Preparing home for sale?

homeseller2010December 2, 2010

Hello All,

I am new to this site. I am planning to put my home in market early next year. I have 3BR 2.1/2 Bath. Total 1940 sq foot. Basement unfinished.

Very basic standard appliances in kitchen, with laminate kitchen counter top.

Question is: What kind of preparation is need in order to show home for the buyers?

These are the things that I have done till now:

1. Cleaning clutter.

2. fix cracks

3. changed living room carpet to solid oak hardwood floors.

4. changed kitchen floors to tiles

5. removed carpet on the stairs and stained the oak stairs and added some molding too.

What else is needed for my home to get sold fast? I need small upgrades with big impact.

Thank you. Appreciate your feedbacks and advice.


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What does your curb appeal look like? Good outside and take a look at your house/property with a very critical eye. Is the mailbox is good shape or on it's last legs? Are the shrubs/trees and flower beds looking their best? Are they well trimmed not over grown? Can you see all the windows and doors easily?
Where are you storing your trash cans? Out where they can be seen or in the garage?
You've got to make the outside inviting. IF you can't get them in to look because the outside isn't up to pare you are just spinning your wheels.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 1:58PM
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Get friends or family to give frank advice ... sometimes what others notice, is not something you notice!

...does it smell? (pets) is it too personalized? (photos, kid artwork) are the walls clean-looking, and with no dark or damaged paint? nothing leaks? anything dating in the house? (door knobs, faucets) Many of these types of things are easy and/or inexpensive to fix.

Good luck!

PS I'm in the same boat, but being the least expensive house in a very expensive neighbourhood (where houses sell fast) I'm investing in some more expensive fixes, like quartz countertop and crown molding.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 3:23PM
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We're in the same boat. Our house is 29 yrs. old. We had an inspector come in and tell us what he thought. That was worth what we paid him, because with those few things done, we feel assured when the time comes to begin showing, we've done everything to make things right. We've taken good care of the house, but in today's market anything we can show a potential buyer, the better.
There are sites to go to regarding staging a house. We got a storage unit to put all the extra stuff into, so we can minimalize everywhere. It's a PIA, but necessary.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 5:45PM
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I can tell you what I did to prepare for the sale of our house. I moved a lot of things out of the house to really declutter and open up space. Had the carpets professionally cleaned. Repainted all three baths. You don't have to do builders beige but I would update colors if they need to be (neutrals though), strip wallpaper and any borders. I did take down all personal photos and kids' art work. I cleaned like a maniac. Really. If it didn't clean off, I painted it again. I painted the faded outdoor light fixtures, replaced some of them, shined up the front door entrance and repainted the trim work around the door since it looked a little chippy. Updated the old beige light switch plates to nice bright white ones.

Before house is inspected, clean out the utility room where the hot water unit is so the inspector can easily get to it. Make sure all light switches and plugs are functioning. Fix any leaks. Make sure all light bulbs are good. Smoke detectors are all tested and working. A good inspector will look at every little thing. Everything you can take care of before hand will really shorten your list of things wrong with the house.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 8:05PM
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Do you have pictures so we can help you more? They are very helpful.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 9:01PM
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You can always post pictures here.

It wouldn't hurt to take pictures for your own benefit and just look at them. Sometimes a picture can bring things to your attention that you wouldn't otherwise notice.

Clean, clean, clean. Clean your windows inside and out. Clean light switches, base boards, lights, fans, refrigerator, and cabinets. Take the pictures and magnets off of the refrigerator.

Declutter. Put everything not necessary in off-site storage.

Touch up any paint that needs it. Repaint to neutral colors in rooms where needed. I even repainted my closets with a fresh coat of white paint. I touched up varnish on my cabinets where it was worn.

Have you thought about staging your house?

These are just basics. It is hard to say more without seeing the house.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 10:19AM
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If you are in a neighborhood that has alot of updates or new builds with granite counters and stainless appliances I think you will have to also. If not, the cleaning and de-cluttering is probably the best. Just so your house does not look dated so that you can get the highest price amongst your comps!
Good Luck!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 10:40AM
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As other posters have mentioned, nothing beats clean. Every baseboard, light switch, light fixture (often over looked for some reason) nook and crannie should be pristine. Heck, I even re-painted the little screws for switch plates - you can buy a bag for next to nothing.
Any brass fixtures or doorknobs? I'd replace them.
Smells that maybe you are so used to you can't recognize? Have a friend with a good sniffer visit. I've been in houses for sale that reeked of cat boxes or just the smell of a wet dog.
Best of luck!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 11:28AM
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Clean the heck out of it!

If anything leaks or wobbles, fix it.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 12:29PM
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Hello! It sounds like you are off to a good start. Good luck selling your house. I have a house on the market too. Trying to sell the house has been a learning experience for me, and it will be for you also. I was shocked by how much prices have fallen. The house next door to mine sold for $389K 4 years ago, and sold as a short sale for $240K about 18 months ago. The good news in that at least some of the lower prices is due to the renters making a mess of the place. Still, the bad news is that prices are down. Way down. The pressure from foreclosures and short sales is enormous and is driving the market.

Buyers are really picky, and there is a LOT of supply. So buyers are not making offers like they used to, and asking for changes, they're just moving along to the next house.

The Bottom Line is that you need to do everything that you can think of, and afford to do, and then be prepared to get low offers anyway.

A fresh coat of paint inside will probably add value, and not cost that much if you can afford the time to DIY. Pick a light color, then pick a lighter one.

A good RE agent will be able to walk through and give you a whole list of things to do, and will know what buyers are looking at in your neighborhood.

Thanks to all the home remodelling shows on TV, everybody expects kitchens to be huge, with granite counters, brand new Stainless appliances, etc. From the description you give of your kitchen, this is an area where you need advice from your agent. Depending on the value of your house, and the "norms" of your area, you might think about upgrading, or completely remodelling.

Other misc advice:
Check your clothes washer connections. They should be steel reinforced tubing, not the rubber ones that come with the machines. Home Inspectors will ding you on that. HD/Lowes sell a kit for about $20 to replace the lines.

If you have a garage, check to make sure there are safety lines through the springs. Home Inspectors will ding you on that too.

Building codes have changed a lot, and may now require the following items. Your RE agent will know what is required in your area.
Fire extinguisher
Smoke detectors on each floor
Carbon Monoxide detector

GOOD LUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 1:57PM
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Don't ignore the garage, attic, basement or other outside structures. They need to be as clean as the house. When people are looking for a home they are looking at the whole package not just selected items.
Having the mechanical parts of the house clean and free of boxes and other objects makes it easier for the buyer to get a good look. If ya can't see every bit of what you are buying many will just take a pass, especially with there being so much available on the market these days.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 3:14PM
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You also want closets and other storage areas to look roomy, so do not fill them overly. Instead, throw out what you don't need and put some things in storage.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2010 at 4:51PM
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"3. changed living room carpet to solid oak hardwood floors.
4. changed kitchen floors to tiles
5. removed carpet on the stairs and stained the oak stairs and added some molding too. "

If you do all the work for these yourself, you will still be lucky to even recover materials costs.

Clean it up, repair obvious problems, price it right.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 3:10PM
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Can't emphasize the "curb appeal" enough. Case in point--in my neighborhood, which has actually held value pretty well and where houses are still selling, there is a house that sat for months and months. It was painted an odd (and unattractive) color, which was always the thing that I noticed.

Finally the sellers redid the front landscaping--added a little fence in front, remodeled the flowerbed, changed the foundation plantings---and, *without repainting*, the place was sooo much more attractive-- the color was no longer the first thing noticed--and sold within 3 weeks, at their original asking price!!!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 8:17PM
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We sold our house when the market was declining. We had two potential buyers; the first couple low-balled, and we essentially told them to take a hike. The next gave us full price, which was much, much more than the first offer. All this without listing in the MLS. No sign up; no open house. We sold it within a couple of weeks.

I do believe the location had a huge amount to do with our success. However, feedback was that our house looked really good, and the people who bought it fell in love with its look.

I spent weeks prepping for sale. Painted, touched up, repaired. Decluttered like crazy. Example: about 25 cartons of books to a thrift store; unnecessary furniture moved out. Ditto to clothing. We made the house look larger: one narrow room had served as a library, with beautiful oak bookshelves we'd attached directly to the wall. We took everything down, boxed it up and moved it out, patched all the holes, and I repainted the entire room. It was a HUGE effort that made a small room look spacious.

And as everyone pointed out: clean like you've never cleaned before. I cleaned EVERYTHING, including pipes under the sink. Heck, I even cleaned everything in the basement. I dusted the tops of doors. I took switchplates off and cleaned them back & front and then vacuumed out the boxes. I vacuumed the bottoms of carpets. I used cotton swabs to clean window tracks, closet door tracks. I spent a LONG time on hands & knees with a razor blade meticulously scraping every tiny paint speckle off floors, even inside closets (thanks, former owner.) I completely vacuumed the attic; even cleaned the light bulbs there.

If it was supposed to shine (sinks, stove, crystal chandelier, etc.), it shone. It was supposed to look soft and fluffy, it did. Not a brown leaf on any of the (few) plants left for staging. Even the plants' saucers got cleaned.

Staging: after the necessary repairs, after the decluttering, after cleaning. I staged the house literally from attic to basement. My level of detail might have seemed like overkill, but rather too much than too little. Every can & bottle in cabinets and fridge facing forward and arranged by color. Books on shelves edited, arranged attractively (by height and by color), and interspersed with a few attractive accessories. Clothes in closets arranged by color, with hangers that matched, and everything precisely spaced. Closets very bare! One former junk closet in a bedroom was emptied completely, but I wanted to show how useful it would be. So I hung ONE attractive garment bag and, on the shelf above, placed ONE attractive storage box (all color coordinated with the bedroom).

Towels, washcloths, sponges, soaps all color coordinated with the appropriate kitchen, bath, laundry. I even bought color-coordinated toothbrushes, beauty products, etc. None of these items was ever used. My plan had been to take them out for showings and then store until the next one. In the end, I had to do that only twice, and some might think the money had been "wasted." I would disagree.

Anything personal or even remotely potentially offensive removed. If you have photos, diplomas, and the like, store them. We have a large library with books in many subjects -- I removed everything having to do with politics and religion. We have art -- I removed some nudes. Even though our real estate agent thought one of them was OK to leave. I'm glad I stored it, as the people who bought the house brought their teenaged sons with them. Why make anybody uncomfortable?

Crazy, huh? But part of what I got from that enormous effort was psychological ease. I KNEW everything looked as good as it possibly could, and I knew that, no matter what a buyer decided to look at, it would be clean, it would function, it would be attractive.

Those are only SOME of the things I did! Most definitely overkill, but was it worth it? Well full price in a mediocre market says yes.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2010 at 1:16PM
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Those are only SOME of the things I did! Most definitely overkill, but was it worth it? Well full price in a mediocre market says yes.

This implies that if you just prepare and stage your house well it will sell. I am a big believer in doing all those things and have successfully done them in the past. In one instance, even selling to the first person to look at the house.

But...this market is different. We spent over $20k getting the house ready for sale. New paint and carpet. New Kitchen appliances, new granite vanities in bath and powder room. Refinishing hardwood floors, etc. We spent the money for professional staging. We had a cleaning service and lawn service for the duration of the listing. We even moved my husband and our pets out of the house so the pets wouldn't be an issue.

And yet...none of it made a difference. (Yes, we tried to set a realistic price. Told our agent we wanted to sell fast more than we wanted to maximize price. Wanted a price that would sell. Well, it was too high and we reduced. Truthfully hardly anything is selling. I see houses listed for months then either expiring or reducing the price and still not selling...)

TLDR: You can do everything right in terms of staging, etc. and still not sell.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2010 at 1:34AM
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"This implies that if you just prepare and stage your house well it will sell."

If you read what I posted, you'll see my comment early on that location was a "huge" factor. IOW what I was trying to imply was not the same as what you apparently inferred. Without the location, for all I know our house might still be sitting on the market today. It's impossible to know.

The point I was getting at is that sellers should do every LITTLE thing they can think of BEFORE putting their house on the market. I certainly wasn't suggesting that the original poster put large amounts of money into the house, as you did, by having granite counters and the like installed in order to sell it. On the contrary. I would never go to that extent because sellers may not like the expensive fixes and upgrades....Your beautiful, stunning counters might well be hideously gaudy to my eyes, and my reaction to seeing them might be: the sellers just spent $X on those things and if we buy this house, we'll be paying for that upgrade, only to take them out and spend $Y to replace them with something we like better. What we did took a lot of time and effort, but very little money. Yet the rewards in terms of both how the house showed and peoples' reactions to it were enormous. I asked our real estate agent what else I needed to do before showing to the person who subsequently bought the house. Her answer was....raise the blinds. That was it. End of story. And this agent is a top producer in our area.

"(Yes, we tried to set a realistic price. Told our agent we wanted to sell fast more than we wanted to maximize price. Wanted a price that would sell. Well, it was too high and we reduced."

I agree with you 100%. Without a realistic price, forget it. Our price was realistic, and it was suggested by the real estate agent. We didn't argue about it all. For one thing, it was realistically based on comps, to the extent that the town had comps at all. For another, it was quite a bit more than we thought we could ask for, and it was over $50K more than the low-ball offer! So, yes, you are correct that the price is key.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 7:08PM
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Don't forget windows. We did the same as Lynxe and I found I was constantly cleaning windows. Clean windows make a room shine and bring the outside in. Time of the year also helps. Green grass, trees, flowers all make a house look beautiful.

I think staging is important to give the 'wow' factor when people walk through the door. Little touches, small pops of color, soft pillows, etc. Don't let your taste dictate how you show your house. Stage it to appeal to a wide audience and you will get the best price for your house.

Multiple offers are good, even if low-ball as they give you a gauge of what price range people are placing on your house.


    Bookmark   December 18, 2010 at 1:39AM
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Lynxe, for all that work that you put into the home to be sold, you have earned and merited full asking price; Its good to be young and healthy, we are old and will have to have most of this extraordinary work contracted out, this is scary.

My wife and I have looked at what seems to be one hundred houses.
Not one of them reflect your standards of presentation, much less ours.
However, we are in the "low" or reasonable price field($80 to $120K)..
Every home that we have "inspected", bar none ,has had major and/or minor defects.
Minor defects I can live with, and the selling price should reflect this.
This is seldom the case, no-one really knows exactly what a house is worth, with or without defects.
And, speaking of defects, these can scare off many a buyer, but if he knows exactly what the correction cost is, then he can plan and determine what the house is really worth.
So, while the neat and clean is great, providing this info to potential buyers is even better..
For instance, it cost us nearly $15K for nice siding and windows, but this could be worth only $8K to a new owner.The same applies to all upgrades and improvements.
I think that some people can be overly fussy..

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 11:36AM
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We just sold in Jan 2010 with a bidding war and got top dollar ever by far in the neighborhood.

A realtor told me once, buyers expect not to be wowed when they walk in the front door because of the countless others that they have seen prior, and I think he was right on (though I didn't have him list my house).

Try to give the buyers the wow factor asap after they walk into that door. Even though our master bathroom was needing updating, buyers were so in awe by the time they got there, they obviously dismissed as much of an issue.

Inexpenisve items.
Everything must be scrupulously clean, especially the kitchen and bathrooms.
Cheap double and six pack lights you can get from Lowe's...electrical fixtures can date a house. We rolled up towels in the baths to give a spa like feel. Set the dining room table. Left out pen and paper on kitchen desk to encourage the "dream". Arranged the furniture to be inviting, not necessarily functional. Arranged furniture to make the rooms look large and luxurious. Clean the windows (even if you can only do the insides because of the weather). Good luck

    Bookmark   December 19, 2010 at 3:01PM
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The HGTV show "Get It Sold" is worth watching for tips on how to depersonalize and neutralize your home to appeal to buyers. The HGTV website for that show also has a checklist on their top tips, many of which have been mentioned here. Sabrina Soto has her own website with her favorite paint colors. I think she does a great job with the paint, so I would definitely trust her recommendations.

I also agree that location is key to desirability. People in other towns in NJ seem to be having more difficulty selling their homes than in my town, which continues to have a steady stream of buyers from Brooklyn who are eager to move here.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 10:42AM
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I've emptied, cleaned, painted and repaired my mother's 80 year old house, but so far have only gotten a lowball offer. I decided to do something drastic and just redid the kitchen which was very outdated. It looks great now, so am curious to see what difference it makes. My area is seasonal and real estate has been very slow. Hopefully it will be picking up soon.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 1:57PM
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Good luck Sunny!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 7:55AM
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