If I were a writer thinking like a reader, I might read the above title and scoff, “Yes, obviously a seller should consider what buyers are looking for when selling a home.” Self-evident as the advice may seem, however, in my long and storied (most of those stories being pretty dull) career in the real estate biz I’ve seen this simple maxim ignored by a surprising cross-section of prospective sellers. So, for what it’s worth, my suggestions about selling your home by seeing it through the eyes of a buyer:
Curb Appeal and Tabula Rasa
Try standing back, suspending your familiarity and biases and seeing your property through the eyes of a buyer. Start with the simple (in theory) stuff: mow the lawn; weed the beds; clean the gutters; prune the bushes; buy a new mailbox and/or put the current one in a wooden planter surrounded by flowers, herbs, succulents, etc.; buy some flash new address numbers- they’re almost always well-liked and inexpensive.
Do touch-up painting where needs be, polish your brass, get those windows shining bright and clear, give the house a new coat of tasteful house paint or at least a good spray-wash. As for decorations- remember that your buyer wants a nice house, but they want their house- one they can make their own. Don’t go tearing out your carpets to replace them with a style more to your liking right before you put up the For Sale sign.
Remember just a sentence ago when I said not to tear your carpets out? If there is hardwood underneath those carpets- tear them out. I’ve been to house sales up and down the Eastern Seaboard- from Adirondack resort towns along Route 9 in New York to single room places in St. Henri (Quebec) and never encountered buyers who were turned off by hardwood floors.
New Kitchen Appliances- Stainless Steel if Possible
If you have a set budget for improvements and have to make some specific decisions about where that money goes- consider investing in new kitchen appliances. They were consistently among the top three features new homebuyers actively sought. If you do invest in those appliances, consider stainless steel. They’re very stylish at the moment and a majority of buyers also cited stainless as their preferred look. However, keep in mind that these styles can change, so if you were to go with classic white, or even black, the choice would likely not get held against you.
Let’s say you have that same specific budget for improvements that you’re considering putting into a sharply-shining stainless steel oven and fridge but then you think, “I could do that, but I don’t have central air conditioning. What should I do?” It was very wise of the hypothetical you to consider this issue. My advice if it’s between the two- go with the central air. This is particularly true if you already have appliances that work (even if beat up). Central air was the biggest sale-boosting feature among prospective buyers.
Loving and fun and any pet can be- dogs in particular can frighten people or bother them. Cats are less intrusive, though certainly not universally popular and dander allergies are pretty common. Check in with people willing to board them for showings, or at least crate them out of respect. Prospective buyers can always request their release if they’re amenable.
Perhaps more importantly- be sure you banish beasties of the less adorable variety too. Nothing kills a sale faster than the presence of roaches, beetles, spiders or any other visible creepy crawlers.
“What is That Smell?”
That’s one question you absolutely never want to hear from someone looking at a house. This is where the thinking like a buyer happens. If your house does have a dog smell, or cigarette smoke smell or any other odor that could prove offensive, chances are you have gotten used to it. Get a trusted friend to give your place the literal sniff test and take their honest answer to heart if they give you a “Yea” on offensive odor. Plus, if the smell in question is a dank, moldy, mildew-y sort smell, your buyer is immediately going to think- “toxic mold”, “leaking water- water damage” and “leaky foundation- major structural issues”. That kind of thinking is gonna tank your sale faster than you can say, “We just need to air it out!”
Dirty Bathrooms and kitchens
Of course, the whole house should be well cleaned before any showing takes place. That’s a given. But the kitchen and bathroom should be spotless. I’m talking about eating off the floor or fixtures spotless. People really like to see clean kitchens and bathrooms and really hate to see dirty ones. Foulness in the most sanitation-important places of the building paints the whole house dirty and will very likely scuttle that closing deal.
There’s one final important thing that should not be present when your house is being viewed- you. It makes people uncomfortable. They don’t want to kick the tires when you’re there. They feel pressured and worry that a refusal may be construed as a personal slight to you and the home you’ve chosen, even if it’s just unconsciously. If you are selling it yourself, give them a quick great-feature once-over report, let them know you’ll be available for questions and make yourself scarce. You’re bank account will thank you for it.
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