Tips to turn ‘for sale’ into ‘sold’
In today’s real estate market, decluttering, disclosure are key
Selling a home today requires more effort than in recent years. Now that the nation’s real estate fever has cooled, it is important for homeowners to understand what they can do to best position their home in an increasingly competitive market.
“People will rule out a home for practically any reason nowadays,” says John Rigatti of Sotheby’s International Realty. “There’s just too much on the market to choose from.”
He says that in today’s market buyers look for homes that are in near-perfect condition, and there is a “sort of checklist people need to do before they list their property.” The real-estate veteran says the three key elements to effectively sell a home are: first, price it right; next, de-clutter, clean and properly stage the home; and finally, take care of any maintenance issues.
“Buyers will use any excuse to get the price down,” says Arie Atlas of Barker Realty. “It is important to remove buyer’s objections before they use it to lower the price or get out of a deal.”
Both professionals agree that any indication of a problem should be removed and if necessary, repaired. Water stains in particular. Atlas strongly suggests that people take care of all signs of water damage and leakage once a problem is fixed. “Definitely repaint the area,” he says.
A tool sellers can use to pre-empt any maintenance concerns is a pre-inspection certification. For a minimal fee, typically $400-$600 for an average sized 1,500- to 3,000- square-foot home, a qualified inspector reviews the property and pinpoints any repairs the home may need. Sellers can then decide whether to address the concern before the home is listed or at least become aware of a potential problem and perhaps use it as a credit when negotiating (i.e. deducting the cost of repair from the sale price).
“The nature of the beast right now is: disclose, disclose, disclose,” says Atlas. “Otherwise, the seller just ends up losing.”
Atlas suggests keeping a record of any repairs on hand to show the correct action has been taken to cure any problems. Most importantly, he advises: “Use a licensed contractor.” The Barker Realty agent recently had a property in contract that dropped from an initial sale price of $399,000 to $299,000 because although a condition was sufficiently repaired, it was not done according to code by an unlicensed person.
In other words, do not misrepresent the property. Remove unnecessary items that block people from seeing all of the space, especially the walls. Do not use air fresheners, particularly if there is a history of mold or mildew. If the property is located off a noisy street, keep the radio off.
“Some people will keep the radio on to prevent people from hearing the noise,” says Atlas. He knows from experience these kinds of things are useless because “if the price is right, people will buy it” and “houses pretty much sell themselves.”
Most anyone who has ever searched for a home can attest that you just know when a place is right. “It’s just a feeling,” says Danelle Kendall, owner of Casa Milagro Interiors, a professional staging company.
Kendall has helped many people present their home in such a way that people can feel that feeling. Her goal is to make people fall in love with your home — and ultimately make an offer.
She accomplishes this by telling her clients what things they should remove and what they should keep. “We go from room to room and try to get all the items that detract from the home out,” she says. “People tend to focus on these things instead of the house.” Then using what remains and the things people already own, she and her team re-work the space to “lead the eye to the attractive features of the home.”
“People don’t realize what a huge difference staging makes,” she says. It usually costs $500-$1,000 for professional staging services; a reasonable investment for a potentially big return.
However, there are a few simple things she says people can do on their own. In addition to removing all the clutter and personal artifacts, make sure to keep the place sparkling clean, including the windows. Open all the blinds to get as much light as possible. And remove any odors, especially pet smells.
She advises purchasing new fluffy white towels for the bath. “Don’t use them,” she says. “Put them out when showing and store your old towels under the sink.” She also thinks things like pretty throw pillows on the bed and inexpensive framed pictures accented throughout the home are a nice touch.
“You can get all these things for next to nothing at a place like T.J. Maxx,” she says. But what people tend to neglect, which Kendall feels is most important, is curb appeal. She says that people will make all kinds of assumptions based on how the exterior of the home looks. De-weed, plant some flowers and make the outside of your home as nice as the inside.
“At least paint the front door and make it a focal point,” she says. “Put pretty flowered plants around it. Make it welcoming.”
Many real-estate professionals will confirm that it is not necessary, or advisable, to lay out a large sum of money to sell your home. Sotheby’s Rigatti discourages people from investing in any major improvements or renovations.
“I would not suggest spending money on any major renovations, like a new kitchen or bath,” he says. “You are probably not going to recoup the amount you put in.”
He says most people end up renovating the home to their tastes, as it is uncommon for people to like everything about the house they buy. Occasionally it happens.
Ideally, Rigatti says “you want to get as neutral palette as possible so a buyer can envision what the house will be like.”
Your best bet is to make sure your home is in good condition, everything is in proper working order, walls are painted a fresh coat of white or beige and a few inexpensive design touches are sprinkled throughout the home. Fresh flowers always add a little something, too.
By Wendy Ilene Friedman | For The New Mexican