Wednesday, January 14, 2009

How to Sell a House - Part Three - Preparation

You've done your homework, tentatively selected a Realtor or two, and now you need to get your house ready. If it seems early in the process, you may agree with me that this is an important step after reading what I have in mind.

There are three main categories, to keep it simple.

First, get rid of all that clutter you have around the house. Go through each room and seriously put away or throw out everything you don't use on a daily basis - and even that can be put out of sight. The condition of a home sells the home these days as much (almost) as location and price. This doesn't mean that you have to make decisions about Aunt Elspeth's china cat that she gave you for your communion. Put it away - Home Depot, Lowe's, Crate and Barrel make fine organizers. If you start thinking too hard you will be there forever. Trust me. I have been there and done that.

If this is an estate and there are several people who need to go over things, this method works very well. Nothing gets thrown away - just put away for another day. If you are ready to let it go you can make piles and bags or call in someone like Marlene Gallo (315-480-3792) about whom I've written in the past and she will make it disappear. But it has to go.

If you have to move quickly and can't do it yourself, but you want the items boxed, call me. I have several people who can help with the process. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you will do it eventually or "when we get close." Now is the best time.

Second, while you were de-cluttering you probably saw things that needed to be fixed. The paint needed to be touched up in the foyer, the half bath toilet rattles, the faucet in the basement sprays you but you know how to turn it on so it won't do that. You've known that for twenty years! The new people won't - and when they try it to check the water pressure - whoosh! There's the sale down the rattling toilet! Do the repairs.

Most of what you'll find on your list will be little things because you've taken care of the big ones. But little things add up; it's all in the details. And don't forget the outside - walk around, check the windows and gutters for imbalances, for example. Get rid of that dead bush by the garage. Then make that list.

Call in the various specialists in the next week to get it all done. There's a portion on the listing papers for recent improvements. It's always good to have a long list of things you've done to make the house better. You can add to this and get the repairs out of the way at the same time.

Third, prepare for the Realtor's visit as you would an honored guest. Make the house look as beautiful as possible. This sounds silly, but the Realtor will look at the house with a different eye, a critical eye. Have it cleaned, set the table with the best china, buy fresh flowers, "polish up the handle of the big front door." Watch an episode or two of one of those HGTV shows about staging....I like to see best efforts and then find possible improvements. I hate being the one to bring up the repairs and the clutter. I feel like an old school marm scolding a recalcitrant student.

This sounds like a lengthy process, but it can be done quickly once the decision is made to sell the house. And while you're cleaning out the bookshelves, or dusting in the attic, remember that one sentence I told you to develop that encompasses why you are doing this. Repeat it several times over and over as you sneeze.