Note:  This is a chapter in my new ebook called The Ultimate Guide to Buying (and then Selling) Your First Home.  I will post a chapter a week.  If you like what you read, you can pick up a copy here for the price of a candy bar!   Buy a candy bar or be a real estate guru!   The next chapter we examine here talks about what you need to do to get your home ready to sell.  The last chapter to be shared on this blog you can find here

I arrived at their house on Wednesday at 3 pm.  Sally looked a little perturbed to have me there at all.  She was like a lot of sellers.  It is difficult to have someone being critical of the home you have lived in and maintained.   I often find myself telling sellers that there will be times where I say things that you do not want to hear.  I reminded Sally of this fact as we sat down to discuss what I felt needed to be done to get the house ready to sell.   She sighed and nodded.    I told her about three things to keep in mind as you prepare to list your home.

1.Improvements Cost versus Value – I started the conversation by telling Sally the following. “I want to speak in broad terms first, before we get into specific items about their property.  “What improvements need to be made to your home?  It is important to realize with most improvements, you won’t get back what you put into it (despite what they say on HGTV).   One repair that does bring back your entire investment is your roof.  It needs to be under 15 years of age and have no defects.  Along with this, a good first impression with potential buyers is very important so what they see as they drive up is as important as what you do inside your home.   Spend some time making improvements to the exterior of your house.  Doors and Windows are also important improvements to make to your home.  Cost versus value here is usually 90 percent or more.  What about the interior?  First, you need to paint and ensure your floors are top notch, because nothing says more to a buyer than a well painted interior with matching well-maintained floors.   Kitchen and bathrooms also need to be in good shape, but a full rehab is not necessary as you won’t get your full investment back in the listing price.”  Sally nodded.  I told her with their house, it was mostly some updates in the bathrooms and kitchen that needed to be addressed.  The countertops were dated and needed to be replaced.  She replied she wasn’t sure if they could afford that, but would talk to Steve that evening.  I told her that otherwise her house was ready to go as far repairs and upgrades.

2.Clean and Clutter Free – I swallowed before I went to the next point as it is usually the one that gets people the most frustration.  Keeping the house in shape at all times for showings.  I told Sally, “Presentation is everything.  Buyers want to be able to visualize the house as their own and you need to do your best to show them how wonderful their new home will be.    Some simple things you can do is:  to take down personal items off the wall; eliminate unnecessary clutter around the house; and illuminate the house appropriately with no rooms too bright or dark.  Finally, keep the house clean and smelling good.   No buyer likes to see messes or smell them in a house they considering.”  I told Sally that she was doing a wonderful job on the cleaning side of things, but her family mementos needed to be taken down, unless they were especially decorative.   I also asked her to make sure to keep her kids clutter under control.   She really glared at me for this last remark, but nodded her acceptance.   It can be difficult for people to hear the truth.

3.Staging – After pausing a second for Sally to calm down, my last bit of advice dealt with staging the house for sale.   She said that they didn’t have the money to hire a professional, but I told her that this was not necessary as she could do a lot of it herself.   “No doubt staging a house sells it quicker.   Some studies have shown that staging homes sells it 90 percent more quickly.   With certain sellers, they have the means to hire a professional stager, which will run you between $2000 to $4000, depending on what you have them do.   However, if you can’t afford a professional, there are some basic steps you can take to make your home look better.  First, you need to take advantage of the space in each room.  Do not crowd too much furniture into any room in the house.  You want the rooms to look as large as possible.   Be cognizant of the arrangement of your furniture.  For example, make sure the television is positioned so the buyers can see how they will watch television in the room.   In other words, don’t make the buyers work harder to visualize how the home will become their own.   Arrange the furniture in a way that makes sense to the layout and size of the room.   Take a trip to Hobby Lobby or At Home store to buy some cheap artwork to hang in each room.  Please make sure it matches the rest of the décor.   In summary, hire a professional if you can, but if you can’t, take some time to look at each room and look at it through the eyes of a buyer.”

Sally looked resigned at this point.  She confessed to me that this was the part of the selling process that she was not looking forward to doing.  With Steve working all day, it usually fell to her to make sure the house was kept up, even though she also had a job, but nontraditional hours.   I told her I understood, and most couples always seem to have one on them taking on the house keeping more than the other.   I suggested to discuss with Steve his need to pitch in while the house was being shown.  After all, she can’t clean the house if they get a showing while she is at work.  Sally smiled at that and I could see her already planning on how to tell Steve what I said.   I said my goodbyes and told them I would be sending an email in the next few days with a draft of the MLS listing for them to review.

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