Purchasing a particular home is not only a massive financial commitment it will also somewhat define the friends you and your children make, the schools attended, future saving capacity, equity gains and more. Despite these factors the decision of what home people buy is still very much an emotional decision based on first impressions. When representing buyers it is our job as professional Realtors® to listen closely from the onset, identify our clients' needs and wants and use this information to help them eliminate neighbourhoods, floor plans and price ranges that may not serve their interests - despite that "awesome granite island". Then, when we do drill down to a list of properties to be viewed we can be confident that if emotion does drive their decision, whatever their choice, the home will hit enough of the logical "must haves" to serve them well over the long term.
So if price, square, footage and location can all be trumped by the visceral reaction of seeing a home, what does that mean to sellers getting their home ready to sell? Perhaps it is not just a matter of putting a sign up and vacuuming the house? How do you decide where to spend your time and money to help you get the best price as quickly as possible?
1) The Space Needs To Be Immaculate
When potential buyers tour a home they visualize themselves living there which must appeal to their aspirations of where they see themselves in the future as it relates to status, home environment If the space is messy, claustrophobic or dirty it will likely trigger negative feelings associating the environment as a step backward
Start by minimizing clutter, an activity which will also benefit you when it comes time to move. Before you even put your place on the market, take the time to make that trip to the Salvation Army and donate anything you haven't used for over a year. Once you have more room in the living spaces and closets, you can further reduce the clutter around the house, putting away the things that are precious to you but which will only distract the prospective buyer. It's easier for a buyer to visualize their life on a blank template, not one filled with personal belongings and family photos of someone else.
Clean out and organize the closets to reveal their storage capacity, clear the kitchen countertops completely, remove decorative magnets and yes, even those adorable children's drawings off the refrigerator. It may also be appropriate to clear out some furniture to improve traffic flow and give an impression of openness and space.
Once you have de-cluttered consider having at least the carpet, kitchen and bathrooms professionally deep cleaned. A stained carpet can be a big turnoff and result in replacement requests being included in offers. If there are any visible defects (painting glitches, burn marks, minor water leak damage etc.) that require minor repair to remedy it is worth the effort and time. Clean the windows, wipe down the walls, organize the fridge, clean up your clothes closets - it's all about presenting your home as a place that has been well cared for.
2) Curb Appeal - The Ultimate First Impression
You may think this is a no-brainer but I have had instances where potential buyers have chosen to not even step into a place that met most of their must haves, simply because the outside appearance was a tad disheveled. Buyers often make a decision in the first few minutes of seeing a home as to whether it is a short list candidate or not.
Exterior care and landscaping is critical. Fresh potted plants near the door, trimmed shrubs, fresh flowers in garden, grass cut and healthy in the summer, driveway cleared in the winter, exterior lighting all working and cleaned, remove hoses, garbage bins, dead plants and the like. Don't forget the backyard! Front doors are a big first impression item that is inexpensive to spruce up. A wipe down, fresh vibrant color coat of paint or varnish, new hardware can all make big impact.
Another consideration is your neighbourhood curb appeal. What time of year does your street put its best foot forward? Perhaps the fall is spectacular as you have a maple tree lined street, or the front gardens look especially beautiful in the spring. Keep in mind the visual cues sent by the neighbourhood and neighbours play a factor in how a potential buyer views a home.
3) Interior Decor
If you know you are going to be selling your home in the near future you should take a hard look at the decor in your house. Is it screaming leg warmers and feathered hair from the 80's? Or is it over decorated to the point that while perfectly reflecting your own preferences, runs the risk of taking over the design of the house where potential buyers can't imagine the house decorated in their own style? Beautiful design is a sign of quality and value however the design should be influenced by the goal of 'selling the place' which may be completely different from living there comfortably. Remember, this isn't your home anymore it is a product, so keep it open, neutral, airy and bright.
Sprucing up your home for sale does not necessarily mean you should invest in a decked out bath or kitchen remodel. Often a big investment won't translate into a return on your investment due to individual buyers taste and what selling price can be supported in your neighbourhood no matter how much time, money and passion you put into fixing it up.
The three worst words a potential buyer can utter is "What's That Smell?" Nothing turns people off more than smelling something funky when they enter the house. Get rid of the cat litters, bathe the pets and move all stinky sports stuff to the basement. If your home smells of cigarette smoke or mould you will need to call in the professionals or expect a heavy discount on your expected selling price. Then choose a complementary or consistent palette of fragrances throughout the house