Confessions of an Open House Junkie
I’d never say this out loud, and especially not to an agent at an open house, but I am an open house junkie. I can’t help myself. I always want to see what’s going on in my neighbourhood and surrounding areas. Real estate excites me, although not enough to actually want to sell it for a living. I love watching the market and seeing what you can get for your money, even though I am not actually buying. It’s crazy, I know. The truth is, sometimes I actually do end up buying a house, even though I had no plan to move. I guess if you go window shopping often enough, you will eventually stop to buy something.
In real estate, buying a house often means selling one as well. I’ve learned a lot from my open house experiences, actually, and as a result have had very quick success selling all of my homes (yes, there have been several over the years). Nobody likes to have to wait weeks or even months to get their house sold. In a brisk market most things will go quickly, but having said that, it looks really bad if your house is sitting while everyone else’s is moving quickly. It’s not just price that determines how quickly your house sells. In any kind of sales transaction a lot of your success will depend upon perceived value.
So, as a seller, how do you create the right perception?
As a seasoned sales person, I can tell you that most of the time when you sell something, you are selling a fantasy. Buyers of anything need to be able to see themselves happily using your product (in this case, living in your house). Once you understand that your house is going to be someone’s fantasy, then you can begin to set the stage for the lifestyle they will want to have. The key word here is “lifestyle”. Remember, nobody wants to move into something that compromises the quality of their life. When people look at a house, they want to know how their life will be better. When getting ready to sell your house, create the impression that your house will provide happiness, peace and prosperity and you will be well on your way to finding an excited buyer.
Below are a few things I recommend to create the right impression when selling a house. As a note, I did all of these on my last four houses, and in each case, the first person who came into the house, bought it for full ask or very close to it.
1. Be a clean freak. Dirt, clutter and smell are huge turn-offs to buyers. If you want top dollar for your house, then consider the value of dirt. One agent told me that dirt can cost you ten grand! I can do a lot with $10, 000. A bottle of cleaner only costs a few dollars, and let me tell you, when you are selling your house, a heavy duty steam cleaner with multiple attachments is a very worthwhile investment. It will be your new best friend. Use it for tile grout, crevices, windows and everything you can. Your baseboards, trim, doors, etc. will look super clean with a fresh coat of white paint. Make sure all of your kitchen cabinets, stove, fridge, etc. are spotless. No fingerprints, marks or scuffs allowed! Strive to be antiseptically clean. Remember, you are creating a fantasy of a perfect home. The perfect home is clean, uplifting and has no smudges.
2. Ditch the ugly furniture. Nobody fantasizes about living in a dirty house with ugly, worn out furniture. If your furniture needs a lift, consider using a staging company to help you. Your realtor may offer these services or will be able to hook you up with someone who is reputable and good at staging. Do you want to sell quickly or have hundreds of people walk through your house without making an offer? Uh, option number one works for me. Short term pain for long term gain, please.
3. Declutter. I know you’ve heard it before, but I don’t think people realize how little should be in your home in order to facilitate a quick sale. Have absolutely nothing on the counters and get rid of ottomans and any unnecessary furniture that takes up valuable space. Think about what is the most basic, and leave it at that. All bedrooms should look like nobody sleeps in them. Keep only the most necessary clothing items in your closet to create the impression that you have tons of storage space. Remove all junk from the top of your dresser and night tables, too. Buy new quilts or comforters for the beds, if what you have looks a bit shabby, and replace your towels and shower curtains with new ones that are colour co-ordinated.
4. Repair all broken fixtures. I know you don’t think the crack in the switch plate is a big deal and in some ways it really isn’t, but a house that appears to be meticulously maintained is much more desirable than a house that looks somewhat neglected. Those small things say a lot more than you might think, and since they are really cheap to fix, then there is no reason to not have them looked after.
5. Never accept poor quality renovations. One of the first considerations of a home buyer is how much money will need to be spent on renovations. In my opinion, not having an updated kitchen is better than having an updated kitchen that needs to be ripped apart and redone. Do it yourself projects are only worth the money when the person doing the renovation actually knows how to do it properly. I have overlooked lots of houses because the renovation was done by an amateur and looked ridiculous. I’d take a clean, out dated kitchen over a stupid looking renovation any day. The problem with bad renovations is that the home seller still wants the same money as their neighbour who did a good renovation. Well, if you have to rip it apart, it is worthless. If you can’t afford to do it right, don’t do it at all. If it’s too late, then accept your realtor’s advice and price your house accordingly.
6. Go for curb appeal. Don’t forget to look after the outside of your house. Your entrance way should be uncluttered, your grass cut, and your exterior trim should look fresh. Wash your exterior doors and windows. Pull out overgrown shrubs and have a professional limb trees that block light from your garden and windows. Even though it will cost you money to do this, you will get it back exponentially when you sell. Not doing it could prove to be more expensive.
I know I am not a professional, but I do have a fair amount of experience in successfully selling homes. If you are thinking about selling your home, give yourself three weeks to get everything ready and be prepared to work hard. Doing it right at the very beginning means you’ll have less disruption to your life over the long term. In the end, you’ll sell your house faster and you will be glad you did the extra work.
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