To make your house the best possible choice, there are many small but significant differences you can make. Don’t rely on the buyer to use his or her imagination. Its charm, soundness, comfort and attractiveness must be obvious from the instant the sight the house from the street. Start with the outside of your home, and then work in from the front door. Making your house appear as attractive and friendly as possible from the street is imperative. Without it, you will be hard put to get buyers interested in recognizing your home’s other attributes or potential.
· Freshen up the mailbox. Remove all signs of deterioration. Replace the post the mailbox sits on, if necessary. If not, painting it to match the house is a nice touch. Remove rust from the box itself, and apply a new coat of paint. Replace tattered house numbers.
· If there are flowers planted at the base of the mailbox, make sure they look as fresh as possible.
· Mow it often enough to keep it looking neat. Toss some grass seed on bare spots. It won’t take long to sprout and at least it will look like you have made an effort to improve the area.
· Keep flower beds weed-free.
· Cut back overzealous shrubs that obscure windows.
· Vines growing on the side of the house are a gray area. Some people find them charming; others, a nuisance. If you allow them to remain, keep them looking cultivated, not wild. Most certainly, pull them off windows to avoid a decrepit atmosphere.
· Save a little paint from the mailbox to spruce up birdhouses.
· Pick up dead tree branches. Trim shrubbery if it has started to get out of hand.
· Clean out ponds, fountains and birdbaths. When showing your home, turn on fountains.
· If you ordinarily have a lot of yard ornaments, like statues of animals, etc., you may want to put some or all of them away, for two reasons: first, so buyers can concentrate on the yard and/or its view or landscaping, and not your statues. Second, so that buyers don’t assume that your ornaments stay with the house.
· Straighten up the woodpile. Pick up bark scraps and chips to neaten the appearance.
· If your yard has a clothesline, make sure it is sturdy. Straighten leaning posts, and give faded ones a coat of paint. Remove rust from metal posts. Replace the line if it’s frayed.
· If there is a swing that stays with the house, get it in good repair. Oil squeaks, paint it, and replace missing parts, if possible. If you have any kind of rope swing, replace frayed ropes. If it’s beyond repair, take it down.
· Remove piles of anything from the yard that are unsightly, such as limbs, concrete blocks, flowerpots, or that stack of old bricks that you never got around to building the barbecue out of.
· Remove inoperable vehicles from the yard or drive.
· Outbuildings need to be in good shape. Paint them if the look a little tired. Latches and locks need to work reasonably well. If wired for electricity, replace burned out bulbs.
· See that all yard lights work.
· Make dog pens or runs as clean and attractive as possible. Pick up any animal excrement from the yard, if animals are not penned. If your dog is a digger, fill in holes and spread grass seed.
· Even if the grill attached to your patio doesn’t work, spruce it up. Clean racks and the appearance of serviceability will at least make it seem more of a positive possibility than an eyesore.
· Many buyers do not want the responsibility of caring for a swimming pool. It is imperative, then, that you clear the swimming pool of leaves and debris every day. It must look inviting if it is to appeal to buyers who do want a pool, or to those who will consider a home with one. At night, turn on mood lighting to help buyers imagine themselves entertaining around your pool and patio or deck.
· Play up the comfort and visual appeal of your patio or porch. Arrange your patio furniture in an attractive way. Place a book on a chair in a shady corner. Leaving up the table umbrella lends a festive touch. Flowers in containers will add lively color.
· Over time, gravel drives pack down, baring the dirt underneath. If your drive has exposed spots, and especially is prone to mud puddling, spread a new layer of gravel. You may be surprised at how inexpensive some grades of gravel can be, and how much difference a new load can make in appearance. Also, eliminate grass and weeks sprouting in the drive to avoid an unkempt look.
· If your asphalt or concrete drive has cracks, repair them with a crack-filling compound purchased from a lumber yard.
· If a basketball goal is fixed to or abound your drive, make sure it looks good and is in usable condition. It may be considered a nice detail by the next owners.
· Attend to those flower beds bordering the drive.
· Prune any hanging tree limbs that may scratch the tops of cars or obstruct a desirable view. Also, cut back shrubbery for the same reasons. Buyers don’t want vegetation that inhibits getting in and out of the car, or scratches its finish.
· Make any repairs to fences that make the property appear run down, such as sagging or squeaky gates, missing pickets, rusty latches, or peeling paint.
· Fill in holes you energetic dog may have dug around the fence.
· Fill cracks in concrete or asphalt.
· Pull or spray weeds from between stones or bricks.
· Fill in missing mortar between stones or bricks.
· Trim shrubbery to clear the path.
· Attend to flower beds lining the walk.
· Make sure any lighting is working that lines or illuminates the walks. During winter months, it may already be disk or dark when a buyer comes to see your house after work.
The outside of your home
· Repair any ornamentation, such as shutters, ginger breading, spindles, posts or columns. Paint, if necessary. Remove rust from ironwork. Even though it will cost some money, strongly consider shoring up or even replacing a visibly sagging porch on an old home. The idea is to avoid giving any indication of deterioration or instability.
· Paint peeling trim around doors and windows
· Replace or paint rusted or broken light fixtures on porches or beside doors.
· Replace cracked plastic bubbles over basement window wells. If there are none, remove any trash or debris that tends to collect in such spaces.
· Remove mud daubers’ and wasps’ nests.
· See that the swing is still securely fastened to the porch ceiling. Paint it, if necessary. If it has cushions that have seen better days, purchase bright new ones, or slipcover the old ones.
· Make the front entry as inviting as possible. Polish the brass knocker and kick plate. Since both are available in inexpensive grades, consider adding one or both. Hang a colorful wreath on or near the door. Painting the front door a compatible but contrasting color from the body of the house or trim can affect a very pleasing visual impact. Make sure windows on the door sparkle.
· If you have lived with house numbers that really aren’t adequately readable le from the street, consider updating them. You may even want to change the materials they’re made of, such as from brass to wood, or vice versa.
· A metal or wooden plaque by the front door with the address or the date the house was built is always an attractive detail. If you have one, keep it looking good.
· Potted or hanging plants can do so much to make a porch or entry feel cheerful.
· Nothing adds charm to the façade of a house like windows boxes. They can be purchased inexpensively, and are easy to install. If you already have them, keep the blooms coming. During winter months, plastic holly or greed garlands draped over the boxes lend a homey, holiday mood.
· Some trees, like maples, produce seed pods. These pods are very bad about collecting in gutters, and will even sprout, if allowed to remain. Be sure to remove those unsightly seedlings if they are visible from the ground.
· Is the doorbell cover rust free? Does that little bulb inside the button need to be replaced?
· If you never replaced the screen on the storm door after the kids poked out the corner with a bat, do it now. Replacement screen can be purchased at lumber yards or hardware stores. Some places may even install it for you, at additional. Cost.
· Yes, it’s one of the most dreaded household chores, but do wash the windows inside and out. The more light you can let into your home for showing, the better.
· Now comes the moment the buyers have been waiting for. The key is in the lock. If the lock is difficult to work—requiring jiggling of the key or lifting up the door—fix or replace it.
Some general guidelines applicable to the entire house interior
Take a walk through your house and try to look at it as though you are a potential buyer. If you find this impossible, ask a friend, relative, or your agent to go with you to help you see things in a more objective light. These suggestions apply to every room.
· Look at the carpet. Is it worn or matted, and dirty? Is it reasonably up to date? Is it a color others could live with? Dirty carpet can be cleaned, but worn or outdated carpet needs to be replaced. These days, shag carpet of variegated oranges won’t help to sell a house. Neither will a carpet colored so unusually that most people can’t decorate around it. You don’t have to buy the best carpet available, but do buy a grade in a neutral color that will suit most people. You will get your money back on this one. People look more favorably on a house that has carpet they don’t have to replace right away. Also, new carpet prevents them from using it as a reason to offer you less money than you want.
· Clean every room thoroughly. For most buyers, the house must have that “ready to move into” look.
· Dirty, scuffed, finger-printed walls are a major turn-off for most people. The quickest way to fix that is to paint. You like those purple walls in your bedroom, but it’s unlikely that anybody else will. To cover an undesirable color, neutrals like ivory and light gray are an attractive alternative to white. You may have to apply a primer first to completely cover strong colors. You may consider neutral colored carpeting and paint to be boring, but it is one of the major concerns of home buyers. Many people don’t like to live around strong or bright colors. They may blind buyers to the potential your house could have.
· Clean all light fixtures, particularly glass globes or panels. Revive tarnished metals.
· To make rooms look more commodious for any type of furniture, remove the pieces you can store elsewhere. Are there any occasional tables or armchairs you can do without? How about multiple plant stands that make the corners appear cluttered? Can you live without footstools that impede the easy flow of traffic?
· Straighten out closets and other storage areas. The idea here is to make them seem as capacious as possible. Remove some of your hanging clothes if necessary, to eliminate that sardine look. Stack items neatly on shelves. Line up shoes. Stack boxes in an orderly fashion.
· If you have house pets, it is absolutely essential that your house does not smell like you have them. Smells trigger instant and strong responses that are extremely difficult to change. You want a buyer’s first response to your home to be one of pleasure, not revulsion. Therefore, you must be vigilant about changing cat litter and keeping pet areas squeaky clean. You would be wise to limit the area in which your pet inhabits during the sale period. It wouldn’t hurt to set around unobtrusive dishes or baskets of potpourri. You may want to do this anyway, just to evoke a pleasant sensation when people step in the door. This goes double for households with smokers.
· If you have taken down pictures from the walls, be sure to fill in the nail holes and paint. Filling compound can be purchased at hardware stores or lumber yards. The best results are obtained by applying it with a putty knife. Let it dry. Sand the wall until the surface of the compound is smooth and flush with the wall surface. It’s now ready to paint over.
The foyer, front hall, or entry way:
The front door swings open. You want to ensure that the prospect’s attention is immediately arrested by the entry’s most outstanding features.
1. If your entry is made remarkable by a unique floor, make it the center of attention. Roll up rugs. Keep furniture to a minimum. If the floor requires a shine or luster, maintain it scrupulously.
2. Staircases are very often the most interesting feature of an entry. Clean the carpet, paint worn spots, polish or wax woods and metals, paint dirty walls, and glue back the corner of wallpaper that peeled last year. If it’s near Christmas, take a little extra time to drape the banister with garlands and ribbons. Make sure that the banister is sturdy.
3. Quiet annoying squeaks on the stairs.
4. Stained or leaded glass above a staircase can be breathtaking. Make sure it’s wiped clean so it can sparkle to its best advantage.
The living room
As with the house in general, you want to impress upon the buyers the comfort, beauty, and livability of the living room.
· Clean the fireplace of ashes and soot. Polish screens, andirons, and fireplace tools.
· Is your magazine rack overflowing? Trash what you don’t need.
· When showing your home, turn on lights, open drapes, light a fire (if practical), or play music softly in the background
The dining room
· As you did with the living room, look around and take note of peeling wallpaper, the condition of the carpet, and all painted surfaces. Make repairs and improvements as best you can.
· When showing, turn on all light fixtures. If the switch is adjustable, mute the lighting at night to create a pleasant ambiance, such as the buyers might use when entertaining.
· When showing the house, ask your agent to point out the convenience of any built-in cabinetry in the dining room. Direct attention to anything special about the room, such as ornamentation on the ceiling, crown moldings, a chandelier, wall sconces, or a beautifully carved or tiled fireplace.
The library or study
Make this space seem like the ideal spot for home office work, playing computer games, or relaxing with a book or jigsaw puzzle.
· Leave a lamp on by a comfortable chair with an open book, upside down, on the cushion. If it’s daylight, a window seat comfortably padded with pillows can be given the same treatment.
· Clear your desk or work area of all clutter. Make the space seem as efficient as possible, as though new owners will have all they need in this room to get down to business. Turn on relevant lighting.
· If the room has been specially insulated to block noise, tell you agent so she can demonstrate that to buyers.
· Point out anything in the room that will facilitate a business purpose, such as separate wiring for a laser printer, multiple phone jacks or extra electrical outlets.
· If the room has cable television access, mention it.
· The kitchen absolutely must be spotless. After you have thoroughly cleaned, you may want to place your trash container in the garage, laundry room, or basement while showing the house. You don’t want an unpleasant smell to cancel out all your hard
work. Since garbage disposals can often stubbornly retain smells, run a lemon half through it daily to eliminate odors.
· How does the floor look? Since new linoleum is expensive, most sellers don’t want to spend that much to replace it. About all you can do is to see that it looks clean. A new coat of wax will bolster its image quickly and cheaply. The same goes for a hardwood floor. If your kitchen is carpeted, it can be replaced easily. Only do so, though, if it is badly stained or worn.
· When showing the kitchen, open all blinds and curtains, and turn on all lights. Most people want a bright kitchen. Be sure to point out any extra conveniences the kitchen may be equipped with, such as sliding shelves, turntables, a convection oven, or trash compactor.
· Remove clutter from countertops. The idea is to make the kitchen look like it has ample counter space and cabinets for anyone’s needs.
· Fix dripping faucets.
· Agents say many buyers judge overall housekeeping by how clean the oven and range are. Don’t give them any reason to turn up their noses.
· Clean the inside of the dishwasher door.
The laundry room
· Remove all the clutter from the floor or from the top of the dryer. Wipe dust and lint from appliances.
· If your laundry room doubles as storage space, just make sure it looks neat.
· This room, also, must be kept spotless and odor free.
· Fix or replace leaking faucets or drain plugs that won’t function properly. If the chrome finish has peeled off in spots, replace all the components to give a clean, ass-is-in-working-order feeling.
· Make any repairs that the stool needs.
· Make sure towel racks and toilet paper dispensers are fastened securely to the wall. If their finish is shabby, they can be inexpensively replaced.
· Neaten the items stored in vanities, medicine cabinets, and linen closets. (People are going to open them.) Throw out any clutter you don’t need.
· It’s a nasty, time-consuming job, but it is important to remove every bit of soap scum from glass shower doors. Buyers are automatically turned off by the sight of it.
· Re-apply caulk that is peeling or won’t come clean of mildew.
· Look at an angle at the wall facing the sink. See thousands of spots? Hair spray accumulates on the wall. You probably can’t smell it, but its fragrance lingers. Be sure to give it a wipe when cleaning.
· Pretty towels hanging from racks will distract attention from your bathroom’s less attractive features.
· Eliminate any extra furniture that appears to make the room seem smaller.
· A colorful throw rug will disguise flooring that may not be in the vest of shape.
· Make the beds every day.
· Here and in the basement is where the clutter seems to multiply! This is a good time to eliminate all that stuff you’ve been meaning to get rid of. As for the rest, just make sure it’s neatly stacked or hung. Make it seem as though there is enough room for a new owner to park any size car or truck in your garage.
· Try to clean off the oil drips from the floor. Oil can be easily absorbed by spreading kitty litter over it. Leave on 24 hours, then sweep away. Most of the stain can be scrubbed off with any degreaser.
· Clean the basement as best as the surfaces allow. Stack, hang, or stand items as neatly as possible. Mostly, people don’t expect too much from the basement, only that it is dry. Don’t bother finishing your basement to add square footage. The cost generally can’t be recouped in the selling price.
· If the hot water heater or furnace works great but shows its age, a coat of spray point can provide a quick face lift.