When it comes to selling a home, remember you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Real estate professionals call it “curb appeal.” It’s how would-be buyers see your house when they drive up. If they don’t like what they see initially, they will never get out of the car, and they will not see the inside, no matter how nice it is. So, before you put your house on the market, there are some simple steps you can take to improve the likelihood buyers will actually come inside.
According to the Texas Association of Realtors (TAR), the three most important factors when selling a house are location, condition and price. This column is about the second. Putting your house on the market requires checking every aspect of the home and repairing, refreshing or replacing whatever is necessary to sell it.
Remove any junk or clutter from the yard. This includes tree limbs and leaves but especially junk cars, parts, lawn tractors and the like. Don’t forget to put away the concrete blocks the car was sitting on. It’s permissible for the home to look lived in but not by Ma and Pa Kettle.
If the exterior of the house is dirty or moldy, give it a good scrubbing. Rent or borrow a high-pressure sprayer if you have to. My neighbors would gladly loan me anything if it means making my house look better. If it needs paint, paint it. But use common sense. Now is not the time to experiment with psychedelic colors. The house may just need a touch up, but that will work only if you can match the existing paint. I found out the hard way (my wife explained it to me) that enamel brown paint doesn’t touch up a flat
brown house very well.
Spruce up the entrance so it calls attention to itself. Reattach the house numbers according to city code. Take down the Christmas lights if it’s any month other than December or January.
Clean the windows, and repair or replace screens or glass as needed. Clean, replace or discard dirty or broken lawn furniture. If you have a pool, be sure it is clean and the water crystal clear.
If the driveway has deteriorated, consider repaving or repairing it. Power wash, seal, stain or paint decks and porches that need it. Replace missing boards from the backyard fence. Make certain downspouts and gutters are clear and functioning. You don’t want the prospects dodging a waterfall over the front door if it rains. And make sure all exterior lights are working — it’s unfortunate to lose the sale but worse to get sued because someone tripped in the dark. Besides, lighting makes the home show better.
Mow the lawn, edge the driveway, walks and curb. If there are bare areas in the lawn, add new sod. Pull, don’t just kill, the weeds. If time permits, you might re-seed bare areas. Prune dead limbs from trees and shrubbery. Dead trees should be removed, but hire a professional unless you know what you are doing. I lost a front porch when a tree removal went bad.
Plant colorful flowers appropriate for the season. These should be live flowers, not plastic ones like the apartment complex up the street from me uses. Color experts say houses with yellow trim or yellow flower borders sell faster. Adding mulch to flower beds and around trees is an inexpensive but effective way of freshening the look of your yard.
Getting the prospects in the front door is only part of the sale. There are some simple things you can do to make the inside more marketable as well.
Make sure the air conditioning and heating systems are in good working order. It’s unlikely you will sell your home to a family you can’t see it through their perspiration. Fix leaky faucets, toilets and faulty lighting. Vacuum the drapes; clean the carpet. Repair cracks in walls, re-caulk bathrooms and the kitchen. You might not want to cook cabbage the day of the showing. Do bake bread.
Clean out closets, and remove excess furniture. Keep pets and children from being underfoot while prospects are looking. In fact, your real estate agent probably prefers that your whole family not be present. Ensure windows, doors and locks work smoothly. If doors are sticking, plane them. And throw away the junk in the garage, storage buildings and attic.
After you’ve done all these things, you may decide that the old place looks so good you want to keep it. If that’s what you decide, you won’t be the first homeowner who felt that way.