“Dress (your house) For Success”

You may remember the many books and articles written about “dressing for success” when you were interviewing for a new job or presenting a major proposal to a client. The typical advice was to wear neutral colors, dress conservatively—no loud ties; no short skirts or low cut tops—little or no jewelry; no perfume or cologne. Well there are some key ways to dress your house for a successful and quick sale. Now the easy answer would be to remodel all the kitchens and bathrooms; refinish all the floors and replace the carpets; and repaint the interior and exterior of the house. However, some people are not prepared to make such significant investments. However, my next series of blogs will provide some tips that, while less expensive, can be a big step forward in presenting your house in a way that excites potential buyers and produces good purchase offers.

The First Impression

1. It all starts outside the house—the old saying that you only get one chance to make a good first impression is as important in selling a house as it is in any other situation. Many people make a decision about whether they have an interest before they ever step foot in the house. In fact, there have been situations where a potential buyer steps out of the car, looks at the yard, the driveway and the exterior and says, “I am not interested in this house”. So what can you do to make that first good impression? Mow the lawn and keep it mowed. Rake the leaves and remove the grass clippings. Prune the shrubs and weed and mulch the flower and shrub beds. You may love the flamingos; gnomes, religious statues, windmills or other lawn ornaments in your yard, but you are not buying the house. Remove them all. Store away bikes, toys, lawnmowers or any other items in the yard. You want the house to look pristine and inviting. It is expensive to paint the house, but having it pressure washed is much less expensive and can dramatically improve how the house looks. Fix any drooping drain spouts, chipped or broken steps, etc. You may even consider painting the doors and shining the hardware. A nice looking entrance door can go a long way to increase the curb appeal of your house. While all of these actions involve some effort, most are inexpensive; and many can be done by you.
2. Do not forget the garage—while it may not seem important, the garage plays a big role in the home purchasing decision. Although you may use the garage as a big storage room, you need to return it to its original purchase. Store all boxes, etc. neatly on the sides and back of the garage. If you have more than will fit neatly, consider storing items elsewhere (friend, storage unit), or find other ways of disposing of it. Are you really going to bring all this stuff to your new residence? If not, why do you still have it? If possible have the garage empty of cars before a showing? Garages look much bigger when there are no cars. Finally, the floor and walls of the garage should be clean.

Let the buyer imagine the house as their own.

1. Scrub and deodorize your house—it is important that the house looks clean and is devoid of all possible unpleasant smells (pets; smoke, etc.). Clean windows; ceiling fans; corners, woodwork; replace or clean moldy shower curtains or shower doors; remove the litter box. Wash the floors.
2. Enhance storage space—buyers love houses with ample storage space. Make your storage closets and cabinets look spacious by eliminating many clothes and old shoes. Store as much as possible; the POD system is a great way to accomplish this.
3. De-clutter bookcases and shelves—while it is nice to have books and nice items on bookcases and shelves, the goal is to be clean, neat and minimalist. Start by removing all books, pictures, knickknacks, etc. from the shelves. Now, put back only what is necessary to make the shelves look attractive. Stack books on the sides as well as upright. The goal should be to cut the used space in half—looking nice, but with a good bit of open space.
4. De-personalize the house—the major objective of showing a house to a potential buyer is not to show them how you live in the house, but to give them the opportunity to imagine themselves living in the house. When buyers look at new construction, it is not only appealing because it is clean; but also because they are not looking at someone else’s house, but are imaging it as their house. Auto dealers want you to test drive a car so you will imagine owning the car. You need to create the same experience. How do you do that? Remove all family pictures. Remove all magazines and newspapers. Put the remote controls in a cabinet. Put all the toys, sport stuff, etc. away in boxes and neatly stored in closets and the garage. Under beds is a good storage space as most buyers are looking there.
5. Present a spacious, airy kitchen—you likely have a toaster, blender, coffeemaker, etc. on your kitchen counters. Remove them all and store them in under-counter cabinets. Get the pictures and notices, etc. off the refrigerator. Yes, these things are normal in all kitchens. But the goal is not to show a functional kitchen, but to present an open, spacious and uncluttered kitchen. It just shows better. If you have older cabinets, consider have them repainted. This little investment can make a huge difference in the perception of the kitchen.

Final touches to get your house in selling shape.

1. Lighten Up!—Adding as much light as possible makes a big difference in the way your house presents itself. Dark rooms create dark moods. Have plenty of light in all your rooms. The rule of thumb is about 100 watts of light for every 50 square feet. Use dimmers to vary the light. Mirrors can be used in particularly dark rooms to reflect light and make the room seem brighter. Light creates warmth and focus. Light your house like a theater lights the stage.
2. Re-purpose rooms—if you have smaller spaces or other rooms that are used for storage, or really seem to have no function, consider re-purposing these rooms/spaces to create more function to the house. Such spaces could become a study, a children’s playroom, an office or family game room. Every space should have a purpose.
3. Neutral colors throughout—you may have been adventuresome in the use of many interesting colors throughout the house. However, these colors may not appeal to a perspective buyer. They are more likely to think how much work they will need to do to repaint rather than marveling at your interesting use of color. Your best bet is to have all rooms—walls, trim and woodwork in neutral colors. There is a little expense in repainting; but it is an expense the pays for itself in making the house much easier to sell.