To Sell or Not to Sell, That is the Question
Boomers and Seniors Are on the Move, So What Do You Do Next?
This Blog is in Follow Up to Last Week’s “Downsizing and Relocation”
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, he turned into a butterfly.”
OK, as we discussed last week, once the decision is made to downsize and relocate, the real work begins, even in this seller’s market. It’s called staging your residence whether it’s a house, condo, cabin, etc. and getting it ready for market.
Everyone is interested in obtaining top dollar for their property, but it actually goes far beyond just the staging aspect. We talked about downsizing, clearing out the clutter, moving and removing furniture, etc.—that is what I call staging. That’s just a part of the equation, now it’s time to discuss the nitty-gritty of making it truly sellable.
Here are some of the steps you need to take before your real estate agent comes on the scene with their photography crew and places your residence on MLS. Please note, these helpful hints still apply even if you are attempting to sell it yourself. FSBO, or For Sale By Owner.
Disclaimer: please note I am not a financial planner nor real estate broker and this is not a discussion on the various aspects of real estate fees, buyer vs seller fees, escrow determinations, inspection requirements, cash vs loan offers, closing costs, etc.
Rather, this is a discussion about what I just went through to help my recently widowed friend stage and position her home for maximum value.
The first rule is to make sure your home is photogenic and lends itself to the highest quality photos possible. As the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and in real estate perhaps even a little more.
So, how do you prepare?
My friend had a real estate agent ‘preview’ her home, and with that we were told an approximate listing value. Keep in mind, this is before the staging was complete and the “nitty gritty” work had begun.
I helped my friend go through her home where we opened every blind and curtain to show us the light and the views. Pretending to be an interested party, we then walked up the sidewalk through the front door to imagine what the camera would capture and what a real prospective buyer would see as their first impression.
Then we walked into each of the rooms: the living and dining, kitchen, family, bedrooms, bathrooms, garage and into the backyard and noted the things that had to be done to make the house more sellable.
Once we had the full perspective, including how the exterior of the home looked, then we knew what steps had to be taken to achieve maximum value. Based on my experience as a stager and interior designer, let’s take a look at what works.
- Obvious Repairs. If there is a broken window, dent in any of the doors, water stains, torn screens, non-working faucets—fix them! If you don’t, you can bet they will show up on the buyer’s inspection along with a cost deduction from your asking price.
- Think Like a Buyer. What is it they would like to see, what would give them pause. Let that drive your preparations.
- Offer a Neutral Color Palette. I’ve learned a great deal from helping stage homes in the past for friends and family. Your bright, rainbow colored walls and accents will most likely turn off a prospective buyer. Buyers need to immediately envision walking into a home and placing their furniture and artwork on the walls. Unless of course your home is a fixer then the buyer will understand, and the price will reflect that aspect.
- Minimize. This is the fundamental part of staging where you remove excess furniture, décor and personal items. Put it in storage if you need to before you move. Less clutter will definitely make your home appear larger. My friend had a consignment company pickup furniture and odds and ends. Then she had a garage sale to get rid of the smaller less consequential items. And lastly, she is donating all that remains to a local charity. The other benefit of minimizing is she doesn’t have to handle all of that in the relocation, once the home sells.
- Declutter the Messiness. Nothing makes a home look more poorly maintained than dirt, cobwebs, dirty windows, and overstuffed cabinets and drawers, closets, and under counters and sinks because I can assure you the prospective buyer will open them. Boy, did we ever clean, clean, clean. We shredded old papers, dumped junk in kitchen cabinets, drawers, medicine cabinets, closets and all of that, believe it or not, gave a fresh new look to the home. If you don’t need or use it, get rid of it. It took us six long days and it was far better to start this early rather than waiting till the 11th hour.
- Emphasize Curb Appeal. First impressions are everything in real estate. Stand in the street and look everything over. Either you or your gardener will have to do it: clean up the landscaping, replace sod, edge the lawn, mow, trim bushes, shrubs and flowers, etc. Touch up the paint by the front door and make certain the screen door, if you have one, is not torn or in disrepair. All of this is one more thing that will impress your buyer.
- Roll Up Your Sleeves. All of those repairs you have been wanting to do, get ready to do them yourself if you have the skill set. If not, hire a handyman. First think large such as roof problems, garage door, obvious leaks, drainage, buckled flooring, electrical and plumbing. Then think small for things such as faucet repairs, shower heads, burned out lights, windows and doors, ceiling fans and anything else that might show up on an inspection report.
- Bring Out the Paint. Go room-by-room and touch and freshen up the walls and moldings. If you have damage, it will need to be repaired with spackle then repainted. A fresh coat of paint can go a long way in making a home look clean and full of possibilities. Magic erasers are wonderful for cleaning up smudges on virtually anything, especially countertops, showers and baths, doors and baseboards.
- Clean It From Top to Bottom. Once the heavy lifting is done inside and out, it’s time to deep clean the place. If you can afford it, spring for a professional service. Otherwise prepare to scrub the grout, wash the windows inside and out, vacuum the carpet, Swiffer the floors, clean the appliances, dust the cobwebs, clean out the garage, and last but not least, clean your outdoor patio and living area. Phew! That tired me out just writing about it.
- The Final Touches. Finally, it’s time for the little details such as fresh flowers in the bathrooms, a wreath on the front door for the season making buyers feel welcome, setting the dining table with a runner, cloth napkins and full place settings. Actually, you might want to save these for your open house if you have one.
- And lastly, here are several extra’s you might want to do that don’t cost a great deal of money, but the bang is more than worth it:
- Paint your front door,
- Add a nice entry mat,
- Plant some colorful flowers,
- Add a few hanging plants,
- Install a new door knob,
- Paint your garage door,
- Update your mailbox,
- Decorate just a bit for the season–put a few pumpkins out for the upcoming Halloween,
- Add new address numbers,
- Bake something delectable and leave it on the stove top for maximum aroma.
Was all the sweat equity worth it? Admittedly, in this seller’s market, some of this might be overkill. However, once I finished helping my friend, we had the same real estate agent back in and the house is now listed for 10% more, and in California, that’s a lot. So, YES, the sweat equity was worth it.
I know this is a lot to process, even if you’re not planning to sell right this minute. There are so many Boomers planning to relocate to be near family, so at some point this information will apply. Considering all that needs to be done to max your value it will be worth it, even if you have to hire a portion of it to be done by professionals.
I’m lucky to have my BoomerGuy who likes to do projects like I do. We try to keep things repaired, updated and ready for the next move. As mentioned, we’ve relocated a number of times over our career and have always taken these steps to sell in a good market or bad, and we’ve always gotten our asking price. We have one more move ahead of us and I can assure you we will follow my own guidelines to ensure both a smooth transition and getting the most out of the asking price.
Happy trails, until next week, your #1 BoomerGal, Connie.