These tips were compiled from conversations and insights with my own buyer clients. I’ve found that they hold true for all price points. Having more of a buyer’s must-haves and avoiding their deal-breakers are the keys to realizing the best financial results when selling your home.
What do homebuyers look for when hunting for a new home?
The Initial Impression (aka Curb Appeal)
No matter how great the interior looks, buyers have already judged your home before even stepping foot inside. There’s no second chance to make a good first impression, so it’s important to make people feel warm, welcome, and safe as they approach your home.
- Clean up your landscape and add mulch and colorful flowers.
- Remove old, overgrown bushes and trees.
- Fix masonry/paver stones.
- Seal coat or repave your driveway.
- Paint your front door an inviting color and add a tasteful welcome mat.
- Paint the exterior – especially the trim work.
- Get your roof cleaned to give it a brand new, fresh appearance.
- Bright white trim looks fresh and clean.
Darker Stained Floors are More Popular Today
9. If you have traditional honey oak floors or light wood floors, think about investing in refinishing. It is relatively inexpensive for the big impact that it will provide.
10. If you have carpeting with hardwood floors underneath, uncover them! This is a huge asset and you want to show it off. Hardwood floors are “sexy” to buyers today and can really help sell your home for more money.
Wallpaper Must Come Down
11. Most – if not all – homebuyers in any price range cringe when they spot wallpaper on a prospective home. They anticipate a huge mess and an expensive inconvenience. Although sellers tell me that they’re willing to offer a credit to compensate buyers for this dated feature, most buyers just can’t see past it when viewing photos online and might just click “next”. Even if the buyers can see past the wallpaper, be prepared for them to overestimate the cost of removing and repainting. And many of them will add in some “extra hassle bucks”! For the most positive impact, you should take it down.
Re-paint the House, Inside and Out
12. Painting can be one of the least expensive preparations that can make the most impact. Have colors work in your favor instead of against you.
13. Get advice from a color expert to help you choose. Neutrals, neutrals, neutrals! You want it to feel inviting and invoke the emotions of warmth and joy.
14. If you have a home with dark stained moldings and window trim, paint them bright white! Even though you may LOVE the look of dark wood trim, the buyers of today generally DON’T. The dark wood crown molding defines the ceiling height, which can make the room feel less open and spacious. Additionally, online photos with dark trim make most buyers feel the home is dated. This may cause them to skip right over your home, even though this is a minor issue.
15. For a fresh look, paint the spindles and risers on your staircase white.
Renovated Kitchens and Baths Sell Homes
You don’t want to do renovations…but neither do buyers. The idea of giving the buyer a credit to do it themselves doesn’t often work. Even if buyers can get over the overwhelming negative connotation that the house feels old, they will want a discount for the time and effort to do it. On the contrary, buyers will pay a premium for an updated, move-in ready home. If you aren’t up for a complete re-do of kitchen and baths, implement simple alternatives to major renovations. Small, poignant fixes can really make an impact.
16. Change the drawer pulls and cabinet knobs to stainless steel or brushed nickel.
17. Nowadays, gold and brass fixtures are often viewed as outdated. Remove and replace as many as possible.
18. Some cabinets may benefit from being painted or re-stained. Consider re-facing if the cabinet boxes are in great shape.
19. Add new stainless steel appliances.
20. Swap out your old countertops with granite or quartz. Regardless of your price range, buyers want and expect quality surfaces.
21. Consider installing a deep-basin stainless steel or porcelain sink and pull-out spray faucet.
22. Buy some fluffy, fresh white towels.
23. Change out any dated light fixtures.
24. Add new, stylish drawer and cabinet pulls.
25. Remove the big, outdated mirror and replace with a picture frame mirror. Or – if you’re crafty – paint or stain moldings and add them around the perimeter to simulate the look.
26. Add a new shower curtain to add to the updated decor.
27. Consider adding a seamless shower door.
28. Re-grout the tub and shower.
29. Clean the grout on your tile floors.
30. While this is the least expensive suggestion, it can also be the most impactful. But it can also be a time-consuming and emotional portion of your preparation to sell. Plan ahead! If you’re looking to sell at the height of the Spring market, don’t wait until March to start cleaning. 6-12 months ahead of time is NOT too early! Too much clutter can make a buyer feel stressed and negative while walking through your home. Simplified spaces evoke positive emotions and help buyers envision themselves living in your home.
Maximize the Light
After location, a home with good light is one of the most requested qualities. Buyers value great lighting.
31. Remove heavy draperies.
32. Trim back bushes and trees to maximize the light.
33. Clean your windows.
34. Replace light receptacles with higher wattage bulbs.
35. Open all blinds before showings.
Clean the Unfinished Spaces
The unfinished spaces can have as much of an impact as the staged living spaces. Basements, utility rooms, garages, and storage closets are typically forgotten when prepping a home to sell. Buyers know to carefully examine basements and attics for the REAL story on how the home has been maintained and its current condition. Super clean these areas like you would your kitchen. Make it sparkle!
36. Is there a musty smell? Consider adding a dehumidifier to take out excess moisture. Avoid perfumed plug-ins and deodorizers – they are sometimes perceived as an attempt to mask a water issue.
37. Painting the basement and/or garage concrete flooring will give the space a fresh, clean look. Battleship grey is a great color choice! Think about giving concrete block foundation walls a fresh coat of waterproof paint. It will give the buyer a sense of security that the house is free of moisture.
Buyers are Doing Most of Their Research Online
38. One of the most important factors that bring buyers to a community is the school system! Even if buyers don’t have school-aged kids, most savvy buyers know that a great school system is crucial for a strong resale value down the road. Most of our Wine Country schools have a great reputation and that’s part of the reason why demand continues to grow in our area. It’s always wise to check out how your home’s elementary school fares, as well as the current reviews and ratings of the area Middle and High schools. Whether or not the online rankings truly draw an accurate picture of a school district, buyers are researching on these sites, finding information, and making decisions based on it! So, you need to know what they know. I find most buyers use greatschools.org for their research.
Know the Market
39. It’s valuable to be aware of the current inventory of homes for sale, as these homes may represent your competition (or a future comparable sale) when you’re ready to sell. There is a finesse to pricing homes – don’t fall into the trap of pricing too high to leave a lot of negotiating room. In a high demand area like Wine Country, setting a fair, realistic asking price can show buyers that your home is a great value and can actually lead to competitive, multiple offer situation resulting in a higher selling price.
Try not to factor your own emotional feelings for your home when evaluating its market value. Try to be objective and realistic. This strategy will give you, the seller, more control in the deal. Fair pricing can be a key factor in keeping buyers from being overly demanding during the inspection and disclosure phase of the home sale.
Order Pre-Listing Inspections
40. It is very wise to conduct pre-listing inspections on your home – this can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. For one, if you discover any issues that require repair during these inspections, you will have the opportunity to fix them before your home goes on the market or at the very least fully disclose the issue(s) to potential buyers before they write an offer. Being preemptive and fixing or disclosing the issues in advance can keep nervous buyers calm and keep the sale from falling apart. I always recommend ordering the following inspections in advance : home, pest, and roof plus pool, septic, and well if applicable. If you have a pest maintenance contract, be sure to keep it in effect until after closing.
Invite Me In! I would be happy to help you get started.
With the low inventory and high-demand market environment in our area, you – as a seller – can be in the driver’s seat. Properly prepare your home, price it correctly, add gorgeous professional photos, and market the home effectively on web portals and social media channels, and you’ve got a winning combination that should result in a very successful home selling experience. Even if you aren’t ready to sell this year or even the next, try to do some improvement projects regularly so that you can enjoy the upgrades yourself instead of just doing them for the new buyer.