I know most of these items will seem obvious to you, but see if there are some that you need to do. It's important to do everything here as there are now many properties competing for the same pool of qualified buyers. Everybody is watching all the decorating and home selling shows now on HGTV, too. You would be surprised at the difference some colorful landscaping and a paint job makes with the average house. I know this may seem like a lot of work, but "how we live is different from how we sell" and I'm trying to get as high a price for you as possible. Help me out! I'm on your side.
First impressions are lasting. Buyers make a lot of their decision to buy your house from inside the car, so let's make the front look like "eye candy." Make sure the front is clean, grass is cut, weeds are pulled and the landscape is trimmed. Keep the driveway and walkways clean. Repair any cracked windows and replace or remove old screens. Replace any missing fence pieces. Remove any tree branches on the roof.
Go stand across the street and look, I mean really look at your house. What does it need to look sharp? Paint, flowering plants, brass house numbers, etc. Do it. You'll be amazed at the transformation that $200 worth of flowers and plants can bring to your house.
If your house doesn't need paint, consider power-washing the front to get rid of cobwebs, etc.
Be sure the valve and sprinkler systems work. If you have a pool or spa, be sure it sparkles. Clean the tile. Keep the patio neat and the furniture clean. Haul away that pile of junk beside the garage.
To Do List
Here's your chance to clean up in real estate. Does the house need a good, thorough cleaning? Hire help if you need to. No matter what kind of housekeeper your potential buyer may be, they are always totally unable to see beyond clutter and lack of cleanliness. Cleanliness is truly next to godliness in real estate, and a clean house always sells quicker than an untidy one. I recommend that sellers set the alarm 20 minutes earlier than usual to give themselves time to quickly dust, vacuum and tidy up each day.
Our personal possessions are special to us; but to potential buyers, they're just clutter. Thin out your things, and keep decorative objects to a minimum. Make it look like a model home. Have that garage sale you've always been planning to have or rent a storage space. Try for bare surfaces, such as on tables. I know it's difficult, but you can start slowly. If you have a collection of 5 objects, try to make it three. If you have a collection of three objects, put all but one away. Arrange pictures on the walls. Remove all but one or two on each wall. Remember "Less is Best." Patch and paint if necessary.
Along these lines: for security, please remove small valuable items, including iPods. We don't know everybody who will look at your home and we can't keep an eye on everybody all the time. Let's make sure that items that are precious to you don't end up in somebody else's pocket.
Does your house smell? Ask your closest friends. If so, find out why and control or eliminate the cause: pets (sometimes the dog just needs a bath), litter box, cooking, smoking, diapers, etc. Baskets of potpourri, room freshners and scented candles can help.
Fix faucets - dripping water discolors sinks and suggests faulty plumbing.
Clean off the water heater and the supply pipes above it. It makes it look newer. Have adequate earthquake strapping installed while youre at it. Its required by law.
This is the time to take care of items on that overdue repair list. You are not required to fix much by law, but repairing structural concerns and "health and safety items" will help us obtain "the highest and best price" and eliminate problems that may arise during escrow.
Repair loose doorknobs, sticking doors and windows.
Most people store lots of items in their garage. This is fine, but show off the garage, attic or basement by removing any unnecessary articles. As I mentioned above, have that overdue garage sale. Clean oily spots off the garage floor. Make sure the garage door operates properly.
Move the RV or boat. Store it elsewhere for the listing period.
Keep stairways clear and avoid a cluttered appearance and possible injuries.
Make closets look bigger by cleaning and organizing them. Admit it, you've been wanting to get to this chore for a long time!
Make sure the light bulbs and fixtures work. Hint: new light fixtures are an inexpensive way to give a home a more contemporary look.
Wash the windows, inside and out. Treat yourself to a professional job. It makes the house look great. Please get your drapes cleaned, too, or replace them with new window treatments or shutters.
Make the bathroom sparkle. Clean water spots from the chrome, glass, and aluminum. Check and repair caulking in bathtubs and showers. Remove unnecessary items from countertops, tub & shower stall, and toilet tops. Keep needed toiletries in one small group on the counter. Colorful towels, candles and plants are a nice touch.
Remove excess furniture and use attractive bedspreads and curtains (open the curtains during showings -- homes that appear "light and bright" sell faster). Rooms appear larger with less furniture in them.
Toss all those old newspapers & magazines.
Clear the refrigerator door of messages & pictures. Clear all unnecessary items from the kitchen countertops. If it hasn't been used for a week...put it away! Keep the kitchen clear, so buyers will picture your kitchen as theirs. Kitchens sell houses!!!
Before showing the house:
Remove your valuables, such as jewelry, silver, collectibles, iPods, etc.
Remove, replace or tell Judy to exclude personal "fixture" property that you are going to take. Stained glass windows, special light fixtures, mirrors, draperies and satellite dishes are items that cause problems.
When the house is being shown:
Leave. How's that for being direct? Buyers will feel like intruders and will hurry through the house. The salesperson knows the buyers requirements and can emphasize the features of your home. If you must stay please try to be wherever the buyers arent, e.g. be outside if theyre inside and visa-versa.
Turn off the television and put on some soft music (see my new iMix -- it works really well at open houses). Let the salesperson and buyer talk, free of noise.
Turn on every light in the house. Yes, every light. Brighter is friendlier and bigger. Open the draperies and shutters all the way. Let the sun in! Dark houses don't sell. Proper lighting is a welcome sign.
If it's warm outside, turn on the air conditioning. If it's cold outside, turn on the heat, and think about building a fire in the fireplace. Hang the expense of running the utilities and think of the ambiance.
Keep dogs out of the house. If they're outside, put them in a fenced area away from walking areas. Members of certain cultures are afraid of dogs. Your "friendly" dog may keep a buyer from going outside. Then, they won't see your beautiful backyard. Clean up after your dog daily!
Round up the kids' toys and put them in the kids' rooms. They shouldn't be in the community living areas.
Don't try to sell furniture and furnishings to potential buyers before they have purchased the house. Let me know if furniture is for sale and I will call the buyers. Maybe we can use your old appliances as a bargaining tool. You would be surprised how well that works.
Don't smoke in the house. No matter how long you have done so. Go outside. Many buyers absolutely will not buy a house that has been smoked in, and many Realtors won't show a house that smells like smoke. It will negatively affect your offers as well -- the last smoke-smelling house I sold went for about $35,000 less than it could have because of the smell and the nicotine stains everywhere.
Put away any laundry sitting out in the open.
Have a lock box on the property. Ninety percent of agents will not take the time to show a property that does not have a lock box.
For my up-to-the-minute take on local real estate in the San Fernando Valley and Greater Los Angeles, please visit my blog at http://sfvrealestate.blogspot.com.