Based on experience restoring hundreds of homes to peak marketability, we hope you find the following tips helpful in your quest to get the best possible price for your home.
When you’ve decided to sell your house, you may be tempted to just put it on the market right away to see if anyone will make you an offer “as is.” It used to be that potential buyers would look beyond the surface appearance and “see the possibilities.” Sadly, those days are mostly gone. Today’s buyers want to move in with little or no repairs or cosmetics required.
“But maybe someone will make me an offer,” you think. “What have I got to lose?”
The risk is that you do 20 showings and get no offers. Word spreads spread like wildfire in the realtor community. It’s hard to come back from a bad first impression.
The most successful realtors will tell you to get your house in tip top condition before putting it on the market. There are lots of details to accomplish this goal, and we’ve identified 5 key areas. We call them “The 5 C’s.”
4. Curb Appeal
Prospective buyers are unmerciful. For them, everything stands out like a sore thumb. While small imperfections might seem insignificant to you, they can be a deal breaker.
Clutter is the first squeaky wheel to address. If your closets are full, your rooms over furnished, your storage areas jammed, you need to get things out of the house and into storage. The result will be a look and feel that is more spacious and livable.
There are a number of companies like “Pods” who will drop off storage containers. You pack them, they pick them up and store them, then deliver them afterwards wherever you want them. For an 8′ x 8′ by 16′ container, it costs about $1,300 for six months of storage, the average amount of time it takes to fix up a house and sell it.
This uncluttering process is also an excellent opportunity to throw away unwanted stuff. Some items can be dropped off at Goodwill Industries and become a tax write off. For other things, a dumpster 8′ x 8′ x 7′ is about $400. Most people underestimate the size dumpster they need, so err on the high side.
As a final measure, many realtors work with a “stager,” who can help you arrange your household effects in the most appealing way. Some stagers have warehouses of furnishings to enhance your overall presentation.
Prospective buyers notice dust, stains, and smudges like the finicky mother-in-law in a comedy routine. Every blemish is another reason to fall out of love with your home. Even if you hire a professional cleaning service, you should walk the house after they’re done with spray bottle and paper towel in hand.
A good information source for all kinds of cleaning is the Better Homes & Gardens web site http://www.bhg.com/homekeeping/house-cleaning/
Floors are one of the first things people notice about your house. Carpet stains, wood floor blemishes, cracks in tile or linoleum are all potential deal breakers. Ideally, cleaning is a remedy, but in some cases you will have to replace floor covering, refinish wood floors, and repaint walls and woodwork.
Carpet cleaning is best done by professionals using steam cleaning equipment at a cost of about 50 cents a square foot. If you rent a carpet machine, repeat the process several times until the water in the take up bucket is dirt free. For hardwood floors, vacuum first, then wipe with a damp cloth containing a wood floor cleaning chemical. If stains have penetrated the finish, they must be sanded and refinished.
Appliances should be cleaned thoroughly inside and out. Use a degreasing liquid on cooking appliances, exhaust fan grates, and surfaces surrounding the cooking areas.
“Cosmetics” means making exposed surfaces look and feel like new. It means cleaning, repainting, or replacing floor coverings, wood floors, walls, woodwork, furniture and appliances. What you can’t clean, you resurface. What you can’t resurface, you replace. What looks old and dated, you refurbish or replace.
If your carpet is more than 5 years old, you probably should replace it at a cost of around $3 per square foot in 2013 prices. (We replace any carpet over 2 years old). Hardwood floors cost about $4.50 a foot to refinish, and about $6.00 a foot to replace. New linoleum and tile costs about the same as carpeting ïï¿½ $3 a square foot.
Appliances can be made to look like new with new parts from your appliance dealer. New burners, grates and drip pans can make a stove look squeaky clean. If your appliances are old or dated, you might consider new appliances. A new refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, and microwave will cost around $2,000, but may help you get an extra $5,000 for the house, as well as help you sell it faster.
A dank dark basement can also be a deal breaker. If the walls show dirt, water seepage or mold, it pays to wash them down and apply two coats of water stop white paint. This also reduces dampness and odors. The floor can similarly be transformed by first washing thoroughly, then applying two coats of epoxy paint. For an investment of $200, you get to sell your house faster for a higher price.
The saying goes that you only get one chance to make a good first impression. An unappealing exterior can color the way the buyer perceives the interior. A stunning outer look and feel makes the prospect more forgiving of what they see inside.
Studies have shown that your roof is 40% of your curb appeal. A perfectly good roof can look like it needs replacement if it is soiled or discolored. Have it professionally cleaned for about $300 and the roof issue goes away. Make sure they use low pressure nozzles and EPA approved chemicals that will not damage your greenery. Most roofers will also power wash your siding and windows while they’re at it.
A weed infested lawn can also be a turn off. With a $30 spray tank and a $12 bottle of weed killer, you can rid your lawn of weeds in a few weeks. Then, the best way to green up your lawn is with granulated fertilizer that feeds in a time-release fashion versus liquids that create only a short-lived flash of green.
You should trim back your shrubbery so that it doesn’t have a neglected or overgrown look. In some cases it’s better to remove shrubbery that looks old or unsightly and replace it with fresh plantings.
If your siding and trim does not clean up with power washing or other means, you might have to have it repainted. Depending on the size of the house, this can cost from $2,000 to $5,000, but you’ll usually recoup it in a higher selling price.
The primary communications source for houses on the market is the MLS web site which is accessible only by realtors. If you try to sell your house without a realtor, you are missing the place where almost all of them go for listings. Some large real estate firms also have their own web site where they list every house on the MLS web site. Many sites with names like “House Search” are realtor sites in disguise.
What this means is that you will find it very difficult to sell your house without paying a realtor’s commission of 6%. However, some realtors will work harder than others to sell your house. Find one that offers value added services such professional photographers who have the lenses and lighting to make your photos as appealing as possible. Also look for realtors who bring in “stagers” with warehouses full of furnishings to enhance the look and feel of your house.
We don’t recommend investing in anything beyond appealing photos and descriptions. Buyers do not like videos because they prefer to quickly click through the photos they want to see rather than wait for the video to get around to them.
In all communications, make sure that your house can deliver what your communications promise. Otherwise showings will lead to disappointment.
The Sixth C – Compromise
There is a sixth “C” that we haven’t told you about ïï¿½ Compromise. That is, when you fully cover off the 5 “Cs,” you may still have to come down in price. There have been too many occasions when sellers turn down a good offer out of pride or stubbornness, only to be forced to accept a lower offer later.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the 5 C’s and that you have a great house selling experience.