How To Prepare Your Home For Sale In Tough Economic Times


In the tough economic times when we need to prepare our homes for sale, every dollar counts.  There might be different reasons why we need to sell our homes: our small house is full of little kids and we desperately need to get out to a bigger place, or we may need to sell our parents’ house, or we are moving our family to another state.  Whatever a reason for sale is, we don’t have much capacity for elaborate renovations before the sale and, at the same time, we badly need the house to be sold at a GOOD price. And what we need to know now, is where to start?

Number One: It Is Important To Know The House You Are Selling

Before we start discussing the house beautification and cosmetic changes, let’s talk about the overall approach.

Let’s start with the clear understanding that when selling a house in California, sellers have two options: to fix known problems before sale or to disclose them to the buyers.  I emphasize words known problems.

Do you even want to learn about the problems your house has?  Maybe it is easier just put it on the market and let buyers do their own investigation? 

Here is my answer: From business perspective, it is 100% better for the sellers to know as much as possible about the house they are selling.  This knowledge gives you an opportunity either to fix a problem or to disclose it to the buyers.  It is important that buyers learn about the problem from you, not from their own investigation.  If they find the problem themselves, it will be a surprise for them and surprises usually kill business deals.  And even if the buyers still will be interested in buying the house, they most likely will try to negotiate your price down.  

Number Two: Run Property Inspections

First, we need to run two basic inspections: property inspection and the termite inspection.  Results of these inspections will determine your next steps. 

If inspections discover small, easy to fix minor items, it is a good idea to fix them.   Like minor plumbing leaks, missing smoke detector or a not properly strapped water heater. 

If bigger problems are found, you need to assess possible repairs – the budget and the time, and also how these particular problems will influence the buyers’ perception of the house and of course the price they will be willing to pay.   If buyers are scared of a problem, they will walk away.  So if, for example, you found something that may scare away your future buyers, like a “crack in the foundation” or “roof problem”.  It would be a good idea to research what it takes to repair it and enclose this information in the sellers’ disclosure package.  Like, for a example: There is a roof problem, but here is an excellent reputable roofing company that is willing to fix it for x amount of dollars.

Number Three: squeaky clean. 

If we want to create good impression, we absolutely need to make sure that the house feels super clean.  Especially it refers to the personal use appliances and fixtures – toilets, refrigerators, dishwashers.  Make sure they are impeccable.  In some cases, it is a good idea to replace existing appliance with a new one.

Number Four:  How to Create a Picture Perfect House

Now let’s talk about esthetics.  Buyers’ search for a new house starts online.  They all look through the house photos.  If buyers like them, they will decide to  visit the house in person.  So, dear sellers.  Your goal is to make your house as photogenic as possible, and produce good quality photos that will generate the house showings.

I want to look at two different selling scenarios:  sellers live in the house while the house is on the market. And the sellers move out and the house on the market is vacant.

Option one: Sellers live in the house.

First, You need to declutter your house.  “Declutter” may sound rude, but it should not be.   The way we live in our houses are not the way we present them for sale.   Our homes are our own personal and intimate space.  We create them to serve our own needs and needs of our families, in other words, we personalize them – colors, furniture, art, family photos – they are part of our world and part of who we are.

This environment may not have good impact on potential buyers.  First of all, the house doesn’t look available to them.  It looks like it’s already taken.  Also, the sellers personal interests should not be on display.  Have you noticed that in staged houses we usually see either cook or art books on the shelves and coffee tables?  Why?  They are nice, pleasant to look at and, the most important, they are neutral!  So, we suggest no political, religious, or any special interest or controversial items.  You want your buyers to be focused on your house and not to be distracted by your personal artifacts.

Two:  in order to create a photogenic house, you may need employ a designer to stage the house with your own furniture or to do what we call “partial staging”.  In case of the partial staging, the designer with work with your furniture.   She probably will bring additional accessories, art pieces and may partially rearrange your interior.

And the bonus tip: If you sell the house while still living in it, try to create the most flexible showing schedule.  Nothing can be worse that motivated buyers who finally took their time to go see properties (they may paid babysitters, they may took time off work) and the house they want to see is not available because of the sellers’ showing schedule.

Now let’s look at Selling Vacant House: It is very common in our area to stage vacant houses.  When you invite talented designers to do the job, you give them an empty canvas and they create a masterpiece that will attract more buyers and help you get the best price for your house.

Great staging is a powerful tool for house marketing.  I witnessed how buyers were falling in love with staging furniture and artwork.  Later they submitted offers on multi-million-dollar houses requesting to keep staging pieces they liked.

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