1) Price Your House Right
Pricing your house right might sound easy, but it’s actually somewhat difficult. Sellers often think there is no harm in testing the waters with a higher price. You can always drop the price later, right? Wrong. At any given time in a given market, there is a market value for your house. You can ask more, but you probably won’t get it, because buyers are shopping around and comparing prices, and lenders won’t lend more than the appraised value of a house.
Buyers will typically look at everything that’s available in their price range in your location. Pricing the house too high just drives away your best prospects—the buyers who are currently looking and have a reason to buy soon (e.g., new job, new baby) and who would otherwise be interested in your house.
So, either get a good agent who can price the house right, or hire an appraiser to help you price the house at the correct market value. Rather than getting less for the house, you likely will get more in the long run. That’s because houses that are priced too high sit on the market for long periods of time, which, if you’re not living in the house, can cost you more in mortgage and utility payments and upkeep costs.
Plus, with houses that have been on the market a long time, buyers start asking, “What’s wrong with that house? Why hasn’t it sold?” Consequently, houses that were priced too high to begin with often end up selling for less than market value because sellers get to a place where they just want to unload their house for whatever they can get.
It’s the day-old bread model. Bread is most desirable right after it’s freshly baked. But if one shop prices its bread higher than what nearby shops are charging, the higher-priced bread likely won’t sell. Once it becomes day-old bread, the shop will sell it at a markedly reduced price just to move it off the shelf and make at least a marginal profit on it—which will be considerably lower than what the shopkeeper could have made by charging a more competitive price in the first place.
2) Clear the Clutter and Stage Your Home
“Less is More” is a foreign concept to most American homeowners. If you’re among the majority who tend to accumulate more and more things in proportion to the space they have to fill—and beyond—you’ve no doubt grown used to being surrounded by your “stuff” and may even find it comforting.
But to a prospective new owner, your house likely will feel crowded and overrun, even if it’s actually quite large. The logic of square footage will be overruled every time by the (often unconscious) feeling prospective buyers have that there simply is no room for them in your house.
Family pictures on display emphasize that prospective buyers are in someone else’s house and make it harder for them to imagine the space as their own. Full closets (even if well organized), jam-packed shelves and counters, and overflowing garages lead buyers to feel as though they are intruding on someone else’s space.
So, borrow a friend’s garage or rent a storage space and haul away the clutter and nonessential items. But you don’t want to leave the house bare because an empty house is almost as bad as a crowded house. Empty rooms draw attention to every flaw in the paint or floors, and empty houses can feel smaller because prospective buyers can’t get a sense of scale. Will a couch fit in the living room? Will the master bedroom accommodate a queen-size bedroom set? Will that small bedroom be big enough for a child’s bed, dresser and toy chest?
Staging your home with a few well-placed and, if possible, stylish pieces of furniture and decorative items can help give prospective buyers a sense of scale and spaciousness. Go to some expensive furniture stores to get ideas about how they stage their products to appeal to purchasers. You don’t need to buy new furniture—you’re simply shopping for ideas. But if your furniture is well-worn and somewhat shabby, consider covering couches or chairs with decorative throws or pillows and strategically placing a striking vase, bowl, statue or plant on top of a scratched tabletop. Sometimes renting or borrowing a few pieces of furniture is a good option.
3) Clean Obsessively
Cleaning your home and keeping it clean during the entire time it’s for sale costs nothing but your time (or a nominal amount if you want to hire someone to keep it clean for you). Even an older house with dated finishes looks better when it’s clean.
Wash windows inside and out, and keep curtains and blinds open to let in natural light. Keep the yard neat, because buyers won’t even get out of the car if they don’t like the look of the house from the street. Scrub everything (including inside cabinets, drawers, the oven, microwave, refrigerator, dishwasher and washer/dryer because you can count on buyers looking in those places).
The way your house smells is important too. Think fresh and airy, not antiseptic. You don’t want your home to smell like a hospital. Just like with a house that’s cluttered, buyers will unconsciously be affected by good or bad smells. Some sellers go so far as to bake bread or cookies to evoke a cozy sense of home. Others opt for easier ways to make a house smell inviting, like setting out fresh-flower arrangements or putting a drop of vanilla on some of the light bulbs to elicit the scent of baking cookies. Avoid strong smells like incense or perfumes, which can be too much for some people.
These three steps are a starting point for improving your home’s chance of selling. If you’d like more ideas targeted specifically to what you can do to make your home more marketable, we can help. Contact us.