Emotional ties can bind - and blind - when it’s time to sell your home.
For many people, especially those with custom-built homes or families, letting go of a property packed with memories can be difficult.
But when it’s time to sell, homeowners need to view their homes through the critical eyes of a buyer. What appears comfortable and lived-in to the homeowner may be clutter to the buyer.
Summer is peak moving season:
Between 17 and 20 million Americans will move between now and Labor Day, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many want to sell their homes and settle into new houses before the next school year.
When a house goes on the market, it’s competing with others, so the trick is to make your home stand out as the best deal for the money in its price range and neighborhood.
Cleanliness is a theme real estate agents can’t stress enough. It parallels getting rid of clutter - excess furniture, photographs and knickknacks.
Removing excess furnishings not only makes the house look cleaner, it also gives the appearance of space. Space often is a feeling rather than a square-footage figure.
Sellers should think of their home as a “Parade of Homes” house, says Kris Hill, a Realtor with the McGinnis-Better Homes and Gardens franchise.
“Notice how few furnishings and knickknacks they have,” she says. “There are some, of course, but it’s not overdone.”
Get rid of excess items by holding
a garage sale or donating them to charity. Many charitable organizations will pick up goods at your home - and donations often are tax-deductible.
Cleaning and packing also convey
the message that you’re serious about moving. Some homes are so cluttered the owners seem to be sending the message that there’s no hurry to sort and pack - they figure it will take months for the house to sell.
The real estate division of Better Homes and Gardens offers clients a video titled “Merchandising Your Home,” which discusses ways to enhance a home’s perceived value.
Here are some tips from the video, as well as recommendations from Realtors:
Homeowners should leave when the house is shown. Their presence inhibits prospective buyers, and they won’t stay as long. Sellers want buyers to linger: The longer prospective buyers spend in a house, the more they can visualize themselves and their furnishings there.
First impressions count. Remember, the front of the house is the first thing people see. Prospective buyers often spend several minutes standing outside the home while the Realtor unlocks the door. The buyers are looking around at the porch, the front door, the lights, the paint job. Make sure the front door handle works and the paint is fresh. Replace dim or burned-out light bulbs. Repair loose boards on the front porch.
Neutralize your home as much as possible. This means colors, wallpaper, furniture and fixtures. Notice how spec homes tend to use neutral colors: Off-white and cream appeals to a broader market than highly personal colors such as violet and red. Some buyers will be challenged to see beyond a purple wall. Don’t make it hard for them.
Painting the walls an off-white or light color not only updates the house, it also makes the rooms seem lighter and brighter. Cheeriness sells.
Unclutter the closets to make them appear roomier. A designer trick: Use matching hangers (facing the same direction) for a tidy, wellorganized appearance.
Fix whatever is broken. Prospective buyers aren’t as willing to overlook the little things that homeowners are accustomed to: creaky steps, dripping faucets, difficult-to-open windows.
Try to depersonalize the house. Most people think family pictures give a homey feel to the house. They do - and they also reinforce the notion that it’s your home, making it more difficult for prospective buyers to imagine it becoming their home. A hint from the Parade of Homes: One or two family pictures is fine; pack the rest.
Clean the house until it sparkles. If you don’t have the time, it’s worth the money to hire a professional cleaning service.
Remove evidence of pets. If possible, send the cat and dog (and their accouterments) to a friend’s while the house is being shown. While people love their pets, they don’t have much use for other people’s. Additionally, pets can cause potential buyers to question the cleanliness of a house.
When showing the house, take a few simple precautions to protect your valuables - and peace of mind. Pack small items of worth that may get broken or disappear during a home showing. Even if nothing happens, safely storing valuables removes any potential awkwardness.
Give your home curb appeal. Make it alluring to buyers as they drive up. A few containers or hanging flower baskets by the doorway add instant appeal.
Don’t ignore the yard. Mow the grass at least once a week. Edge the walkway, and trim trees and shrubs. Add flowers and potted plants indoors. They lend a warm, fuzzy feeling.
One final tip: When you move, take a city phone book. You swear you’ll remember important numbers, but most will be forgotten in a few months. The phone book also will come in helpful if you need to tie up loose ends.