• Christina Rice

A Seller's To-Do List

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

When you're preparing your house for the market, your to-do list can seem overwhelming. You do want your home to look its best when it hits the market, but what does that mean exactly? Should you do everything on the list? Are some things more important than others?

Let's take a look at some things you can do to maximize your return on investment without breaking your back.

First, you need to consider what type category your home falls into before selling. There are basically three different types of homes on the market today. Once you define where your home fits in, you can better determine what should be done to your home to make it more desirable to buyers.

Is your home one of the following:

  1. A Fixer-Upper - a home that has a lot of repairs, maintenance or the home is in original or close-to-original condition.

  2. A Move-In-Ready - a home that is in good shape, but may not be totally up-to-date with today's design standards. However, someone could just bring their furniture and move right in.

  3. A Current Home - A home in "current" condition has been updated to today's design standards.

Your home will probably fall somewhere in between these categories, and that's normal. You can still use the guidlines below to prepare your home for a sale.

I'll start with fixer-uppers. If this isn't your home, feel free to skip this section and move to the category that best describes your home.

If your home is a fixer upper, it isn't necessary to start updating it now just for the sale. (Although, that is a strategy, but it's time-consuming and can be costly. I won't be talking about this option in this post, but I'm happy to address that so give me a call. I love projects like these, and I have resources to share.)

A fixer is a fixer, and there is no hiding that fact when it hits the market. Embrace it. Many times I see a fixer-upper where the owner just spent a few thousand dollars to change the carpet or paint the walls. I see this as a waste of money. The buyer of your fixer will be doing a lot of work, and that fresh carpet or paint isn't going to hide the fact you're selling a fixer. It also won't be enough to push your fixer into a higher price point either. Save that money.

If you have some money to spend, I believe spending $500 to $1200 on inspections is money well spent. The inspectors will go through the home and check those big-ticket items like the roof, the heating and air conditioning, the fireplace, the plumbing and the electrical and perhaps even the foundation. If you have a solid understanding of the larger repairs the home may need, you and your agent are better prepared to price your home correctly as well as manage the expectations of the buyers.

You don't want to find yourself surprised while in escrow with a buyer who suddenly asks for a $25,000 credit because the roof and the electrical panel need replacing. Knowing this information up front gives you power - the power to price the home accordingly upfront, repair the issue or negotiate the credit in escrow with confidence. If you chose this route, you'll want to disclose any major issues to the buyers or just provide them with the inspection report.

If your fixer-upper is filled with stuff, it's always helpful to purge before going to market. You want your buyers to be able see the home and the garage. Too much furniture and old belongings can hurt your bottom line. If buyers can't see the floors or the walls, they assume they are in worse shape than they really are. Spend a little time clearing out the clutter as much as possible.

An example of what NOT to leave behind.

With a fixer-upper, naturally, you'll be pricing your home below the market rate for move-in-ready and current homes. However, it isn't uncommon to see multiple offers over the asking price for a fixer upper. They even sell quickly and sometimes for all cash.

Lastly, I don't want you to be discouraged if you have a fixer. Having a fixer-upper in today's market is desirable. Many investors and families prefer a home they can strip down and make their own. Often times it can be more afforable for a buyer to purchase a fixer-upper than pay top dollar for a current home. If you're offering an affordable home to a buyer, be proud.

So, you're selling a Move-In-Ready home. With a move-in ready home, it may be wise to tackle some items on the TO-DO list to get as close to top dollar as possible. Keep in mind, these are just examples and ideas since I haven't seen your home. It's best to have your agent walk through the home, and the two of you can come up with a plan together. Below are some general ideas that help prepare a home that I've encountered over my years in real estate.

I would suggest purging all the items you aren't currently using to make the home seeem cleaner and more spacious. I actually recommend this to all buyers in every category. Purging includes decluttering shelves, countertops and closets. It's prefectly acceptable to pack things in boxes and store them neatly in the garage.

If the interior walls appear dingy from age or have wild colors, I would suggest a fresh coat of white paint. White is popular today, and it acts as a clean slate for buyers to envision thier family pictures on the walls. This simple act lightens and brightens your home.

If you have carpet that is dirty, a good shampoo is worth the cost. If a shampooing won't do the trick, it may be worth getting new carpet. If you have tile, and that grout is digny, a steam clean may be in order.

Let's move to the bathrooms. In general, bathrooms should be sparkling clean. If the bathrooms are clean and in good shape, but the caulking in the shower is looking dark and stained, it may be worth having a handy-man, remove the old caulking and adding new. Fresh white caulking reassures buyers there isn't mold in the bathtub. This can be done around all the sinks throughout the house, if needed.

Windows! If the windows are clean, inside and out, people can't quite put their finger on it, but the home feels higher end. Don't underestimate the power of a clear view to the outside. This is true for homes in all cetegories.

Don't forget about curb appeal. The outside of the home, front and back, is important. Generally, buyers shopping for a move-in-ready or current homes, don't want to do work on the house, yard work included! A little clean-up can go a long way. It may be wise to start watering the lawn more often when you first start thinking of selling. Clean and clear out flower beds and consider adding a few colorful flowers or plants.

Lastly, make the front stoop feel inviting and welcoming. When a buyer knocks on your door, they're imagining how their guests will feel at the door. Adding some potted plants or small trees, a welcome mat or even a wreath, can make a front door pop!

If your home is current, you probably don't have a lot to do to get your home ready for market. I suspect you've spent time and hard-earned money remodeling your home to today's design standards. What do I mean by "today's design standards"? Well, think of the latest trends...kitchens with white, light wood or dark-painted cabinets, open shelving, marble, quarts or porcelain solid-surface countertops. Bathrooms today are light a bright with clear glass shower enclosures. You'll even see wood or wood-like flooring throughout the home in a warm, light wood color.

If you have a lot of items in your "current" home, I would suggest a purge, like I do with all homes. It's much nicer to show a home with very little clutter, roomy closets, and shelves that breathe. An uncluttered home gives the illusion of more space. More space is always always attractive to buyers.

Make sure the home get a nice cleaning before showings, and don't for get to have the windows cleaned. I mentioned it above, but clear windows make buyers very happy.

If you've focused all your attention on the interior of your home, you may want to double check your curb appeal. Is there anything you can do before listing the house that will enhance the exterior? Is there a defined front yard? Is there a walkway? Do you have grass, plants or trees?

Buyers looking for a current home don't want to pay top dollar and then have to do work on the home. If you need to address some outdoor landscaping, even something minimal, to complete the home, I believe it will be in your best interest.

I hope this summary gives you a little insight of what you should or shouldn't do before listing your home. If you want a personalized opinion, I'm happy to hop over and walk through the house with you.

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