The famous saying, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” is something home sellers should take to heart. It’s a good idea to take a thorough evaluation of your home before you put it on the market. Try to look at it as if you were a buyer or enlist the help of friends or neighbors to give you their opinions. Be honest and ask yourself if you would buy and move into a home in the condition your home is in now.
If your home doesn’t create a positive first impression, buyers will either come back with a lower offer or won’t make an offer at all. You want the initial impression to be so positive that there are multiple full offers and competition to buy your home. So let’s talk about the things you should do before you put your home on the market.
Look for major structural issues and get them fixed. You can do a visual check yourself but it could be a wise investment to spend a couple hundred dollars and hire a professional inspector. Is the foundation cracking? Does the basement leak or have mold? Is the roof sound? You want to know about any problems up front. These are things that can derail a sale when they are discovered during the buyer’s inspection so get them fixed before you go to market.
Your yard doesn’t need a be a lush garden but it should be neat and clean. Check walkways to make sure they are free of potential hazards such as cracked, lifting concrete or bricks. Keep your yard mowed and free of leaves, twigs or other debris. Trim trees so the branches don’t hang low or impede the walkway. Trim bushes to be neat. Remove any plants that are dead, dying or diseased even if you don’t replace it.
Make sure your sprinkler system is working and check any outside water connections for leaks. Add a little color to your yard by planting seasonal flowers along the walkway or front of the house or even as flower baskets placed near the entrance.
Check out at your house exterior in different types of light and notice how it looks. Does it look dirty? A good power washer can be rented at most home stores and can solve that in a day with little effort. Is the paint peeling or bubbling? Now you’ll have to look at stripping the bad parts and repainting the entire house. It’s not a huge investment and you could do it yourself.
You could also consider covering the house with new siding but it could be a large investment that is a big gamble. If siding is low quality, doesn’t match the neighborhood or is poorly done, you’ll lose all that money and more.
Windows often get overlooked on a checklist but can make a big impression. First, make sure they are clean! A subtle turn off for a buyer is to be inside and look out through dirty glass. Also make sure that there is no cracked glass, all panels are secure, all windows open and close easily, and the hardware is in good condition. If you need to have a window repaired, hire a professional glazier to make sure the window is repaired properly and weatherproof.
Take a good look at your door. Is it weathered and faded or cracking? Paint it! Nothing can freshen something up faster and cheaper than a new coat of paint. How is the weather stripping? If it’s cracked and falling apart, you need to replace it and it’s very easy to do.
Are the steps to your door in good shape? If they are concrete or brick you can clean them easily with an acid wash to make it look new again. If they are wood you’ll need to replace cracked or warped pieces and then sand and repaint or stain the entire area.
This is the place where people prepare food and while some people’s idea of clean is different than others, you should err on the side of pristine. Completely declutter the kitchen counters even if it means you put some things in storage elsewhere to make room. If your counters are tiled, have the grout professionally cleaned or buy a grout cleaning kit from a home improvement store.
Make sure all cabinets and drawers open easily and close properly. Check all hardware to make sure nothing is coming loose or damaged. Ensure all cabinet exteriors are free of grease, smudges and general grime.
Clean the exterior of all appliances and if you are including the appliances in the offer make sure the insides are extremely clean as well. Check your faucet and sink for any leaks and cracked or peeling caulking. If your faucet looks beat up and dated, replace it with a new faucet.
This is another area where cleanliness is an issue and you should attempt to get it as clean as possible. This isn’t to say you need to remodel it into a spa but people should be able to imagine themselves comfortable enough to bathe in there.
It’s the same as in the kitchen - declutter, check all plumbing fixtures for issues, and check all cabinets and drawers. Strip the caulk around the tub and redo it. Unless you’ve done this within the last 6 months, it’s dirtier than you think and needs to be done. It’s very cheap and easy to do plus it will add to the feeling of it being clean.
If your tub/shower area is tiled, make sure the grout is exceptionally clean or consider having the surround replaced completely. Check the toilet for any cracks, leaks, stains, excessive noise and rust around the base then fix any issues.
In the house overall, you should put a new coat of paint in every room. Fresh paint makes a huge impression because it indicates to the buyer that you care about your home. We talked in a previous blog about choosing the right paint colour and why it’s important, so check it out before you go shopping for paint. Repair any holes in the walls or cracks in plaster prior to painting.
Also take a look at your flooring. Move your furniture around and really take a look at it. Can you see obvious wear patterns in the carpet? Is it dirty? You may be able to get away with having it professionally cleaned but the odds are that if you’ve had that carpet for more than 10 years, it’s time for it to be replaced.
When you go to replace it, don’t just throw down more carpet! There is a very big trend toward solid floors such as wood or tile and more buyers are now looking for this, especially young buyers. Carpet is a major source of allergies for some people and if they have to rip out the carpet in your house to put down wood or tile before they can move in, you can bet the offer is going to come in lower than what it would cost you to just get it done.
Wood flooring is also aesthetically pleasing and very versatile to many different styles since it can easily be accented with area rugs. Sure, you may run into a buyer who really wants carpet but they will live with wood or tile until they can put in the carpet they want and the offer won’t be as low.
Declutter your closets! People will be opening them to check out how much storage they will have and if opening your closet is like opening a door to a brick wall of stuff, it’s not going to make a good impression. Put things in storage, donate or trash things you aren’t actually using so that people can see the shelves and rods and imagine their stuff inside. A perceived lack of storage can take your home off their list of possibilities. Also, check all closets to make sure they open and close easily. Make sure that the hardware is in good shape and there are no cracks on mirrored doors.
Think about updating your thermostat to a digital one if you have an old manual one. This is a very small thing that may not seem like a big deal but it’s one of those subliminal things that can skew a buyer’s feeling about your house. Glancing at an old thermostat while walking down the hall immediately makes the buyer feel like the house is old and creates a negative impression. A new, digital thermostat indicates that the home is more modern and probably has other modern updates. They can be bought at any home improvement store for between $30 to $100 and they are extremely easy to install.
Ok, I know this all sounds like a lot of work and a lot of money. Actually most of all these issues can be fixed with little to no money with the exception of replacing flooring. Sure, they will take a little time and physical effort, but the payoff in the end is the possibility of a full price offer or even multiple ones. When a homeowner is perceived to have taken pride in caring for their property, it makes people feel that there won’t be any terrible surprises and more confident in making an offer. You can even take advantage of all your hard work and investment by having realtors tell their buyers that you’ve had a pre-inspection done, taken care of any issues already and talk about all the things you’ve done to freshen up your property. Buyers will appreciate it and you’ll see it through the money you make from your sale.