It's common sense that before you list your home with an agent and put it on the market, you want to present it in the best light possible. While this sounds like a fairly straightforward task, many sellers are thinking about their next home, so they have a difficult time seeing and accentuating all the positives in the home they are about to list.
What follows should be considered much more than a “to-do” list for preparing your home for the market. It should be used as a catalyst to see your home with fresh eyes and help you picture how different lifestyles could find an ideal home there. Whether you are making small improvements, staging props and furniture, or simply enumerating your home's many attractions for a real estate listing, the goal is always the same: to show that the house that you are selling is a fantastic place to live.
Built-in amenities. Does your home have built-in features worth spotlighting? Certain features such as breakfast nooks, planters, shelving, seating areas, and workbenches can be very appealing to buyers. These can even be worth adding to spruce up a “less exciting” property.
Low-maintenance features. Is your yard and its landscaping easy to care for? List it. Maybe you have tile and/or wood floors throughout your home. This is important to list, as many buyers do not like carpet these days. However, if you do have "stain-resistant" carpet in good condition, list that. If it isn't in good shape, consider replacing it.
Energy efficiency. Does your home have programmable thermostats? This is a small investment that can go a long way with prospective buyers, as they'll see that little box on the wall as the control panel of the house. What about energy-efficient appliances? Make sure your agent knows about any that you have, and if you plan on replacing an appliance, choose one that is energy-friendly. Solar panels and solar water heating systems for the home or swimming pool are hot commodities these days. If you have any solar energy systems, make sure they are clean and in good working order. Replacing light bulbs in the home with compact fluorescents or LED lighting can also earn you some kudos with a buyer looking for a green home.
Technology. Does your home have remote-controlled lighting or an integrated sound system? What about custom wiring for Internet, cable, speaker systems and other electronics? If you have these amenities, make sure they function properly and that your agent can show them off when buyers come to visit.
Instructions and warranties. Gather up any paperwork for any of the aforementioned appliances, devices, and systems that are in your home. Put them in a basket on the kitchen counter so prospective buyers can see them.
Living spaces. Look around your home for areas you can make more inviting. If your patio or lanai is bare, add planters, ambient lighting, and decorative seating to transform bland outdoor areas into exciting living spaces. Empty, featureless spare rooms can be easily turned into game or hobby rooms with very little investment. The point here is not to redefine the room, but rather show a prospective buyer that every area of the home, both inside and out, is fun to be in.
Nature and gardens. Do you have fruit trees and/or a vegetable garden? Make sure the trees are healthy and the garden has been tended. Even if nothing is growing presently, a weed-free layer of topsoil can make a garden much more exciting to a buyer with a green thumb.
Storage. What kinds of storage areas are in the home? If you have walk-in closets, they should not be crammed full of your belongings. A buyer will want to get a sense of the size of the closet, and this is only possible if it is sparsely filled. What about shelves and cabinetry? These might be worth adding to laundry rooms and garages to make these areas more functional. And don't forget outside storage sheds. If you have one, make sure it is clean and organized, and the exterior is in good shape.
Accents. Are the rooms in your home featureless and stark? Crown moldings, trim, or decorative baseboards are all inexpensive ways to add a lot of excitement to an otherwise bland room.
Painting. Is the paint in your home in good shape? Maybe there are areas where a little paint would liven things up a bit? A good example is the garage floor. Painted concrete looks clean, elegant, and easy to take care of, which could be very appealing to someone who has a nice car or who keeps frequently-used tools in the garage.
Lighting. Directional lighting creates a striking effect, and the right fixtures can also help establish the purpose and tone of a room. Lights don't have to be permanent to vitalize the look of your home. A small can light on the floor behind a potted plant can sometimes change the whole feel of a room. Take pictures of your home at night, and make a photo album or display them in a digital picture frame to leave running on the kitchen counter.
Plumbing fixtures. Leaky faucets? Fix them! If a faucet in your kitchen or bathroom is corroded, cheap, or aesthetically off-base, replace it. Elegant and modern plumbing fixtures not only look great, but indicate a well-loved and well-maintained home.
As you examine your home-to-list with the above in mind, think back to when you yourself walked through the house for the first time. What excited you about it and prompted you to pull the trigger? You may be moving on now, but this house has the potential to be the perfect "place to call home" for someone in the market to buy. All you need to do is help them see that potential.
Sarasota Area Real Estate Specialist