Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Increasing the Odds of Selling Your Home

 If you are considering selling your current home, there are three areas to concentrate in an effort to increase your chances of selling quickly and making a fair profit. Most of what you do will require more elbow grease than money. You will be tired but you can rest later after taking  that huge check to the bank.  One of the most important steps is to begin viewing your home as a piece of property. You want to move and it has become just another house; not your home, not where you raised your kids, just a house. You have to mentally separate yourself from the property in order to be completely objective.

CURB APPEAL.....My husband and I love driving through neighborhoods and seeing what's for sale. While he can see all the potential, I can never get past the weeds, junk, and falling down gutters. People like me are the main reason you need to ramp up your curb appeal. Some potential buyers cannot see beyond the clutter. View your house from the street level and be honest with what you see. Everything needs to be impeccable. Every. Last. Thing. All surfaces needs to be scrubbed and spotless. Your list will include not only the home's exterior but also the mailbox, oil stains on the driveway, windows, doors and frames.  Update those things that are well beyond their prime: window screens, broken light fixtures and damaged shingles would be on this list. Some inexpensive updates are new door mats, fresh paint on the front door and seasonal flowers in bright pots. Next, turn your attention to your landscape. Keep the grass cut and raked. Do all the necessary trimwork and add new mulch. Water the lawn and keep it lush. If your neighbor's yard is a wreck, consider offering to cut their grass or move their trashcan on pickup day, just until your house sells. Another quick tip is keep your car washed. Why? People have a strange way of perceiving things. If I come to your Open House and I see a  spotless home, beautiful fresh flowers growing in the window boxes and a gleaming car in the driveway, the house is perceived as well cared for. It will appear inviting and I'm going to know the inside is just as pristine and in very good shape also. Additionally, I want to see myself in a beautiful environment and you have just set the stage for that. Now I'm curious and will want to go inside. If it's ugly on the outside, there isn't a person alive who will want to see the ugly on the inside.

INSIDE...The inside of your home must be spotless. As in cotton swab spotless. There cannot be a speck of dirt anywhere. This includes each and every corner of each and every room. It's tedious work but it will equal dollars in your wallet. Go room by room and scrub within an inch of your life. Getting rid of clutter will be a priority. You intend to move so go ahead and get rid of the excess. Once you've removed all items to be donated or sold, look around and start depersonalizing. Buyers need to picture themselves in this home. They can't do that if they keep seeing your bowling trophies and specialized artwork. Try thinking of your home in terms of a high end hotel. It should be very inviting but without the personalization of your home. If you're still unsure of how your home should look, visit a few model homes. They are always beautifully arranged and you will probably walk away thinking, 'I can see myself cooking in that kitchen.' You want that same thing to happen to a potential buyer: you want them to envision living in your house. It's also an exercise in realizing just how much buyers notice the content and not just the home. Buyers need to remember how spacious your house is. They can't do that if all they can remember is your tricked out basement with the NASCAR tanning bed.  It's also in your best interest to eliminate all the smells. Obviously, you don't want buyers to notice the aroma of the litter box, but you need to go further. Last night's Pork Chops au Garlique will not get you a signed contract. Neither will your son's dirty sock collection or your over-perfumed guest suite. Getting rid of dust and cleaning all surfaces (go beyond eye level) will help tremendously. Use baking soda, sprays, plug ins, fabric freshener or whatever will make the difference. When you are staging your home for a potential buyer, think in terms of neutral color. This doesn't have to be bland, but Mango Mauve and Kiwi Lemon paint will not be a favorite for the majority of potential buyers. Always keep in mind, these changes aren't about your own style. You simply are trying to appeal to the broadest audience possible.

AGENTS AND PRICING...Many people will try to sell a home on their own. I would, however, advocate considering an agent. In the last four years I've been the executor of two estates and had to sell  homes under difficult circumstances. Ask your friends to recommend someone or look around your own neighorhood to see which agents are selling homes the fastest. I chose an agent that made the transactions go smoothly, quickly and with little headache to me...well worth the price she charged. Maintaining property for months on end was not what I wanted to do. I didn't want to pay taxes, utilities, and security for houses just sitting there waiting to be sold. A great agent can provide you with the comparable prices of homes selling in your area. You will want to make a profit but if similar homes in your area are selling for $245,000, you just aren't going to get  $345,000. You need to have a baseline for what the  housing values are in your area. The only way to sell your home is to provide the best quality for the best price possible. An agressive agent will provide the advertising, supervise the Open House and set up all appointments for you. These services will be especially important during a tough market. One of the houses I sold was called 'a great house in a not so great neighborhood.' It sold within three weeks. Another house had not been updated since the end of World War II. I had the first offer in less than one day and I sold it on the sixth day. Both were located in less than deisrable neighborhoods during what I considered awful housing markets. The agent went after every possible buyer and worked like she was trying to sell a one of a kind mansion.  If your time is a premium consider hiring an agent.

Homes are for sell in every neighborhood and it will be in your best interest to make yours stand out above all the rest. If you can do that and be reasonable in the expectations you set on your price, you should be at an advantage over the other sellers in your neighborhood. Good luck.

Selling a home  is going to take a lot of physical work and patience on your part. You can't take anything you hear personally and you can't be offended when someone else doesn't love your knotty pine paneling. It's all about getting the property sold. And that is the other thing: start viewing it as 'property' rather than your home. Detach yourself, make the right home improvement decisions, and find an outstanding agent.

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