As thoughts of spring start to creep into people’s minds, some start to think about selling their current home. For some, maybe it’s time to downsize. For others it may be time to make the move up from a starter home. Whatever the reason for the move, most quickly start thinking about what they should do to get their house ready to sell. Below are my thoughts on that, based upon almost 20 years as a Realtor°.
Many people think that the time to sell is the time to finally get to those major updates that they have been putting off (for years). The short answer to that is DON’T DO IT. While a brand new kitchen or bath will help the house sell faster and for more, investing $30-40-50,000 in the house just as you about to move is not a wise investment. Sure, you may get more than half of the money back by getting a better sale price; but, who makes any other kind of investment with the hope of getting just half of it back? There are much better ways to spend a lot less and still help your house sell faster and for the most that it will bring.
The items that I stress with would be sellers are the three-C’s – Clutter, Condition. and Cleanliness.
The first thing that I tell would-be sellers is to spend time decluttering – getting rid of stuff that has accumulated in the house over time. Most people have too much furniture, too many accessory and accent pieces – just too much stuff. People who aren’t hoarders save lots of stuff because they think that they may need it some day or that they will give it to their children someday. I have news for you. They don’t want your old stuff. You may have 1-2 items that truly qualify as family heirlooms and have enough real or sentimental value for them to want them; however, most of your treasure would likely end up in the dumpster if you suddenly were gone. Ask the family about anything that you are keeping for that reason and go ahead and give them the items now. Get it out of your house. Clutter is a major turn-off for buyers.
The condition of the house is next. This involves getting all of the little (or large) repairs jobs done. Most people get used to walking past that missing electrical wall outlet plate or dealing with the missing cabinet handle or pull. They are so used to seeing the chipped or dirty paint on the doorways that thyey don’t notice anymore. They see the dirty grout in the shower, but they just don’t have time to do anything about it. And those nail pops or drywall tape lifts are just what it is. So they conclude that would be buyers will overlook them, too. Not so! Poor maintenance is a huge turn off, even on small items. The buyers make the assumption (most of time they are correct) that if you haven’t maintained these small items, you probably let the big things, like the furnace, go unmaintained, too. They thought is reinforced if you also haven’t done updates in the last 10 years. In fact, the noticeable lack of maintenance heightens their concerns about the lack of updates.
Once you get the first two C’s handles, take care of the third “C “and give the place a thorough cleaning. Buyers will look differently at some of the other failures of the house if they think it is clean. It needs to look clean and smell clean. That may be hard in a basement area; however, a dirty and musty smelling basement is a huge turn-off and can sink and otherwise acceptable house. Cleaning includes doing something about that brown or black grout in the baths and making sure that the tubs, sinks and toilets don’t have rust stains or rings. Sometimes it is worth the cost to have a professional; crew come in and deep clean the house. It is certainly worth having all of the carpets cleaned. Also power washing the exterior, any decks or porches and the driveway (if it is concrete) is worthwhile. You might also wish to hire a window washing company to clean your windows. Do a good job on cleaning and you won’t have to worry about burning a scented candle during buyer visits. Buyer tend to think that you ‘re trying to hide something with those candles anyway. If you have pets, the visitors should not be able to tell that you have them by the smells or from pet hair all over.
So far, you haven’t spent big money and could, in fact, do all of those things yourself. So what about the upgrades – the new kitchen or bathes? Leave those for the new owners. Yes, they need to be done and, yes, it will impact the sale price that they are not done; but now is not the time to sink big money into those updates. You should have always been updating your home as you lived in it, so that you get to enjoy those updates. You didn’t; so, rather than beat yourself up over coulda, woudla, shoulda’s, accept the fact that your home is worth less on the market than it might have been worth had you done them and get on with life. Your Realtor might still suggest a fresh coat of paint for the interior, especially in high usage areas and maybe new carpeting or flooring in high traffic areas. There’s a cost for that, but still well below the cost of major remodeling.
Work with your Realtor to come up with the best price for the house in the condition that it is in and then work to help him/her sell it for that price by keeping an eye on those 3-C’s while it is on the market. If your house is priced correctly to reflect its condition and the market in which it is competing, it should sell quickly to someone who will come in and do those major projects themselves. You’ll still have all of that money in your pocket and be ready to move on to the next phase of your life.
Most good Realtors are willing to go through your house and give you advice on the things that may need attention before the house goes on the market. Listen to their advice.