Getting the House “Open House” Ready
If you’re thinking of putting your house on the market this spring – or ever – it’s important to think through and try to eliminate any potential objections that might stand in the way of a buyer making an offer. The proof is in the pudding: a house that "sparkles" on the surface will sell faster and for a higher price than its shabby neighbor, even when both are structurally well-maintained. Buyers just feel more comfortable purchasing a well-cared for home because they assume that if what they can see has been maintained, what they can't see has probably also been maintained. In readying your house for sale, consider:
- How Much Should You Spend?
- Exterior and Curb Appeal
- Preparing the Interior
Save Your Money
Spend as little as possible when you’re getting your house “Open House” ready. Buyers will be impressed by a brand new roof, but they aren't likely to give you enough extra money to pay for it. There is a big difference between making minor and inexpensive "polishes" and "touch-ups" to your house, such as putting new knobs on cabinets and a fresh coat of neutral paint in the living room, and doing extensive and costly renovations, like installing a new kitchen. Your realtor, who is familiar with buyers' expectations in your neighborhood, can advise you specifically on what improvements need to be made to your space. Don't hesitate to ask for advice.
Create Some Curb Appeal
Other than the photos you’ll use to market your home, its curb appeal will be every potential buyer’s first impression. Before listing it, take as much time as necessary (spending as little as possible) to maximize its exterior and interior appeal. Here are some tips to enhance your home’s exterior and curb appeal:
- Keep the front yard well maintained: lawns edged, cut and watered (as appropriate), hedges trimmed, trees pruned, lawns and flowerbeds weeded. During Spring and Summer months, consider adding a few showy annuals, perhaps in pots near the front entrance.
- Check the foundation, steps, walkways, walls and patios for cracks and crumbling. If necessary, reseal an asphalt driveway.
- Inspect doors and windows for peeling paint.
- Apply a fresh coat of paint to the front door.
- Clean and align gutters.
- Inspect and clean the chimney.
- Repair and replace loose or damaged roof shingles.
- Repair and repaint loose siding and caulking.
- Keep your garage door closed.
- Store RVs or old and beaten up cars elsewhere while the house is on the market.
Preparing the Interior
When preparing the interior, think about how you want potential buyers to feel during and after their tour: that, with minimal effort, they can see themselves living comfortably in this space. Here’s how you achieve that:
- Give every room in the house a thorough cleaning, as well as remove all clutter. This alone will make your house appear bigger and brighter. Some homeowners with crowded rooms have actually rented storage garages and moved half their furniture out, creating a sleeker, more spacious look.
- Remove as many items as possible from kitchen counters, closets and attics, making these areas less distracting and more inviting. Since you're anticipating a move anyhow, holding a garage sale at this point is a great idea.
- If necessary, repaint dingy, soiled or strongly colored walls with a neutral shade of paint, such as off-white or beige. The same neutral scheme can be applied to carpets and linoleum.
- Check for cracks, leaks and signs of dampness in the attic and basement.
- Repair cracks, holes or damage to plaster, wallboard, wallpaper, paint and tiles.
- Inspect the plumbing, heating, cooling and alarm systems. Repair, if necessary.
- Repair dripping faucets and showerheads. Consider buying showy new towels for the bathroom, to be brought out only when prospective buyers are on the way.
- Spruce up a kitchen in need of more major remodeling by investing in new cabinet knobs, new curtains or a coat of neutral paint.
- For the particularly busy home owner, consider hiring a professional cleaning service once every few weeks while the house is on the market. This will help to ensure that your home is always ready for a walk-through.