Riverside Realtor Blog - Alma Dizon

Alma shares her experiences and observations as a Realtor in Riverside California.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

In a Slower Market Sellers Need to Clean Up, Make Repairs, and Update

Now that we have so many properties on the market, I'm telling sellers that they have to take another look at their homes and make them as cute as possible. The few buyers I've had of late are really picky, and who can blame them? Would you pay 2 to 3 times your current mortgage for your home in its present condition?

If you've already listed your home, look at the photos of it on the MLS (your agent can send you a link to show you what buyers are seeing). If the photos are bad, have them redone. The first photo should be of the exterior. The driveway needs to be empty--no cars, trucks, trash cans, children, or pets. You'll need some interior and yard shots, too: 1 of the kitchen, the living room, family room, each bathroom, each bedroom, and the patio or backyard. If you're missing any of these, someone will ask "Why? Is it that ugly?" Don't bother with multiple shots of the front of the house or the same room--people will wonder if those are the only decent views. And trust me, if you have no photos or few, agents won't even preview because they'll go to a house that has pictures available.

If any of these essential areas don't photograph well, clean them up, so that they will. Get rid of the clutter, make it look like perfect people live there, update flooring, paint in neutral colors, refinish or replace dilapidated cabinets, outdated countertops, beat up sinks. It will be cheaper than lowering the price of the house and could make the difference in months on the market.

Once you have only good photographs on the MLS, be prepared for people to come and visit. Curb appeal is crucial. There’s nothing like waiting at an open house and watching as cars pull up, then drive away after they take one look and decide not to come in. Is your lawn dead? Is it hard to see the house for the jungle of overgrown plants? Is your house paint peeling or of an unfashionable color? Let’s face it, cute sells. (I managed to sell a mint-green house recently after 6 months on the market. The buyers asked for and got 10k in closing costs. The first thing they did after they closed escrow was paint the exterior. It's so much nicer now! Perhaps if the sellers had done it themselves, they may have sold in the first 2 months and saved what they lost on mortgage payments on an empty house.)

Walk in the front door and pretend you're shopping for something new. What do you first see, smell, hear, feel? Cleanliness, light, and temperature are crucial. Can you see or do you need to open blinds and turn on lights? Does it smell like stale cigarettes, leftovers, kitty litter, disinfectant? Is it too hot? If it’s hot out, have the air conditioning running full blast. Smokers should smoke outside until escrow closes and deep clean the interior until a non-smoker says it passes a sniff test. (Note: non-smokers generally want carpets changed and the entire house repainted inside.)

If they make it past the entryway and into the house, kitchens and bathrooms are going to be very important. Put away as much as possible, so that the rooms look bigger. Make the house perfectly clean and touch up grout and paint (correctly, so that it doesn’t crack and peel soon afterward). Check to be sure that all doors open and shut easily, fix torn screens, and clean out the garage, so that there's room to park in there.

It's hard to keep clean, especially if you have children. Try to give each child one or two responsibilities depending on age and ability. A younger child might be able to wipe off fingerprints down low on the sliding door while an older one could handle toilet duty. Will the child get his or her own room in the next home as a reward? Or perhaps a big yard, swingset, something special? Keeping their and your goals in mind will help you sustain your energy and get your house sold.


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