When it comes to selling your home, it's worth taking a hard look at the little things you have come to live with over time ... the lightbulbs that are out in those hard to reach places, scuff marks on the walls, or the toilet that's been running so long you don't notice it anymore. In my years of showing homes, the value of first impressions has always sort of amazed me.
Take two houses with the same floor plan, same finishes, and close to the same location. One is so clean you could virtually eat off the floors. The windows sparkle, carpets smell fresh, and the seller took the time to touch up the paint and re-grout the bathroom floor. The other has stained carpets, dirty screens and a hallway air filter so full of dust it looks like it has never once been replaced. Which one would most buyers choose?It's like our refrigerators. We get used to living with our own messes. It takes a stranger (or your mother) to point out that the entire fridge needs to be emptied and bleach-bombed. That's where a good realtor comes in. We tell you things you don't want to hear. You know that leaking faucet that's no big deal to you? It's a hundred dollar fix (or less) that could cost you thousands in an offer, or worse yet, it could cost you an offer. The little things create a lasting impression of a home that is hard to erase. Making a home showcase perfect is not expensive; it's time consuming. And sometimes it's a hassle. But raising the curtain on a beautifully set stage can pay dividends. Here are five tips for getting there:
1. Pre-pack. You know you are moving eventually, so box up as many personal belongings as you can. Take down family photos and knick knacks. Clear the kitchen counters of coffee makers and appliances. The goal is to de-personalize your home as much as possible, so the buyers can visualize themselves living there.
2. Paint. Touch up dirty walls or trim. If you have gone with bold colors, consider re-painting with neutral tones. Dark colors or reds can make rooms look small and easily turn off a buyer who doesn't like the shade. What was popular yesterday might not appeal to tomorrow's buyer. For the cost of paint and a weekend of work, you can help your home appeal to a much wider audience of buyers.
3. Replace light bulbs and air intake filters.
4. Fresh towels & air freshener. This is a tall order if you are showcasing a home for sale while living in it, but fresh towels and fresh scents can go a long way toward creating a positive first impression when a buyer 1st walks into your bathroom. Keep a clean, white, set on hand that you don't use to "stage" the bathroom when you are showing the home. (If you're leaving for work that morning, just toss your used towels in the washing machine.)
5. Pets. If you can, confine pets to the garage during showings (or better, take them with you when you leave). We adore our animals, but I hark back to my mother-in-law's advice on this one: "Just remember, Dear, no one loves your pets and your children like you do."