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Home Preparation Guide

Of all the things homeowners control when selling their home, the condition of the property is one of the most important. A crucial part of marketing any product is the presentation of the product. In order to compete effectively with other sellers, homeowners must present their homes to the marketplace in an attractive, desirable, condition. When you bought your home, you probably comparison shopped—buyers are still doing that today. According to the Nation Association of Realtors, the average purchaser looks at 18 properties prior to purchasing a home. Regardless of how many properties are on the market, available buyers will always seek the best priced property that is in the best condition.

Do Everything BEFORE You Put Your Home On The Market! The longer a house is on the market, the more likely prospective purchasers are to suspect that something is wrong with the house. Remember back to all the times you have looked at properties during a home search. Chances are that whenever you came across a property that had been on the market for a while, the first thought that went through your mind was, “I wonder what is wrong? Why isn’t this property sold?” Don’t let that happen to you! Complete all of your repairs, improvements, and enhancements prior to your first showing.

REPAIRS

The rule of thumb is, if something needs repaired, fix it!  There are probably many things in your home that you have simply become used to over time, things that you have been “promising yourself” that you will attend to. Well, now is the time. The buyer will mentally add up the cost of repairing all those minor flaws and end up with an amount that is generally much higher than what it would cost you to do the repairs. Check all walls for peeling paint , loose wallpaper, and holes or major defects.  Large repairs: In today’s climate of open disclosure and vigilant professional home inspectors, the rule is: Treat buyers as you would yourself. Repair any problems with major systems or offer an allowance for the buyer to make repairs after closing. Always disclose anything that you know about the property. Having been a consumer yourself, you know that buyers will more readily make a purchase decision with someone whom they can trust. Some key easy repair items: Caulking Loose Trim. Loose, missing or damaged thresholds. Loose handles & door knobs. Doors open & Close properly.  Painting. Cabinets/drawers aligned & operate correctly.

CLEANING 

Every area of the home must sparkle and shine! Each hour spent will be well worth it. Would you rather buy a clean car, or a dirty one? Clean all the windows, including attics and basements.  Clean all carpeting and area rugs. Clean and polish vinyl, tile, and wooden floors. Consider waxing or refinishing older wooden floors. Clean and polish all woodwork if necessary. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bathroom cabinetry. Clean and polish all the light fixtures; replace light bulbs so all lighting is as bright and fresh as it can be. Pet odors! Eliminate and neutralize. Clean carpets, window treatments, and anything else that can hold the odor. Air purifiers can help as well as air neutralizers, don’t over do it and try to cover any smells-eliminate them. Cobweb check in corners and stair railings.  Clean furnace & hot water heater. Change furnace filter.  Clean the top of appliances & plant shelves.

NEUTRALIZING

Be cautious about selecting colors when painting or replacing carpet. Your objective here is to make your home appeal to the largest possible buying segment. Ask yourself, “How many of the available buyers would be able to move into your house with their own furniture and not have to replace the carpeting?” Position your home on the market to be as livable to as many people as possible, and to allow the buyer to mentally picture the home as theirs.  Forget your personal taste — the market is always demand driven! The average buyer will have a hard time looking beyond blue carpeting and bold wallpapers. Consider replacing unusual or bold colors with neutral tones. Two coats of off-white or builder beige paint may be the best investment you have ever made.

SPACE MANAGEMENT

This involves creating the illusion of more space.  Arrange furniture to give the rooms as spacious a feeling as possible. Consider removing furniture from rooms that are crowded. If necessary, store large furniture. The key to arranging living room furniture is creating conversation areas and not comfortable viewing of TV. Pack up collectibles — both to protect them, and to give the room a more spacious feel. Leave just enough accessories to give the home a personal touch. Dispose of unneeded items. Remove all clutter, and make it a habit to pick up clothing, shoes, and personal possessions each day for possible showings. Empty closets of off-season clothing and pack for the move. Organize them to demonstrate the most efficient use of space. Leave as few items on the floor or shelves as possible. The rule of thumb is reduce your closet by half and evenly space out the remaining clothing. Use light to create a sense of space. All drapes should be open. Turn on all of the lights throughout the home. Use pin light (You can purchase them at Lowes for as little as $7) and use to light up dark corners of rooms.  Add green plants to add life to rooms and bring in a homey feel. Fake plants work well and don’t require watering. Clear countertops in bathrooms & kitchen-makes them look bigger

ATMOSPHERE

When placing yourself in the potential buyer’s shoes, you will want to consider the overall atmosphere of your home. Keep in mind your sense of smell as you go through this checklist. Create the atmosphere of your home as a shelter, a place that is safe and warm, and in good condition.  A clean-smelling house creates a positive image in the buyer’s mind. Be aware of any odors from cooking, cigarettes, pets, etc., that may have adverse effects on potential buyers.  You can use products like carpet deodorizers, air fresheners, and room deodorizers; but the best strategy is to remove the source of the smell rather than cover it up.  Unfortunately, often the only way to remove the smell of pet urine from flooring is to rip up the carpeting, padding and underlayment and replace them. If this is preventing the sale of your home, don’t hesitate to make this investment. If smoking and cooking odors have permeated your home, have your carpets and furniture cleaned, and air out or dryclean your drapes. Mildew odors are another no-no. Don’t allow wet towels to accumulate in hampers, or dirty laundry to pile up in closets. Once offensive odors are removed, consider adding delightful ones. Recent studies have shown that humans have strong, positive responses to. Cinnamon, fresh flowers, breads baking in the oven are all excellent ways to enhance your property for sale.

STAGING

This part of preparing your home for sale is the most fun and involves the use of color, lighting, and accessories to emphasize the best features of your home. 1. Study magazine ads or furniture showrooms to see how small details can make rooms more attractive and appealing. The effect of a vase of flowers, an open book on the coffee table, a basket of birch logs by the fireplace, etc., can make the difference in a room. Be careful not to create distractive clutter.  The use of a brightly colored pillow in a wing chair or throw blanket on a couch can add dimension to a sterile room.  Soften potentially offending views, but always let light into your rooms. Replace heavy curtains with sheer white panels. Never apologize for things you cannot change. The buyer will either decide to accept or reject the property regardless of the words you say. Just present the home in the best way possible with complete honesty. Take advantage of natural light as much as possible by cleaning windows, opening shades and drapes, etc. Add lamps and lighting where necessary. Be sure that all fixtures are clean and have functioning bulbs. Increase the wattage of the bulbs in the basement area.

THE EXTERIOR

Check your home for any needed maintenance just as a buyer would. Repaint or touch up as necessary. You can’t make a better investment when you are selling your house! Don’t let the outside turn buyers off before the inside turns them on.  Color has the power to attract. A tub of geraniums, a pot of petunias, or a basket of impatiens on the front step is a welcoming touch. Red flowers help the buyer find the entrance and feel welcome so if you need to pick a color—red is a winner.  If you are selling during the winter months, consider using a wreath of dried flowers on the front door.  If you have a porch or deck, set the stage with pots of flowers and attractively arranged furniture.  Check to see that all doors and windows are in good working order. Give special attention to your home’s exterior doors and front entry. Clean and paint doors if necessary. Remember, first impressions are likely to color the remainder of the house tour.  Wash all windows and replace any broken or cracked window panes.  Screens should be free of any tears or holes.  Inspect all locks to ensure they are functioning properly.  Check for loose or missing shingles. Clean out gutters and down spouts. Touch up peeling areas on gutters.

THE YARD

Make sure the yard is neatly mowed, raked and edged.  Prune and shape shrubbery and trees to compliment your house.  Consider adding seasonal flowers along the walks or in the planting areas.  Add an inch or two of bark mulch around your shrubs and trees.  Set up your old badminton or volleyball net — suggest a scene of family fun!  It is important to devote at least one area of your yard to outdoor living. Buyers will still recognize a scene set with picnic table, chairs and grill-they will respond positively to it.

THE DRIVEWAY

The driveway is no place for children’s toys. Not only are such things dangerous, the clutter is unsightly.  The surface of your driveway should be beyond reproach; after all, it’s one of the first things a buyer will see when driving up. Sweep and wash the driveway and walks to remove debris, dirt, and stains. Repair and patch any cracks, edge the sides and pull up any weeds

THE FRONT ENTRY

Whether a graciously proportioned center-hall or a small space just large enough for a coat rack and tiny table, this part of your home deserves your particular attention. Study your entry hall and ask yourself what kind of impression it makes of your home. Virtually any entry hall will benefit from a well placed mirror to enlarge the area.  Your entry hall’s flooring will be observed carefully by the prospective buyer. Make sure the surface is spotless and add a small rug to protect the area during showings. The entry hall closet is the first one inspected —- make it appear roomy. Add a few extra hangers. Remove all off-season clothing and store your vacuum elsewhere.

THE DINING ROOM

Avoid going overboard. To be effective, any stage setting that you create should reflect the character of your entire home appropriately. Set the scene by setting the table with an attractive arrangement. Add fresh or silk flowers as a centerpiece.  Visually enlarge a small dining area. If your dining table has extra leaves, take one or two out. Consider placing your dining table against a wall. Remove any extra “company” chairs. Consider putting oversized pieces in storage until your house is sold.

LIVING AREA

Think of these areas as if they were furniture showrooms. Your job is to make each room generate a positive response. Add touches that make a room look truly inviting.  Sweep and clean the fireplace. Place a few logs on the grate to create an attractive appearance. You are welcome to have a fire going for showings during the winter months—it creates a great atmosphere.  Place something colorful on the mantel, but don’t make it look like a country craft store.  Improve the traffic flow by removing excess furniture. Have easy traffic flow patterns. Be sure that all doors open fully and easily.  Draw attention to exposed beams or a cathedral ceiling with special lighting. Be sure to remove any cobwebs and dust.  Remove oversized television sets if they dominate the room. If necessary, substitute with a small one until you move.

THE KITCHEN

Pay particular attention to your kitchen — this room continues to be the “heart of the home”. A pleasant, working kitchen is near the top of most buyers’ list of priorities and is a room that buyers always scrutinize closely.  Avoid clutter! Clean counters of small appliances and store whenever possible to maximize the appearance of work space.  Check the counter top around your sink, and remove any detergent or cleanser, etc., that may be cluttering the area.  Sinks, cabinets, appliances, and counter tops should be clean and fresh.  All appliances should be absolutely clean, bright, sparkling and shiny!!  Clean off the top of the refrigerator! If you must use that space for storage, use baskets and bowls to camouflage the items kept there.  Set the scene with an open cookbook, a basket filled with fruit, or a ceramic mixing bowl and wire whisk.  Create the aromas associated with happy homes! Bake some cookies or pop a frozen apple pie in the oven. A delightful kitchen aroma can be created with commercial potpourri preparations or mix up a batch of homemade on top of your stove: Cinnamon Pot Potpourri: 1 Tsp grated nutmeg, 5 cinnamon sticks, 1 Tsp whole allspice, 1/2 Tsp whole cloves. Add all ingredients to 2 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer.  In the heat of summer, place a bowl of lemons or limes on the counter to provide a fresh and pleasant aroma.  Clean and organize all storage space. If your cabinets, drawers, and closets are crowded and overflowing, buyers assume that your storage space is inadequate. Give away items you don’t use, storing seldom-used items elsewhere, and reorganize the shelves. Neat, organized shelves and drawers look larger and more adequate for prospective buyer’s needs. 1 Large, cheerful kitchen windows are an advantage that should be highlighted as a special feature of your home. Take a critical look at the window treatment — is it clean, sharp and up-to-date? Do the curtains need washing or the blinds need cleaning. Would the window area look better without any window treatment?  If you have a counter top eating area, set two attractive place settings with coordinating napkins and placemats, and place cushions on the stools.  Set the table for an informal meal with bright place mats and generous bowl of fruit as a center piece.

LAUNDRY ROOM

A separate laundry room is a true asset and is one of the most frequent requests that buyers make during a home search. Don’t hide this treasure behind closed doors. Spruce up the room and open the door proudly for inspection.  Add a fresh coat of paint or put up cheerful wallpaper.  Organize all closets and storage areas. Remove all dirty laundry. Keep current with your laundry or store all dirty laundry in a closed container. Clean and polish the washer and dryer. Consider adding an attractive, coordinated throw rug.

STAIRWAYS

Stairways should provide an attractive transition from one level of your home to another.  Make sure the stairs are safe! Stair lighting should be more than adequate, stairs must be clutter free, stair railings tight and secure, and runners or carpeting tacked securely. Remove any items from the surface of the stairs and store elsewhere. Check the condition of the walls and ceilings. Paint or re-wallpaper if necessary.  If the stairs are a focal point of the main living areas, carefully choose accents to improve the visual appeal. If you have a wide, gracious staircase, emphasize this feature by hanging a few pictures along the wall. Draw attention to a handsome lighting fixture by polishing the brass and dusting each small light bulb or crystal prism. Any stair landing should also have an attractive focal point, be it a fern on a plant stand, a dramatic poster, a chiming clock, or a special chair on a large stair landing. If the staircase is narrow, fool the eye by minimizing the clutter.

BEDROOMS

Imagine for a moment that you’re in the “bed-and-breakfast” business. How would you change your home’s bedrooms to appeal to a paying lodger? Naturally you would make up the beds with your prettiest sheets and comforters. Maybe you add a vase of flowers on the dressing table or a cozy armchair in the corner. Every bedroom in your home should invite prospective buyers to settle right in.  Large master bedrooms are particularly popular among today’s home buyers. Make your bedroom larger. Paint the room a light color, remove one of the bureaus if the room is crowded, minimize clutter maximize spaciousness. Aim for a restful, subdued “look”.  A private bathroom off the master bedroom is a real sales plus…decorate to coordinate with the color scheme of your bedroom, creating the “suite” effect.  Virtually all buyers are looking for a house with plenty of closet space. Try to make what you have appear generous and well planned. Remove and store all out of season clothing. Remove any items from the floor area—this will make a closet seem more spacious. Arrange all shelves to maximize the use of space.  Make sure all articles in the closet are fresh and clean smelling. When prospective buyers open your closet door, they should be greeted with a whiff of fresh smelling air.  Make sure all closet lights have adequate wattage and are operating. Add battery operated lights to those closets that lack them. Lighted closets look bigger, are more attractive, and allow buyers to inspect the interiors easily.  Take the time to explain the importance of marketing to your children. Encourage them to participate in preparing your home for showing Ask your children’s cooperation in making their beds and picking up their rooms prior to showings. Consider promising a special reward if they are willing to participate in your house selling goals.  Have them pack up any items that are not currently in use and dispose of unused possessions.  Remove any crowded, unusual, or personal wall hangings such as posters and store them until your home is sold.

GARAGE

Sweep and wash the floor to remove dirt and stains. Organize tools, garden equipment, bicycles, etc. A clean, organized garage appears larger.  If the area is dark, add more light. If it is small, and accommodates only one car, remove your car before buyers visit. An empty garage always looks larger. If a two-car garage with very little extra room, remove one of your cars so that buyers can make their inspection in comfort.