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Get the House Ready to Show

Make Sure it's Your House they Come Back to for a Second Look

Here's a critical bit of home selling advice: don't even think of putting your house on the market until you've taken a close look at its condition. You usually only have one shot at impressing potential home buyers, so take some time to prepare the house for showings. You may be rewarded with a faster sale and a higher offer.

Start with the basic home selling advice on this page, then move on to page 2 if you want to kick it up a notch and WOW! buyers from their very first look at the house.

Start with the Basics

  • Everything from floors to windows must be spotless. Remember to clean the oven and other major appliances. Skylights should be crystal-clear, too. Do not forget to make bathrooms shine!
  • Kill the offensive odors. They're the first thing buyers notice, and often a permanent turnoff.
  • Eliminate Clutter
    • Put away small kitchen appliances and other items that are sitting on countertops and tables.
    • Remove photographs from table-tops.
    • Organize the closets.
    • If there's not a reason to leave something sitting around--remove it!
  • Outside Tasks
    • Clean the drain gutters. Buyers nearly always comment if gutters are full of leaves and it makes them question other maintenance issues.
    • Store or organize items that make the yard look messy.
    • Make your front entry inviting. Decorate it, paint the door or buy a new door. It's the first look at your house, so make it a good one.

Tips for Vacant Homes

Vacant homes often greet agents and home bbuyers with a blast of stale or mildew-laden air. As soon as buyers smell mildew, they are out the door. Deal with the mildew before you list the house.

Have you ever noticed that during cold months the interior of a house without heat always feels colder than it is outside? Leaving the heat or air conditioning running while a home is on the market reduces odors and makes the house more inviting.

Keep the lawn and landscaping tidy, even if you have to hire someone to do it.

Don't Take it Personally

Okay, you have the basics behind you. The house and lot are spotless and decluttered. Now it's time to enhance the home's features so that you can nab those potential buyers.

Your first home selling step: separate yourself from the personal feelings you have about the house--it's not your home now, it's a commodity you intend to market.

Trust your instincts. Try to evaluate the house as if you are seeing it for the first time. If you were a home buyer, what would you think about the house?

  • What changes would make immediate improvements?
  • What are the house's best features and how can you show them off?

How about a look that says 'comfort,' or using a popular decorating theme, such as the vintage, casual look of Shabby Chic?

Create a Mood

Is there a mood that you could create? If you're near a coast, how about breezy fabrics and blue-green colors that remind us of the beach? If you're in the mountains, maybe you could go rustic.

Study the house and brainstorm with friends or family members to come up with ideas.

Pack It Up

  • Pack away most of your family photos. Buyers should be allowed to imagine their possessions in the home.
  • Pack up your personal collections, too, so that buyers don't get so interested in looking at them that they forget to look at the house.

When home buyers start deciding how their furniture will fit into your rooms, you're on your way to a contract.

Make It More Spacious

  • Remove excess furniture to make rooms more spacious.
  • Clean and organize the closets.
  • Store boxes in an out of the way location or rent a temporary storage unit so you can de-clutter every part of the house.

Expose Desirable Features

  • Remove rugs if they expose nice hardwood floors.
  • Remove heavy drapes that keep out natural light, especially if there's a great view out the windows.

Add Some Life

Plants go hand-in-hand with nearly any decor--living plants, not artificial versions.

Freshen Up

How about fresh paint. Are walls in the house dingy? Are the colors dated? Should you clean curtains or other window coverings?

Comforting Surroundings

  • Bake bread during showings, or place a fresh loaf in a basket on the counter.
  • Classical music playing softly in the background is nice, but choose something that enhances the mood you are trying to create. Where I work, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, natives and out of town buyers react positively to Appalachian Folk music playing in the background.

Essential Curb Appeal

I mentioned keeping the lawn nicely trimmed, but how about adding other elements to grab a buyer's attention before they walk in the door?

  • Outdoor lighting does wonders in the evenings--when many home buyers do drive-bys of properties.
  • Buy a good-looking doorknob set.
  • Sweep the driveway; pressure wash the house or sidewalks if necessary.
  • Enhance landscaping.

Your goal is to make home buyers fall in love with the house as soon as they see it from the street. And that comes with a bonus--a great overall impression is often enough to make a buyer more lenient about minor repair issues.

Every house is different, and no one expects you to be a professional home stager--but taking the time to prepare the house to the best of your abilities may put extra dollars in your pocket, and in less than average time.


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