Selling Your Home for Top Dollar – 11 Items to Note
When I take my buyer clients out to look at potential homes for sale, I’m amazed at what started out as an exciting day trip turns into a long drawn out series of disappointing showings for the buyer. Pictures on Real Estate listings and websites can be deceiving. When I ask the client for feedback, the types of responses I get highlight things the sellers can actually control.
The challenge to sell a home in a “sellers market” is to think like the buyer would. If you want top dollar for your home it takes a lot of effort (and not necessarily money)! Sellers can get lazy, because a “sellers market” means there is more demand for homes than inventory of homes for sale to satisfy that demand. Plus, we all hear the stories about multiple bidders for homes so why put forth the extra effort when my house will sell anyways? But then sellers get upset when they can’t get the price they think they should for their home. It becomes personal.
What are the goals?
For most sellers, a quick sale at fair market value is the desired outcome. In my opinion quick is 7 to 10 days. However, each house is different and so are the sellers that own them. Although the goals are similar, the strategies used to get the highest possible price depend on the seller’s commitment (often stepping out of their comfort zone).
The Key Components
- A thorough, unbiased review of the home, which involves an extensive examination of the home. Feedback can be critical, but is never meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. It is all about doing what is right to put the house in the best position to sell quickly at the best price.
- A full Market Appraisal. Understand what comparable homes in your neighbourhood have sold for within the past 6 to 12 months and what adjustments exist so you can set an attractive fair price.
- A Home Inspection. Usually, buyers will complete this step as part of the process. So why do I suggest that sellers do this? If you know the strengths and weaknesses of your own home, you can address what needs to be done to spotlight the strengths and fix the weaknesses.
- Staging Your Home. The best way to spotlight the strengths.
- A complete Marketing plan. This includes the importance of a pricing strategy, preparation and lead time required before listing your home, neighbourhood advertising techniques, the power of an Open House, the vacant house strategy (i.e why you should live in a hotel for a week!)
When a client lists their property for sale with me, I cover the upfront cost of a Staging Consultation, a Market Appraisal by a certified Home Appraiser, and a Home Inspection by a qualified Home Inspector. We can build a Strategy with the information we receive from these 3 critical sources along with an unbiased review of the home. Our next step – discuss the 11 critical items to review!
Top 11: Critical List of Reviewable Items
You want to appeal to your Buyer’s senses: Sight, Smell, Sound, and Touch. If you can leave the potential buyer with a stimulation of these 4 senses in a positive way, they will remember your house when compared against the others.
- Curb Appeal – this is the first impression a client sees when they come to your home. So do your best to make it look fresh and presentable. The lawn should be mowed (in season), gardens tended to, garbage picked up, windows professionally washed, garage door freshly painted, external lights working, driveways washed down (or shoveled), entrance to the porch swept and clean, put some nice hanging flowers where applicable.
- Power Clean and Sanitize your Home – quite often, the homes I have been through are not thoroughly cleaned. Attention to detail is the key, everything from removal of dust, to washed floors and walls, scented and clean kitchen sink, clean bathtubs with caulking replaced, carpets power cleaned. If you have pets, consider taking them off site for one week to reduce impact of smells and pet hair.
- Painting a House – If I could stress one thing to sellers, it would be to hire a professional painter to redo the house with 2 coats of neutral toned paint, and that includes walls, ceilings, trim and baseboard. This could be an expense that some folks can’t afford. In that case, prioritize (Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom). Again, hire a professional. Sloppy, rushed painting leaves a really bad impression with potential buyers.
- Complete all minor repairs – I learned this from a purchaser who was looking to buy a home for investment purposes. “Milind” he said “if the small things are in disrepair than what is going on with the more important structural items that you can’t always see?” So make sure all the lights in the home work, make sure the appropriate wattage is used to maximize the power of light in various rooms, blinds should be in good working order, railings secure, light switch covers all installed and clean, sliding doors functional, ensure all electrical outlets work. If you can’t do these things yourself, hire a handyman.
- Floors – Hardwood or even laminate floors can be very attractive feature. Scratches, dirt, lack of shine can kill the effect of the floors. Power Scrub clean your floors, maybe even consider sanding and refinishing them. Do your floors creek when you walk on them? Another thing to check out and potentially fix.
- Appliances – this is another tricky one. Today, when people buy houses they expect the appliances to come with the house. So take a look at the age of the appliances. If they are over 10 years old, consider replacement. Not with brand new appliances, but good quality used appliances from specialty stores. These are typically appliances (stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, washer and dryer) that were only used a few times and will show well. Above all, ensure that the appliances are clean and in good working order! Replacing with new appliances has its merits but you will not necessarily get the value back out of your home when you go to sell.
- Clutter – Once again, something that is in the sellers hand to control and is not very expensive to implement. People like to see the rooms at their full capacity. It is amazing how clutter can reduce the perceived size of a room or even the whole house. Some folks like to move everything into the garage, but that also has its disadvantages. If you are selling, it is a great time to assess what you really need to keep and start getting rid of everything else. Once you have determined what to get rid of, start with donations to Goodwill or the Canadian Diabetes Association who will often come to your home to pick up stuff. You can also rent garbage bins and then have them hauled away or consider several companies who advertise to “move junk”. Even for the things you wish to keep, consider moving it to a temporary offsite storage location and perhaps use rental furniture through consultation with a professional stager.
- Major renovations – this can be expensive. But it depends on many factors, such as age of your house, the type of neighbourhood you live in, etc. If you are going to spend some money, put into the rooms that pay you back the most, namely Kitchens and Bathrooms. Also consider replacing carpeted rooms with flooring (hardwood or laminate) especially in bedrooms.
- Major items Roof and Furnace – because these are key items, you only have 2 options. You either replace with new items yourself (and build into your price somewhat), or adjust down your price to reflect the age of the roof and furnace. It’s Canada and these are the 2 most important items that need to work in our Canadian winters!
- The Garage – often the most ignored part of the whole house, a clean and spacious garage can be the point that often nets the seller the price they were expecting to get. As mentioned, don’t store excess items prior to the move in the garage. If you have a 2 car garage, the purchaser would like to visualize how the cars will look once they buy the property. Build new shelves in the upper sections of the garage which provides alternative storage options for the buyer. Consider painting the floor with metallic paint for a clean and invigorating look. Also, ensure any potential entrances into the home are sealed with the appropriate screens. Quite often, rodents will enter your home through the garage and into your walls.
- The basement – another area that really deserves its own article, it is important to ensure that any major deficiencies are addressed. Insulation, a properly working furnace, sealing of major cracks are paramount. One of the biggest components of a Home Inspection.
So we have the makings of a Plan. Marketing a house for sale is a subject onto itself. I will deal with that topic in a separate article. What are the main takeaways from all of this?
- It is critical to make budget decisions based on the resale of a home. I consult with my clients to see what is absolutely necessary and how that impacts their wallet in terms of upfront cash layout or price reduction. Perhaps if the clients have equity in the home, a home equity line of credit can be used to facilitate the repairs.
- This preparation takes a lot of time. In my opinion, this is the number one oversight most Real Estate agents make. A well thought out plan also needs time to be executed. Allow an average of 6 to 8 weeks to do what you need to do to get the house ready for sale. If you want to sell in middle to end of April, you need to start in early March to get everything ready.
- My role is to act as co-ordinator for the client. You have busy lives, work, school, etc. My job is to make sure things are moving according to the plan and also follow up to ensure the work is completed properly by the folks required to do their part to make it all happen. I have a network of professionals ready to assist if the client needs help.
- When the house is listed the first week, it is important to not be there. Seriously. I know this would take a lot of clients out of their comfort zone. Milind, that also sounds impractical. A vacated house that is professionally prepared for showings will move quickly if done properly. They are several reasons for that. First, buyers can discuss with their agent items and issues that matter to them in privacy. Second, if you live in the house during the sale process, you have to be very attentive to cleaning the house before you leave for work. But that is time consuming. No matter how hard you try it takes away from the desired effect. So perhaps you spend $1,000 for the 7 days (maximum) you are away, but think of it as a vacation. You deserve it! You don’t sell your home every day! Build this expense into your home sale budget. You’ll be glad you did.
- Financial Plan – based on my previous background and experience I can give you an assessment of how the house sale fits into your financial planning needs.
If you would like me to send you a copy of the “House Sale – Cost/Benefit Worksheet” just contact me and I will be more than happy to send it and review it with you. Remember, you don’t often sell your home. Why not get the Top Dollar that you deserve and a well thought out and executable plan!