Selling a home in the current market conditions can be a daunting task. Since it is a buyer’s market, you need to make sure that your home is priced right and do whatever you can in order to make prospective buyers attracted to your house over the others they are looking at.
It may not seem like a good idea to dump money into a house that you’re trying to sell in this market, but there are many affordable and free things you can do that will improve your chances of attracting serious offers and getting the most money for the home as possible. A little bit of money and some elbow grease can go a long way.
- Paint the interior. A fresh coat of paint on the walls can do wonders on first impressions. Even if you’re just putting a fresh coat of white on an existing white wall, it will certainly look good. This is also a perfect time to change rooms to more neutral colors if you had previously painted a room for a child and used something more bright or bold. This is a do-it-yourself job, but you may want to consider hiring painters if you’re worried about the quality of the final result or are pressed for time.
- Repair cracks and holes. If you are going to be repainting any of your walls, now is a good time to patch the holes left by hanging pictures or filling any fine cracks that may have formed over the years. Not only do you want to focus on the walls and ceilings, but take a look at the kitchen and bathroom areas where you may have caulk or silicone. These are also areas that can use a fresh new application.
- Clean or replace carpeting. If your carpeting is in relatively good shape, free from stains and isn’t terribly matted down, you can probably get by with renting a carpet cleaner, or having a company come and clean it for you. In many cases, this will give new life to your carpeting. If your carpet has odors, permanent stains, or otherwise looks bad, your best option may be to replace it. It may cost a couple hundred dollars, but a dirty or ugly carpet won’t go unnoticed by buyers.
- Clean or paint the exterior. Curb appeal is everything, and a dirty exterior can make even the most beautiful house on the inside skipped right over by prospective buyers. Even a good power washing can bring new life to the exterior, but if you have faded siding or peeling paint, it may be worth the time and money to put on a fresh coat.
- Pay attention to the driveway. If you have a paved driveway, either asphalt or concrete, you shouldn’t overlook any significant cracks. You don’t need to go and fill in every little crack, but if you have the makings of a canyon on your hands, some good filling or sealer helps. While you’re at it, go ahead and clean that big oil stain that’s been there for the past few years.
- Clean the windows. Most people regularly clean the windows from the inside, but now is the time to give the outside a good cleaning. Time for those cobwebs and water spots to come off for good. And don’t forget to clean the window sills and tracks for sliding windows. Dust and dirt can easily accumulate down there and be overlooked. You may not think to look there, but prospective buyers might notice.
- Make your landscaping stand out. Again, curb appeal is very important, and your landscaping will show. If you have a lawn, make sure you keep it mowed and neat. Take care of any long grass or weeds that may be growing along the foundation or next to poles and fences. And while you don’t have to spend a fortune, if you have existing decorative landscape plants, now is the time to attend to them. Make sure you have fresh looking mulch, and remove any dead or dying plants. If you have some empty space that could be filled, consider putting in a few showy plants. And if you have a front porch, adding some planters or hanging baskets of flowers is always a nice touch.
- Remove exterior clutter. Get rid of that old grill that you no longer use, and if you have kids, organize or remove some of their toys from the yard. Keep the outside simple and remove any excessive signs, garden gnomes, or other items that may not appeal to everyone.
- Clean up inside clutter. This is very important, as what may not seem like clutter to you, may be instantly perceived as clutter by someone else. This includes closets that are jam packed, a simple stack of mail on the counter, or even all of your children’s drawings hanging on the refrigerator. Sure, these things may not be physically taking up a lot of usable space, the less “stuff” you have in the house will work wonders.
- Clean out the attic, basement, garage, and other storage spaces. Most people looking to buy a house will be in need of storage space. Whether it is in the form of a basement or attic, or having extra room in the garage, this space can be valuable and even be the difference when the buyers decide to make an offer. If you currently use those storage spaces yourself, at least organize it and make it look like there is plenty more storage. If you are using most of the space already, consider clearing some of the stuff out and take it to a friend, neighbor, or relative’s house, or even consider a temporary storage unit.
- Create more open space. Remove unnecessary furniture and items that just take up space. Whether it is that coffee table that just collects magazines and dust, or the exercise bike that sits in the corner of your bedroom and serves as a clothes hanger. If you can open up more space in your rooms, the buyers will not only feel the openness, but have a better visual image of how their own furniture might fit into the house.
- Clean the kitchen and bathrooms like never before. Now is the time to put in some overtime when cleaning the kitchen and bath. These rooms are ripe for mold, mildew, stains, grease, and pest problems. You want every inch of the bathroom to look as if you could eat off of it, and you want your appliances and counters in the kitchen to look like new. If you have a problem with ants or some other bug, make sure you remove any of the traps or indications that there may be a problem.
- Update your lighting. The last thing a prospective buyer wants to encounter is a dark or dimly lit room. Make sure that you don’t have any burnt out bulbs, and that you’re using the right type of lighting for the situation and make sure the bulbs in a multi-bulb fixture all match. If you have windows that provide a lot of light from the outside, make sure you have everything open and working properly to let this light in, and proper curtains or shades to cover it if need be. Most buyers love rooms that receive a lot of outside light, so you certainly want to showcase it if it is available.
- Address odors. Every home will have its distinct odors, but people entering the home for the first time will immediately key in on smoke and pet odors. You can do extensive cleaning to minimize these odors, but they are almost impossible to completely conceal without removing all the carpet and fabrics in the home. Don’t use cheap sprays to try and cover up these odors as it can just make things worse. Stick to quality scented candles or potpourri, or better yet, do some baking before your open house or are expecting to show the house. This also means you should refrain from deep frying food, or cooking fish or something with strong odors when you know you may be showing the house.
Feel free to share your ideas. Have you recently sold a home? If so, what did you do to enhance the appearance and value for buyers? If you recently purchased a house, what were some things that turned you off, or actually made a good impression? If you are looking to purchase a home be sure to check out these mistakes to avoid when buying your first home. The next step moving, hopefully you can avoid some of the common moving stressers.
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About the Author: Jeremy Vohwinkle is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor® and spent a few years working as a financial planner. Today, he helps people make the most of their money by writing about personal finance here and elsewhere on the web. Jeremy is also Coach at Adaptu and a regular contributor for other publications such as Intuit, and American Express. Be sure to follow Jeremy on Twitter or Google+.