Tips for Preparing Your Property for Sale

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As everyone already knows the real estate market is down.  Foreclosures are abundant. If you have to sell your property at this time, or at any time, these tips will help you prepare your property before placing it on the market.  Not only will these tips prepare your property for sale they can add value to the property.  A clean, well maintained property will attract more showings.  More showings usually equals more offers.  Sometimes, you will receive multiple offers. In a situation of multiple offers, it is possible to sell a property for more than the original asking price. View your property as a potential buyer would. Not as a owner.  You, as an owner, may have emotions involved with the property. It may be the home you grew up in, the first home you and your spouse purchased or it may be where your children were born, etc. A potential buyer may not have the same emotions as you. It is true, many people buy property on emotion.  However, during the process of buying a property many buyers experience “buyer’s remorse”.  This is when a buyer starts doubting their decision to purchase the property. This happens often and it can kill the sale of your property. This is why it is very important to have more positive attributes than negative. Don’t give a buyer a reason to back out of the sale. 

As a buyer, they will be looking at several issues before making a decision. They may need a certain location, size of home, amount of land, condition of the property or floor plan, etc. Analyze your potential buyer. In other words what type of buyer would be interested in your property.  Is the property located in a family oriented neighborhood? Then you would target families with children. Is your property a one bedroom town home or condo? Then maybe you should target singles or empty-nesters or possibility investors. However, never rule out the opposite.  Many times people start looking for what they think they want and end up buying the complete opposite. 

Regardless of the type of buyer, they all will be looking at condition. Even the investor that is looking for a fixer upper to flip or lease will be calculating the amount of repairs or improvements that are needed to see if it’s worth the price, time and cost to fix up the property.  Investor’s know they have more negotiating power with a property that needs extensive repairs.  If your property falls in the category of ‘extensive repairs’ and you do not have the time nor the money to repair it yourself, and you have to sell, then maybe you would be better off discounting the property, selling it as-is, no repairs to be done, for a quick sale.  If your property doesn’t need extensive repairs you will be surprised what a dramatic difference it will make just following these few tips.

Ready? Get a pad of paper and a pen to make notes.  Start outside of the property. Look for the negative. Does the property need painting, repair of rotten wood, missing siding, damaged stucco, roof repairs, broken fences and gates, damaged or burnt out lights, pressure washing, landscaping, etc.  Curb appeal is very important. Many buyers will not view the inside of the property if they do not like the outside.  As a seller you want a buyer to feel comfortable and stay awhile, not drive up to the property and say, “I don’t like the outside so I am not going to view the inside.” Study the property, does it look cluttered, bare, boring? If so, weed the gardens, add landscaping, cut the grass, remove the dead potted plants.  Painting and cleaning the property is probably the two things that are the least expensive with the most dramatic appearance that can be done to the property. When choosing a color to paint remember, neutral is always the best. 

Stay away from dark colors or very bright colors. Dark colors make the property appear small.  Bright colors such as pinks, lime greens and oranges can be offensive and too bold.  This is true for the exterior as well as the interior.  Soft grays, whites, eggshell, taupe, mushroom colors all work well. Visit your neighborhood do-it-yourself stores and ask for paint samples and color combination charts.

Before painting, make all repairs and clean the area first. Even though you may think some items that need repairing are minor and can be overlooked, they cannot.  Savvy buyers will be inspecting everything. So fix the roof, repair the fence, replace any rotten wood, replace light fixtures, check outdoor electrical outlets and anything else that could become a negative issue. Pressure washing the exterior will help brighten up the property. Sometimes all that is needed is a good cleaning.   Now that the exterior of your property is cleaned, repaired, decluttered and painted, look at the landscaping.  Remove any dead plants, trees or shrubs. If more landscaping is needed choose plants native to your climate, preferable evergreens that will remain green in every season.  Use the evergreens as anchors to build the frame of your landscaping. After the frame is in, then add color. Flowers, blooming shrubs and annuals come in variety of colors. Try to design your landscaping as maintenance free as possible. Otherwise, you will find yourself pulling weeds and trimming bushes. Also, keep in mind the “Going Green” campaign.  Many people want trees, birds, butterflies and other forms of nature. Add a bird bath, bird feeders, hummingbird feeders, bird houses. Just don’t over do it. Too many accessories and you end up with clutter. If you have bird feeders, instead of adding a bird bath add a small fountain. Fountains have a calming effect and doubles as a watering hole for nature. Small do it yourself fountain and pond kits can be found at most home improvement stores and are relatively inexpensive.  The final item on the exterior is the front door.  Think of the front door as the “eyes” of the property.  The front door needs to be clean, fresh and inviting. If you decide to paint your door choose a welcoming color but also a color that will “pop” but, not a color that will knock out the buyer.  Add an elegant welcoming mat. Make sure the door bell is working properly or add a door knocker if you do not have a door bell. Make sure the front door area is well lit. Buyers that are viewing properties in the evening do not like walking into dark areas.

Now that the exterior is done, follow the same steps for the interior. Walk through every room studying it and taking notes. Remember to ask yourself the same questions. Does it need cleaning, painting, de-cluttering and repairs? Start at the ceiling and work your way down to the floor. Many homes suffer from clutter. Throw out, recycle or donate items to local charities that are no longer needed or wanted.  Clutter makes the room look small and dirty. Once you have the room cleaned out then you can make a more accurate assessment. Don’t overlook the ceilings. When was the last time the ceilings were painted? Is the air condition and heat vents clean? Does the lighting,  electrical outlets, light switches and phone jacks operational?  If not, repair them. If there is carpet and it needs replacing consider going with a hard surface flooring instead.  Many people suffer with allergies.  Carpet holds a lot of dirt, dust and pet dander. Many do it yourself stores offer free classes on installing hardwood, laminate, and ceramic and marble tile flooring.  If replacing the floors is not an option then make sure they are as clean as possible. After making your notes in the first room then move on to the next, asking the same questions and taking notes as you go.  Keep in mind if painting is needed, stay with the same neutral color throughout the property. Don’t have different colors in every room.  Don’t overlook the trim such as baseboards, doors, door casings and crown molding.  Whether the trim is stained or painted check to see if it needs freshening up. Check the lighting in every room.  If there isn’t any overhead ceiling light, consider adding small decorative lamps with energy savings bulbs to add a soft glow to the room. Another idea is to add ceiling fan with a light kit. If the rooms have windows, open the shades or curtains. Natural lighting is a strong selling point.  While walking through each room try to think of any and every way to conserve energy.

Add a timer to prevent the unit from running constantly to heat water when not needed, ex., in the middle of the night or day while at work. This can drastically reduce energy cost.  The same with cooling and heating units.  Add timers to maintain a certain temperature.  This way the unit is not running constantly when no one is in the property but, is comfortable when you return. Another tip to help cool your property in areas with extreme heat is to add ventilation in the attic.  Power ventilators run on electric with timers that come on when the attic reaches a certain temperature. The power ventilators pull the hot air out of the attic thus making it easier to cool the property.  Check with a roofer or your local home improvement stores for several other ideas for venting attics.  Have the cooling and heating system professionally serviced. Dirty clogged units can run up energy costs. Regular cleaning an maintenance can add years to your unit, reduce energy costs and head off dangerous situations, such as gas leaks, carbon monoxide leaks, etc. Change return air filters Always keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen area. Make sure the fire extinguisher is not expired, if so, replace it. Safety is always a concern for everyone. Save your receipts to show the potential buyer that the unit has been serviced regularly. This may ease many buyers who may be leery about buying a property with older heating and cooling units. regularly. Install smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.

Also, you can offer a home warranty to the buyer to help protect them from costly repairs.  Home warranties can also be used as a negotiating tool.  If you have a buyer who will not quite commit, you can offer a home warranty upon purchasing the property.  The cost of a home warranty can vary in price from $300 on up depending on what is being warranted.  Many home warranty companies offer add-ons; such as pools, wells, septic systems.  Therefore, you only pay for the additional warranties if you need them.  Most home warranties cover the buyers, one year from the day of act of sale.  Usually there is a deductible the buyer pays per repair which can vary from company to company.  If a repair is needed the buyer would call the home warranty company and the warranty company would then call a repair person of their choice.  The repair person goes to the property to assess the problem. The buyer(new owner) pays the deductible. The repair person reports back to the warranty company and they either fix or replace whatever is broken.  Each home warranty company have different terms and conditions.  Be sure to read the all terms and conditions and ask questions.  If you decide to purchase a home warranty get a copy of the contract with all terms and conditions in writing.

After you have finished all the repairs, cleaning, painting and landscaping, copy all of the receipts and make a list of everything you have done to the property. Gather the last twelve months of energy bills that were paid and make a copy.  When a potential buyer comes to the view the property you can show a list of the improvements completed, the receipts proving the improvements where done and average of what the energy  costs were within the last twelve months.  The more documentation provided to a buyer the more comfortable a buyer becomes. Thus, they feel comfortable with purchasing a property that has really been cared for and it is in good condition. When buyers are comparing your property to other “like” properties you want yours to stand out and be remembered.  So make your property stand out and be noticed so it can be remembered.

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