Get a Move On
Ever get some advice, and while helpful, your internal dialog is snarking; “Easy for you to say Buddy, you should try it yourself sometime.” Or when someone, let’s hypothetically say a real estate agent, suggests your closets should be thinned down to about 25% of what’s currently jammed in there, you’re wishing they’d have to attempt the same Herculean feat on a deadline. Well, wish granted.
After 28 years in the same place, I’m in the process of getting my house ready to sell. You would think that an experienced real estate agent who knew their house was going on the market would have their house picture perfect months before show time, right? You would be wrong. Procrastination my old friend, I’ve come to talk to you again.
So I thought I’d share a few suggestions on getting your house ready for market, even if that event is a few years out. The best advice I can give anyone contemplating a move, is if you know you are going to make an improvement before it sells, do it now so you can enjoy it. In my case it was the finished part of my basement. It started out as a place for the kids to play, evolved into a TV viewing spot, then a home office meets storage space, then the scary place where hopes and dreams come to die. Over the past two months it was decluttered, cleaned, painted and staged, and I can’t believe I’ve spent almost three decades here without realizing it’s full potential. I’ll be fully enjoying it for the next two months I’m here, but man-oh-man I wish I had done it sooner.
Other ways to get your place market ready is to focus on first impressions. The very first impression is usually your curb appeal, so make sure your front yard is at its best. Look at it with fresh eyes and see if any of the existing plants need pruning or removal. Make sure your sidewalk is clean and in good repair, and edge and mulch any beds. When possible, dress up the yard with some flowering plants. If it’s too cold for annuals, look for early blooming perennials like hardy primrose, hellebore, or my go-to fall and spring workhorse, pansies. Freshly cleaned windows make a great first impression, and your exterior lights should be washed and in good shape.
Part of your curb appeal should be geared towards the 90 second rule, which is that most buyers will sort a house into a yes, no, or maybe pile in the time it takes them to walk up to the house and step through the front door. Everything they see during that short time should be in great shape. When they are on the front step looking at the trim color, you want them to be admiring the fresh paint that compliments the house, not thinking about maintenance issues because they noticed some flaking chips. If they are feeling positive at this point, odds are good they will remain positive. If they’re seeing negatives, the rest of the showing is an uphill battle.
One of the most important improvements you can make to the interior or your house is fresh paint. Pick a neutral color in light tan or gray for the walls, and use white for the trim and doors. Emotionally this can be a hard step to take, particularly if you like decorating and have been fearless with your color choices over the years. I watched dry-eyed as my pumpkin colored living room walls gave way to light gray. Was it an improvement? To me no, it honestly looked pretty boring. But, the point is not to decorate the house for the new owner, but to help them see what they’d like to do by providing a neutral space where they can project their ideas.
Scan your house for items that look outdated, and be aware of the dreaded double F’s. Outdated fixtures and faucets. These two items don’t tend to age well, and they are easy and inexpensive to upgrade. It’s amazing how a “dated” bathroom becomes a “charming” bathroom with just a new light and faucet.
Kitchens get extra scrutiny, so they should be spotless and bright. Keep items on the counter to a minimum, and be aware that drawers and doors will be opened for inspection. Some kitchen odors linger, so while your house is on the market it may not be the best time to fry chicken or start a new batch of your home brew.
The most work intensive part of the process is clearing out your place so the rooms closets and storage areas look spacious and organized. Donate and sell what you can, and consider storing extra items off site. A lifesaver for me was renting a pod that’s been parked in my driveway for the past few weeks. It’s now almost filled with boxes and extra furniture, it will be picked up when the place is on the market, and delivered to my new address when I’m ready for it. I rented an 8 x 8 x 16 foot pod (roughly the size of a delivery truck) for $159 a month, and the drop off/pick up fee is $225.
What’s that you in the back, why bother with getting things in shape when it’s a seller market? A spiffed up house attracts more buyers, which results in higher offers and less contingencies. Plus that thinning out process we talked about? You are going to have to do that anyway to get ready for moving day, so you might as well get paid for it.