Saturday, November 1, 2014

Wooing the Buyer

       Showcasing your Home at its Best    

You can sell almost anything -- and quickly -- if the price is low enough. But most people putting their home on the market understandably want the most they can get for it, in a reasonable amount of time. For that to happen, you need to take steps to make your house stand out from the competition (in a good way!) Don't get me wrong -- setting the right price is absolutely essential! But you need to woo the buyers also -- and you do that by making your home as appealing as possible.  Here are some tips for showcasing your home at its best.

First Impressions

First impressions are important! From personal observation (there have been studies, too; don't just take my word for it) I know most buyers make up their mind about a house within just a few minutes. Two new studies from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Austin, Texas confirm that first impressions are very hard to dislodge.  (A second part of this study says most people's snap judgements are pretty accurate -- guess you CAN judge a book by its cover.) So what are the basics of making a good first impression with your home?

...What's outside                                                                           

A good first impression starts with the curb appeal.  Stand in front of your house and look at it critically. What is the yard, front porch, windows, front door, etc. saying to the potential buyers as they walk up? Are they at the well-maintained home of an owner who is house-proud? A tidy yard, healthy plants, repaired fences, and exterior paint are places to start.  Do your shrubs and trees need trimming? Flowers in pots can provide a welcoming pop of color.  I love bright yellow for its energy and making your house stand out. But you must keep flowers watered, dead-headed when necessary, and looking healthy.  Withered, weedy plants are off-putting.  So are plastic flowers to many people, so pack those away, as well as that collection of garden gnomes. Your front porch needs to be spotless (no spider webs!), because that's where the buyer pauses before opening the door.  Is your doorbell rusty? Are house numbers crooked? Does the door need a fresh coat of paint? Do the lights work? Do you have a clean welcome mat?

...What's inside

Now step into your house, and pay attention to where your eyes are first drawn.  Is that what you want your buyers to see first when they walk in? What do you want it to be? In every room, consider what you want the focal point to be. You can guide potential buyers through your home visually, emphasizing what should be the focal points, by furniture place, color, home accents, strategically placed mirrors, etc. If you're having a problem being objective about your home, ask a friend or your agent to help you.  A professional stager can be a good investment.

Smell is almost as powerful as sight when it comes to first impressions.  Most people simply don't know what their homes smell like -- they're used to it.  Have an honest conversation with your Realtor or a friend about how your home smells, especially if you have pets or smoke. You may need to consider renting an air scrubber or taking other actions to eliminate odors, to include professionally cleaning carpets, drapes and upholstery. (I once desperately used an entire spray can of air deodorizer before an open house, with minimal results.) Some realtors like to use scented air fresheners, candles or even bake cookies to make the home smell enticing before an open house. Personally, I prefer no smell.  Some buyers may have allergies, don't like specific scents, or just start to wonder what you're trying to cover up

Love my Pets!

As long as we're speaking of pet odors...  My pets are my family and great companions -- but I know pets don't belong at a house showing.  They don't help to sell your house.  Many buyers don't want Fido jumping on them, or cat hairs sticking to their clothes. No one wants to pay good money for a house with pet stains and hair. Pay to have the house professionally cleaned, and take your pets to a friend's house during showing. A good idea is to hide any evidence of pets entirely.  Clean up any of those messes in the backyard, too!

Light it up!

Turn on the lights! Throw back the drapes! Buyers appreciate a bright, cheery home. Some other ways to bring in some extra light include cleaning the windows, removing screens and trimming back brush and trees around the windows.  Light colored paint also helps bounce and reflect light. Light, neutral-colored paints are also more appealing to most buyers.

Deferred maintenance

You've seen those minor defects that your property has accumulated over the years. It's important to address them before putting your home on view for potential buyers. Buyers appreciate a home that looks like it's been well tended by house-proud owners, and are less likely to go out of their way to look for issues. Also, keep in mind the buyer will be having a home inspection done once they've had an offer accepted. Did you know that the number one reason a home sale falls apart is due to problems discovered at a home inspection? (How to prepare for a home inspection will be the subject of another blog, I think!) If you're not sure about the condition of your home, spending a few hundred dollars for a pre-inspection could be well worth it.

Everyone wants more storage!

I've never once heard a potential buyer say storage wasn't important. Your home may actually have lots of closets and storage area, but if you've packed these spaces full, the buyer isn't going to perceive them as adequate for their own needs. Clean out the closets, storage shed and garage so the buyers can see what their getting. Remove at least half of what's there and organize the rest. If you need to, temporarily rent a storage facility or a storage POD.

Who's house is it?

Most potential buyers looking at homes want to see a blank slate where they can envision building
their own lives in their new home. To fit this ideal, you need to be prepared to remove yourself from the house -- emotionally and literally. It will help if you can tell yourself that where you are living now is no longer your home. (Does this seem too harsh? Then you may not be ready to move.) In order to create that blank slate for your buyers, you will need to make sometimes tough decisions to pack away your collectibles, take down family photos, paint over the darling mural in your daughters room and in general clear away everything that has made this house your home. You don't want your home to look 'sterile,' however. Carefully stage a few items that will have general appeal. Just remember, if it feels like your home, it can't feel like the buyer's home.

Out of sight

Along the same lines as the above, buyers really don't want to see your personal items. First of all, it's yucky. Also, a toothbrush, shampoo and damp towels stake out the bathroom territory as yours. Have a place to put all these personal items out of sight when you have a showing or open house -- in a bucket under the sink or a clothes basket you throw in the trunk of your car.  Here's a list items to get out of sight.  I'm sure you can come up with more -- just think of anything you wouldn't use/borrow from a stranger!
  • toothbrushes
  • bars of soap
  • razors
  • used towels, loofahs
  • dirty dishes
  • dish towels
  • combs, brushes, make-up
  • dirty clothes
  • pet supplies
By the way, LOCK away, or get them out of the house, anything that it would break your heart to have stolen. Also lock away prescription drugs, credit card info, personal or government documents, etc. You will have strangers in your home, and it is better to be safe than sorry.

Best foot forward

This can be the most tedious and frustrating part of selling your home -- and one of the reasons for wanting to sell as quickly as possible. Your home needs to be clean, staged and ready to show at a moment's notice. Hire a professional cleaner to get your home ready to show, and consider having cleaners come in regularly to keep the look up while your home is on the market.  It can be a great stress reliever knowing at least you don't have to worry about dust and toilet bowl rings.

Final thoughts

A good real estate agent will help you find the right strategy for selling your home based on the realities of the local market.  Find an agent you trust, and follow his/her advise as much as possible.   Good advise and these tips will help you sell your home faster and with less stress.  Good luck!

Mary Lynn Blake, REALTOR
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage

Serving your real estate needs in Wilmington NC
and it's beautiful beaches.