I don’t believe I have ever listed a home for sale and not had my clients ask what they should do to prepare for showings. So then, you might wonder why it is that a good portion of the homes listed for sale are in poor showing condition? Well the answer in most cases is very simple and can be summed up in one word - TIME. I’ve sold my home as well as helped plenty of other people sell their’s, so I know first hand how hard it can be to keep a home in good showing condition.
There is no denying how important it is, but for many, keeping their home in good showing condition is hard. To keep things simple, I’ve ordered my advice in the list below from most important to least. That way, if you don’t have time for it all, at least you know where best to focus your time and effort. Everything on the list is relatively simple to fix and often commented on by the buyers I've worked with in the past. This list doesn’t include the minor extra credit details; I will create another post for those later.
Clutter can give the impression that the home is not large enough or does not have enough storage. Additionally, you want to give potential buyers the opportunity to imagine themselves living in your home; this becomes difficult when you have an overabundance of personal items visible throughout the house.
Whether it’s all the sentimental ornaments covering every coffee table and shelf, your overabundance of kid’s toys, or your entire collection of Don Cherry’s Rock’em Sock’em videos, to the average home buyer, it’s just clutter. You’re planning to move which means you are going to have to pack it all eventually, so you might as well start now.
I’m not saying you have to put all your ornaments away, keep out a few of your favourite most tasteful ones.
As for clients with kids, invest in a couple of large storage bins and pack away the less-favored and the messiest toys. Maybe do this when the kids are not looking, or you could have a battle on your hands. Try to keep the amount of toys left to a reasonable level so that it is easy to put them away before showings.
The reason why I rank de-cluttering number one is that it is critical and you should only have to do it one time.
#2 Kitchens and Bathrooms
In my home, and most others I assume, these are the two quickest places to become a mess. And guess what? They are often the most important to buyers. Leaving a magazine on the couch, not freshly vacuuming the living room or an unmade bed, are not exactly what a buyer wants to see, but how about dirty caked on macaroni and cheese dishes in the sink? A toilet with residue? Little hairs around the sink? All kind of gross. I promise you; the last thing you want to do is make a buyer disgusted. The kitchen and bathrooms are where this is most likely to happen, so make sure they are as clean as possible.
One simple solution to help you with this task is to keep on top of them daily and not let a big mess build up. For the bathrooms, buy a container of those disinfectant wipes and take a minute once a day and wipe everything down. You should still do a big clean once a week or so but a minute or two a day should be enough to keep appearances up. As for the kitchen; the wipes are great again and make a new family rule that no dirty dishes are left in the sink.
The biggest thing with these two areas is just keeping on top of it so that, when you get a call from your Realtor that someone wants to see the house in an hour, you don’t have to panic.
#3 Curb appeal
Picture your significant other and the first time you met them. Now change the situation in your head so that when you first saw your special someone, they hadn’t showered in a week or combed their hair. Do you see where I’m going with this?
First appearances matter, and when people pull up to view your home, impressing them would be great, but at a minimum, you don’t want to disappoint. Here are a couple of quick things to consider:
- Weeds - I’m not going to chose sides and say how you should deal with weeds, if you are an environmentalist pick them if not spray the buggers, just get rid of them;
- Lawn - cut and water regularly;
- Flowers- plant a few and/or get some flower pots for your front step, they make wonderful looking fake flowers if you don’t want to water;
- House - Clean the outside of your house. Depending on the material, a hose or a pressure washer should do the trick. Put an extra focus on the entryway.
- Snow - shovel your’s and if you have a lazy neighbour, do their walks also. Don’t stop right on your property line. This creates a sense of a friendly neighbourhood and stopping right on your property line does the opposite.
- Trees/hedges/bushes - cut back and trim if they are overgrown. If you have an overgrown bush covering a window, do something to get rid of it as it will reduce the natural light getting into your house.
Now I realize a lot of this is picky, but it is important. For the average household a hard days work can get most of it done for a season and if you can’t keep up with the rest, hire someone. Plenty of companies will do this, or better yet maybe a neighbourhood kid is looking to make a few bucks. It’s worth the cost as you may get more for your home if it has good curb appeal.
Wherever you can, try to remove oversized or old and junky furniture. You don’t want your place to look empty, but over-crowded is worse as it makes a home look smaller than it is. You are looking for a comfortable happy medium. If you have crowded rooms, and there is furniture in those rooms that you don’t use, put it in storage. Same goes for the couch your cat has torn to shreds or the old chair that has visible butt imprints in it. If you don’t need them, pack them away. Some of it you may not even want anymore for your new house, so make moving day easier and get rid of it now. Renting some nice furniture or hiring a home stager is a good idea if you don’t have furniture in great condition. It might seem a little strange seeing as you are selling the home not the furniture, but believe me, nice furniture makes a huge difference in how buyers will perceive your home.
#5 General Clean
We already touched on cleaning some parts of the house, now for the rest of it. A good thorough clean to begin with, and then just keep it up. Vacuum and dust once a week or so. If you don’t have the time, hire a home cleaner either for just the initial clean or have them come by once every week or so. Don’t forget to clean the baseboards, doors or anything else that is white or light coloured. The white contrasts with the dirt and although these aren’t areas you likely regularly clean, they are easily noticeable when unkept.
And that’s about it folks. Sure, there are many more little extra credit things you can do, but the reality is that if you do everything I just listed, you are well ahead of the game. Also, keep in mind it can sometimes take months to sell a home, but hopefully this can be reduced by following these few tips.
I know I’ve suggested hiring someone to help you out with a few of these things. Maybe the last thing you want to do is hire someone because it is too expensive, right? Wrong. Having a cleaner come by once a week should only be $100-200 as long as you don’t let things get out of hand. As for the yard, a weekly cutting and watering or snow removal is probably under $50. Sure, if you hire for the first home clean or yard maintenance it will cost you, but probably not thousands. Want to know who will be paying thousands of dollars? The buyers, and that makes it more than worthwhile, also your home will sell faster it has been proven time and time again.
So think about it and do your honest best. I guarantee it will be worthwhile.
Ryan Broos, Remax Real Estate