If you’re trying to sell your home, be aware that grabbing a would-be buyer’s attention begins the moment they drive up.
You want to create a good first impression because people make decisions very quickly about whether they’re going to like your house, Teresa Rule, an agent with the Mel Foster Co., of the Quad-Cities, said.
“Color at the curb” is a good trick, either by painting your front door, or placing pots with blooming flowers near the entrance, she said. In winter, a cheery, colorful wreath might do the trick. And a new welcome mat is a good idea any time.
While the agent is opening the door, a would-be buyer is looking around, so clean your gutters, knock down cobwebs, power-wash your siding and do touch-up painting if needed.
In summer, trim hedges and pull weeds out of cracks in the sidewalk and driveway. Put away “whimsical” doo-dads such as gnomes or whirlygigs. They’re not to everyone’s taste.
Then, make your house as move-in ready as possible. Most people — 95 percent — do not want a fixer-upper, Matt Schwind, an agent with Ruhl & Ruhl, said. Move-in ready includes the following.
Clean. This cannot be stressed enough, said Diane Nelson, an agent with Ruhl and Ruhl and owner of Room Wizards, a home staging business.
“No one wants a dirty house,” she said. This means windows, floors and furniture. If your faucets are chrome, make sure they shine. “Elbow grease is free.”
Clean and beyond. If your carpets are old, and some rooms are dingy, consider taking the extra step of installing new carpet and giving the walls a fresh coat of paint.
That may seem extreme, but “I’ve seen it happen time and time again where $3,500 to $4,000 in new carpet will save $15,000 in negotiations,” Rule said. “It’s definitely worth it.”
Don’t worry that you will pick the “wrong” carpet. The point is that it be clean and fresh.
Neutralize personality. Bright, rich paint colors have been popular, but when it comes to selling, neutral is best, Nelson said. You want your home to be as appealing as possible to the greatest number of people.
“That does not mean white,” she said. “White is sterile and cold.”
Colors in the sand family or a soft gray are inviting, yet will work with a variety of decorating preferences, which is what you want.
And while this may come as a sad surprise to people who love wallpaper, patterned coverings are not universally cherished, so take them down.
“Even if you have spent thousands of dollars on a designer print, the odds are 10 to 1 against the next person wanting your particular style,” Schwind said.
And if you think it’s too much hassle to pull the paper down, so will the buyer, he said.
Declutter. Pick up all your rooms — this means magazines, toys and knickknacks. Put these items in storage.
If your kitchen counter space is limited, make it look as large as possible by putting toasters, cookie jars and other items in storage. In the bathroom, store your cosmetics, hand lotion and toothbrushes.
Decluttering is important because if there is too much “stuff” in the way, a would-be buyer will be distracted from seeing your actual house. Also, clean surfaces are more inviting, they allow would-be buyers to imagine their things in the space and they make your home look bigger.
“Space is good,” Nelson said. “You are selling square footage, not the decorating.”
Staging. That said, you don’t want a sterile house, either. So some things stay. Just not as many as you probably have.
Neutralize odors. Cooking smells, pet odors, diapers, mold, mildew and smoke can kill a sale almost instantly, Schwind said. Ask your agent for an honest assessment of how your house smells.
“Smokers especially may have no ‘nose’ for cigarette smoke, but it is always offensive to nonsmokers,” he said. “Also, buyers will walk right out of a house with a cat or dog urine smell.
“Covering up odors is not the answer either,” he continued. “Heavy perfume, plug-in air fresheners and candles will raise a red flag with buyers.”
Light. Most people don’t live in their house with every light turned on, but that is how a house should be when a buyer first sees it, Schwind said. Turn on every light, including those in closets, bathrooms and basements. Don’t be frugal with low wattage, either.
“Second, always leave blinds and curtains open wide, taking advantage of every bit of natural light. It’s a psychological fact that the brighter a house when a buyer first sees it, the better impression they will have when they leave.”
Fix up. If you have small projects that you’ve been meaning to get done, do them. The projects may be small, but when they are “piled one on top of another, (they) seem overwhelming in total,” Schwind said. The more minor things you can fix, the better.
Sometimes the work is big. If you have a really old furnace, it could pay to replace it. Your real estate agent could use that as a selling point to prospective buyers, and you might get a quicker, better sale.
Finally, if you are in the middle of a medium-large project, finish it. Don’t show your house with a project half-completed, Rule said.