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5 FAST Ways to Prepare Your House for a Showing

Posted on March 30, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Many people get confused when they're selling their house. They think they're selling their "house". They're not. They're selling an idea, an ideal ... a lifestyle.

Whether buyers can afford a $50,000 or $5 million home, they're generally pursuing dreams and aspirations, and the most successful sellers present their properties to meet that need. There are five major issues to address when you prepare to show your home, and there are big solutions (what you do when you know you're going on the market in six months) and quickie solutions (what you do when your in-laws drop in with an hour's notice).

1. Ask a Friend

Pretty much all of us eventually become blind to our homes' faults. Familiarity means we simply fail to notice cracks, stains and flaking (or simply garish) paint that may cause secretly raised eyebrows among our visitors. So ask a friend, colleague or family member to come round to carry out an inspection of your house. Make sure he or she understands the task: It's to point to flaws, not to spare your feelings.

Be sure to ask your "inspector" how fresh your home smells. We become oblivious to this over time, and need a new nose to sniff on our behalves, especially if we have pets. You know the odor you get when you first open your front door after a vacation when the house has been empty? That's probably how it smells to all your visitors.

Is it stinky? Long-term, you need a major cleaning to get rid of dustiness and mustiness. Short term, you need an odor-busting spray (preferably one without a scent of its own). And don't forget the time-honored way for busting smells -- toss a pack of instant biscuits or cookie dough into the oven and your home will smell fresh-baked.

2. Start Outside

Some real estate agents estimate that more than half of homes are sold before buyers get out of their cars. That sounds a stretch, but it's quite likely that more than half of potential purchasers mentally reject unattractive homes before engaging the parking brake.

So spend time and a little money giving your property "curb appeal." Here's a checklist for the yard (the big solution):

  1. Neat, green, trimmed hedges and lawns.
  2. Well-tended flowerbeds containing (depending on the time of year) colorful yet tasteful plants.
  3. Smart garden furniture -- borrow or rent some if yours is shabby or nonexistent.
  4. Neatly pruned trees.
  5. Clean, clear, sound paths, patios and driveways. If you have an RV, trailer or unattractive vehicles, store them elsewhere.
  6. Attractive plants in pots and/or hanging baskets near your front door.

And for the house itself:

  1. A sound-looking roof with the right number of shingles in all the right places.
  2. Guttering that's functioning, clean and correctly aligned.
  3. Windows, doors, siding and caulking that are in good condition, and, if necessary, freshly painted.
  4. Foundations and chimneys that look smart.
  5. A garage door that's closed.

If you have little time, sweep the walkways, rake up leaves, polish the doorknob and clean entry windows, and set an attractive plant in a nice container near the door.

3. De-clutter

Most people acquire quite a number of artifacts and knick-knacks over the years, and these can come to mean a lot to the collector. But they usually mean little or nothing to a prospective buyer. Worse, too many of them make a room look cluttered, which, in turn, makes it seem smaller than it actually is.

And that's a huge no-no when you're showing a home. Remember, you're selling a dream, and precisely no one aspires to cramped and cluttered. So it's time to pack up most of your ornaments and small items, and take them either to a rented storage unit or the corners of friendly neighbors' garages. You're likely to have a fight on your hands when you get to your kids' bedrooms, but insist that everything but the essentials has to go. It's only for a short while.

Don't stop with living and sleeping areas. Kitchens and bathrooms are big features in buyers' minds, and you need to clear unnecessary items from those too -- as well as closets and the attic and basement. In particular, de-clutter your kitchen counters. Oh, and put bulky and unnecessary furniture and larger objects into storage. They crowd rooms even more than small items.

There's a balance to be struck here. You don't want to leave your home feeling empty and soulless for showings. So retain just enough for your rooms to still feel lived-in (this is not nearly as much as you think). If in doubt, check out pictures of developers' show homes online. Those have been staged by professionals who know about the psychology of home buying.

Need to clean up quickly? Grab a few huge garbage bags and race through your house, picking up everything on the floor or counters that adds clutter and toss the bags in your garage, your car, wherever.

4. Neutralize

While you're checking out those show homes, note the decor. One of the joys of owning a home is that it gives you the chance to express yourself with bold color palettes. But your bold may be a prospective buyer's deal-breaker. And darker, richer colors usually make a room feel smaller, and a home less light, bright and airy.

So, if your decor is "distinctive," you may need to repaint with neutral colors, often pastels. Cream and white may be bland, but they rarely put anyone off.  My go to paints are SW6002 & SW6000.

No time to paint?

5. Clean, clean and clean again

Nobody aspires to live in a grubby or smelly home. And the single most important thing you can do to prepare your house for sale is make it spotlessly clean -- and keep it that way. There's no short cut to this. You either have to find the time and energy to do it yourself, or hire a cleaning company to do the job. Pets can be a particular problem during this time. You may no longer notice cat and dog hairs, but buyers will. The same applies to pet smells. Be hyper-vigilant over those.

Once you have de-cluttered, the semi-bare surfaces should be easier to attack.

  1. Use a dusting spray like Endust and quickly go through your main rooms and wipe down every usable surface.
  2. For the kitchen, clean the kitchen surfaces in the same way, using wet wipes.
  3. Move to the main bathroom and use wet wipes for those surfaces. Close the shower curtain / door, make sure there is no serious ring in the toilet and turn off the lights.
  4. Sweep the entry floor--- it's faster than vacuuming. If you have carpet, just run the rug vacuum over the most walked through spaces to give it that just-vacuumed carpet look.

If you need to show your home quickly, and don't have time to do all the tasks on the "big" list, prioritize. You could ignore all this advice and still end up selling your home. But following it is likely to get you a significantly better price and help you achieve a faster sale.

Contact us today and we can you our DIY Market Ready Report that will detail for you, just where to start in your home.  Don't waste time or money, call us today at 404-924-1876.

Categories: Staging Tips

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