1. Curb appeal – This is the first impression. A well manicured yard with no overgrown bushes or trees makes it look like the seller really cares for their property. Make sure the gutters are not clogged and overflowing with leaves. Don’t leave garbage cans in front of the house. Make sure all kids bikes and toys are in the garage or are in the back of the house. How old is the roof? Does it have streaks and stains? I believe the roof is the most important thing about a house. If the roof leaks then you are going to have major problems. I have shown houses where the buyers were turned off by the curb appeal and did not want to see the inside of the house.
2. Front door – Make sure the front door looks good. In my opinion the front door is extremely important. This is the first part of the house that the buyer will see. It should not need repairs or painting. If there is a storm door, make sure that it works well. If there is a hydraulic system to close the storm door, make sure it is set so that the door will close fully. The locking system on the door should not have any problems and be easy to use. I have spent 5 minutes trying to open a front door with a key that was not cut right. That is a big turnoff for buyers. Lock alignment is also important. You should not have to push or pull the front door in order for it to lock. The biggest turnoff for a buyer is to see that someone kicked the front door open. Cracked or broken door frames should immediately be fixed so there are no signs of someone breaking in.
3. Carpet and Paint – Two things that will increase value. Make sure that you use neutral colors when you paint. Child’s rooms that have been painted in the past with cartoon scenes rarely sell well. Buyers have a hard time envisioning the room with their furniture when they are staring at a Garfield Cartoon scene on the wall. If you can’t get your carpets to look new by cleaning and shampooing them then it is time to replace. You don’t have to go top of the line. Here is a trick. Once you put in new carpet, put a sign at the front door to “remove shoes”. Psychologically buyers think you really care about your house. I am impressed with Frieze carpeting and my buyers are also.
4. No personal pictures, certificates, degrees or trophies should be hanging or out to be seen – The less buyers know about you the better. When I am representing a buyer, while they are looking at the house I am trying to find out about the owner. A doctor’s degree on the wall would suggest that the owner has money and might let the house go for less or I could negotiate more out of the owner. An accountant’s degree on the wall might suggest that negotiations might be tuff. On the other side of this, the buyers might end up staring at the personal pictures on the wall and not be looking at the house. Keep these distractions to a bare minimum.
5. Kitchens and Bathrooms – If you are going to update anything in the house, this is where to start. Make sure your bathrooms have adequate lighting, newer vanities and NOT carpet flooring. The plumbing hardware should be modern and not from the 1950’s. Make sure your bathtubs and toilets are clean and the shower curtain is new. The vanity counter top should not be cluttered. Having nothing on it is better. Also make sure the mirror is clean.
Kitchens where the appliances are going with the house sell faster especially if the appliances were bought in the past few years. Make sure there is no clutter in the kitchen. Organize the pantry and all kitchen drawers. Give the buyer the impression that you are well organized. If they open your “junk” drawer and have a hard time closing it, chances are that they will be distracted by it. Kitchen counters should be as clean as possible. Kitchen sink hardware should be newer. Kitchen floors should stand out. Ceramic tile floors are nice but if you or the kids tend to drop things, the tile can crack. Otherwise a good linoleum floor will do if it is neutral.
6. No clutter – Think in these terms; the less clutter you have the bigger the house looks. If you put clutter in closets or the garage ORGANIZE IT! Use boxes or plastic bins. Buyers don’t like to open closet doors and see a mess. They would rather see an empty closet. That way it looks bigger. If you just can’t seem to get rid of the clutter, rent a Pod. They will bring it to your house, you can fill it up and then they will come and get it and store it for you. I have shown many starter houses that were bursting at the seams with clutter. Many of them ended up using the garage for storage and would leave the car in the driveway. I can remember showing a house to some buyers once where there was so much in the garage that you could not get within 10 feet of the furnace, hot water heater or the circuit panel. They immediately lost interest in the house.
7. Furnace, AC Condenser and Hot Water Heater – If these items are at the end of their life expectancy they should be replaced. I have seen many deals fall though because during a home inspection these items were rated at the end of their life expectancy and the sellers would not replace them. If they are in the beginning or middle of their life expectancy, make sure they are serviced regularly. I like seeing service/date stickers on a furnace. Tells me the seller cares.
8. Water Spots, Nail Pops and Ceiling Cracks – Water spots on ceilings is a sign that there was water intrusion from the roof, attic area or second floor. If a one story it came from the roof or attic. If two story, depending on what floor, it could have come from the roof/attic or second floor bathroom or second floor laundry. Even though the water intrusion was repaired, it could leave tell tale water stains behind. My experience is that when buyers see these stains, they see issues even though the water intrusion has been repaired. If you paint over these stains, you first need a primer. Otherwise the stain will show though the new paint. You can find a good primer at any hardware store specifically for this issue.
Nail pops are caused by an imperfection between the drywall and the attachment. The average nail pop is the size of a quarter and either bulges out of falls in. The drywall has either moved and the nail stayed, or vice versa. Roofing causes a lot of vibrations, and if your sheetrock was not installed properly or the nail was not covered properly, your nail may indeed pop. I see a lot of nail pops in houses that are between 2 and 5 years old. It is not a big issue and easy to fix. It is a large distraction for buyers looking at a home.
Ceiling cracks are common in older homes (over 30 years) although I have seen them in homes that were 10 years old and younger. They are usually caused by stress or foundation settling. Although there is no need for alarm if the crack is not pulled apart, it is a big distraction for buyers. A home inspector can usually tell if it will be an issue.
9. Doors and Windows – Today’s window’s and doors with windows come with double or triple pane glass. If the seal on the window breaks and moisture gets in, it causes the window to fog up. This is common on older vinyl windows. You can either replace the window or have it repaired. There are several companies today that can repair the window for a fraction of the cost of a new window.
10. Seller Home Inspection – This is one of the best ways to eliminate surprises. Usually the buyer in their purchase agreement requests that they are allowed to do a home inspection. The buyer pays for a home inspector to look at the house and tell them if there are any defects or issues with the house. Defects have to do with health and safety or would have a significant adverse effect on the value of the property. A lot of times defects show up where the seller had no idea there were issues. In many cases the buyer will ask that the defect be fixed or they don’t want the house. This may cause the seller to have to spend money to repair the defect in order to sell the house. An unexpected expense.
If the seller, before listing the house pays for and has an inspection done, it eliminates all the surprises. A seller then can decide if they want to pay for the repairs or sell the home as is or list some of the defects on the Sellers Disclosure. A pre-listing inspection can determine what the real market value of the house is and if repairs would make the house worth more than the cost of repairs. After the seller has the inspection done and makes repairs, they can have the inspection report and paid repair invoices out where the buyers can see them when they are viewing the house. This should impress buyers knowing that the house has already had an inspection and defect repairs have been made. In some cases buyers if making an offer on the house will not want an inspection because one has just been done and defect repairs were made.
Bottom line – Make sure there are no distractions in the house that will make buyers find reason to lower what they perceive market value is. Many times I have seen buyers look at a home that was properly priced at $100,000 for the condition it was in and want to make an offer of $75,000 because they found issues with the house. They will go out of there way to find issues with the house so that they can low ball the price. If you eliminate the distractions and issues most likely you will get fair offers on your house.