Patricia M. McCorry, JD, CRB, GRI's Blog
There is a science to selling your home at the best price and within the shortest period of time, but it's not always an exact science!
Although you can't control market conditions, seasonal fluctuations, or the condition of your neighbors' property, you are still in the driver's seat when it comes to pricing, curb appeal, and the interior condition of your home.
Assuming there's no legal snags or major "red flags" about the condition or appearance or your home, the selling price you set may make the difference between a fast sale and house that lingers on the market for months on end. Many house hunters and (all) real estate agents are quite savvy about property values and real estate prices. If the selling price of your home is based on emotional factors or the amount of money you need to get back in order to purchase your next house, then there's a good chance you'll be pricing yourself out of the market. That's where your real estate agent comes in. They will help you set a realistic asking price that will favorably position it to similar properties in your neighborhood and community.
While everyone wants to get the maximum return on their real estate investment, there's usually a limited amount of "wiggle room" between the appraised value of your home and the amount of money a potential buyer would be willing to pay for it. Since it may be difficult for you, as a homeowner, to be objective when determining a realistic price for your home, it's often beneficial to have a comparative market analysis done by a real estate agent or professional appraiser.
Another reason for consulting with professionals involves the need to be objective about home improvements. Some home sellers have a difficult time accepting the fact that their asking price can't always reflect the full cost of recent home improvements. Home additions, updates, and recent remodeling work can have a positive impact on your home's asking price, but it's usually not a dollar-for-dollar return on investment.
If you're preparing to put your house on the market in the near future, it pays to do a little online research, have your property professionally appraised, and/or work with a real estate agent who will do a comparative analysis of your home's value. Other things you can do to increase the likelihood of getting your home sold quickly include a thorough top-to-bottom cleaning, applying a fresh coat of paint where needed, and "staging" your home to appeal to the widest variety of potential buyers. While that might include making some major changes to your home's décor, its landscaping, or even furniture arrangement, the rewards of a speedy sale often justify the effort and short-term inconvenience of getting your home ready for the close scrutiny of house hunters, home inspectors, and buyers' agents!
There are basically three types of clutter that tend to emerge in most homes, and it usually gets worse as time goes on.
Homeowners often get so used to their own clutter, that it becomes virtually invisible to them.
That's one of the reasons it can be extremely helpful to work with a real estate agent when preparing your home for sale. Not only can an experienced agent provide an objective point of view, but most agents have a trained eye that can spot unsightly clutter "a mile away"!
There are several reasons household clutter is an issue when trying to stage a home for sale. First of all, it's an eyesore. It makes your home look less inviting to prospect buyers, and, in many cases, in makes rooms look smaller. Clutter also makes it more difficult to keep surfaces and floors clean, which is one of the cardinal rules of effectively staging a home.
Three Types of Clutter to Target
There's a delicate balance between having just enough --or too many -- items on countertops and tables. In most cases, it's too much! You're usually better off "erring on the side of sparseness," rather than the other way around. Unless something serves either a decorative or functional purpose (preferably both), it probably should be stored away in a drawer or cabinet. If it weren't for the fact that buyers typically look in closets when touring a home, then that would be an obvious place to hide clutter. However, that's sure to make a bad impression.
When you think of the word "clutter," what's the first thing that comes to mind? A typical mental image is that of a room crowded with too much furniture. That's a common problem with improperly staged homes, and it's a surefire way to send prospective buyers scurrying -- ones who might have otherwise made an offer. Cluttered rooms look smaller, messy, disorganized, and -- in some cases -- chaotic. None of those characteristics are going to create a good feeling in people's minds, which is a primary objective when showing a home to potential buyers.
The third type of clutter, which is also pretty typical, is wall clutter -- specifically: too many paintings, photos, art prints, posters, wall clocks, and other miscellaneous objects which make the walls look "too busy"! For some home sellers, this can be the most difficult aspect of visual clutter to fix because there's an emotional connection to family photographs, children's drawings, and so on.
If you're torn between what to display and what to hide, your real estate agent can be the best source of objective, unbiased advice. In many cases, "less is more," but it pays to get a professional opinion!
While your real estate agent will often be the best source of information and advice when it comes to home staging, here are a few crucial basics that many homeowners overlook:
- Curb appeal: Sometimes first impressions can be the strongest and most indelible memory in the minds of potential buyers. If your front lawn needs mowing and your hedges are looking shabby, it definitely sends the wrong message to would-be buyers. Conversely, if you have a manicured lawn and impeccable landscaping, it speaks volumes about the pride of ownership and quality of care that the current owner (you) has given to the property. One important thing that a lot of homeowners forget about curb appeal is the "drive by factor." Many house hunters will screen properties that potentially interest them by driving by and getting a quick, general idea of how it looks. This process of evaluation (and elimination) is often done on a pass/fail basis. In other words, if the appearance of your property creates an unfavorable impression, they will cross your house off their list and move on to the next one.
- Clutter is always a turnoff. Many homeowners equate "clutter" with too much furniture in a room. While crowded, cramped living spaces do comprise a big part of the problem, there is much more to it than that. Other symptoms of a cluttered home are tables and counter-tops that have little or no empty space. The same can be said of walls that are too "busy" with framed photos, paintings, clocks, nick-knacks, and miscellaneous memorabilia. Very often understatement and simplicity create a better impression than visual clutter and excessive "busyness". One aspect of your home's appearance that is especially worth mentioning are your closets. While some people might say that closets are "out of sight and out of mind," unfortunately, that principle does not apply when your home is on the market. Since the type and amount of storage space available is a high priority item for many potential buyers, they are almost invariable going to open and look in every closet and storage space in your house. If those areas are crammed with clutter of every description, then that is going to leave prospects with a bad feeling about the cleanliness and the amount of care the house has received. If you're getting ready to sell your house, it's definitely time to de-clutter those closets and other storage areas. (Hopefully, people will be a little more forgiving about the appearance of your basement and attic, since you may be in the process of packing up to move!)