Getting a Home Ready to Sell

By Rick Campbell

Buyers pay a premium for a home that is in top-notch, move-in condition, so once you decided to sell, make sure the home is ready to be sold.

First, you have to figure out what needs to be done to your home. A thorough property inspection up front will help to identify problem areas. Having the property inspection done and all the corrections taken care of before you get offers also shows the buyers that you are conscientious homeowners. This will relieve some of their anxiety about buying a home.

Also, any buyer will have a property inspection done before closing the sale. Often, this is when they will re-negotiate the price because of any problems that may turn up in the inspection. Having your own inspection done and making all necessary repairs first removes this opportunity for the buyer to try and re-negotiate.

Properties in prime condition are a pleasure for real estate agents to show, so they get shown more often. The more exposure a property gets, the better the chance of selling it quicker and for a higher price.

Use the following checklist as your guide to preparing your home for sale.

Spruce Up the Outside
  • Paint: Few things you will enhance the salability of your house quite as much as painting the outside. Before painting, scrape or water-blast any blistered or peeling paint; repair gutters and down spouts; and replace wood showing dry rot. Pay special attention to wood, trim, gutters, and wrought iron.
  • Front Entry: Give special care to this area. First impressions do make a difference! All woodwork should be freshly and neatly painted, including the door if necessary. Replace badly worn or broken doorbells. Polish any door brass. Paint or replace an unsightly mailbox. Put out a new or clean doormat.
  • Yard: Mow and trim the lawn. Weed flower beds; remove or replace dead plants or trees. Water regularly during the growing season. With desert landscaping, make sure that no underlying plastic is exposed, that rocks and sand are tidy, and that weeds and unwanted grass are removed.
  • Driveway, garage/carport: Clean up grease or oil spots; remove the soil at least, if not the stains. See that the garage door opens freely, and if you have an automatic door opener, make sure it's in good working order.
  • Air Conditioners: Paint or replace any rusted exposed metal. Correct improper draining.
    Patio:
    A nice spread of outdoor furniture looks very appealing. If necessary, borrow some from a friend to enhance the "showability" of your property.
  • Swimming pool: Adjust chemicals until the pool sparkles. Hose dust and cobwebs from filtration equipment. Store chemicals and tools neatly. Keep pool area tidy and secure.
Look at the Basics
  • Windows: Repair or replace torn or bent screens. As a last resort, remove them entirely; it's better to have no screens than to have unsightly ones. Replace any cracked or broken panes.  Also, notice unsightly foliage near windows. A window framed in ivy can give a warm, homey feeling, but cut it back if the foliage is restricting the light coming into the rooms. Drapery rods should be affixed firmly to walls and work smoothly; draperies should be clean and hang properly.
  • Doors: Check to see that all doors open and close freely, including closet doors and patio or sliding glass doors. Oil any squeaky doors. Tighten the hardware, particularly doorknobs. And while you're at it, tighten hardware on kitchen and bathroom cabinets, too.
  • Walls: As with the exterior, painting indoors will pay dividends out of all proportion to the time and effort spent. Wallpaper should be clean and adhere smoothly to walls.
  • Floors: Repair or replace missing or damaged pieces of tile; polish if needed. Repair of a loose stair tread plate or loose carpeting on a stairway is a top priority.
  • Carpet: Steam cleaning is the best answer for soiled carpets, especially when shampooing isn't enough. If pet odors are present, clean the carpet some time before your home is placed on the market to be sure the odors have been eliminated.
Check the Mechanicals
  • Lights: Every light socket in and around the house should have a good bulb of adequate wattage. Don't overlook those outside and in the garage. Also remember the utility room, halls, closets, over the kitchen sink, and in the oven and exhaust hood.
  • Switches and fixtures: Repair or replace wall switches, outlets, and light fixtures that don't work. Replace any broken switch plates.
  • Appliances: Those that will be sold with the home should be in good working condition. If specific equipment doesn't work and you don't intend to repair it, point this out.
  • Plumbing: Badly chipped or irreversibly stained sinks and tubs should be re-enameled, patched, or replaced. Leaky or noisy toilets should be fixed, as well as any dripping faucets.
  • Sprinkler systems: These should be working properly with no defective heads.
Go for the Spacious Look

One of the best and least expensive ways to improve the "showability" of your home is to open up as much space as possible. Openness stimulates positive feelings in buyers. Overstuffed rooms or closets give the impression of being smaller than they really are. You can't change the size of what you have, but you can try to present it in a pleasing way.

  • Closets and storage areas: One of the most frequently voiced requirements of buyers is for more closet and storage space. Open up your storage areas by removing items you aren't using.
  • Counters and cabinets: The same principle used for closets applies here: overcrowding gives the impression of inadequacy. This applies to bathrooms and kitchens with the kitchen being most important. Store infrequently used appliances.
  • Garage: Buyers will pay a premium for a garage if they can visualize it being of value to them, but it's hard to sell when the garage is filled to overflowing. If your garage has become a two-car attic, move the excess to a mini-warehouse.
Housekeeping Hints
  • Bathrooms: Few places in the home can get so dirty so fast, and yet few things will "unsell" a house as fast as dirty bathrooms. Vanity, sink, faucet hardware, and mirror are the focal points. But don't forget other potential problems: soap residue in a shower, a moldy shower curtain, accumulated dirt in the track of a sliding shower door, soiled or missing grout, soiled toilet bowls, and dirty or battered bath mats.
  • Kitchen: Most buyers will inspect the kitchen carefully, so time invested here is well spent. Clean the stove inside and out. Replace badly stained or corroded reflector plates under the heating elements on electronic range tops. Don't neglect the kitchen exhaust hood; buyers frequently check this area as a clue to general housekeeping.
  • Windows: Clean windows are an absolute necessity if a house is to look its best. Weather permitting, open windows to let in fresh air.
  • Water heater and softener: Perhaps because it's so unusual, a sparkling clean water heater or water softener really impresses buyers: and it takes so little time and effort.

All this may seem like a lot of work, and it is, but it means a quicker sale with less hassle and more money in your pocket. Not to mention the pleasure you and your family will receive from living in a well-kept home.




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