Home Seller's Checklist: 15 Tips for Selling a Home Now
Spring is often cited as the time to sell a home, but many prospective homebuyers are willing to work through the heat and make a move in summer. We spoke with nearly 20 real estate agents and investors to compile these 15 tips to help homeowners make a quick sale and get the best price.
Real estate agents who know the local area can be good advisers and help sellers accurately price a home. Consider interviewing agents and asking for recommendations from nearby friends or family to find someone who is a good fit. It may be difficult to back out after signing a contract with an agent. Monica Ajer, a real estate agent in Oakland, California, says it is especially important to work with an agent who knows how to use online marketing, as many buyers now start their searches online.
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To ensure potential buyers get a good first impression, consider small touches such as a new mailbox or front mat, or maybe go for a more expensive upgrade with a new front door. Tania Matthews, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Classic Realty III in Clermont, Florida, says front entrances should be kept clean and, if needed, pressure-washed to remove grime. "You'd be surprised how much it makes a difference," she says. Depending on the neighborhood, a mowed lawn, trimmed bushes, or well-kept rock garden can go a long way. Topping off potted plants or a garden with fresh mulch or soil is another good and inexpensive idea.
"[Homebuyers] don't want to have to deal with a misaligned closet door, leaky sink, or cracked window when they are trying to move and get settled in their new home," says Brad Chandler, CEO of Express Homebuyers, a real estate investment company in Springfield, Virginia. He suggests fixing everything before listing a home, as often the extra work may push the home down buyers' lists. It could also leave them worried that they will need to make more serious repairs once they move in.
The images on the listing can make all the difference. Ann Willets, a real estate agent with Keller Williams Shore Properties in Toms River, New Jersey, says some agents just snap a few photos with their phone. When considering agents, ask them about photos and look through examples of past listings -- or hire a professional photographer.
A beautiful yard might make all the difference. Kim Dawson, president of North Carolina Association of Realtors, says buying a table with an umbrella and adding or sprucing up potted flowers can help buyers see themselves entertaining and enjoying the outdoor space. Karen Gray Plaisted, a professional property stylist with Design Solutions KGP in New Jersey, also suggests focusing on outdoor areas. "Think of going on a vacation and the emotions you feel when relaxing on the veranda sipping a cool refreshing drink," Plaisted says. "That's the way you sell in the summer."
Several real estate agents emphasized the importance of cleaning every nook and cranny of the home, down to shampooing the carpets, before showing it to prospective buyers. Sellers can hire professionals, or prepare for a weekend spent cleaning, but it needs to get done.
Homeowners may have a style that fits their needs and tastes, but buyers may see things quite differently. Tracy Kay Griffin, a designer at Express Homebuyers, says, "The thing that outdates a home the most -- the biggest turn-off for buyers -- is its furnishings and decor." She says many buyers can't see past furnishings, particularly when they are outdated, and staging can help illuminate a home's potential.
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A walk-in closet could be a selling point, but it's hard for buyers to get a good feel for a cluttered space. "Crammed closets and cabinets make spaces look smaller than they really are, which can be a huge deterrent to potential buyers," says Annie Draddy, co-founder of organization company Henry & Higby in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to clearing out clutter, she recommends adding organizational systems, should space and budget permit. Purging unneeded items also helps make the move to a new home easier. Alternatively, store belongings in a storage unit until the sale is completed.
It's cliché, but baking cookies before showing a home really does work, says Mark Ferguson, a real estate agent and investor in Denver, Colorado. During the summer, though, make sure the air conditioner is running to keep the home cool. And don't overdo it with aromas. Seth Lejeune, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, advises sellers to avoid using too many air fresheners. "It makes real estate agents and buyers suspicious," he says. "I always note it when walking into a house with my clients."
Use air conditioning to keep the home a comfortable temperature when hosting open houses during the hot summer months. Ferguson says a seller's agent should do this, but it may take some time for the house to cool down. If the agent is running late, it's left to the seller to prep the home for guests.
Natural light can lift moods and make rooms dazzle. Kate Ziegler, a real estate agent with Arborview Realty in Boston, says dirty windows affect the amount of light entering the home and need to be cleaned. "Buyers will notice the darker feel," she says, "especially on a sunny summer day." In addition to a good cleaning, Ziegler shares an insider tip: "Consider maximizing that light by hanging mirrors as well -- the space will feel larger and brighter, and buyers will be less likely to resent being inside rather than at the beach."
Dog and cat lovers may be happy to meet your extended family, but not everyone feels this way. For some, seeing signs of a pet, such as a litter box or food dish, might lead them to think the house is dirty, or they should be worried about lingering animal scents. In addition to taking pets somewhere else, Chantay Bridges, a real estate agent with TruLine Realty in Los Angeles, recommends removing bowls and other pet-related items during an open house.
Some sellers typically leave appliances, such as a furnace or dishwasher, behind when selling the home. Will Featherstone, a real estate agent and owner of Featherstone & Co. of Keller Williams Excellence, recommends finding and organizing all the applicable warranty information for potential buyers.
Even with a real estate agent working on their behalf, home sellers may want to lend a hand. Jonathan Bane, a real estate agent with Home City in Austin, Texas, suggest sellers list their home on local Facebook buy, sell, and trade groups. "I know of three instances in the last six months where a sale was made on a house from a Facebook group or a local school parent group where someone bought the home based on their announcement," Bane says. Some of the groups prohibit real estate agents from posting on a client's behalf.
Bane also recommends hosting a pre-moving garage sale. Many people enjoy a good garage sale during the summer, and this lets the entire neighborhood know the home is on the market. Sellers could also throw neighbors a special early-access open house and ask them to spread the word.