You want to sell your Seattle home for top dollar. How do you do that? All other things being equal, between two similar homes, the one with the best preparation will always sell most quickly and for the most money. Conversely, the least prepared home is often used as a bar of comparison to boost the sale of competing properties.
Don’t just list your home without doing at least a little preparation. Even a few minor touch-ups can go a long way toward making that all-important “good first impression” on a potential buyer.
Whether your home is vacant or whether you’re juggling showings with daily life, here are a dozen tips for preparing your home to sell quickly and for the best possible price.
- Look at your home the way a buyer would. This is probably the most important piece of advice you will hear and yet also the most difficult for you to act on. You’ve probably made a lot of memories in your home, you’ve become accustomed to its squeaks and sticky doors, and the spring dust and dog hair is something you’ve learned to live with. A buyer will not see it that way… and you need to learn to see with those eyes! In every remaining tip you’ll be asked to do something, to make decisions about where to spend time or money and you’ll want to make each of those decisions considering which things will have the biggest impact on your prospective buyers.
- Clean. Clean. Clean Again. From the dust on the fan blades and the top of the refrigerator to the dust bunnies under the couch and in the corner, everything needs a thorough cleaning. Including the windows! No matter how old your home is, buyers like to experience a home as fresh and “new” to them and extraneous cat hair has a way of crushing that feeling. If you’re still living in the home, you might consider hiring a cleaning service to help you keep things as fresh as possible while your home is on the market. Don’t worry, in Seattle, if you’re prepared, that won’t be for very long.
- Make sure you pass the “smell test”. You know how everyone like’s that “new car smell”? Well, they like a home to smell fresh also! While you’re doing that cleaning, be sure to open windows and expose your home to as much fresh air as possible. Don’t use “perfume-y” air fresheners to cover odors, instead try to locate the source of odors and eliminate them. If you have pets, you might consider boarding them with friends or one of any of Seattle’s reputable pet sitters. Consider accenting with fresh cut flowers or the always popular “fresh baked cookies”… but stay away from sizzling bacon!
- Repaint Walls With Neutral Colors. There is no better investment for a seller than a little paint. Perhaps you just have some walls that need freshening, but perhaps you also have that red “accent wall” you always wanted or those special “kid colors” in their bedrooms. The problem is that while you might love these colors, they are rarely the colors a prospective buyer will consider optimal for their tastes. By making walls more neutral you allow buyers to focus on the spaces instead of your colors, imagining themselves living there and dreaming of the colors they will paint once they buy your home!
- Organize Your Closets and De-Clutter. Buyers need to be able to “see themselves” in your home and its hard for them to do that if all they can see is your stuff. Closets should be less than half full, if possible, or at least fitted with organizers and orderly hangars. Furniture and accessories should be minimized as much as possible, shoes stacked neatly in the hall closet instead of in a pile by the door, and mail hidden in a drawer instead of on the kitchen counter. And the kids and the pets are going to need their stuff hidden from view. If you don’t have sufficient storage space, consider renting a storage unit for a couple of months while your home is for sale. You’ll find this not only helps make your home look larger, but it also helps as you prepare for your own move. And it will make it possible for buyers to see the features of your home that you loved when you first bought it.
- Remove Things You Want to Keep. To the extent possible, remove any “fixtures” from the house that you plan on keeping, but that a buyer might believe would stay with the house. This might include lighting fixtures, appliances, fireplace accessories, window coverings or even the rose bush in the front yard. Yes, there are some “rules” for figuring out what should or should not be included in the sale of a home, but if you’re able to remove these things before listing it could avoid troublesome misunderstandings later in the process. For example, if you've got a brand new washer and dryer that you are planning to take to your new home, get them out of your current home before listing and replace them so the house won’t appear “unfinished”. Buyers often become attached to what they see, and you don't want them to be attached to things you'll be removing later.
- Do the Honey Dos. You know, all those things that you’ve been meaning to take care of but just haven’t gotten around to yet… they're called “deferred maintenance” items. Have your furnace serviced, scope that slow sewer drain, replace those missing roof shingles and clean those leaf filled gutters. Are there cracks in your foundation? Anything “odd” about the way your electrical works? Do you have an old oil tank on your property? These are all systems that need to be solid for a prospective buyer and are going to be scrutinized during their inspection period. If you scrutinize them first, you’ll remove them as potential points of price negotiation. Oh, and don’t forget the little things too. Tighten those door knobs, replace those burned out light bulbs and put a little WD-40 on those squeaky door hinges!
- Create Some Curb Appeal. You’ve heard it a million times and its still true… you only have one chance to make a first impression! Do a little yardwork, consider hiring some help for a day and doing a little freshening with paint, potted plants, freshly mulched flower beds and newly trimmed hedges. It’s amazing how transformative a simple power washing can be for your sidewalks and driveway. Remember, none of the work you’ve done inside the house matters if a prospective buyer can’t get past the outside.
- Consider Updating. Depending upon the condition of your home and your situation, a genuine renovation of a kitchen or a bath could add significant value to your home. However, even if this is not in the cards for you, consider what aspects of your home might be “freshened” to give a more updated feel. Perhaps a change of faucet and mirror in the bathroom? A new light fixture over the dining area? New door hardware or a fireplace screen? Often there are fairly simple things you can do to make a significant difference in a room that feels dated.
- Remove Your Personal Items. While you’re painting and organizing, do a little “editing” of the art, photos and personal items on display in your home. Do everything you can to help prospective buyers “daydream” about your house being theirs… these daydreams are easily interrupted by family photos, trophies, souvenirs… even art that may be too dramatic. In the same way we paint with neutral colors, ensure art choices are also neutral.
- Liven Up With Light. Simply put, the more light that reaches into your home the better; bright cheery rooms look bigger and are more inviting. After location, good light is one of the most valued home characteristics to new buyers. Open and clean windows, remove draperies and brighten dark rooms with few windows with floor or desk lamps, or even increase the wattage of bulbs in existing fixtures. Accent lighting can turn an average room into an inviting space.
- Expose Hardwood Floors. Hardwood floors are very popular in Seattle and always a strong selling point. If you have hardwood floors beneath carpet in any rooms, consider either having the carpet removed or, at the very least, pulling back the carpet in an area that makes it easy for a prospective buyer to see this valuable feature of your home. I can’t tell you how many open houses I’ve been through where a prospective buyer has clearly pulled up carpet corners looking for hardwoods, occasionally causing damage. Even if your hardwood floors are only in modest shape, be sure to let buyers know they are there so you can price your home accordingly.
Don't confuse preparation with staging. A stager may be of some help when it comes to advice on de-cluttering, de-personalizing and lighting... but in general, your preparation is about things you can and need to take care of as a home owner ahead of listing time. Your stager may be awesome but they won't paint or pack or install fixtures for you. We'll post another time on the value of staging.
If you pay attention to these few simple tips, you'll be in the best possible position to get the highest possible offer in the shortest period of time on your Seattle home for sale.