Why does one house sell within days and another linger for months on the market?

In today’s real estate market, far too many sellers watch prospective buyers troop through their homes without making an offer. To avoid this kind of frustration, you must learn the secrets of making your house more saleable.
More important, the longer a house is on the market, the less likely the seller is to receive a high offer. It’s human nature to suspect the quality of merchandise that has been “on the shelf” for a long time. A slow-selling house makes prospective buyers nervous.
Selling your home can be a painless and profitable experience – if you follow the guidelines offered on the following pages. And don’t neglect to involve your family in this project. It is a cooperative venture with one shared goal; a timely sale of your home.

The Groundwork

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes! Remember, they arrive at your front door waiting to fall in love with your home. If you’ve done your homework and set the stage, every room in your home will greet the customer with a pleasant surprise.

What makes your home special?

First, settle down in your favorite easy chair, close your eyes, and try to remember your feeling the very first time YOU walked into your home. Now, start listing your home’s most positive features. Remember, the more personal, the better. Ask your spouse and your children to add their own positive reactions. Your teenage daughter may remember how she fell in love with your home years ago because of a swing that hung from the old oak tree in the backyard. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring children’s special impressions. Tour every room, including the attic, the garage, and yard. Note at least one positive feature in each. Include the items that attracted you and those desirable features you have added.

Accentuate the Positive

A real estate agent will bring prospective buyers to your door, but don’t rely on him or her to do the WHOLE job of selling your home. A saleable home has each room sending out a unique message to the customer. It is more effective to have the buyers “discover” your home’s special features themselves (than to have the owner or agent point them out like a tour guide.) Draw attention to your home’s best asset by a LITTLE CREATIVITY: a cheerful glow of logs in the fireplace; a spotlight beaming down; a pot of red geraniums…stimulates the buyer’s imagination by setting the scene.

Eliminate the Negative

You can eliminate many of your home’s negative features by transforming them into something visually pleasant. Inexpensive and creative disguises will minimize those drawbacks.
No Home is Perfect, Even Yours!
List the negative features you can find. Be “HONEST”!

Back to top

General Considerations

Make Those Minor Repairs

All those tiny flaws in your otherwise beautifully maintained home will add up to one thing to the observant buyer: the dreaded O.N., otherwise known as OWNER NEGLECT. All sign of OWNER NEGLECT must be eliminated.

Regardless of Season, Tackle Spring Cleaning

Those hours spent thoroughly cleaning your home will be hours well spent when the results pay off in an early and profitable sale. Clean windows are important! Pay particular attention to your kitchen and bathrooms – they involve personal health and hygiene, and are areas buyer scrutinize closely.

Create the Illusion of Spaciousness

Make your living space APPEAR larger by eliminating bulky, unnecessary furniture – rearrange to give the illusion of spaciousness.

Your Rooms A Light, Bright Look

Most buyers want large, bright, cheerful rooms.

Use Color and Lighting to Draw Attention to Your Home’s Best Selling Features

Highlight the graceful bay window with a colorful arrangement of flowers. Color has the power to attract. Lighting should be used for emphasis.

Disguise Unsightly Views

Disguise that potentially offending view, but always let light into your rooms. Replace heavy curtains with sheer white panels. Above all, don’t apologize for a poor view.

Eliminate Unpleasant Odors

Remember that some people are more sensitive to odors than others. Smokers rarely notice the odor of tobacco that fills their homes, and pet owners may be oblivious to objectionable doggy or kitty odors. Use powdered products like “Love My Carpet” regularly. Mildew odors are another no-no. Don’t allow wet towels to accumulate in hampers, or old laundry to pile up in closets.

Avoid Eccentricities

Smart sellers play down individualistic touches that may express perfectly their taste and personality, but, at the same time, appeal to a minority of home buyers. In selling, play the odds. If your rooms are painted purple and beaded curtains hang in every doorway, don’t rely on your real estate agent to find the perfect buyer whose taste matches yours. The average buyer will have a hard time looking beyond purple walls and eccentric decor. Two coats of white paint may be the best investment you ever made. Other areas of possible offenses are those two old bugaboos, politics and religion. Everyone is entitled to his own beliefs in these areas, but if you are trying to sell the widest possible market, it is wise not to make your living room look like campaign headquarters or your dining room resemble a sacred temple.

Recognize the Fine Line Between Clutter and Sterility

Notice the small details that make the rooms particularly attractive and appealing – a vase of flowers, a basket of knitting yarns. Accessories can make or break a room. But be on the lookout for distractive clutter.

Display Photographs that Show Your Home During Other Seasons

Go through your photo albums and select pictures of your house and yard during all four seasons. If hung at eye level in a well lighted area, the pictures will speak for themselves and give you yet another selling edge.Front Door and Porch No matter how lovely your home may be behind that front door, a buyer will be turned off by crumbling front steps, a doorbell that doesn’t work, creaky hinges, or chipping paint on porch columns. Give special attention to your home’s front entry. Remember, first impressions are likely to color the remainder of the house tour.

Create A Welcome Spot of Color

There should be something special that beckons him to your front door, something that sets your home off from the other houses on the block. A bright red milk can, a tub of geraniums, a pot of floppy petunias, or a basket of nasturtiums. Invest in a new doormat that says “Welcome.”

Open Your Home to the Outside World

A buyer approaches a home with curiosity aroused; he wants to have positive feelings. If all the curtains are drawn and the front door is locked and bolted, your home will seem like a forbidding fortress. If the curtains are open, the windows sparkling clean, and the front door open (in warm weather), your home will radiate a welcome spirit and invite the buyer to enter.

Capitalize of A Spacious Front Porch/Deck

Take advantage of the nostalgia it evokes. Set the stage and stimulate imaginations.
Your Home’s Entry Hall

Create A Dramatic Focal Point

Study your entry hall and ask “what kind of statement” it makes about your home. This area should “greet” and say “Welcome, your house hunting days are over.” Dried flowers can make a striking focal point on a hall table any time of the year. Imaging cattails, a bunch of orange Chinese lanterns, an arching spray of bittersweet or wheat stalks in a glowing copper planter.

Add Spaciousness with A Mirror

Virtually any entry hall will benefit from a well placed mirror (enlarges the area.). Clean regularly!

Improve the Floor’s Appearance Here, If Nowhere Else

Your entry hall flooring is observed carefully by the prospective buyer – give them a positive attitude.

Clean Out Your Coat Closet

The entry hall closet is the first one inspected – make it appear roomy. Add a few extra hangers. Hang a big of cedar chips or a potpourri ball to give a pleasant, fresh scent.

Back to top

Your Home’s Living Room and Family Room

Treat These Rooms As If They Were Staged Settings

Buyers ask themselves, “Can I imagine myself LIVING in this room?” Your job is to make each room project a positive response. What touches make a room look truly inviting? Music is one element. Consider leaning a guitar in the corner of your living room, or opening some sheet music on the piano with a light shining on it.

Highlight Your Fireplace

Don’t take for granted and expect the buyer to imagine the glow of a roaring fire; light one. Place something colorful on the mantel, but don’t overdo!

Improve Traffic Flow In These Rooms

Make rooms visually larger by removing excess furniture. Have easy traffic flow patterns. Be sure that all doors open fully.

Draw Attention to Exposed Beams or A Cathedral Ceiling

Don’t Let A Television Set Dominate the Room

Your Home’s Dining Room or Dining Area

Set the Scene by Setting the Table

You can stimulate a buyer’s imagination by setting your dining table with pretty china and silver – a warm and welcome sight. (Notice the photographs of dining rooms in any home decorating magazine.) Avoid going overboard – any stage setting that you create should reflect the character of your entire home to be effective.

Visually Enlarge A Small Dining Area

If your dining table has one or two leaves, take one or two out. Consider placing your dining table against a wall. Remove any extra “company” chairs. Consider putting that looming china cabinet in storage until your house is sold. Aim for a clean and tidy look.

Your Home’s Kitchen

The kitchen continues to be the “heart of the home”. A pleasant, working kitchen is near the top of most buyers’ list of priorities.

Use Props to Set A Cheerful Scene

Set the scene with – an open cookbook – a copper colander filled with blueberries – a basket of eggs – a bunch of carrots on a wooden cutting board – a ceramic mixing bowl and wire whisk.

Make It Smell Like Grandma’s Kitchen

“Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven.” These aromas are associated with happiness and a sense of well-being. An original kitchen aroma can be created on top of your stove, or here’s a mix guaranteed to have buyers longing to whip up a batch of cookies in your kitchen:

Granny’s Aromatic Secret:

  • 1 whole nutmeg
  • 5 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole allspice
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves

Halve the nutmeg and add all ingredients to 3 cups water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer. In the heat of summer, a bowl of lemons on the counter will provide a fresh and pleasant aroma.

Expand Your Small Counter Space

Clean counters of small appliances. Check the counter top around your sink, and remove any detergent or cleanser, etc., that may be cluttering the are.

Create More Storage Space

If your cabinets, drawers, and closets are jammed full, buyers assume that your storage space is inadequate. Weed out all these areas, removing what you don’t use, storing seldom-used items elsewhere, and reorganizing shelves. Neat, organized shelves and drawers fool the eye by looking larger.

Accent Kitchen Windows

Large, cheerful kitchen windows are a real plus and should be highlighted as a special feature of your home. Hang a stained glass mobile or some wind chimes in front of your sunny kitchen window. If you hang a bird feeder outside your window, nature will seem to become a part of the room.

Highlight an Eat-In Area of Your Kitchen

Accentuate by setting the table for an informal meal with bright placemats and a generous bowl of fruit as a centerpiece.

Back to top

Laundry Room

A separate laundry room is a true asset and is appreciated by all buyer. Don’t hide this treasure behind closed doors. Spruce up the room and leave the door proudly open for inspection.

Make It Cheerful and Appealing

Add a fresh coat of paint! Is it well organized? Piles of dirty laundry can be a real turn-off to the buyer’s eye – and his nose!

Set It Up to Do Double Duty

If there’s room for a table and chair, could it be a pleasant sewing area? Set up that old Singer and place a bright colored piece of fabric under the presser foot.
Stairways Stairways should provide an attractive transition from one level of your home to another.

Make Them Safe

Stair lighting should be more than adequate, stairs must be clutter free, stair railings tight and secure, and runners or carpeting tacked securely. Cheerfully decorated stairs are positive!

Add Visual Interest to the Stairwell

A carefully chosen accent might improve the area’s visual appeal. If you have a wide, gracious staircase, emphasize this feature by hanging a few pictures along the wall. Draw attention to a handsome lighting fixture by polishing the brass and dusting each small light bulb or crystal prism. Any stair landing should also have an attractive focal point, be it a fern on a plant stand, a dramatic poster, a chiming clock, or a special chair on a large stair landing. If the staircase is narrow, fool the eye by minimizing clutter.

Back to top

Bedrooms

Imagine for a moment that you’re in the “bed & breakfast” business. How would you change your home’s bedrooms to appeal to a paying lodger? Naturally, you’d make up the beds with your prettiest sheets and comforters. Maybe you’d add a vase of flowers on the dressing table or a cozy armchair in the corner. Every bedroom in your home should invite prospective buyers to settle right in.

Create A Master Bedroom “Suite” Effect

Large master bedrooms are particularly popular among today’s home buyers. Make your bedroom larger. Paint the room a light color, remove one of the bureaus if the room is crowded, minimize clutter to maximize spaciousness. Aim for a restful, subdued “look.”
A private bathroom off the master bedroom is a real sales plus—decorate to coordinate with the color scheme of your bedroom, create the “suite” effect.

Tackle Your Closets

Virtually all buyers are looking for a house with plenty of closet space. Try to make what you have appear generous and well-planned…

  • Clear our all but your current seasonal wardrobe.
  • A clear floor will make a closet seem more spacious.
  • Closet shelves should look well organized.
  • When prospective buyers open your closet door, they should be greeted with a whiff of fresh-smelling air.
  • Be sure that every closet in your home has a light so that buyers can easily inspect the interiors.

Depersonalize Teenager’s Rooms

Take time to explain your house-selling goals to your children. Encourage them to participate in preparing your home for showing; particularly the principle of appealing to the widest possible market…store those personal posters until your home is sold.

Back to top

Bathrooms

Create A Look

Decorate and personalize – create a pleasing, individual look. Add plants, shells you collected at the beach last summer with an attractive glass bowl or jar, pictures, magazine rack, display; fresh towels that coordinate with paint colors, etc.

Consider Color

Remember, appeal to a wide range of buyers. Play down that all-pink look with contrasting dove-gray towels and matching bathroom rug. If your bathroom is mostly white or neutral, add a few cheerful accents of color; use towels in the popular shades. Don’t hesitate to buy a few new towels and a rug; you’ll be taking them with you to your new home.

Invest In A New Shower Curtain

Improve Your Floor Covering

Notice the word “improve” not “replace.” Scrub and wax the older floor. Cover the largest area you can with a large scatter rug.

Put Out Fresh Towels and Soap

Prospective buyers are very special guests in your home. Give the VIP treatment with fresh smelling towels and new soap in an attractive dish. Splurge on a box of fancy sculptures and perfumed guest soaps.

Go Easy On Air Sprays and Room Deoderizers

A gentle hint of fragrance in the air is fine, but keep it subtle.

Back to top

Attic

Whether a high-ceiling room or a crawl space under the eaves for storage, your attic area will be examined and should not detract from the well-kept appearance of your home. If your attic is reached by a steep flight of stairs, be sure they’re clutter free and well lit; if your attic space is reached by a folding set of stairs that you pull from the ceiling, be sure the mechanism is well oiled and there is adequate lighting.

Easy That Creepy, Haunted Feeling

Spruce up your attic, hide the mousetraps, and install bright lights. If your attic does have windows, be sure to clean off the grime and let in as much light as possible. Clean as needed.

Rearrange Your Storage

Get rid of anything that you don’t plan to move to your new home. Remaining stored materials should be neatly contained in boxes and trunks, and positioned against walls.

Make The Most of Your Attic’s Expansion Potential

If you have a large, cheerful, windowed attic, you’re sitting on a potential gold mine. Don’t renovate your attic, just stage to suggest your attic space has potential.

Back to top

Driveways and Garage

Rutted driveways and junk filled garages spell OWNER NEGLECT, and can easily sour a buyer’s otherwise positive impression of your home. Give these areas an honest appraisal and see whether a few small improvements might make a difference. Remember that buyers are scouting for flaws, which they can use to justify a low offer. If you hope to get top dollar for your home, don’t give potential buyers any extra ammunition in a poorly maintained driveway or garage.

Fix Up Driveways for First-Impression Impact

The driveway is no place for children’s toys. Not only are such things dangerous, the clutter is unsightly. the surface of your driveway should be beyond reproach; after all, it’s one of the first things a buyer will see when he drives up. Repair cracks and potholes, pull up pesky weeds, or get a new load of gravel.

Enlarge and Improve the Appearance of the Garage

A clean, organized garage appears larger. If dark, add more light, if small, one-gar garage, remove your car before buyers visit. An empty garage always looks larger. If a two-car garage with very little extra room, remove one of your cars so that the buyer can make their inspection in comfort.

Back to top

Yard

Whether your property consists of fifty acres or a small suburban lot, much of the value is in the land itself. If your yard is a well-landscaped setting for your home, your chances of selling quickly will be greatly enhanced.

Avoid An Overgrown, Unkept Look

Does your yard radiate owner’s pride? So, drag out the lawnmower, sharpen up those hedge cutters, and shape up your yard:

  • Prune bushes, mow your grass, trim trees and hedges, edge along walks and driveways, spray stubborn weeds.
  • An inch or two of bark mulch around your foundation shrubs makes an excellent first impression.

Mark Your Property Boundaries

Paint stakes a bright red or yellow, and stick them in the ground at the corners of your property. This will not only show consideration, it will be an effective sales tool.

Brighten Up Your Property with Some Flowers

Plop the plants into a well-placed wheelbarrow, an old-fashioned washtub, or what have you. Such standbys as nasturtiums, petunias, impatiens, and verbena are easy to maintain if you remember to water them regularly. Try a row of sweet smelling alyssum to line a short sidewalk or pop in some perky dwarf marigolds to form a cheerful oasis of color in your yard.

Draw Attention to Special Trees

Many buyers can’t tell an oak from an elm, but they like the notion of having gracious, mature trees on the property they buy. Make sure yours grabs the buyer’s immediate attention. Hang a swing from a strong branch, plant some bright, shade tolerant flowers like impatiens, or set up your picnic table under the tree’s leafy awning.

Play Up Flat Area

Set up your old badminton or volleyball net in that flat area of your yard.

Set Up A Backyard Living/Dining Area

It is important to devote at least one area of your yard to outdoor living. Buyers will still recognize a scene set with picnic table and chairs and respond positively to it. Cover your picnic table with a fringed, red-and-white checked cloth, set out some plastic plates and glasses, bring out the barbecue equipment, and buyers will almost smell the hot dogs cooking!

Back to top

When Your Home is Shown

Be Willing to Show Your Home (practically) Anytime

Play the odds. The more people who see your home, the more likely you are to sell it quickly. Yes, it’s an inconvenience to show your home at dinner time, but if the people buy your home, isn’t it worth reheating the pot roast?

Have a Family “Game Plan” for Last-Minute Showings

Prepare for the inevitable, unexpected showings with a family game plan. To be effective, this plan should be worked out by all your family and actually written down so that everyone knows what to do if you sound the alarm. No one is talking about major house cleaning at this point. The kinds of tasks you ought to be concerned with now are simple ones: dust the dining table top, stuff last night’s dirty pans in the dishwasher, hide those damp pantyhose hanging on the shower rod. even young children can participate by “cleaning” their room.

Air Out Your Home Half an Hour Before Showing

Any home will smell better if you can open the windows in each room and let in some fresh air. Stale air isn’t appealing, particularly in a home with smokers or pets.

Set Your Thermostat At A Comfortable Temperature

Turn On Lights In Each and Every Room

You can make home showings smoother for your agent if you turn on lights in every room before prospective buyers arrive. This also gives you an opportunity to select the lighting effects you want for each room. No area of your home should be dark.

Turn On Pleasant Background Music

Music has a subliminal power. Why else would stores bother to pipe in soft background music if not to put customers in a comfortable, relaxed mood for what else – buying! Speaking of sound, every seller should know better than to leave a television blaring away when the home is being shown. This is rude and distracting.

Put Pets Out and Send Children to Play at the Neighbors

Perhaps it’s unfair to lump children with pets, but that precious toddler can cause just as much inconvenience when you’re trying to sell a home. Keep pets away from buyers.

Keep Out of Sight When the Salesperson is Showing Your Home

Once you’ve answered the door and welcomed the real estate agent and potential buyers, you should take a walk or visit your neighbors or go grocery shopping. The shrewd seller sets the scene so that buyers can walk onto the stage and immediately begin play-acting, pretending the home is already theirs.

Never Volunteer Information

If you’ve followed the previous tip, you won’t be around to chat with the buyers, but if you are at home, resist the urge to volunteer information about what you consider to be important sales features. It’s all too easy to develop seller’s foot-in-the-mouth disease.

Assemble House Records for Buyer per Usual

In these times of rising energy costs, buyers will most certainly ask what your home heating and electrical costs are. If you are including any appliances in the sale price of your home, you should keep warranties and instruction booklets in this same file.

Tell Everyone That You Meet That Your House Is For Sale

Why keep it a secret? Your neighbors across the street may have a friend who has been waiting to move into the neighborhood. Word of mouth is a strong selling aid. If each person you tell that your house is for sale tell two more people, and those people each tell two more people, word can spread quite rapidly.

Remain Optimistic!