Marketing your home
Appeal to buyers
When preparing to sell your home, think about how your personal decorating style may affect prospective buyers. You want your home to be clean and clutter-free and as neutral as possible so prospective buyers can visalize how their furnishings will look in your home. And keep in mind, there is a difference in how you live in your home and how it should look when it's on the market.
Neutralize your home
Repaint walls in neutral colors--white, off-white, beige or gray. Not only will a new coat of paint freshen your rooms, but painting all rooms in a similar neutral color scheme will make your home seem more unified and spacious. Painting dingy woodwork can also help lighten up a room. Cover dark chairs or sofas with crisp, neutral slipcovers to let them blend into the background (right). Add color with accessories such as pillows, vases of fresh flowers or a small area rug.
A little space, a lot of room
A key to decorating to sell your home is to maximize space while minimizing your possessions. The first step is to keep you furnishings sparse to avoid the look of overfilling the room Put a few pieces of furniture in storage and remove some of your knickknacks and accessories.
Then arrange the room to best utilize the remaining furniture pieces and accessories. The first step toward good furniture arrangement--whether the room is large or small-- is to find a focal point. The focal point might be a fireplace, and entertainment center, a picture window, a painting or a favorite piece of furniture. Experiment with different arrangements until you find the one that makes your room look the most spacious and appealing.
Create a feeling of spaciousness with mirrors or metal surfaces. Move the eye upward with tall plants, artwork, pedestals or vertical stripes. Adding a planter or basket of dried flowers to the top of an armoire or breakfront will have the same effect.
Create an entry
What does your home say when prospective buyers walk in the front door? Since your front entry is your home's first visual impression, you want it to be as inviting as possible.
Even if your home doesn't have a distinct entryway, you can create one that is warm and welcoming using a few suggestions from the pros: Establish a focal point with a plant, print, or decorative lamp. You might add attractive storage with a wall shelf or a table artfully arranged with a few well-chosen collectibles or flowers. Or just hang a picture or mirror on the wall, and put out a decorative throw rug.
Let the light shine in
A home that's awash with natural sunlight is desirable to prospective buyers--so open your curtains, raise the shades and let the sun shine in! Move large furnishings away from windows if they block the light or view. And make sure windows are sparkling clean!
Allow window coverings to recede into the background. If yours are old and dingy, or block light and the view, take them down. Replace with simple mini-blinds or shades. Or dress up windows with a simple draping of sheer fabric that lets the light shine through.
Lighting for a brighter look
Proper lighting is a must for brightening your rooms. Be sure the lighting is adequate in each area for the tasks performed there--putting on make-up in the bathroom, food preparation in the kitchen, reading in the living room and bedrooms. Use the highest watt bulbs your fixtures will accommodate and add inexpensive strip lighting in areas that may be a bit dark.
In addition, if you have a particularly nice feature or area--perhaps a plant or artwork--create a little showbiz with a spotlight on the subject. To create a special mood in one of your rooms, such as the dining room, install a dimmer switch. And when the home is going to be shown, turn on the lights--to show your home in its best light.
Sometimes, life just hands us the inevitable: just when everything seems right with your home, something happens and you have to sell your dwelling.? No matter what your reasons are for selling, remember that now is no time to dawdle, the process of preparing a home for sale can take a month or more. So, here's how to start:
Your home looks great to you, but a buyer wants to see it since he and his family will be living in it -- so take a?fresh look at your dwelling. Hop in your car, drive around the block, and then scrutinize your home as a prospective buyer will see it for the first time. First, consider what's called "street appeal;" does it need washing or painting? Does the driveway need repair work? Is the landscaping in good shape? Remember, be very critical; your buyer will be.
Next, pull into the driveway and take a good, hard look. Is the yard neat and trimmed? What about the view from the front yard? Then, walk inside and size up the interior as though seeing it for the first time. Take a tour and imagine what your real estate representative might say about each room, look into cabinets, open doors, check out the bathroom.
Then, make a mental note of the things that might put off potential buyers, along with another list of the things that first attracted you to the dwelling. Remember, the home's become a great place for you, but a new buyer will see things that you don't.
Before putting your home on the market, get rid of clutter in every area -- closets, attic storage, kitchen cabinets, drawers, bath vanities, and shelves -- everywhere. Remember, this is no time to be sentimental: if you don't use it, lose it. Potential buyers are seriously put off by clutter, and most of us drag a lot more things through life than we really need.
Also, don't forget the furniture and fixtures when getting rid of clutter -- most of us put too much in too little space, which makes a buying prospect, think your home is too small.
Then, have a great moving sale with all the stuff you've collected and use the proceeds for paint or whatever other materials you need for repair projects. If you just can't bear to part with some possessions, store them in the attic or some other place that's out of sight to a potential buyer.
After you've cleared out the clutter, it's time to really clean. Have the carpets professionally cleaned, strip and polish the floors, scour the bathrooms, go over the laundry room, polish the furniture, scour out the cabinets, wash the windows and window coverings, and spiff up the ceiling fans and kitchen appliances. In short, clean everything.
Don't forget the exterior; paint or power-wash everything that needs the work. Remember, this is a ceiling-to-floor, roof-to-foundation clean-up project.
After you've cleaned the place to within an inch of its life, the next project is making all the repairs necessary to attract a buyer.
So, patch up the roof, touch up all the paint, repair the screens, spruce up the porch framing, and make your entry area really shine. Don't forget to water the lawn and landscape beds, and take the time to trim, mow, edge and get rid of sick or dying plants. Inside, fix the grout in the bathrooms and on tile floors, adjust any doors that need it, fix any scratches on the walls, cover any stains, and be sure to fix any plumbing problems. Remember, do what your home needs before the first buyer appears at your door.
Also, it's a good idea to get all this done before getting the real estate associate to make the first listing -- a good real estate professional will advise you on what needs to be done. Also, if you have friends willing to be brutally honest about what your home needs to sell, invite them to assess the fix-up needs.
There is, however, an alternative to the sweat equity you get from a total fix-up --but it carries a price. An "as-is" sale keeps you from doing all this work, but a buyer will assess about twice the price you would have paid for the repairs. Then, the buyer will deduct that amount from your asking price before making an offer.
After you have cleaned, shined, mowed, and generally whipped your property into shape, it's time to attract a buyer.
Regardless of who markets your home, you or a real estate professional, there are other, small things you must do to attract buyers. For example, even if it's bright daylight, open the blinds and turn on the lights. Also, open all the interior doors to make the home appear roomier. Be sure to remove all your kids and pets -- they're cute, but a prospect wants to see your home, not your pride and joy. In addition, make sure your pet's litter pan is clean so the home smells clean and fresh, not like air freshener. Remember, you need to make sure your home is available to be seen by a prospective buyer with as little notice as possible. That means less than an hour, or even five minutes, if possible.
Before you put your home on the market, take a weekend day to check out the competition: homes with similar prices and in similar neighborhoods. Remember, you don't have to go out and buy new furniture just to look like that beautiful new model in the new development -- what you want is the feel of that new model -- clean, uncluttered, and fresh.
Remember, after location, the most important item to a buyer is a well maintained home. Many flaws can be overlooked if the buyer knows he can move in without a lot of trouble and expense.