When you have about 30 minutes, take a field trip to a local grocery store. You don’t need to buy anything, just look. Look at and observe the seller’s packaging efforts. Notice sizes, shapes, colors, positioning on the shelf, wording, lithography and container condition. Are you more likely to be attracted to the right size, design, shape and color that appeals to you? Are you more likely to notice a product that is displayed at eye level? Are you less likely to select an item that is dented, crushed or dusty? This reaction does not occur by happenstance. Manufacturers and retailers spend enormous amounts of money and time to figure out what appeals most to buyers, and then prepare the packaging and placement of their product to induce you to buy it. Here are a few lessons you should take away from your field trip and apply to selling your home.
Staging — Second worse to selling a house in poor condition might be selling a vacant house or one with old and beat up furniture. Most people need visual assistance to imagine how their lives will look in a new environment. A vacant house gives the impression of void, loneliness, emptiness and even emotional depression. Junk furniture emphasizes to the potential buyer that their new life, if they buy your house, will become broken and dilapidated, just like your furniture. There appears to be an associative reflex between how a house is presented and how people view the transformation of their lives as a result of buying your home.
Curb appeal — Let’s face it: you do not want your house to be a “drive-by.” You want your house to be inviting and welcoming, to say to prospects, “Look no further, this is the home for you.” Tour the outside of your house and make a complete list. Maintain a keen eye toward simple, tasteful and inexpensive landscaping, fix cracks, replace falling gutters and downspout, put on a fresh coat of paint — in other words, de-clutter and refresh.
Bringing your house up to selling standards — This is where many people get confused. Repairs and maintenance items such as replacing a malfunctioning air conditioner or a worn out roof is not upgrading your house — it is merely maintaining its integrity, a condition of purchase that any buyer, including yourself, would expect. If your house has functional issues like 12 bedrooms and only one bathroom, well, then you have real problems. Otherwise, consider cosmetic improvements and ordinary and reasonable fix-ups. Some of the obvious examples would include remediate mold and fix damage, repair cracks, replace broken and non-working windows, doors, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, spackle and apply fresh paint, remove odor sources, fix crooked doors and cabinets, clean carpets and floorings, clean all appliances and make sure they are in good working condition, remove or de-clutter items from storage areas like garages, hide or remove loose phone and internet cabling, look for and resolve safety issues, particularly where it is likely to cause accidents.
Upgrades — This is a tough call. Are you actually going to spend thousands of dollars to upgrade your house when you plan to move onward with your life? In addition, what insight do you have about the personal decorating tastes of the buyer? If your house is not already upgraded, this may not be the time to commit. Think about this! What if you decided to spend $30,000 to install Berber carpet, and the buyer really prefers hardwood floors. Do you think the buyer is willing to pay your asking price and then rip out the carpet?
Too often, sellers are disappointed by the price offered for their precious homes, yet there may be just reason. Decide what needs to be done to showcase your home, prioritize the list, keep the costs within your budget and consider hiring a reputable handyman.