Importance of a Buyer Ready Home
Every house, apartment, townhome, condo and single family house has a personality. Once lived in, a home takes on the owner’s personality, whether that is through choices such as paint colors, cabinetry, furnishings and flooring or those little decor choices and trinkets that you have collected for twenty years. The living space becomes an extension of you as the owner, and you make a personal imprint upon the house. While that is great when building a future in the home, such personality can actually deter buyers who do not share the same taste.
Home buyer deterrents may also include little repairs that were not completed or updates that have been neglected. What you may see as oddities or unnecessary options, outsiders may see as disrepair or neglect. In a competitive seller’s market, such issues push an otherwise suitable home further down a list of buyer prospects and, in the process, potentially drop your home’s value.
Why do little issues, inexpensive repairs or updates matter to a buyer, while they often go unnoticed or are deemed unnecessary by sellers? It is because buyers seek a move-in ready experience, the thrill and convenience of stepping into their new home and starting a new life within it. They do not generally wish to purchase a residence, then have to immediately make sweeping changes, react to surprises, or make repairs to just bring the property to what feels homey to them. Buyers need to be able to picture themselves within the house and enjoying all the home offers, in order to want to buy it. Conversely, sellers just want out of the house with as little effort or expense as possible.
Sellers should not take buyer desire personally. As a seller, you should, in fact, look at things very objectively and from the position of a home purchaser. What is comfortable and enticing to you may actually be unattractive or deterring to them. Repairs and updates – even simple aesthetic ones – take away from the buyer’s potential move-in experience and make prospects wonder what bigger issues may be hiding in dark corners, in the foundation, and anywhere under the roof. By properly presenting the home environment, making needed repairs and otherwise readying a home for sale, you will more rapidly attract potential buyers at more competitive price.
Home Seller Mistakes and Solutions
Sellers make many mistakes that make real estate agents and buyers cringe. The biggest mistakes can actually turn away prospective buyers before they have a chance to really see the positive qualities of your home, condo, townhouse, apartment or other property. Consider these common issues and correct them before you list your home for sale:
Problem: Some buyers will not walk even into a home’s front door, if the lawn is not attractive, well kept and tidy. Leaving children’s toys, yardwork tools, junk, lawn furniture or other such objects in the front yard are a bad indicator that the homeowner is messier than most inside the house, too. Car furrows in the lawn from parking on the grass show a lack of care for the home’s environment. Peeling paint, damaged surfaces, dirty exterior walls and other issues with the building’s appearance are always a turnoff that reflect poor home maintenance. If, when driving past, buyers are not intrigued by what may be beyond the front door, sellers are losing many showings.
Solution: Either apply some elbow grease of your own or hire a landscaping company to prepare your lawn for buyer attraction. Ensure the lawn is healthy and well-trimmed throughout the sales process, place some flowers and border plants, and trim bushes and trees. Remove all junk and excess lawn furniture. Make sure the home exterior is well- painted in a neutral color, all surfaces are clean and free of markings, windows are sparkly and gutters free of debris. Sweep entryways and place a welcoming, fresh mat at the door.
Odors and Stains
Problem: After curb appeal has been approved and buyers make it to the front door, the first gush of air as that entry is opened must be pleasant and without pet, cigarette, cooking or other offensive odors. Opting to cook fried seafood or letting the dog have the run of the house during home sale are sure ways to turn off buyers to a point that even a pretty, otherwise well kept home can lose favor. The same holds true for stains on walls, floors, counters, fixtures and other surfaces.
Solution: Ensure food that is prepared during showing season is relatively scent free. Do not fry or cook foods that tend to have strong odors. Keep the refrigerator and cabinets clear of older food and take all garbage out as often as possible, particularly before a showing appointment. Remove all pet odors and do not let pets run free through the house. Stop smoking indoors or doing other things that create strong, lingering odors. Clean all carpets, cabinets, walls and other surfaces to ensure stains are removed.
Problem: Colors and decor are emotional triggers. The life you have lived may have presented certain colors or patterns as positive to you, but cause anxiety in someone else walking into your living space. A wall mural or covering might suit a child’s room, but the chances of potential buyers having children of the same age or mindset are slim. Sellers who cannot understand the need to tone down colors and patterns to neutrality will likely have homes that sit on the market longer than they otherwise should.
Solution: Detach yourself from the home’s decor enough to freshen it to move-in readiness and neutral color appeal. Remove any mural or wallpapers that are taste or age-specific. Stay within color palettes that are common to your geography. A good way to see what colors you should use is to tour new construction properties like condos, apartments and new homes in your area. Professional building companies tend to use very good palettes for residential sale.
Collectibles, Photos and Personal Effects
Problem: Enough cannot be said about the deterrence of personal items in home sales. Homeowners love showing off their family photos, travels, education, interests, career and talents through framed images, pictures stuck with magnets to the refrigerator, shelves of collections, wall hangings, and even words painted on walls. While these are great touches of personality for a homeowner continuing to live in their home, one trying to sell is showing a buyer that “this is my home,” and in turn is preventing buyers from being able to picture themselves living there.
Solution: Remove any artwork or collectibles that depict your family, other people, or very specific artistic tastes. Clear out collectible clutter. Remove excess or personal wall hangings such as diplomas or awards and clean the refrigerator exterior or other surfaces of any papers or images. Ensure things are not “stacked” in corners or elsewhere in rooms.
Well-Lived In is NOT Attractive
Problem: Sellers often believe that their move-out process begins after the home is sold. That is a mistake. Homes that contain all of the trappings of life feel cluttered, overwhelming and even dirty. Potential buyers will not be enticed by a house that looks too lived in.
Solution: Before listing your home, condo, townhouse or apartment for sale, consider investing in a storage facility to house anything you do not absolutely need in daily life for the rest of the time in your current home. This will benefit you in several ways. First, you will have to clean less for each showing. Second, you will allow the buyer room to imagine their life in your home. Third, your packing process will be almost complete when the house is sold. Clear all surfaces of personal effects and ensure belongings are well stowed in cabinets, dressers, drawers and closets.
Problem: Pets are great companions and fun to have around, for many people. For others, indoor pets are seen as dirty, messy, damaging to the home, and even allergy inducing. At least during the home sales process, pets should not be given continued free reign, kitty litter should not be visible, droppings must be cleaned up, and food dishes kept in a place like the garage or laundry room.
Solution: Prepare a nice living space for family pets that is outside of the home, in the garage or other protected area, or – if needed as a last resort – in a smaller room like the laundry room. Clean all carpeting to ensure allergens like pet dander are removed. Sweep up animal hair and clean upholstery of signs that Fido or Kitty rule the house.
Problem: Trends in appliances come and go as much as carpet colors, decor patterns, and other home design styles. Outdated appliances instantly age your home and show that you have likely not paid attention to other updates that may be required throughout the house.
Solution: Consider updating your appliances to new ones. Buyers are very attracted by such amenities and will often make decisions about buying a home based upon the quality of appliances.
Repairs and Maintenance
Problem: Trying to sell a home in disrepair or with even minor aesthetic issues, such as broken tile or peeling paint, deters buyers because they tend to want a move-in-ready experience, versus a laborious or expensive one.
Solution: If something is visibly broken or in bad shape, it should be fixed before the house, apartment, condo, or townhome is listed for sale. Major repairs are very important and if not completed before listing, will cause a reduction in price at the final negotiations table.
If something is too expensive to fix, speak to your Realtor about disclosing this to potential buyers upfront. Those with some budget flexibility might be open to taking on the challenge, themselves. For showings, ensure the home is cleaned daily.You must be prepared every single day for pop-in visitors, as buyers are notorious for being in a hurry and on an odd schedule. They will likely only ask to see the home once and if it is not ready, is messy or unavailable for showing, you will probably lose the potential sale.
The easiest way to prepare a home for sale is to start emotionally separating yourself from the house. Stop looking at it as your home and start looking at it as someone else’s prospective home. Get it ready for them with an objective, unemotional eye and ensure your house, apartment, townhome, condo or other living space is move-in ready. With a little time and effort, a better selling price as quickly as the market allows will be your reward.
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