Every little advantage helps when you're trying to sell your house, especially if you're looking to sell quickly and for top dollar.
That's why Realtors always are ready with tips to help their clients prep a home for a showing.
"A lot of them are common sense, but I have a laundry list," said Randy Martin, a top-selling agent who works out of Watson Realty's Mandarin South office.
Topping that list is one word: Declutter.
"Inside, the biggest thing is to declutter," Martin said. "Less is considered better. You don't want a lot of things sitting on the shelves. In the kitchen, in particular, you don't want a lot of bottles, spices sitting out. You want as much counter space as possible."
Martin also asks his clients to consider the space and layout of their home when deciding if a coffee table or magazine rack needs to stick around during the selling process.
"I encourage main furniture" but not a lot of extra furniture, Martin said. "You don't want them to see only 2 or 3 feet of floor space and not think their furniture will fit in there."
Hand-in-hand with decluttering is depersonalizing, said Michelle Mousin of Prudential Network Realty's Ponte Vedra office.
"I'm not talking about a few [magazines] on a table, but don't have a lot of stuff on the coffee table and the walls," Mousin said. "The cleaner the presentation, the better."
Becky Harmon of Becky Harmon's Transformations school of real estate staging and redesign in Jacksonville seconded that notion.
"We ask people to put away collections," she said. "They might be beautiful, but they can be distracting. People start looking at the collection and don't look at the architecture of the house."
Once a home is decluttered and depersonalized, the homeowner is asked to consider any needed repairs, whether it's as simple as replacing a tattered window screen or as costly as replacing all the carpeting.
"A lot of times the home seller says, 'I'll give you a carpeting allowance,' but the buyer doesn't really want to deal with [replacing carpeting] along with the moving," Harmon said.
Mousin agreed, saying repairs that can be made should be made before the home is shown.
"If you don't have a handyman, get a home inspector to come in and catch the things that a home inspector will catch anyway," Mousin said. "If you know you need a new roof," admit it.
"I tell people that, if you know [a problem] is there, go ahead and fix it, because you'll have to adjust it anyway. It makes the house show better. ... The house should look as if you've been taking care of it."
Along those lines, Martin recommends upgrading dated lighting fixtures with a quick and relatively inexpensive trip to a home improvement store.
Homeowners also should remember that the little things matter far more than they might think. Martin cites a home he recently showed as an example.
"They needed caulking around the shower and toilet," he said. "The house was priced well and showed well, but that made the buyer" think twice about how well the homeowner had cared for the property.
To get a handle on just what a home needs or doesn't need can be a challenge for someone who has spent years becoming emotionally attached to a property. Because of that - and because of statistics emphasizing the success of the process - many Realtors now recommend that homeowners hire home stagers.
Home stagers often are interior designers, but their main objective is to prepare a home for sale, telling the homeowner what to remove, what to keep, and where to put it to best allow the home's appeal to show through.
Harmon, who both stages and teaches others to stage homes, said the end result is worth the cost, which can run as little as $150 for a staging report that offers recommendations but leaves it up to the homeowner to do the work.
"You recoup [the cost] at least 10 times over," she said. "If you have to mark your house down anywhere from 2 percent to 5 percent [to get it to sell], that's huge compared to what staging costs."
And statistics have shown that staged homes sell more quickly - and for an asking price anywhere from 6 percent to 10 percent higher than they would without staging, Harmon said.
"You want to get goose bumps and hear the Hallelujah Chorus when you open that front door," she said. "Even the most modest of homes can get that with the simplest of things."
Still, when the house sings as the front door is opened, the homeowner shouldn't forget the opening act - outside. After all, does it matter if the house sings when the front cries for help?
"Landscaping is a great thing," Mousin said. "The curb appeal of a house when someone walks up. The front door and porch area, having that clean. Whatever [plants] will work for color seasonally is a great idea for the outside of the house."
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