Many people say that you only need to paint your home to attract potential buyers, but years of experience selling homes have taught me that the process of preparing a home for sale is a bit more complicated than a coat of paint. You need to redecorate your home before placing it one the market, for many reasons.
If you want to have a competitive edge in the housing market, you need to attract more buyers. Doing so decreases the amount of time that your home is on the market, increases the final sales price of your home, and lets you move to the next phase of your life much sooner
Home decorating for the sales market is vastly different from the type of home decorating that adds a personal touch to your living space. Fortunately, while redecorating your home for sale, you can begin the process of planning the décor for your new home.
Some sellers are surprised when I tell them that they need to remove the signs of their personal style in order to effectively market their home. The goal should be to enable potential buyers to see the home as a canvas for their own unique style. For example, although many people decorate their homes with dark fabrics and wall coverings to make the home feel warmer, buyers are looking for light and airy homes to which they can add their own stamp of personalization.
As a seller, you need to use your creativity to broaden the audience of potential buyers to whom your home will appeal. The more minimalist your decoration is, the faster your home will sell.
Appeal to Many Potential Buyers
Every seller wants to impress potential homebuyers. To do so, you need to frame your home in a way that allows potential buyers to see themselves living in the home. Begin the process by removing your family photos, monogrammed towels, and that handmade sign with your family name. Removing these items increases your family’s safety and security while strangers have access to your home, but the real benefit is that these changes make your home look as much as possible like a model home in a new development .
Rooms should be displayed as though they have always been used as originally intended. For example, if your smallest bedroom now functions as a home office, convert the space back into a bedroom. Likewise, if your dining room currently serves as a family room or den, revert to the original dining room. Your family may need to make some temporary adjustments, but there is an intrinsic value to displaying a traditional home in which all the rooms are used in their traditional sense.
Eliminate All Clutter
Home sellers also need to reduce the amount of “stuff” in the home. If you like to collect things, such as dolls, toy cars, license plates or sports memorabilia, you need to store these items out of sight. Potential buyers may not the charm in a room filled with dolls or other items and these items will distract them from looking at your home. Storing away these items can be traumatic, but fortunately careful packing ahead of time increases the change of your most precious belongings being transported safely in the subsequent move once your home has sold.
When you opt for minimalist home decor, potential buyers will be able to see much more. The minimalist approach allows potential buyers to visualize their own family and belongings inside your home. The added benefit for you, as the seller, is that you can begin the packing process early – just pack neatly! Potential buyers will understand and accept a garage full of neatly packed and stacked boxes, but a garage piled to the ceiling with miscellaneous “stuff” probably won’t have the same effect.
Draw Attention to the Home’s Best Features
After living in a home for a long period of time, the owners often forget why they were attracted to the home in the first place. Nevertheless, you must identify the home’s best features and accentuate them as much as possible. Once you have removed your personal touches from the home and eliminated clutter as much as possible, take a look at what is left. Creative furniture arrangements can be a great way to draw attention to your home’s most prized features.
Consider the living room fireplace. Be sure to keep the fireplace clean and perhaps open up the screen and placing a large plant inside to draw the eye of potential buyers. Rather than placing your sofa directly in front of the fireplace, consider flanking the fireplace with the sofa and a few chairs in order to draw the eye to the room’s intended focal point.
Are your windows clean? If not, clean them and then place some plants on the sills to connect the interior of your home with its beautiful exterior. Remove heavy window treatments in favor of simple blinds or sheer curtains that let in the light. Remember that potential buyers want homes that are light and airy.
Look at the Entrance
Concentrate on what potential buyers see when they approach your home. Is the front porch immaculate, with a comfy chair and lots of healthy plants? Is your front door pristine and cleaned to a shine? Is that wreath on your door welcoming, or is it time to change to a more seasonal decoration?
The approach to your home often forms buyers’ first impression of your home. Potential buyers spend a considerable amount of time with the realtor at the front door, both coming and going.
First impressions are lasting impressions, so you want to make them as positive as possible for your potential buyers. Spend some time ensuring that the first thing your potential buyers see is a sign that they are welcome.
The impression that your home makes on potential buyers will mean the difference between a few weeks on the market and a few months. When you adopt the minimalist approach that I am suggesting, you help potential buyers imagine their family living in your home.
The process of redecorating may seem time-consuming and expensive, but it does not have to be so. You will need to pack up your things anyhow, so why not get a head start? A fresh coat of paint will make you feel better about the appearance of your home when you leave it. And, most importantly, you will be thrilled to move on to the next phase of your life quickly, knowing that you have successfully sold your home.
PROPERTY DISCLOSURE BASICS
Historically, a buyer who made the decision to purchase a specific home assumed all of the risks associated with homeownership. Those risks included things that they did not know about the home they were purchasing. Thankfully, today’s buyers have learned from the past. Assumed risk continues, but ignorance has fallen by the wayside.
To protect consumer interests, many states and localities have enacted laws requiring the current homeowner to complete legal disclosures about the property that is for sale.
The actual contents of each disclosure form vary, depending on the area. But generally, laws require homeowners to tell potential buyers about any known liens or other legal issues surrounding the home and any known or suspected defects. The area of legal issues is fairly standard. However, local requirement vary regarding the defects that must be reported. Sometimes minor defects may be overlooked by the owner, but at other times the homeowner must disclose every visible crack on the walls.
As a seller, when you complete a property disclosure form, you are required to provide only material facts. This article explains the difference between material facts and immaterial facts. Here are some examples of what you might need to write on your property disclosure form:
- The age of your home, the approximate age of any additions, and the age of the major systems and their components (furnace, circuit box, water heater, air conditioner, etc.)
- Any current problems with the home, or anything that you suspect could be happening within the home, such as a leaking roof, consistently clogged drains, or water in the basement. This might also include problems with the heating or cooling systems, plumbing, or electrical systems.
- Structural problems. This is a difficult area for many home sellers, because exterior cracks are common when foundations settle. It is often difficult for the average homeowner to recognize signs of trouble until there actually IS trouble with the structure. Therefore, you need to note any visible exterior cracking in the mortar joints if your home is brick. The same is true for interior walls. If you see cracking on the interior walls, it is always best to protect your interests and disclose the information.
- If at some point during the life of the home, you or some other owner built a portion of the home, driveway, or another item on a neighbor’s property, it needs to be disclosed. Even if your neighbors were willing to lend you two feet of driveway width, the new owners of that home may want to reclaim that space as their own. As the seller, you must tell potential buyers that this possibility exists, so that they can make arrangements regarding the encroachment.
- Any and all legal issues surrounding the home in question. These legal issues could include tax liens, contractor liens, etc. Or, it might be that the home is at the center of an estate dispute or a nasty divorce in which one spouse refuses to give up his or her rights to the property. Try to clear up any legal issues prior to placing the home on the market. However, under some circumstances the sale simply cannot wait. In this case, try to be completely honest with your potential buyers, unless you are willing to risk losing them once they discover the legal issues on their own.
As mentioned above, some states and localities may not require the completion of a formal property disclosure form. Just because there is no official form, you as the seller have an obligation to potential buyers to disclose known repair and legal issues related to your home. National laws govern the release of information carefully, so be certain to ask your realtor for information about what types of disclosure must be completed prior to placing your home on the market. If you aren’t working with a realtor, call your state’s real-estate commission to ask what types of disclosure are required and how they should be completed.
Every seller must prepare a disclosure of some sort. Here are some more specific examples of what you might need to add to your list of disclosed items:
Specific Examples of Facts to Disclose
- The approximate age of the home’s roof and the materials used.
- Any current or past leaks from either the roof or the foundation.
- Any suspected or known presence of mold or mildew anywhere in the home.
- Termite or carpenter ant damage or infestation (current or past).
- Known or suspected problems with the plumbing system, including sewer backups or septic system problems.
- The amount of property, school and real-estate taxes as an annual rate.
- The square footage and dimensions of the home.
- Any knowledge of projects planned by the locality that will result in an inconvenience or loss of property for the new owner.
- All known legal disputes involving the house (e.g., estate or divorce).
- The presence of any utilities, fuel tanks, wells, etc. located on the property.
You Are Not Required to Release Information Unrelated to the Condition of the Home on a Disclosure Form
Many home owners become overzealous with the amount of information that they release to potential buyers. Sometimes, too much information is just as bad as not enough information being disclosed. Here are some examples of what you should NOT tell potential buyers on your disclosure paperwork:
- Personal information about you and your family, including ages, marital status, employment information, etc
- Information about why you are planning to move and where you will be living in the future.
- The medical condition of you or your family members and whether any of the current residents are HIV-positive.
There are some grey areas about disclosure, and the rules vary depending on where your home is located. Consider, for example, the following list of items that may or may not be required on a disclosure form.
- In most places, an owner does not have to disclose that a death occurred inside of the home. However, if the death was a homicide, the law treats the death differently and the information may need to be reported on a disclosure. Know that if you tell your agent about a death in the home, and the agent is asked about it later, he or she must answer the question truthfully.
- Methamphetamine labs are a new addition to many states’ disclosure requirements. If you know that a meth lab was located in your home or on your property, then you need to disclose the information. The residue from methamphetamine production can be toxic and buyers need to know about this in advance.
- If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, such as flooding or earthquakes, you will probably need to disclose any damage your home has suffered as a result.
- Finally, if you believe that your home is haunted, in a handful of states you need to tell potential buyers. Check with your realtor for more information if you believe that this is an issue you need to disclose.
DRESS UP YOUR ENTRANCEWAY TO ENTICE BUYERS
Preparing your home for sale does not have to be a stressful process. If your home is well maintained and in good condition, few or no critical updates will be needed. This is the ideal situation for most homeowners, who do not always have the time that is required to embark on major renovation projects prior to the home’s sale.
If your home requires few or no updates, then you will be able to focus on its curbside appeal and interior appearance – the little details that will definitely capture the attention of potential buyers. One of the most effective ways to entice potential buyers is to dress up your entranceway. Whether you are welcoming potential buyers into your living room or through a grand foyer, the very first thing that they see should be an invitation to view the rest of your home. This does not mean a written invitation. Rather, through the décor of your entranceway, you can provide non-verbal invitations to get visitors excited about buying your home.
Here are some ideas for dressing up your entranceway that will stop potential buyers in their tracks and make them excited to be in your home:
Focus on Scent
One of the easiest and quickest ways to make your home more appealing is to fill your home with a non-obtrusive scent such as vanilla or even apple-cinnamon. A warm scent from a candle, potpourri or air freshener spray will catch more than just the visual attention of potential visitors.
If you have pets, do not try to mask their odor. Instead, reduce the pet odor by bathing your animals and emptying litter boxes. If possible, you may want to board your animals while your home is for sale.
Try to avoid cooking food that has a very distinct or pungent odor. Baking bread or cookies is a great idea, but avoid frying fish in garlic oil.
Paint Your Front Door
If your entrance door looks dingy, dirty, or just a little nicked and scratched, a fresh coat of paint may be the answer you have been looking for. Keep the color as neutral as possible and be sure that it complements the other colors used on the home’s exterior. Keep any glass on the exterior doors clean and free of fingerprints. If your doorknob looks aged, consider updating the hardware for a fresh new look.
Once you have painted and cleaned your front door, hang a seasonal floral decoration or wreath for a tasteful addition that serves as another way to say welcome to potential buyers.
A Fresh Coat of Paint Can Work Wonders
As with any area of your home, your entranceway will benefit from a fresh coat of paint. Patch any nail holes and select a neutral color that will blend nicely with the rest of your home. If you prefer to work with multiple colors, use a neutral and inviting color scheme. Avoid dark colors, particularly when light is limited in your entranceway.
Get Rid of… Everything!
One of the features that most potential buyers are looking for in a home is space. If your entranceway is cluttered, it could give buyers the impression that the home does not have enough storage space. If you are preparing to move, never place your boxes in the entranceway. Instead, put them in an out-of-the-way corner or use the garage as a pre-move staging area.
Remove family photos and other personalized décor from your entranceway. Family photos can make your home seem occupied, and this can reduce potential buyers’ ability to picture their family living in the home. Instead, opt for a minimalist, seasonal décor in your entranceway.
Take a Look at Your Staircase
The focal point of many entranceways is a staircase. Large homes and even smaller new homes may have large, open staircases that are visible at many angles from the front door. Walk through your front door and try to see your home from the potential buyers’ perspective. What gets your attention? How does the staircase look to you? Do you see ragged stair runners or chipped hardwood treads? Is the handrail painted to match the rest of the entranceway, or is it dirty from years of use? The answers to these questions may point you to the areas that you need to address in your entranceway.
Repainting your stairs or handrail may be a good way to start updating your staircase. You might want to consider having your stair runners professionally cleaned or even replaced. Even if you don’t plan to replace the carpeting throughout your home, consider replacing the stair runner in your entranceway, as it is a three-dimensional perspective that greets potential buyers as they walk through the front door.
Keep the Adjoining Rooms and Spaces Clean
When potential buyers walk through the front door and stand in your entranceway, they will catch glimpses of the other rooms in your home, so pay attention to the areas of adjoining rooms that are visible upon entering.
If a far corner of your living room is visible from the entranceway, don’t use it to stash boxes or children’s toys. Instead, consider extending the décor of your entranceway to that corner or add a large potted plan or tree to extend another warm welcome to your potential buyers.
Remember that it is important to keep your home as open and clutter-free as possible, particularly the main living spaces. While it may be tempting to convert your living room into a pre-move staging area, try not to fall into that trap, because it will make your room appear smaller and potential buyers may not be able to visualize their furnishings in a crowded space.
Dressing up your entranceway will enable you to put your home’s best foot forward! By taking a little time to carefully inspect potential buyers’ view upon entering your home, you will be better prepared to meet and exceed the buyers’ expectations. Consider the way that your entranceway appeals to potential buyers as they enter your home. What do they see, hear, smell and feel when they enter? What quick and easy things can you do to improve the sensory impact? Following the simple advice presented above will enable you to capture all of the potential buyers’ senses, thereby making them more likely to become actual buyers.
Selling your home is a huge event. It is comforting to know that through a few simple actions you can entice potential buyers and even increase their willingness to pay more for your home.
DEALING WITH A HARD-TO-SELL HOME
The very last thing a homeowner wants to hear is that his or her home is considered to be a hard-to-sell home. Many different factors influence buyers and, particularly in a buyer’s market, a home that does not offer what most buyers are seeking could be considered to be hard to sell.
If you are wondering whether your home might be considered hard to sell, consider the requirements that most people have in mind when shopping for a new home:
Kitchen Size and Condition
Most buyers want to avoid the expense of updating or enlarging a home’s kitchen. It is well known that kitchen renovations are the most costly type of renovation for homeowners. Therefore, homes with old kitchens that lack updated plumbing and fixtures are often hard to sell.
Depending on your home’s location, a small (or large) lot size could be a deterrent to potential buyers. For example, if you have a large home with a tiny lot in a neighborhood that is known for being family-friendly, your home may be the last on the block to sell if all the other homes for sale are in similar condition with similar features. The reverse is true for small homes with large lots. If you are selling a small home, the interested buyers may be people who are trying to downsize and avoid ongoing maintenance. A large lot requires a significant investment of time and money in maintenance. Therefore, your beautiful, large lot could actually be viewed as a disadvantage.
If your home needs many updates and a lot of TLC and has several large projects that are obviously waiting to be completed, there is a very good chance that your home will be hard to sell. A home with a leaking roof, rusted plumbing and a fuse box will be valued less than a similar home where these updates have already been completed. In a neighborhood where several homes are for sale and yours is the only one in this shabby condition, your home will not sell as quickly as – and will sell for less than – the other homes on the market.
Odd Shape, Small Rooms
Older homes offer a certain charm and elegance, but they often also have oddly shaped rooms and a lot of wasted space. Today’s buyers are looking for convenience and open floor plans. Therefore, regardless of the home’s condition, if your home is older and fits this description, most realtors may consider it to be hard to sell.
Having a Hard Time Selling Your Home?
This is simply an overview of some of the reasons that a home might be considered hard to sell. Do not immediately assume that a realtor is correct if he or she tells you that your home will not sell. Every buyer is looking for something different, and there is bound to be that at least one buyer who thinks your home is a perfect match for his or her needs. However, when that buyer does not surface after a few months and you need to sell you home, there are some things that you can do to get more buyers interested and to attract more realtors who can show the home to their clients.
Reduce the Price
A small price reduction may not capture buyers’ attention immediately, but it definitely will catch the eye of realtors. People like bargains, and just as in retail settings, even a tiny discount will make them think that they are getting a good deal. Most major brokers will advertise a home as having a “reduced price” when a seller opts to lower the asking price. Sure, you will need to disclose the original asking price when asked, but sometimes the question is never asked. An overpriced home will be hard to sell! If you have listed your home at a price that is considerably higher than that at which comparable homes in your neighborhood have sold, you may need to lower the price to be competitive. Deciding to lower the price may be disheartening, but accepting a lower sale price is less expensive than continuing to maintain the home for an extra year or two in the hopes of getting your original asking price.
Make Some Updates
If your price is well within the standard market range for comparable homes, you might want to consider the benefits of making some much-needed updates. First focus on non-cosmetic renovations. While you may be tempted to pay a landscaping company to beautify your lawn and gardens, it would be much more cost-effective to install new flooring or update the wiring. If your home lacks a modern kitchen and you can afford to put in a top-end gourmet kitchen, then the kitchen is the first thing to consider. Kitchen renovations are large projects, but a home with a brand new kitchen will almost definitely sell for much more than a home with an old kitchen. Also consider your bathrooms. Bathroom updates can be relatively inexpensive if the fixtures remain in place. A new floor and wall tiles are relatively inexpensive in a bathroom, when compared with larger rooms. Opt for the best possible materials and craftsmanship. Remember that you are making the updates to attract a buyer. Therefore, you must remove your own personal taste from consideration.
Offer Buyer Incentives
Many hard-to-sell homes become more attractive to buyers simply because the seller is willing to pay all closing costs, offer down-payment assistance or offer seller-financing. Consider the options carefully before determining whether any of these ideas might work for your situation. Seller-financing is excellent for good buyers with bad credit, because although they may be able to afford the mortgage payments easily, they cannot obtain the necessary financing from traditional lending sources. When you are selling a home but don’t need the sale proceeds immediately, you might want to consider offering the buyer a balloon mortgage for a few years. Or you might want to offer continuous financing, depending on the buyer’s qualifications and your comfort level in risking default.
Not all homes are equal, and some have better sale potential than others. When your home is one of those that lack sale potential, you must consider your options for making the home more attractive. Although not impossible, it can be expensive to make every needed update or repair, which is why you need to learn to prioritize.
Before making any of the changes suggested above, ask for your realtor’s opinion about how you can make your home more salable. Very few homes are un-salable. You simply need guidance for selling your hard-to-sell home.