Declutter, paint and plant your way to that ‘sold’ sign. 2016 has proven to be a good one for home sales because mortgage interest rates continue to hover at near historic lows, the overall economy is heating up and there’s a lot of pent-up demand.
For sellers looking to get the maximum out of their home sale, this all means they’ll need to do some careful home prep and staging, without spending so much that they cut into profit from the sale. Here are seven ways to prep your place for a sale without spending lots.
10 Tips to Sell Your Home Fast
1. Have a plan.
Before you jump in and start on a long list of home repairs and upgrades, talk to a real estate agent and find out what’s worth the effort and what isn’t. Most homeowners can name at least one aspect of their home that really irks them – a slightly leaning fence, a scratch on the cooktop, the light switch that feels out of place. An agent can tell you which of those fixes are likely to be noticed by buyers and which you can ignore. You can even make this part of your agent interview process.
After that, get a checklist to help you stay on track as you knock out those jobs that only require elbow grease.
2. Clear clutter.
Speaking of checklists, every home prep checklist includes advice to clear your clutter. You probably love all your stuff, but it’s hiding your home’s features. Worse, a cluttered home presents as poorly maintained, which will cause potential buyers to think twice and ask deeper questions. Get a head start on moving day by packing up your knickknacks, photos and books. Or earn some extra moving money by selling some of that stuff cluttering up your basement or attic. Why pay to move it from one attic to another?
3. Paint one room.
Even if all your rooms need a fresh coat of paint, you can maximize your effort while minimizing your cost by only painting the most important room or rooms. Todd Tisdell, a real estate agent and mortgage broker of Citrus Grove Real Estate and Lending in California, advises sellers to paint either the entryway, kitchen or master bedroom. “Those are the rooms looked at the hardest by buyers,” Tisdale says. “If those rooms are fresh and clean, it will go a long way toward improving perception of the whole house.”
Cost? Under $200 if you do it yourself.
This is not your everyday clean. It’s not even your special occasion clean. This is your as-seen-in “Architectural Digest” clean. While all rooms should be clean and tidy, it pays to focus your efforts on rooms buyers are most interested in – kitchen and bathrooms, the living room and the master bedroom. Follow the top-to-bottom, left-to-right method so no surface is overlooked. In kitchens, get behind and under appliances. In bathrooms, pay attention to mold and mildew.
5. Plant colorful flowers.
A good first impression counts in home selling, and most real estate agents will advise sellers to spruce up the front of the house first. Along with basic lawn care – a bag of fertilizer and regular mowing go a long way – Tisdale advises planting colorful flowers against the house or along the sidewalk or both. “The color against the house will pop the most,” he says.
Cost? Under $100 if you shop smart. Almost free if you start early from seeds.
6. Stage and depersonalize the right rooms.
Not all real estate agents agree that staging is necessary. In a recent study of over 2,300 Realtors, the National Association of Realtors found that about a third of selling agents said they stage homes, while 44 percent said they advise clients only to declutter and make repairs to faults. On the other hand, 81 percent of buyers reported that staging helped them visualize the features of the home. If you decide to stage, you can control the cost by staging only the rooms most important to buyers, in order: living room, kitchen, master bedroom, dining room, bathroom, child’s room and guest room.
Otherwise, get even more aggressive with the clutter and remove personal photos and keepsakes. The story you want to tell is about the buyers and their new house. It’s not about you and your old one.
Cost? Under $700, on average.
7. Create the right vibe.
With the place finally ready, create a warm, welcoming feeling throughout your home. Open windows to bring in fresh air, and open curtains and blinds to let in the light. Install higher wattage bulbs in your best fixtures, and turn on all your lights. In the days leading up to an open house or showing, refrain from cooking fish or broccoli, which can leave your home smelling not so great. You don’t really have to bake cookies to put buyers in the mood – lightly orange-scented candles will do. In fact, a Journal of Retailing study of retail shoppers found that simple aromas such as orange, lemon or pine boosted sales as much as 30 percent, while complex aromas – such as from baking or potpourri – depressed sales a few percentage points.
Cost? A few dollars for oranges (or free with some pine boughs plucked from the yard).