How to prepare your property and your house to sell
By Diane Saatchi
When someone comes to me to sell a house, my first job is to manage expectations, so I’ll often caution them that we may get a buyer today, or we may be talking to each other about selling the house in two years.
We have no way of knowing.
However, as you get ready to list your home, there are a few things you can do to help tip the odds in your favor. Here’s where to start:
Don’t think you have to do a complete renovation. Most would-be sellers will ask what they should do to get top dollar for their house -- put in a new kitchen? Paint? But I find in most cases, people are most likely to do things along the lines of what they already have. Chances are, that’s not going to be what the buyer wants.
You’re better served starting with some simpler steps, such as:
Have a tag sale right away. Most of us wait until we have a buyer, and then have a tag sale. But having the sale right away gets rid of all the stuff that’s cluttering the house and making it difficult to see what’s there. Clear out your closets, get rid of the stuff in your attic and your garage. The house looks bigger and the closets look more useful when they’re not stuffed.
Trim the hedges and bushes growing over the windows, and wash the windows. People buy a house, re-landscape, do all these new things, put down foundation plants -- I’m guilty of this as well -- and in no time those plants are bushes that cover the windows, and we don’t notice it. It keeps the house dark. It does not cost much to trim them down or replace with new foundation plants. The money earned from the tag sale can more than cover this cost.
Keep the house clean. A clean and pleasant-smelling home is welcoming. You want prospective customers and their agents to feel welcome.
Get a survey and an inspection as soon as possible. Any buyer will eventually get an inspection, so it’s not like any flaws aren’t going to be uncovered. This way, you can know that, for instance, you need a new furnace. You might want to replace it now so it doesn’t come up later, or you may let the buyer know the house needs a $10,000 furnace and you’ll take it off the asking price.
As far as a survey, you’d be surprised how often owners don’t know the actual boundaries of their property. Plus, you may be living in conditions that aren’t accurately represented in your Certificate of Occupancy, and it’s better to know that upfront than to a delay a closing to correct violations.
Take major work into account when deciding on a price. If your house hasn’t been updated in a long time or you’re worried it needs a lot of work, you might consider bringing someone in to estimate how much the necessary work would cost, and factor that into the price of your house.
If you have an $8 million house, for instance, but it needs an estimated $1.5 million of work, maybe you sell it at $6.5 million. This adjusted price is in your favor because when people are looking at $8 million houses, they’re going to compare the others in that same price range to yours, and the other houses are going to look better. You’d rather have it be the most impressive in a group of $6.5 million homes. It’s best to be the least expensive at a price tier.
Price it for what it is. People think that what they have, even though they don’t want it anymore, is worth more than other people think it is … but what they want is worth less than it’s listed for. I think it has to do with familiarity: Familiar is worth more than unfamiliar. You know and love your house. It holds your memories and your history. A new house is an unknown, and therefore its value is questionable. To other people, your house is that new/unknown house.
© 2015 Diane Saatchi