More than just a pretty face
If you’re thinking of selling your home, then the first thing you need to do is ask yourself whether your home (and your family) are really ready to list. That’s right. Both need to be “market-ready” before-hand. The good news is that there’s an entire profession dedicated to helping you prepare for the process… your friendly neighborhood real estate agent.
What, you thought they were just there to show houses and help with contracts? That’s okay, it’s a common misunderstanding. While no one is more qualified than your agent to help you understand where your home sits in the market or how to maximize your ultimate ROI, we’ll walk through some pre-listing pointers. Hopefully, these will come in handy when you do reach out to an agent to explore selling.
So what is market-ready?
It’s good to keep in mind that some things in real estate are subjective (like your home’s beauty), while other things are very specifically-defined (like legal and contractual terms). While “market-ready” is a loose phrase often referring to a home that is about to be listed for sale, it is generally understood that a market-ready home has met a basic, professional standard of readiness for the market.
Of course, there is another assumption that comes with this – one that you and/or your family will need to consider long before you begin the process of listing. You need to decide if you and your family are market-ready. That is… are you fully prepared to go through the process of selling your home? No, we’re not trying to frighten you out of the process – quite the opposite, in fact. Instead, we’re hoping that these steps will help ready you for the best possible home-selling experience.
Are you market-ready?
Selling your home is a process that assumes certain things will be managed on your end (with or without an agent). So, you’ll need to be ready to take on the extra work without excessive stress. Like a wedding (or even winning the lottery), some stress can be a good thing and even an exciting life-change for the whole family. So here are a few considerations to help prepare you for this adventure ahead…
- Are you ready to move? You should make the decision to sell your home very thoughtfully. Consider the reasons why you want to sell. Are you selling because you need more space or a different layout? Are you selling because you think it would be a wise financial decision (given recent market trends)? If no one in your family is optimistic about selling, you probably need to reconsider your decision – this will be a team effort.
- Are you ready to make a new home purchase? Have you decided where you want to move and have you done the research to identify neighborhoods and home types you’d be interested in? If not, take the time to plan for a place to land when your home sells. Having your dream home laid out in advance will help your agent from the starting gate!
- Are you ready to make your home market-ready? You’ll see more information on this topic below. For now, make sure that you have the energy and commitment to prepare your home for a profitable sale. This commitment may involve some long hours in the evenings or even some financially-backed touch-ups to your home and property.
- Are you ready to treat your home as a product? When you sell your home, you’ll need to start thinking about it as a product. You’ll need to compete with comparable homes in the neighborhood and on the market, which may require doing things that you wouldn’t otherwise do. For example, you’ll likely need to repaint those purple living room walls or prepare your kids to remove those epic band posters.
- Are you ready to set a realistic price? Homes that are priced right when they’re first listed tend to sell for more than homes that are overpriced and sit idle on the market before ultimately dropping in price. Don’t use the price of your home to test the market. Select a trustworthy real estate agent and take their advice in terms of pricing at market value in order to be competitive with similar homes in your area.
- Are you ready for some stress during the selling process? You’ll need to keep the house clean, set realistic showing timeframes and be prepared to lock up your pets and leave the house when buyers are coming. Setting aside some funds to take the family out at last-minute notice can ease some of this stress… now it’s less of a 15-minute vacate warning and more of a spontaneous pizza night!
Is your home market-ready?
So all of the above is most important to you and your family. But let’s talk about your agent and the buyer’s experience because ultimately, you’re helping your agent tell a story to your prospective home buyers. Here are a few things that you can do to help ensure that your home sells for the highest price the market will bear…
- Deep clean. Do a deep cleaning of every part of the house and keep it clean until the closing. It’s recommended that you find a cleaning service to take care of the first deep-clean inside as well as a few of the external heavy-lifting items like a good pool-cleaning (if you’re not up to the task yourself). Plan on having your home on the market for a few months and doing a weekly or semi-weekly scrub to present your home in the best light!
- Declutter. Pack non-essential items. Plastic bins are your friends. Pick up 10 of these and distribute amongst the household. Give your kids (if you’ve got ’em) a one-time pass to shove miscellaneous possessions in there and out of site. Then, neatly mark them and store them in the garage (ideally offsite in a storage unit if possible).
- De-personalize. Remove items that make the home look like yours alone, such as family portraits, collectible displays, and so on. There is a school of thought that says you’re telling a story of a home that has been lived in, but more than two photos of someone else’s family can make a walkthrough somewhat creepy and distract visitors from imagining their story in your house.
- Do repairs or updates as needed. Update landscaping, apply fresh paint in neutral colors, pressure wash the areas that need deep cleaning, replace worn carpeting, fix scratched floors, fix any plumbing issues, and so forth. Yup, we did mention that there was work ahead. Don’t worry, just take it one step at a time. Create a list of 10 big items that have to happen in the next 2 weeks. Have the kids work on the daily items (dishwasher, basic clean-up, etc.), then you and your partner work on one big item per night with a night off here and there.
- Organize. Clean out closets and pantries to avoid the perception that the house lacks sufficient storage. Less is more. Pack any items that don’t fit, have a dinner party with friends to use up extra food or better yet, donate it to your local food bank! Stage your dishes to the bare minimum… no, you don’t need the circus show of 37 pans falling out of the cabinets when the open house kicks into full gear.
- Stage the house. Get ideas from your real estate agent or hire a professional stager. Remember, your goal is not to update the story of you, rather to create enough blank space on your home’s canvas so that the parade of home buyers about to come through can begin working on their own dreams.