Get a Jump on Your Summer Home Sale
Are you planning to sell your home this summer? March just became the most important month of your year.
Why? Because March is the ideal time to get your house in shape for sale. You have time to make minor repairs and upgrades, plus these late winter days that keep us indoors are perfect for conquering clutter. You’ll also be able to harness the return of spring to enhance your home’s curb appeal.
Of course, you only have to start in March if you want a top-dollar sale. If that’s not important, you can stop reading now and catch up on some TV for the next four months.
Where Should You Start?
I’m a certified professional home stager who has helped bring in full asking price on listings ranging from $150K to $3.5M. Over the years, I’ve pinpointed five steps every homeowner must take when preparing their home for sale:
Fix it up
See to your curb appeal
Start now and when your summer listing date comes around, your home will be ready to capture a buyer’s attention and net you top dollar.
All of the following steps are things most homeowners can complete themselves, but if the whole thing feels too overwhelming, consider hiring a home stager like me in your area. A good home stager will see to every step on this list so you can have the smoothest — and most successful — home sale possible.
Attend to Minor Repairs
It’s your home. You’ve come to peace with the squeaking hinge on the screen door, the cracked stucco by the downspout and the peeling trim on the kitchen window. But prospective buyers won’t turn a blind eye to those things — those will likely be the first things they see. And every time they notice a potential repair during a walkthrough, that’s money they’re deducting from their offer.
Here’s what to do:
Get a clipboard
Walk through every room of your house — with a buyer’s eye
Take note of every minor repair you notice
Do the same thing outdoors
With your list in hand, highlight everything you feel you can do yourself. For the tougher tasks, start looking for pros who can handle the rest. Sites like Houzz offer reviews and ratings for home professionals in your area. You can also check with your local realtor’s association for suggestions. A Google search can be helpful, just keep in mind, top search results are just as often a product of good marketing as they are of good service. Be sure to get a couple of estimates before deciding who to work with.
Upgrade The Easy Things
After repairs, look into making a few simple upgrades that buyers will love. Hands down, the easiest upgrade you can make that will have the highest impact is paint color.
Color is personal. Most of us paint our rooms to suit our taste — which is great! But when it comes time to sell, that eggplant-colored bathroom is a no-go. You know what colors work for buyers? Bright neutral tones. Whites, creams, and vanillas. Boring? Maybe. Broadly appealing? Absolutely.
Picking the right shades and sheens is important — chalky white primer is almost worse than eggplant. Find a warm yet modern white for the walls and a complementary neutral for trim. If you struggle with the intricacies of color matching, find a home stager or interior designer — or just ask a stylish friend to help you choose. Color consultation is one of the services I offer, so I understand the panic some people feel when it comes to choosing paint color.
Another upgrade that will help your home stand out is updated appliances. If your dishwasher has dutifully served for two decades, it probably shows it. New appliances, especially in the kitchen, can bring a strong return on investment. When picking out new appliances, go for matching finishes throughout a room.
Lighting is often overlooked, but it can make a huge difference — not just how your home looks in person but in online photos too. Switching out outdated fixtures for something more contemporary is important, but so is keeping a consistent color tone in the room. Using the same type of bulb in each light fixture will bring cohesion and continuity to a room.
Declutter & Depersonalize
This is the hardest step for nearly all of my clients. But to attract buyers, you need to declutter and depersonalize your home.
Unless you’re a practicing minimalist you probably need to sort, pack up, and store at least 60% of what is currently in your home. That may sound like a lot. But in my experience, that’s what it takes to get most homes show-ready. Removing objects opens up the rooms of a home, allowing buyers to experience spaciousness. Buyers won’t see past clutter to notice the good features of your home, they’ll just move on to the next listing.
Like I said, paring down isn’t easy. So here’s what you can automatically remove from your home before you list it:
Tattered, worn through furniture
Artwork that is sun damaged, faded, or isn’t in a frame
Rugs, pillows, and decor that shows signs of wear and tear
Clothing and accessories that won’t be worn before fall
Less than perfect houseplants
Lamps and other electronics that aren’t in use
Dishware and cookware unlikely to be used
Toys, clothes, and furniture that your kids have aged out of
Pet furniture (with the obvious exception of litter boxes and food/water bowls)
Think of decluttering as the tidying up you’ve always wanted to do but could never find the time. Now that thousands of dollars are potentially at stake, finding the time becomes a lot easier.
What to do with all your extra stuff? Renting a storage space works. Donating to worthy causes is also a great choice. Many of my clients in Santa Fe take a combo approach: some things are sent to the consignment shop, some are donated, some are packed up and stored, while unsalvageable things end up in the landfill. Decluttering and packing away extra stuff now has the added bonus of making your upcoming move far easier.
As for depersonalizing, it’s all about removing family photos, hobby items, collections, political posters, and kids artwork. This part is hard — you’re removing your personality from your home. But no buyer will be able to picture themselves in your home if it bears the signs of another family’s personality.
The front of your house is the first thing buyers will see when they tour your home. If the exterior is neglected, what does it say about the inside of the home? Buyers want a well-maintained home that is warm, inviting, and shows you care. So get outside and make sure the front entry is as attractive as possible. Drive up to your home with a buyer's eyes. What do they see as they drive up?
Here is a quick list to help make their first impression a good one:
Clean up dead plants and scattered leaves or any dirt and trash along the walkway and front door.
Cut back overgrown branches, trim scraggly bushes, and remove weeds.
If you have peeling paint on the front door, it should be stripped, painted or stained. If the door is heavily damaged, consider replacing it.
Clean all exterior light fixtures. Make sure the doorbell and lights work.
Windows should be clean and sparkly, screens should be in good repair.
Consider early spring plantings that can be well-established by summer and get them in the ground.
If you’ve got gravel paths or drives that could use a refresh, get a new topcoat put down.
When I say deep cleaning, I mean more than a quick dusting and vacuuming. I’m talking about clearing off every surface, pulling out every drawer, washing every window, scrubbing the grout with a toothbrush, and inspecting behind toilets with a mirror — that sort of cleaning.
Deep cleaning is best done in stages, with each room accomplished getting you one step closer to the day the real estate photographer arrives (and wants to buy your house before you even list it!)
If you’re not able to do that sort of intense cleaning yourself, hiring a professional cleaning company a day or two before the photo shoot is a sound investment. Set a regular cleaning schedule with your cleaning pro for the time that your house is on the market, timing cleanings before open houses and buyer appointments.
Switch to the Investment Mindset
You may always love the home you’re about to sell, but when you list it for sale, that home enters a new stage of its life — the investment stage. Keep that fact in mind to help alleviate the resistance you might feel to spending money on repairs or cleaning services. The tough jobs of decluttering and removing personal touches gets much easier when you realize they could mean the difference between getting your asking price and being disappointed with lower offers.
If you find you need some help along the way, that’s what home stagers are for. If you’re in the Santa Fe area, contact me and I will take care of as much or as little of this process as you wish. Even if you’re in another area, I can offer remote services and consultations that will keep you moving successfully through the process of preparation — and ensuring your home sells for top dollar this summer.