Sunday, March 11, 2007

7 tips to get your house market-ready

The house goes up for sale on Wednesday. I've got conflicting feelings, house-wise. While I love moving into a new home--rearranging things and making a new space "ours"--I'm very sad to leave this house. This house was lovely when we bought it, and over the years we've redecorated it, so it's gorgeous.

Even so, there's a lot of work involved in putting a house up for sale. Today, I thought I'd share with you the lessons I've learned about getting your house market-ready:

1. Ask a realtor to critique your house in advance. As soon as you know you'll be selling your home, ask a realtor to go through your house and point out things that you can do to improve its marketability. The earlier you do this, the more time you have to budget, change and enjoy those improvements. Last year, we had our realtor walk the home. She suggested everything from putting in tile floors and changing the kitchen counters to tearing out the fake grass carpet on the balcony and putting in a couple of wicker chairs. Because we had time, we could find a good but inexpensive contractor, shop for sales and get the improvements done at about half of what it would have if we'd done it at the last minute. Plus I got to enjoy my gorgeous counters!

2. Fix things. Big or small, a problem in a house implies there are others that can't be immediately seen. Take care of leaky faucets, the toilet that runs, the lock that sticks. Take care of cracks in the ceiling and find their cause. (For us, the upstairs bathtub just needed re-caulking.) If you have doubts about the wiring or furnace, get them checked by a pro, so you can fix them before it becomes an issue in closing.

3. De-Clutter. De-cluttered rooms look bigger and allow people to imagine their stuff in your house. Pack up the knick-knacks and extra linens, remove unused furniture, even box up the books and toys. Use this time to cut the clutter permanently--toss unusable, broken or obsolete items and give the good unwanted stuff to charity. If you don't have a lot of storage space, pile boxes neatly in the garage or even an empty bedroom. People can more easily imagine an empty room with boxes than a messy room with stuff.

4. Spruce up the yard. A friend told me people usually make up their mind about a house in the first 10 minutes. I know I do. Encourage that good first impression with a nice yard. Over-seed the lawn, mulch, plant a few flowers. Trim the trees and bushes (but if you need major trimming, do it early so the leaves have time to grow back.) Re-surface the driveway. Paint the door if it needs it and wash down the front porch. Get a nice Welcome Mat.

5. Clean. I know, "Duh!" It makes an impression, though. Personally, I believe people don't mind a little mess in terms of scattered toys or papers, especially it they are last-minute lookers, but filth like grease on the oven fan and stains on the carpets--things that look like they've been there awhile--say the house isn't cared for. Give your bath a close look--no one wants to imagine themselves in a mildewed shower stall.

6. Touch-up. If you have a truly awful, outdated rug or floor, you may want to replace them. If you have walls that are beyond cleaning, a fresh coat of paint does wonders. However, most of the time, touching up will suffice. Repair holes in the walls, re-caulk along the edges of the tub or shower stall, give the trim or doors a quick coat of paint, and if you have the right colors, touch up the dings in the walls.

7. Station baskets in the busy rooms. When the realtor calls that someone wants to look at the house, you can do a quick tidy by stuffing toys, books, dropped shoes, etc. into the basket and tucking it into a corner.

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