tips for selling a house

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Since I announced that we sold our house last week I’ve received a ton of questions, so I thought I’d break those questions down into a few different posts to address them all. Many of the questions were regarding the fact that we didn’t use a realtor to sell our house. In addition, a bunch of you wanted to know if I had any selling tips to share.

Seeing as how this was the fifth house we’ve lived in and sold in the last fifteen years I definitely have a few things to share on the subject…….though I don’t know that my advice will be groundbreaking……I’m happy to share my thoughts regardless.
tips for selling a house
photo by Sarah Grashel Photography
1. When we decided to list our house for sale the first thing we did, and that I highly recommend regardless if you list by owner or with an agent, is to check out the competition. I spent a great deal of time online looking at comparable homes within our price range that were currently on the market. This gave me a good look at what homes were selling for (which was helpful to us since we didn’t have a listing agent and had to come up with a listing price on our own) and it also helped me to compare and contrast the good and the bad points of our home with the competition on the market as well as with what had recently sold. This research helped me to prepare my sales plan…..or my game plan, if you will. And I think that even if you do decide to hire a realtor you will be better served if you make yourself knowledgable in this area. There’s a lot at stake as your home is typically your largest asset, and I don’t think it’s a good idea to rely on your realtor to do everything for you.
2. From there I addressed the bad points first. As compared to the competition, our master closet was pretty small. And we were the only house on the market in our price range with a basement laundry room. These were the two points about the house that I myself didn’t like when we decided to buy the house, but for me the good points outweighed the bad. So, I did what I could to make the bad points not look like drawbacks. I made friends with the space bag and stored away a lot of the jeans, sweaters and pretty much anything off season – including shoes.
tips for selling a house
I removed that chair as well as all of those sweaters and jeans on the top shelves. And we removed any shoes that were on the floor.
So our master closet looked the largest it’s ever looked because I weeded out a great deal of what we weren’t currently wearing. This also helped when it came time to start packing as a lot of our clothes and shoes were already packed and ready to go. Then it was time to address the laundry room. The one room in our house that never received the makeover it was due. I have no pictures to share. All I did was slap some lipstick on a pig. 😉 Basically I cleared it out entirely and gave it a really good deep clean. I removed all the scuffs on the walls with the help of a magic eraser and then grabbed some baskets to use for storing rags and laundry detergent so there were no loose items on the shelves. It was very bare bones – functional and clean, not necessarily pretty. The idea there was to make the laundry room look really large, so that the fact that it was in the basement would’t be so much of a drawback to potential buyers.
3. In addition to addressing the bad points we also did some overall cleaning and sprucing. Basically it was like a really deep spring cleaning. All the baseboards were wiped down and in some rooms they were given a fresh coat of white paint. I went through all the kitchen drawers and cabinets….even the pantry.
tips for selling a house
Buyers are kind of nosy and will open drawers and cabinets, and ultimately you want every drawer, cabinet and closet to look like they are so spacious you don’t have enough stuff to fill them all. When you’re getting ready to list a house it’s always a good idea to clear out anything you aren’t using and start sending things to the goodwill. That will not only help your house to sell, but it will ultimately make packing and moving a whole heck of a lot easier as well.
4. We also spruced up the front exterior. Curb appeal is huge for potential buyers. Since we had already put in a new front door and had the shutters painted, we hired a landscaper to completely redo the front exterior.
tips for selling a house
That is one thing that when it was done my husband and I both thought, “Why did we wait until now to do this?!” New landscaping made a world of difference in the curb appeal department! Probably because quite a few of our old shrubs were dead or dying. 😉
Once we had dealt with the bad points, did a deep clean and some overall house sprucing we were ready to list. We chose not to list with an agent for a number of reasons. Choosing to use a realtor to sell your home or attempting to sell by owner is a personal decision. In my opinion there is no right answer, and it really depends on your home and what’s going on in your market. Obviously you make more on the sale of your home by not hiring a listing agent as you don’t have to pay a commission; however there is a lot of stress in being your own agent so you have to decide if that is worthwhile to you. In our case the neighborhood we lived in was a desirable location and being that we’ve sold homes before (both with an agent and without) it made more sense to us to list by owner. We used a flat fee listing agent in order to have our house listed on the mls and we did pay the buyer’s agent.
5. The world of real estate has become quite the internet business. So my last tip is to be sure to have great photographs of your home included in the listing. If you are hiring a realtor you should make sure that they will be providing professional quality photographs of your home. If they show up with an iPhone to photograph your home for the listing…..in my opinion, that’s a major no-no! Many times buyers will decided if your home is worth a visit based on what they see online and pictures as they say are worth a thousand words. In addition to the quality of the photos it’s also important to put your best foot forward in those pictures. In bathrooms all personal items (toothbrushes, hair products etc) should be removed from countertops.
tips for selling a house
Every picture you included in the listing should be a “glamour shot”. You want every picture to be as close to magazine perfect as possible, so that might mean moving things off counter tops or putting kids and dog toys away. Basically you want your house to look the opposite of real life. 😉 And while that may be a giant pain it will be worthwhile in the end when your home is sold!
I know there are a lot of realtors that would recommend de-personalizing your home before listing i.e. changing dark paint colors, but I think if a home is staged well those personal design decisions will be a good selling point rather than a drawback. As you know the main living space in our house was painted a bold red which is definitely not everyone’s favorite color, yet not one potential buyer had anything negative to say about the paint colors in our home.
tips for selling a house
6. A couple of things I continued doing while our house was on the market was to have fresh flowers in the rooms. It’s an inexpensive way to make a house feel and look more welcoming.
tips for selling a house - fresh flowers
I also brought in a couple of vanilla scented plug-ins which may sound crazy, but the scent of vanilla is a universally loved fragrance that often makes people feel “at home”…….which is exactly what you want potential buyers to feel when they tour your house.
All in all we sold our home in three weeks (which is great for our market) without doing a single open house. I personally hate open houses as from my own experience they don’t typically draw serious buyers. More often than not, they draw in people like myself who just love to look at houses. 🙂 And when it’s your home on the market they aren’t as fun since you have to leave your house for an extended period of time. Anyhow, that’s just my opinion.
I would also highly recommend to anyone that is selling by owner to create your own marketing sales flyer. I created a one page sheet that listed each and every upgrade that we made to the house over the five years that we lived there. Don’t assume that buyers will know that you had all new floors and carpeting installed. They will know what you make them aware of, so be sure to list every single renovation detail including the small stuff like new closet shelving.
I hope for those that sent me questions you’ve found your answers in this post. Please let me know if you have any other questions! I’m happy to share what’s worked for us! And since we all live in different areas of the country I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the subject!
Feel free to take a full house tour of our fifth house here!
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