BY LES O’DELL
Across the nation, the real estate market has been red-hot with demand for homes exceeding supply and, in many areas, homes selling faster and for more money than ever before. Even in cases where sellers anticipate numerous offers and a quick sale, they still benefit from efforts to get the highest selling price possible.
“I think there are a lot of sellers who overlook trying to get the most money for their home. Even in a hyperactive market, you still should try to get top dollar,” explains Jason Gelios, author of “Think Like a Realtor.”
There are many ways to help a home sell quickly and for top dollar. A little bit of effort can translate into a better buyer experience and a higher selling price.
Change your perspective
“When selling, it is best to stop thinking of it as ‘your home’ and more like a product with the goal of appealing to as many prospective buyers as possible,” says Jonathan Faccone, a real estate investor and developer. “It’s easy to become emotionally involved, but it’s best to remember that any renovations are meant to net you the most money, not for your own personal satisfaction.”
Experts say it benefits the seller to have someone else provide feedback about your home.
“One of the best things a homeowner can do when looking to sell is to invite a non-partial, third-party to give their honest opinion about the house,” Gelios says. “Get someone who is not afraid to tell the truth, walk the home and give their impressions.”
Upgrade to sell
To get the most for your home, upgrades may be in order. But how do you decide what to renovate and how much to spend? Real estate investor Jordan Fulmer says market research is as important for sellers as it is for buyers.
“Look at the houses in your area – essentially your competition – and see what kind of features and finishes they have,” he says. “Good research will help sellers not only decide what to do, but also not to over-do renovations and improvements.”
Almost without exception, real estate professionals say sellers should primarily focus on two areas: the kitchen and bathrooms, but especially the kitchen.
“Home sellers should make the kitchen top priority,” Gelios explains. “As the heart of the home, sellers should make updates to the cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures and even update appliances. This will not only bring the best offer from a home buyer, but it will also lead to a faster sale.”
Neutral colors – shades of white, beige and gray – are best for kitchens, and you should avoid bright colors. If upgrading appliances and fixtures, don’t invest in luxury items. Changing cabinet knobs, putting in under-cabinet lights and other little things that are inexpensive make everything look new and make the house easier to sell.
Make a strong impression outside
Many experts say to initially focus on what potential buyers see first. Whether in-person or online, a home must capture attention. Known as curb appeal, the general attractiveness of a house from the street or the sidewalk is a priority.
Fulmer says the way a home looks when a prospective buyer arrives sets a precedent for the rest of their visit. Often homes need to be power washed or freshly painted. At minimum, give the front door a touch-up.
Don’t ignore the top of the home, Fulmer adds. If the roof is still in good condition, he recommends having it professionally power washed to remove any streaks or stains and make it look almost new.
Likewise, improving the looks of the front of your home without paying attention to the rest of the property is akin to only ironing the collar and cuffs of a shirt. The backyard, outbuildings, decks and patios need to look their best and can be attractive to potential buyers, as a way of bringing the inside outside.
Declutter and deep clean inside
The initial impact when someone enters a home may be the only impression they take away with them. For that reason, brokers encourage decluttering, deep cleaning and home staging.
“This isn’t a costly investment, but it requires time and effort,” explains Chase Michels, a realtor in the Midwest. “A cluttered house will make a large room appear small and cramped. Cleaning and decluttering your home could help you see up to a $2,000 price increase.”
Decluttering means more than shoving items in a closet. Instead, move personal items like photo albums, collections and even out-of-season clothes off-site. Then, the home needs to be cleaned.
Sellers should strive to present the home in its best light for listing photos as well. An estimated 80% of home shoppers review properties online before looking in person. For that reason, it’s best practice for all photographs used in marketing the property be professionally done.
Many recommend using the services of a home stager, a professional who can make a property look “picture perfect” through consultations with residents or by bringing in furniture to make an empty house look like a home.
Help buyers feel at home
The goal is to help house hunters feel welcome so they can imagine themselves living in the home.
“Fragrances are important. We always recommend a vanilla scent,” Fulmer says. “Also consider having refreshments available. Whether it be drinks or a self-serve coffee station, small gestures can make potential buyers’ viewing experience more enjoyable. The more comfortable they feel, the more they will want to live there and the more they will be willing to pay for it.”
Letting buyers know “inside” information also is important – things like what internet service is available, if there is hardwood under the carpet and which walls are non-load bearing and potentially could be removed as part of future remodel.
Taking the right steps to prepare a home for sale can make a big difference in how quickly the home attracts buyers and how much they are willing to pay. It takes some work but is worth it.
Boosting Curb Appeal
The old adage that “there is not a second chance to make a first impression” is true not only for people, but for homes, too. That’s why the way a house looks from the road or street – often called curb appeal – is especially important.
“You must invest a little to make your home flawless in the buyers’ eyes,” explains Dan Belcher, CEO of Mortgage Relief. “Consider first and foremost the curb appeal. Upgrading the front door, installing new light fittings or adding plants can make it more enticing to potential purchasers.”
Simple landscaping pays off
Curb appeal, especially when it comes to landscaping, does not have to be complicated, according to Sheila Schrader of Schrader Landscape Design.
“When I am working with a client who knows they are selling their home, I actually encourage them to simplify their landscaping and make sure that it looks like it’s easy to maintain,” she says.
Schrader recommends choosing plants that have their peak bloom or color when the house is going onto the market. There are also curb-appeal benefits to putting plants in decorative containers near the front door and along sidewalks.
“It’s bright and an easy investment to bring color into your landscape. Plus, you can take those with you when you move to your new home,” she says.
Schrader said the outdoor areas of the home should be staged just like the interior. She suggests cleaning up gardens and flower beds and adding new cushions to outdoor furniture to help people picture themselves in the landscape.
Lawncare shouldn’t scare
Jason Gelios, author of “Think Like a Realtor,” agrees that curb appeal – from the lawn to the way the home’s exterior looks – is incredibly important.
“If home buyers pull up to a house and feel it will take thousands of dollars to clean up a yard or remove branches and dead trees in the backyard, they’re not going to care if the inside of the house is updated,” he explains. “Landscaping is huge, especially in rural areas.”
He adds that curb appeal does not just mean what can be seen from the road, street or sidewalk; it’s the entire property.
“It’s the front, it’s the back, it’s any out-buildings, it’s everything. It all matters,” he says.
Paint makes a cost-effective upgrade
Chase Michels, a real estate consultant, explains paint is a great investment to enhance curb appeal.
“Painting the exterior is a cost-effective upgrade for a home that can potentially increase the value of your home by 2-5%,” he says. “Selecting the right paint will give your home a clean look, attract a wide range of buyers and help improve its value.”
Michels suggests neutral colors like white or cream for the exterior and using a color for railings, trim and accents for a fresh look.
“Even if you decide against a complete paint project, consider painting the door an eye-catching color to make a great first impression,” he adds.