrangement, buy some Glade plug-ins. KEEP IT FRESH LOOKING & SMELLING! You may decide to move some furniture around to make the rooms more spacious.
Lastly, ask your most OCD friend for an honest opinion of any additional areas in need of improvement. Your preparation will go a long way to selling your home faster and removing potential buyers’ objections.
You’re all done! I know what you’re thinking, it happens to everyone. Now that your home is so beautiful, clean, and organized, you can’t remember why you wanted to move in the first place.
It's important for buyer(s) to have this letter before starting their home search. To get one, you submit a basic application (online, in person, or over the phone) for a mortgage with a lender (unless you are paying cash, in which case you'll need to provide "proof of funds".) It's been covered in my Realtor training extensively and the reasons vary depending on whose lens you are looking through, so I’ll share it from all viewpoints:
Buyer: The buyer’s time is valuable and they are looking to the Realtor to give them professional advice. The buyer doesn’t want to waste time looking at homes, if they don’t know how much they qualify for, IF they qualify, and an honest estimate of the expenses involved. Also, in a competitive market, a buyer may find the house of their dreams, but find themselves unable to submit an offer without the lender letter. Meanwhile, someone else will submit an accepted offer before the buyer has time to hear back from their lender OR worse, unable to get a loan for it and no other house will measure up causing disappointment. A Realtor would do a disservice to the buyer, to not ensure they have their best foot forward and obtain an estimated payment for a mortgage (as interest rates fluctuate.) Be in the know!
Buyer Agent: Safety, time, and ethics. Realtor safety is paramount. Many Realtors do not know the person(s) they are working with and a lender letter gives some peace of mind. Many Realtors have lost their lives in recent years for failing to go this extra step. Also, Realtors are not paid by their firm for their time showing property; income comes from closing homes. It’s not a good business practice for Realtors to spend countless hours showing property to buyers that might be unable to buy. This costs time and money; an experienced Realtor will balance this investment of time with a qualified buyer. Ethically, a Realtor shouldn’t be showing houses without the lender letter. Many sellers require that the buyer have this step taken care of before a Realtor schedules an appointment to show their home.
Seller: The seller is asked to leave their home for all showings, giving the buyer time to view the property. This window of time could be 30 minutes – 2 hours, depending on the appointment. Sellers must prepare for the showing (clean, make beds, etc.), make arrangements for pets, children, work, meals, etc. to accommodate. Also, the seller may have valuables such as electronics, art, medications, etc. and they want qualified buyers touring their homes to curtail risk.
I’m sure this helps you to see why this is required - preparation is everything in securing the home of your dreams!
As an extra step, you’ll also want to get pre-approved when you have more time. This basically means all of your assets/debts are verified by the lender and it makes you a stronger buyer, especially when competing against other offers.