Selling Your Home? Don’t Make This Costly Mistake

This post is by April Dykman. Yes, you read that right. April was recently wooed back to Get Rich Slowly and will be writing here a couple of times a month. She plans to focus on interviewing experts on money-related topics, which also helps her justify that journalism degree…

Photo by Rich Anderson, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons

Bill had to sell his house quickly.

He was being transferred out of state, and the company wasn't footing the bill. Instead, they offered him a higher salary. Now he had to sell quickly or risk paying two mortgages.

But Bill wasn't sweating it. After all, his house was in a great neighborhood in a desirable part of town. He hired a real estate agent, confident that once the “for sale” sign went up, the buyers would come knocking. He'd get a quick sale at asking price, no problem.

Only a month went by, and there were zero offers. Bill had to move soon and was getting nervous about those double mortgage payments, but no one was interested. Then, to really rub salt in the wound, buyers were leavings tons of negative comments!

So what was the problem?

You aren't making your house ready for buyers

Bill refused to make his house buyer-friendly.

His real estate agent, Lynda Conway, had warned that unless he got the house show-ready, it would sit on the market and sell for far less than asking price. Lynda, who heads The Turner Team in Austin, Texas, and teaches for the Austin Board of Realtors, says Bill's mistake is a common one.

“Many sellers think they can just put a sign up and that's enough,” she says. “But buyers don't fall for that. They want to back up their moving truck, unload their stuff, and put their toothbrush in a cup by the sink.”

And when sellers refuse to believe they need to get their house ready to go on the market, they can suffer financial consequences. In Bill's case, his refusal to invest in sprucing up his home was about to cost him a double mortgage payment, not to mention the stress of trying to sell his house from out-of-state.

It can also result in a lower final selling price. Lynda recalls one seller who refused to make basic repairs and cosmetic improvements. “After a long time on the market, we finally got an offer,” she says. “But the owners felt insulted because it was $20,000 below list price. They wound up taking the offer because it was the only one.”

So if this mistake can cost you time and money, not to mention cause some serious stress, why do sellers refuse to make their houses more attractive to buyers?

The three reasons you aren't getting your house ready for buyers

Lynda says there are three main reasons that sellers don't get their houses in tip-top shape.

First, they don't believe it makes a difference. Like Bill, they think their house will sell itself, so the extra investment seems like a waste of money. “Bill was really cautious about spending any money because he was being transferred on his own nickel,” says Lynda. “He refused to believe that a coat of paint would make a difference.”

Second, they don't think there's a problem. Lynda says it's often difficult to convince smokers and pet owners that their homes don't smell like roses. Bill, for example, was both a smoker and a pet owner. “Some sellers don't realize it smells because they're so used to it, or else they don't think it's a big deal,” says Lynda. “But it's a huge deal to buyers.”

Third, they think they don't have the money. Remember the clients that got $20,000 less than list price? Lynda says that it wasn't until they were all at the closing table that they finally admitted to her that they didn't have the money to make her suggested improvements. “Some sellers don't want to admit that they don't have money on hand, but I can't help them if they aren't willing to talk about it.”

So how can you avoid these problems and sell your house quickly (and for list price)?

Make your house show-ready

You've got to invest in wowing potential buyers.

When Lynda showed Bill the negative comments people were leaving about his home, he finally relented, telling Lynda, “Okay, tell me what to do.” They took the house off the market while he worked his way through the to-do list. After $2,500 in updates and repairs, they put the house back on the market at the original price. In three days they received three offers.

“Buyers are picky,” says Lynda. “If you want to get top dollar for your home, you have to prepare for that.”

And the good news is that if you have more time than money, Lynda says there's a lot you can do yourself to improve your home's appeal.

So how can you make your house best in show?

Five ways to make your house show-ready (and net more money)

Lynda says here are five things you can do to make buyers fall in love with your home.

  1. Start packing now. You're about to move, right? So get some boxes, packing tape, and a Sharpie and put your stuff in storage. “Decluttering your home makes it look bigger and cleaner,” says Lynda. “You can make your house more attractive to buyers and get a head start on moving.”
  2. Give it some elbow grease. “Clean your house like you've never cleaned it before,” says Lynda. “Windows should sparkle. Make sure the house smells nice and fresh, not like last night's fish dinner or grandpa's cigars.” Lynda says sellers can deep clean themselves, or if they have more money than time, they can hire a professional.
  3. Do a daily sweep. Steaming the carpets and dusting the ceiling fans is important, but all is lost if your bathroom counter is cluttered with hair products or there are dishes in the sink. “Do a daily wipe-down on all surfaces, especially in the bathroom and kitchen,” says Lynda. “Keep counters completely clear to make them look as big as possible, especially important in a small space.” Lynda had one client who put her toiletries in her travel bag while her home was on the market. “She'd get ready in the morning like she was on a trip, then put the travel bag away and out of sight.”
  4. Make a good first impression. “When a buyer pulls up to your house, you have five seconds for that house to sell itself from the curb,” says Lynda. “And when the front yard looks inviting, that creates positive expectations about what you'll see inside.” Take care of the obvious, like lawn care and putting your yard gnome in storage. Then give the front door some TLC. “Your front door should be warm and fresh, she says. “You can give it a coat of paint or replace it entirely.” Lynda also recommends adding some color. “Buy cheap, colorful pots, potting soil, and some flowers,” she says. “I like the combination of rosemary and flowers because it smells nice and looks attractive.” The bonus of potted plants? You can take them to your new home!
  5. Deal with the bigger issues. Here's where it can get expensive, depending on the condition of your home. But if your house is in serious need of a coat of paint and a new roof, you have to either deal with those issues or adjust the price accordingly and wait for a buyer willing to take care of it themselves.

Finally, consider getting a pre-inspection. Lynda says almost no one does this because people think, “why open a can of worms?” But the can will be opened eventually when the buyers have your house inspected. And then those problems might cost you a willing and able buyer.

“When a buyer falls in love with your home, then finds out there's a major problem you didn't disclose, they fall out of love very quickly,” she says.

They're angry and distrustful, even if you honestly weren't aware of the problem. “Buyers feel like you should have known because it's your house,” she says. “And sometimes they'll terminate and refuse to even negotiate the repairs.” Lynda says when buyers are willing to negotiate, they may want the price lowered by double, or even triple, the cost of repairs. Ouch!

But she says if you get your home pre-inspected, you won't be caught off guard. You can attach repair receipts to your seller's disclosure or have the house re-inspected and attach the report. And most importantly, says Lynda, “you won't lose a deal or have to come down on your list price.”

What are some ideas you've used to make your home more appealing to buyers? Or from a buyer's perspective, what are the major turn-ons and turn-offs when you walk into a house?

More about...Home & Garden

Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others

Subscribe to the GRS Insider (FREE) and we’ll give you a copy of the Money Boss Manifesto (also FREE)

Yes! Sign up and get your free gift
Become A Money Boss And Join 15,000 Others
guest
101 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
getagrip
getagrip
7 years ago

We were moving during a stagnating time in the local market many years ago. My neighbors did it right, they moved first, had their house recarpeted and repainted. The guy who bought their townhouse had looked at ours and said theirs felt and showed like a new home. But we had to live in ours with multiple young children while my neighbors did not. Yet we also heard him. So two months into showings we got a bigger storage unit, moved even more stuff out, put in some new carpeting in the most traveled areas, painted more rooms a neutral… Read more »

michael
michael
7 years ago
Reply to  getagrip

Yeah, prepping your house properly makes a huge difference. When we sold our previous house, we also rented a storage unit to reduce the (apparent) clutter. We also went through and touched up the paint, cleaned the carpets, etc. I also did some simple cosmetic things, like repainting the mailbox, replacing the light fixtures on the front of the garage, etc. By the time we were done, we didn’t want to leave… But it sold very, very quickly and for very close to our asking price (which was higher than what was recommended by any of the realtors that we… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
7 years ago

The house should smell clean and fresh, but don’t overdo it with air fresheners and scented candles. Too much and people will think you’re hiding something. Some people are also very sensitive to perfumey scents.

Pets are also a problem when selling your house. Just because you think Fido or Fluffy is the most adorable creature in the whole world doesn’t mean your prospective buyers will have the same opinion. If at all possible, pets should not be present at showings.

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

I agree about pets. I like cats but they make me sneeze. It is hard to look at a house and take it seriously when there are cats running around or when you can obviously smell a cat smell.

louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
louisa @ TheReallyGoodLife
7 years ago

We were actually told our house would be more saleable if we didn’t renovate it before sale. When we were selling our small/cheap first-time-buyer house a couple of years ago, similar small but freshly renovated houses were very common — but none of the banks would lend enough for people to afford them. Our house was solid & usable but needed a full cosmetic make-over which would have cost us more than the value it would add because of the glut of pristine houses on the market. It was easier for someone else to get a mortgage on our cheaper,… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago

That actually makes a lot of sense.

I think the key with selling a home is to present as neat, tidy, and well-maintained. You don’t need to do a full reno, but keeping it clean and fixing up minor and major issues from burned out light bulbs to leaks is a must.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago

Arrrgh. GRS keeps eating my comments again. My apologies if this is a duplicate comment. As I was trying to say…. Welcome back to April! These are all good tips. When friends of mine sold their home, they read up on home staging (there is a lot of info online) and did it themselves. It raised the value of their small home significantly. It’s also important to realize that potential home buyers like me know also know a lot about home staging too 🙂 Every time I see a potential new home, I’m thinking about all the changes that the… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago

Maybe I’m just weird, but some of things the seller describes just didn’t bother me as a buyer. If I saw flaws, I thought, “Jackpot – maybe I can get the house for less than it is listed!” It’s also a truism that houses with furniture in them sell faster. This might be true, but I prefer to see a house empty. It’s much easier to see flaws and the bones of the house. The house we eventually bought was totally empty. I will agree about smells, though. That’s a big turnoff, especially when it is clear the smell comes… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I had the same thoughts and interestingly, we also bought a completely empty house.

Other than decluttering the only thing that could really turn me off a house would be wallpaper – I’d be thinking about what a bear it would be to take it off.

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Maybe I’m weird, but the HGTV effect has the opposite effect on me 🙂 I find I’m better informed about what’s cosmetic and what’s a serious problem. Mildew or smoke smell? Could be a big problem. A wall colour I don’t like? Bah. That’s just paint. If cosmetic stuff turns off other buyers, all the better for me because maybe I can talk down the price a little.

Cortney
Cortney
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Although I’m not house-hunting, I agree with Elizabeth. HGTV has given me a lot of valuable information in terms of what is and isn’t easily fixable. I feel way more prepared for when I do start house-hunting – if I see a wall color I hate, I know I can easily paint over it. Similarly, if I see a house that’s beautiful, I know some of that is due to staging and question whether or not I’ll be able to reproduce that look with my own furniture and wall art.

Julie
Julie
7 years ago
Reply to  Cortney

I agree too. This article also depends on where you live. There are plenty of buyers savy enough to realize that $2,500 in repairs doesn’t justify a $20,000 increase in selling price. Where I live, any home that is fairly priced is selling within a few days, often with multiple offers. Only the truly overpriced properties are languishing on the market. At this point staging is irrelevant and local brokers are all complaining about the lack of inventory.

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

In many respects, the HGTV effect is that people concentrate on cosmetics. Many years of “Designed to Sell” lie beneath that! I frequently wanted to smack homeowners who decided to make improvements only when they needed to move. Why not make the improvements while you are living there and can enjoy them? In many cases, it’s because the people bought more house than they could afford, and let maintenance slide as a consequence. But since the recession began, the HGTV viewer (I am devoted) should be taking on some more substantive knowledge. One show in particular, “Love it or List… Read more »

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
7 years ago

When I was a kid we moved a lot. And never had a problem selling the house. What I remember the most that our mom always made us do before a sell was clean and take down “personal decorating.” Nana’s picture and our family portrats? Gone. Buyers want to be able to see themselves in the house, and if all your junk adn pictures and weirdo decorations are around, they won’t see themselves in there. They see you in there. I remember my mom would even buy generic pictures/decorating things from like Lowes or Bed Bath and Beyond…worked like a… Read more »

Marsha
Marsha
7 years ago

I personally found this to be true when looking for a house to buy 17 years ago. I remember looking at an otherwise lovely home that was plastered floor to ceiling with family portraits, mostly of the owners’ children. They had a large family and had framed every picture ever taken of each child and put it on a wall, plus lots of kid art, awards, ribbons and trophies. Even the bathrooms had snapshots on the walls. At the time I had a baby and a toddler and was looking for a house to raise my children in, and I… Read more »

Sean
Sean
7 years ago

I now keep all my maintenance tasks on an iPhone app. This keeps me from forgetting to do something, and when it comes time to sell my house it will give potential buyers some piece of minds that I took care of the house. I use Home Maintenance Manager for iPhone.

Sheryl
Sheryl
7 years ago

Listen to the real estate agent, because they will have some good advice. If the agent gives advice that you don’t like about sprucing up the house vs leaving it as is at least try to get their justification for it, because they know the market and what’s selling. Usually it makes sense to stage the home, but sometimes showing as more of a fixer upper can make more financial sense. Your agent can give you a good feel for which is better for you, if there’s an honest and open conversation. (If you decide to sell through an agent,… Read more »

Jill
Jill
7 years ago
Reply to  Sheryl

That depends on your agent. When we first listed our house in Feb, I told the agent that I knew I needed to paint the bedrooms (I have a VERY creative flair), take down the wall paper and change the carpet. He told me the only thing I needed to worry about was the paint and that I needed to trim or maybe even remove the landscape. So I did the paint and trimmed the bushes. I had extensive landscaping that I had paid a lot to install 15 years ago and I was not about to tear it out.… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Jill

I don’t plan to move again (ever), but I always thought if we put our house on the market that we would offer a flooring allowance of a couple thousand instead of changing things. We have old carpet and pretty crappy hardwood floors. If I were a buyer, I personally would prefer to pick the carpet myself. People moving out are notorious for putting in cheap carpet or cutting corners in other ways. But what are other people’s thoughts? Do allowances for upgrades turn you off or attract you? There was one house we looked at that didn’t have central… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I would rather get an allowance than somebody else’s idea of an upgrade. I abominate carpet. If someone put a new cheap carpet down just to sell the house … for one thing, it would be obvious, because that stuff SMELLS. But for another, it would be annoying, because I’m just ripping that stuff out.

I probably won’t like your bathroom reno, either. 🙂 So as a soon-to-be home shopper, my personal thing is, if it’s about structure of safety FIX IT, but leave all the cosmetic stuff for me.

Lynda
Lynda
5 years ago
Reply to  Jane

allowanes CAN help, but it assumes a level of imagination that many buyers don’t have. Or maybe they don’t have money for repairs up front. If it’s a color or quality they can live with (planning to change later) it’s much easier to get the offer than $2000 that might end up going to moving costs.

bg
bg
7 years ago
Reply to  Jill

“I told the agent that I knew I needed to paint the bedrooms (I have a VERY creative flair)”

In your case, your feeling was right, but it’s well possible that a buyer might like especially the creative flair.

Story about our new car – a Smart with completely pink(!) side mirrors when it got on the market! It sure stood out, and when we bought it, we had them slightly changed so only a pink frame is left. But we ran with the pink… not sure we would’ve ran with just a black Smart 🙂

Mrs PoP @ plantingourpennies
Mrs PoP @ plantingourpennies
7 years ago

As buyers, we actively looked for the smelly, dirty houses in need of $2,500 (or more!) in repairs. Fewer competing offers against our own for work that is easy enough to accomplish, and we end up getting a much better deal!

Lynda
Lynda
5 years ago

This is exactly why sellers should make the house as move in ready as possible. Do you really want to save a buyer $10,000 because you wouldn’t do the work that cost you $3,000?

Jessica
Jessica
7 years ago

So what do you do if you want to sell your house, but you do have pets and you do have young children and you can’t afford to move until you have a contract on your house, and every time you clean up a mess the kids and cats make two new ones?

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

This is one major reasons why we opted to add on to our house rather than move. With two cats and two young kids, I got stressed just thinking about an open house. I definitely think giving the cats to a family member or friend is in order. I shudder to think of how hard it would be to keep our basement clean with our two cats around. Plus cats are just as bad as kids regarding timing. Assume that they would do their business right before (or during!) an open house. They just don’t understand what’s at stake. I… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

When friends of mine had an open house they brought their cat over to my place beforehand. I think their primary concern was that the cat would scamper outside, but you raise a good point about the cat doing his or her business during the open house.

So having cat or dog lovers for friends who’d be willing to pet sit in their homes for a few hours while you have the open house can help solve the pet problem.

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

I am interested to hear a good solution to this, too. I have two small children and two dogs, and it seems like it’s all we can do to stay on top of the “Oops, I dropped the milk” type of messes. Dusting, keeping windows clear from snout marks and fingerprints, etc., are a whole different kettle of fish!

getagrip
getagrip
7 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

We also had to show a house with multiple small children living there. There are a lot of things you can do. First prepare for and really clean, rent a carpet cleaner and steam clean the carpets and furniture (if it can be cleaned that way). Disinfect the floors. When you do this, I mean all of it, move furniture out of the way and get it all, not just what you can see. Lift those beds up because chances are the kids and the animals have been creating smells under them. Up your cleaning of the animal bedding and… Read more »

Nicoleandmaggie
Nicoleandmaggie
7 years ago

Welcome back, April!

Tracey H
Tracey H
7 years ago

Jessica, I’ve been there. Insist your agent gives you at least 2 hours’ notice (no phoning with clients from your driveway!). Let the kids have only a certain number of toys out (easily cleaned up & hidden). In the warm months (I’m in Canada), take the kids to the park a lot so the house can stay clean and tidy. Keep wipes under every sink (bathroom & kitchen) for that last-minute sparkle before leaving the house (I also flushed Pinesol down the toilet every time). If you can get a friend or relative to keep your pet while you’re selling,… Read more »

mike
mike
7 years ago

The market where I live is bantha-poodoo, houses take forever to move and it has nothing to do with the house itself. People are essentially not able to sell the house for what they paid for it since the development was put up 2002-2004 or they are just breaking even. The foreclosures in the neighborhood have really hurt the prices. The last house sold was about 50k under what it originally sold for as new. I estitmate we have lost about 40% of the value of our house, possible 30% its hard to tell until you go to sell. So… Read more »

Laura
Laura
7 years ago

There’s one house-selling tip I never see but adhere strongly to: just as you should always keep your resume up to date even if you’re not job-hunting, you should always keep your house maintained as much as you can afford (without incurring debt). It’s stressful enough to get stuff fixed, especially if you’re not the DIY type, so why wait till you suddenly have to and add to your stress? We just this month had a new roof and gutters put on, and our back porch is gutted while a specialist cleaned up mold from a leaking roof. I keep… Read more »

Mom of five
Mom of five
7 years ago
Reply to  Laura

If we really wanted to keep our house neutral, we’d be renting. We fully intend to stay in our home until we die – the value of our house and our children’s inheritance be darned! However, if it doesn’t work out that way, we haven’t broken the bank on any of our changes and even in this down market we own more than 2/3 of our home (the bank still owns that other 1/3). I think the key to building a quirky dream house – or any house for that matter – is never to spend beyond your means. That… Read more »

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
7 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I agree with your comment about keeping up to date on maintenance. As my wife puts it: if I’m going to spend the money to spiffy up the house, I want to be the beneficiary. Why spend the money and then only have the new owner benefit?

In our house, though, the man always has the last word. Very important.

That word is always, “Yes, dear!” 🙂

Jill
Jill
7 years ago
Reply to  Laura

William, your wife is sooo right. Once I finally removed the wallpaper my husband and I had never liked for 15 years from the kitchen, my spouse asked, “Why didn’t we do this years ago?” The answer was, it was a boat-load of work and I was too cheap to spend the money. But we had to do it to sell it, and the new owner is the one enjoying it. Laura is right about keeping the house up as if you are going to move next year. We hesitated to replace our HVAC because we had a 2-story house… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
7 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Agreed! A friend of mine has a binder/photo album that documents all the changes and updates she’s made to her fixer-upper. Friends of my parents have done the same thing with their house for over 30 years. It’s fun to see the “before and after” shots, but also great that they have a record of all the maintenance and repairs when they eventually decide to sell.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
7 years ago

One open house I went to had a sink full of dirty dishes. And the rest of the place followed suit. Blech. The listing agent probably wanted to kill her clients.

As for decluttering – For me, all the furniture and decorative knick knacks distract me from viewing the home. Also distracting is a listing agent who’s yapping your ear.

Susan
Susan
7 years ago

I think the most important piece of advice on here is to do inspection yourself. Our realtor advised that when we sold my parent’s house. It was 46 years old (built by my parents) and was maintained, but the pre-inspection helped us to catch a a few things that had never been noticed and we could either deal with them before the sale or make it part of the pricing. Also a fresh coat of paint on the interior was priceless. House sold in six months.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

Nothing turns me off faster than arriving at an open house and discovering that the listing was exaggerated in some way. In our area, a lot of basements have a “gardner’s potty” which is just a stand-alone toilet in an unfinished basement. We went to an open house that advertised 1.5 baths- and the half bath was the completely useless gardner’s potty. Same goes for counting semi-finished basements (as in all the duct work is showing and there’s no drywall or flooring) into the square footage. I just start to get the feeling that the seller/agent is being dishonest and… Read more »

Jill
Jill
7 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

All of them exaggerate to the point that after you look at a couple dozen you start to figure out that phrases like “charming cottage” means tiny rooms and “beautiful view” means you can kinda sorta see part of a mountain ridge between the neighboring houses. I started ignoring the narrative and looking only at the pictures our agent sent us with the listing.

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

I agree with you Sarah about the creepy basement toilet. Why are they so ubiquitous?

But in hindsight, I wish we had not seen that as such a downside. When we decided to finish the basement of our home three years ago, I would have killed for that plumbing.

One of the most expensive parts about putting in a bathroom in a basement is the roughing in of the plumbing. If the stack is already there is a desirable place, it will make it much cheaper to put in a better bathroom down the road.

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane- absolutely the plumbing is a plus! I just wish they wouldn’t list it as a half bath. Adding that there is plumbing in the basement to the listing would stand out as a positive to me, rather than arriving to discover less than what we expected!

Mel
Mel
7 years ago

I have been shopping foreclosures. Some houses I did not feel safe ascending the stairs. I have hit my head on ceilings (Im 5’2″) saw a house with two staircases walled in, found a piece of pizza on the carpet, used condoms and vomit on the floor(it was an open house. The realtor had never even been inside the house) When I toured non foreclosures I was still appalled at some of the crowded, dirty houses, ones that reeked of cat urine, dark rooms, stone floor layed in a bedroom, a bathroom doorway my boyfriend could only fit in sideways,… Read more »

Robert Henderson
Robert Henderson
7 years ago

It’s been my experience that a GOOD real estate agent is worth their weight in gold. For whatever reason, too many people either think they know more than a RE expert, or hire an inexperienced “friend” that just got their RE license to sell their house.

Old Guy
Old Guy
7 years ago

Now THERE is a great topic for an article! How do you pick a GOOD agent instead of one who will sit on their patootie and wait for the phone to ring? Seriously, how do you find one that actually earns their commission instead of show up for a check when you or someone else’s agent has done all the work?

Julie
Julie
7 years ago
Reply to  Old Guy

It is easy to pick a good listing agent if you have lived in your area for any length of time. They are the ones who have “For Sale” signs in front of houses in your area. And those “For Sale” signs usually will have a “Sold” sign attached shortly thereafter. They also generally spend money on nice quality mailings. Good agents that have been in the businessfor a number of years will often “double end” your home, which is nothing to fear. They often have a buyer in the wings, and they will work hard to steer that buyer… Read more »

Sandi_k
Sandi_k
7 years ago
Reply to  Julie

As someone who once bought a house that was FSBO, and then became a “dual agency” situation when the seller “hired” our realtor to “fill out the paperwork” – you cannot be more wrong.

There is ABSOLUTELY something to fear when the agent represents both parties in the transaction – there is an inherent conflict of interest in terms of confidentiality and information. I would never willingly do that again.

Megan
Megan
7 years ago

I have covered the real estate market in my area, and I like the advice in the article. One thing the Realtors say is that sellers should not take the advice personally. If your Realtor says “Paint the walls a neutral color and fix those steps,” it’s not an indictment on *you*. It’s just something you need to do before selling. Just get your laundry list together of things to fix before listing your house, and do it. It might take a few months to finish everything, but if your house sells within a month – and likely within your… Read more »

Ivy
Ivy
7 years ago

I’ve always thought that with kids and pets we’ll just to our best to save several months of buffer for a double mortgage and get out before putting the house up. It’s just impossible to keep things in good shape. By the way, we have painted murals in our kids room (silhouettes of girls and boys playing) and were wondering what to do with these when the time comes to sell. Should we play it safe and paint over directly in neutral colors, or could these be attractive to people with kids? Or is it possible when selling to leave… Read more »

Jill
Jill
7 years ago
Reply to  Ivy

I know what you are thinking. I had painted my office entirely dark blue. I mean door, trim, even the ceiling, and then stenciled in a flowing trail of stars that swirled around the entire room. All of my friends thought it was cool. My mother was dismayed when I told her I had painted over it to sell the house. She thought some kid would have loved to have that room. Maybe so, but the woman who bought it is moving in with her elderly father, and I don’t know that she even has kids at home any more.… Read more »

Laura
Laura
7 years ago
Reply to  Jill

When we were house-hunting a few years back, we looked at one place that had a “bedroom” in name only – about the size of a walk-in closet just big enough to hold the crib in it – painted bright pink and decorated with baby animals, etc. By this point we’d ruled out this house to buy, so we turned to our teen-aged son and said, “This can be your room.” Without missing a beat, he said, “Only if I can stand the coffin upright for sleeping.” 🙂

Marsha
Marsha
7 years ago
Reply to  Ivy

The chance that a prospective buyer has children of the same sexes and same ages as yours, and that they have the same taste in decor seems very slim. For every 1 person who says “that’s really cute” they’ll be 10 who say “ugg.”

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  Marsha

And even if they say it’s cute, they might also be thinking “But I wouldn’t want it in my home.”

Carolyn
Carolyn
7 years ago

Welcome back, April, and thanks for an informative, useful article. I’m saving it and taking notes.

Barb
Barb
7 years ago

Hubby and I once went to view a house with a realtor and walked into the house to find at least a dozen stuffed animal “trophies” mounted on the walls. Real dead animal heads. We walked out without viewing the rest of the house, much to the annoyance of the realtor, who kept reminding us that the owners would take the heads with them when they moved. It was too much for my little vegetarian heart to bear and I couldn’t consider the house after seeing the walls. Irrational? Absolutely. I don’t walk away from kitchens that have cooked dead… Read more »

Holly@ClubThrifty
7 years ago
Reply to  Barb

That’s funny but I agree- There is no reason to offend people unnecessarily.

Sam
Sam
7 years ago

We just refinanced our home, and we did many of the things in this post for the appraisal. Since we had to hit a certain number and since we are in Florida (foreclosure central) and since our home is unique (no similar comps) we wanted to present the house as well as possible. The work paid off in that we hit the number we needed and refinanced to a 2.75% 15 year loan, saving us $180,000. When I was selling my prior home, I brought a ton of my personal stuff and closet stuff to my boyfriend’s home (now husband).… Read more »

thethriftyspendthrift
thethriftyspendthrift
7 years ago

To me, it’s strange that a lot of people don’t know this stuff already or that they refuse to do it. Unless you are selling your house at a lower price, I don’t know why you wouldn’t at least make it presentable—you might not have money to update the house but you can still make it look okay as long as it’s not a wreck. For most people, purchasing a house has an emotional aspect that sellers really need to tap into. We actually ended up purchasing a co-op that needs some work. Technically you can live in it and… Read more »

John S @ Frugal Rules
John S @ Frugal Rules
7 years ago

Great points. I agree with what’s already been said, that a good agent is worth a lot. I would tend to think it would be good to have a pre-inspection done. I know it’s a cost, but I’d rather spend that to find if there is anything glaring and so I can go into a negotiation knowledgable.

Grayson @ Debt RoundUp
Grayson @ Debt RoundUp
7 years ago

I am going through this right now. My wife and I are working hard on our list in order to get our home show ready. While it is a pain to get this things complete, it will save money in the long run and hopefully increase offers. Great Article!

Wayne
Wayne
7 years ago

I think this is great advice! I had to relocate a few years ago with some notice but without a relo package. For 2 months, I made minor repairs started packing and cleaned. I also had a dop and was a single working man. I couldn’t possibly show the how, keep it ready, smelling nice and all while working all day. So, I made it as perfect as possible and put it on the market the day after I left in the moving truck. I got an offer at list 2 weeks later and closed about 3 weeks after that.… Read more »

Steve
Steve
7 years ago

I don’t think I’d get a house pre-inspected. Once you know about something, you are legally obligated to report it on the sellers disclosure (at least in my state). Then you face two problems. One is that you have two different inspectors finding things for the buyers to negotiate about. That can only hurt, unless you fix literally every single problem found. And two is that you may scare off some buyers. According to psychology research, once someone has started down the path of a purchase, they are much more likely to complete it. I don’t know for sure but… Read more »

KS
KS
7 years ago

This is probably true in a market with more homes available to buy than buyers – but this is not the case in the Bay Area right now. We have put in offers on houses still in probate and full of the deceased party’s belongings and were outbid at 30% over asking. Houses in disrepair, full of the owners things, and with the owner hanging out during the showings to say hello are getting 10-30 offers and selling for cash buyers.

What you need to do to sell your house depends on the market.

Julie
Julie
7 years ago
Reply to  KS

Agreed. I am in North Orange County, California and the average age of our homes is probably 40 years. Thus there aren’t as many people underwater as in the newer communities. We have been looking for a replacement home and they are selling faster than we can react.

Maria from Money and Development Personal
Maria from Money and Development Personal
7 years ago

We sold our house 4 years ago and we didn’t have enough money at the time for updates and repairs but we hired a home staging coach who helped us with the visits and gave us some simple counsels that worked!
– Clean up, clean up and clean up
– Take off all personal objects like familly photos, etc, so the visitors could project themselves as in their new home.
– We packed up but no boxes were around, just a touch of minimalism and cleaning did the trick

Jen2
Jen2
7 years ago

I dread putting our house on the market. I will have two small children by the time we are ready to sell (still likely underwater) and we do not have two bedrooms for them, so I will likely have one living in a hallway. We are making only repairs that we think will increase our odds of selling or selling price, but nothing else. We have some drywall that needs repair because of a roof that we had repaired. We have painted most of the walls as neutral as possible and will continue to add blandness. We will move out… Read more »

Megan
Megan
7 years ago
Reply to  Jen2

Then can you stay in your house? I know it’s small, but it’s still doable. Can you bring the baby’s crib into your room? Are there things you can sell that you don’t use or need anymore? Check out Pinterest and organizing websites for tips on how to maximize your space.

Jen2
Jen2
7 years ago
Reply to  Megan

It will do for the short time. My husband and his brother bought the house 6 years ago and renovated it. I bought it from them just over 3 years ago before we were married. I would like to someday buy a house that I have helped pick out . . . We will have the crib either in the hallway or in our room most likely. I do not want to still be here by the time my son is ready for school since Baltimore schools are so awful. Plus I really miss trees and nature. All we have… Read more »

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago
Reply to  Jen2

That’s a tough situation, but it’s do-able. I suspect you’ll find (per reply post) that the market is active enough to move the house even if you don’t do a lot to it. But you *will* need to get it thoroughly clean and take care of things like drywall damage. 🙂 Is the kitchen really so small that keeping a coffeemaker will make the counters seem inadequate? If so … Nescafe Clasico is IMO a satisfying instant coffee. 🙂 As to the cat: I would be the last person to say “get rid of it” but the first to say… Read more »

Amy
Amy
7 years ago

Agree wholeheartedly with this article! One thing my husband (a former realtor) used to do was to bake cookies during an open house (he had the homeowner’s permission, of course). It was one of the best smells to walk into a house, plus then there are the cookies themselves to offer to visitors, and the added benefit of masking some smells. Also, people… get some really good photos of your property and post them online! These days, that’s the first place people go to look at homes. I have seen the worst photos listed there (like a cell phone photo… Read more »

Allyson
Allyson
7 years ago
Reply to  Amy

Absolutely agree, 100%. I won’t even bother looking at a house in person where photos won’t posted online. I figure that can only mean bad news. My parents are currently and are under contract for a new condo, and my mother was the same way: if no interior pictures are posted online, she moved to the next house on the list. (Only exception is if the house is a rental property and I am looking at it as an investment property, not my personal residence. I fell in love with my current house just by looking at the pictures online.… Read more »

Sarah
Sarah
7 years ago

This is a fantastic article– I really enjoyed reading it and all the comments. DH & I just bought our first house this year, so we’ve been on the buyer side recently– two particularly bad things stick out in my mind… One of the first houses we looked at was one where people were still living. Not only was it messy, outdated, and gross, the people had just left before we got there and there were literally still clouds of pot smoke in one of the rooms. We left immediately. The other was not being lived in, but there was… Read more »

Laundry Lady
Laundry Lady
7 years ago

An important thing, though it may seem obvious: the owners should not be there during a showing or open house. We looked at two houses, including the one we bought, where the owners were there during the showing. It was really awkward. The one house (not the one we bought) was having a family party with quite a few guests and it was a small house. I wondered why they had agree to the showing at all. Every time we looked in a bedroom there was someone sleeping there! It was very awkward. The only reason we bought our current… Read more »

Jen
Jen
7 years ago
Reply to  Laundry Lady

It might be “obvious” to not have the owners at the home, but this is a potential problem when we get set to move, as my husband is a remote employee; he works out of the home. While leaving a few times might not be that disruptive, it could become problematic. Has anyone else sold a home with this situation? I can’t seem to figure out how we’d adjust. And no, there isn’t a Starbucks nearby where he can go and work–he does secure work over a VPN (plus, the nearest Starbucks is around 30 minutes away).

Allyson
Allyson
7 years ago
Reply to  Jen

How far is the library? Check to see if your local library has wifi.

seemless
seemless
7 years ago
Reply to  Jen

I sold my house, and the first weekend it was listed there were 6 showings on one day. I’m sorry, but I have things to do (like the person who worked at home) and I am not going to be gone all day. Also, I didn’t trust anyone not to stand all damn day yacking with the door open and letting the cat out. And no, the cat couldn’t stay all damn day in his carrier. What happened was I let the first group in, then spent the rest of the time in the back bedroom, doing my daily stuff.… Read more »

Tippy
Tippy
7 years ago

Oh, the things I’ve seen looking at houses…just defies any common sense. An older home needing updates and even minor repairs was never a problem, but it’s got to be CLEAN and UNCLUTTERED! One of the best homes I purchased was built in ’59 and besides having a newer fridge, had all the original appliances, bathrooms, etc., BUT, everything worked well and house was mechanically/stucturally sound. Husband and I had a great house to live in while we slowly updated and doubled the sale price when we sold 6 years later. As for choosing a realtor, I’d really like the… Read more »

Anne
Anne
7 years ago

One of the best posts in a long time!

Kacie
Kacie
7 years ago

Avoid a double mortgage by not buying a house in your new city right away. Rent! Get to know your city first!

We did that when we moved back to Indiana last year. We moved to the Indianapolis metro and needed a few months to really decide where we wanted to buy. We were month-to-month on an apartment (and paid more for that flexibility) but it enabled us to slow down and not rush the biggest purchase of our lives.

No double mortgage because we were renting in our previous city. But still. Slow it down.

chacha1
chacha1
7 years ago
Reply to  Kacie

Yes, yes, yes, yes.

Given the past few years’ experience, it should be clear that buying a house is not always the best financial decision. If it’s a new and unfamiliar city, buying too fast can be a TERRIBLE decision.

Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey
Cherleen @ My Personal Finance Journey
7 years ago

Great tips! We are looking into buying another house and thinking whether to put this house on sale or have it rented out. Though I prefer the latter, I believe that I should also make it show-ready and do necessary repairs, even minor ones, so that it will be attractive to prospective tenants and get the top dollar. Thanks for sharing!

Evangeline
Evangeline
7 years ago

As the executor of two separate estates, I had to sell homes quickly and efficiently to satisfy the heirs. Every one is right about the extra steps being worth the effort. In my case, neither estate could afford very much renovation. Doors and windows were opened to air out 60 years of other people’s dust, air filters were changed, everything was cleaned and polished to a high shine and I gave a whole new meaning to ‘Q tip clean.’ It wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming. A few seasonal plants, a new door mat and wreath on the door… Read more »

Lyn
Lyn
7 years ago

Great post! One thing I didn’t see mentioned is the psychological aspect of selling your home. You have to stop thinking of it as ‘your home’ and start thinking of it as a ‘house’ – an investment – that you are selling. Makes a huge difference in your attitude about doing what needs to be done to sell and move on to something bigger (smaller) and better.

Evangeline
Evangeline
7 years ago
Reply to  Lyn

I absolutely agree! Of the two houses I sold, one was my childhood home; the other belonged to a beloved aunt. When people would say things like,’how can you do it’ or ‘I can’t believe you’re changing such and such after all these years’ I just simply reminded people that now it was a piece of property. You really do have to detach yourself.

Michael
Michael
7 years ago

This is petty and childish, but I hate this type of headline. It reminds me of the spam/scam ads on a lot of websites

“Lose 100Lbs with this one neat trick”

“Moms from your town make $100,000/week with this one weird job”

Patti
Patti
7 years ago

When deciding to move my best tip is
#1. Have a garage sale
#2. Go through everything again and have
another garage sale
#3. Go through all the closets, attics and storage areas and donate everything you don’t need/didn’t sell and take the tax write-off.

Most of us have way too much stuff. The kids have outgrown alot of those toys and lots of decor items won’t go with your new house. Be brutal. Then start cleaning and painting. It will make selling, moving and unpacking so much simpler.

Mary
Mary
7 years ago

Here’s a question about getting a house ready: We had a couple of realtors come in and look at our house (small ranch). Husband has new job and his commute is quite long so we are thinking of trying to be closer-but it isn’t necessary that we move. One realtor suggested that we finish the basement at least partially to up the square footage and therefor the price (adding on another bathroom and laundry area as well-plumbing already in place). The other worried it wouldn’t drive up the listing price enough to justify the cost. How much work is too… Read more »

Jane
Jane
7 years ago
Reply to  Mary

I don’t know what type of market you are in, but I find it highly unlikely in this economy that you can turn $15,000 in improvements into a $40,000 increase in your home’s value. That sounds dubious to me, especially if you are talking about below grade (i.e. basement) renovations. There is almost no renovation project that returns 100%, unless you are doing it yourself and not paying for labor. Either you live in the hottest real estate market in the country, or your realtor is exaggerating your return on finishing your basement. My advice? Don’t do it. Save that… Read more »

Kai Jones
Kai Jones
7 years ago

The things that really paid off for us were removing about 90% of our stuff (to storage) so that there were only basic pieces of furniture in each defined room: couch, lamp, and TV in living room; dining table and chairs in dining room; bed, one dresser, and bedside table with lamp in each bedroom. No personal items anywhere in the house, we even used dorm-room-style shower caddies for our bathroom stuff and took them with us when we left the house for a showing. We received a cash offer, no conditions, over asking price the first day. We had… Read more »

Kris
Kris
7 years ago

Lots of people have so much pride in their home that they think it will sell itself. So your point is right on. You actually need to make it look nice, tidy, clean, and fix any obvious problems, cosmetic or not. Sure, you can disclose certain issue, or leave some for negotiating. But selling your home is not the time to be stubborn – at least bot if you really want it to sell!

natural stone supply
natural stone supply
7 years ago

Hello! Thanks a lot for the wonderful share and informative info.You need to keep your home neat and clean and fix any obvious problems, cosmetic or not.A very helpful article. Cheers!

roofer Maryland
roofer Maryland
6 years ago

I agree. Make the home ready to pick. First impression is the last one and can be created by making your house attractive by renovating it. Make the walls and roofs look beautiful. Hire some good roofing companies which can help you renovate it at a bit lower costs. 🙂

US Storage Centers - Baltimore
US Storage Centers - Baltimore
6 years ago

Too many people are leaving money on the table by not staging their home for sale. It takes longer and sells for less.

I little preparation goes a long way. Informative article and so true.

JD
JD
6 years ago

real estate angets think they are interior decorators and much more these days..Staging of house blah blah blah..Ive sold properties without staging.. And any house I have bought in the last 5 years If I sense it has been staged I walk away from it and the agent.. First off most people do not live in a staged world… To sell a house make sure its clean painted and it looks good the house will sell eventually.. All this stage stuff all the agents are doing is fooling themselves..

shares