NEW YORK (4/29/14)--When selling a house, Rule No. 1 is don't turn off your buyers. And yet sellers do just that day after day, often without realizing it (Marketwatch April 13).
You might think that, in a better housing market, you can get away with the bare minimum in preparation. Choose that route and it will cost you time and money--more time on the market and less money in incoming offers.
The editors of Home & Family Finance Resource Center recommend you first make sure your home is spotless. Then go through the house and notice all the low-cost fixes or changes you could make that would appeal to a buyer: a new shower curtain, updated knobs on kitchen and bath cabinets, a new welcome mat by the front door, trimming or removing overgrown shrubs at the front of the house, for example.
Look at your home as a product, instead of as the home you live in. Detach yourself from it and the memories the house represents as much as you can.
Eliminate issues that send prospective buyers running, says real estate agent Brendon DeSimone. In his book, "Next Generation Real Estate," he details common turnoffs and how to handle them, which takes daily discipline:
* Pets: Accept the fact that not only must your pets be gone whenever the house is being shown, so must their equipment: bedding, toys, crates, bowls and dishes, food, and litter boxes. It might be easiest on everyone if a friend or family member can take custody of the animals while the house is on the market.
* Kids: You can't farm out your kids until you sell your house, but minimize their presence as much as possible. Stow toys and equipment. Plan to spend a good 20 minutes packing up baby items before a showing, DeSimone says.
* Odors: If your house fails the sniff test, you've lost buyers before they ever tour the property. Pet odors top the list of offensive smells, and cooking odors come in second. After cooking, boil some cinnamon in water to freshen up the house. Real-estate agent Heather Lamp, Fort Mill, S.C., cautions that plug-ins and sprays can make the problem even worse for people sensitive to smells or allergic to the fresheners. And DeSimone says, "If you're a smoker, seriously, get the whole house painted."
* Stuff: You know you must declutter closets, basements, and garages, but don't look past all the stuff that becomes invisible in daily life: too many kitchen counter appliances, grooming tools and potions in bathrooms, for example.
* Dirt: Daily dirt has a way of becoming invisible to occupants, too, but prospective buyers will spot every crumb and dab of toothpaste. One of the hardest parts of having a house on the market is not just getting the house clean, but keeping it clean--for weeks or months on end. The payoff of an always-neat home: You're more likely to get a higher price, DeSimone says.
For related information, read "Want Top Dollar for Your House? Apply Elbow Grease" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.