No for-sale house is ever perfect. But some houses are in better shape and consequently easier to sell than others.
If yours isn't one of the stars, but you still need to sell it for the highest possibly price, it's going to take more than low mortgage rates to attract a crowd. How can you make your imperfect home shine bright enough to attract ready, willing and able buyers?
Make it clean and clutter-free
First, de-clutter your house, removing anything that might distract a buyer's attention, says Mark Fleysher, real estate agent and broker at SellState Deluxe Realty in Las Vegas.
"Get rid of everything on the countertops," Fleysher says. "Buyers don't want to see your toothpaste or your bobble-heads."
If you're not sure what to remove, Wendy Furth, a real estate agent and assistant manager at Rodeo Realty in Calabasas, Calif., has a suggestion: walk through your house with your real estate agent and a big cardboard box and start packing as you go.
Also remove anything that's dirty or outdated, and if necessary, put in cheap replacements.
"Sometimes it's as simple as taking down those awful curtains and having a good cleaning crew come in. Cleaning is always a good idea," Furth says.
New carpet and fresh paint
Fleysher says fresh paint and new carpet aren't worth the investment.
But Furth says the cost might be less than you'd imagine and even an inexpensive paint job and commercial-grade carpet can make a positive difference.
"It's worth a few bucks to get the carpet and paint looking decent," she says. "Otherwise, you have to cut your price and generally you'll have to cut it a lot more than paint and carpet would cost."
Stage it well
If you can afford to spend a little more money, hire a home stager.
Linnette Edwards, an associate-broker at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate in Piedmont, Calif., says staging "can go a long way" — if it's done properly.
"Buyers' eyes go to some of the newness and they don't notice the older nuances," she says. "Don't go cheap, though, because no one likes to see bad staging. It becomes a funny talking point."
Curb appeal counts, too.
"Picking appropriate ground cover and plants and painting the front door is so important," Edwards says. "That initial impression really helps."
Price it to sell
If your home isn't perfect, you must price it accordingly, Edwards says.
"If you price slightly below the comparable listings, you're making it affordable for buyers to put what's needed into the property," she explains. "More buyers mean the potential for multiple offers. Multiple offers yield a higher net result."
If your house needs major repairs, you can sweeten the deal by offering buyers a repair credit to subsidize the cost.
Another tip is to offer an attractive commission or bonus to the buyer's realty agent, Fleysher says.
For example, your agent might put a note in the multiple-listing service that says, "$1,000 bonus to buyer's agent if sold at asking price." That creates an incentive for agents to show your house to buyers.
"It gets the buyers' agents excited about selling the property," Fleysher says.
Edwards says neither a repair credit nor an agent incentive will overcome a too-high price. Still, these tactics could help if you and your agent want to try them.
A tip that's particularly on point for a less-than-perfect home is to be honest in your marketing, disclosures and photographs, Fleysher says.
Otherwise, buyers who want a home in prime condition will be disappointed and buyers who are open to repairs might not stop by at all.
"Give the pluses and defects," Fleysher says, "because the home inspector will find those issues and that will lead to re-negotiation, or the home will come back on the market and the next buyer might not look at it because the deal fell apart.
Hire the right agent
A savvy real estate agent can help you price your home, recommend a stager and paint and carpeting contractors and even point buyers to financing opportunities, like the Federal Housing Administration 203(k) loan, that could help them buy your home and make improvements or repairs, too.
Marketing matters a lot as well.
"It's important that an agent not cut corners with marketing even if a home needs to be fixed up," Edwards says. "Find a good, local seasoned agent who's willing to spend the money to make it shine and stand out."