People buy what they see. That's why used car dealers spend a lot of time and money detailing their cars before putting them on the lot. The detailing process doesn't make the car run like new, it just makes it look like new. Selling real estate is no different. A house that looks like new is assumed to be like new. A clean house is assumed to be a well maintained house.
Repair and Maintenance
Most buyers don't have a lot of extra money to put into their new house, so they want one that is move in ready. Those that do have the money to put into renovations and are willing to buy a house that needs work will expect to buy it at a discount. The bottom line for the seller is that whether or not they spend the money to fix up the house it doesn't change the fact that the money is lost. It will be lost either in a lower sales price or to the cost of repairs. The key is whether the repairs can be done for less than what the buyer perceives the cost to be and thus bring a return on the money spent for repairs through a higher purchase price. We help our sellers by assessing the cost vs. return differential to determine whether it is better to make the repair or lower the sales price. Our access to contractor discounts on materials and labor help our sellers save money on repairs.
The most influential repairs as far as buyer perception is paint and flooring. In most cases new flooring and paint, when needed, are money makers for sellers. Buyers perceive these areas as being more expensive than they really are. For instance, when buyers think of the cost to replace carpet they look at the cost of a medium to high grade carpet. Sellers can replace worn carpet with a low to medium grade that has the look and feel of a more expensive carpet. Besides, the seller has access to contractor pricing while the buyer usually does not. Many other cosmetic repairs can be made with little monetary cost and a small investment of time. We can advise you on what to do and how to do it. Below is a list of repair and maintenance items that cost little to do, but make a big impression on buyers.
- Trim the landscaping and keep the yard mowed.
- Plant grass in the bare spots.
- Add mulch or landscaping rocks as needed to keep the landscaping looking fresh.
- Plant flowers as needed.
- Over water the lawn if it is not in good condition. Watering the lawn twice a day for two weeks will usually turn a brown yard green.
- If the house is dirty, wash it. Avoid using a power washer if the paint is old and do not power wash the trim. A car wash brush attached to a garden hose does a nice job.
- Touch up any trim that has minor peeling paint.
- If the paint is bad, paint the house. Use a color combination that is currently in style to make the house look updated.
- Keep the concrete clean. Use a commercial grade cleaner if needed to remove grease.
- Decks should be clean and if stained have a fresh coat of stain on it.
- Make sure the house has nice curb appeal and the exterior sends a message to the buyer that your home is well cared for.
- Make sure floor coverings are clean and in good condition.
- Walls can be cleaned with TSP to remove dirt, smudges, and marks. Before you paint you should try TSP, the walls may able to be cleaned rather than painted. Do not use household cleaners, they will dissolve the paint!
- If you repaint use a flat paint. Flat paint looks richer and hides wall imperfections. It may be harder to clean, but you aren't going to be cleaning it anymore.
- Touching up painted sections usually does not look good because the new paint doesn't blend well with the old. Sometimes it can be done successfully using the "dry roller" technique.
- If you have stained woodwork you can remove scratches by rubbing the affected area with a mixture of 70% linseed oil and 30% turpentine. The turpentine makes the linseed oil soak in easier.
- If the wood is painted, touch up scratches with matching paint and an artist's brush.
- Make sure all doors and windows open and close properly, appliances work, furnace does not make funny noises etc. Everything in the house should work properly.
- All light bulbs in the fixtures should work and should be high enough wattage to brightly illuminate the room.
- The basement should be looked at carefully to see if there are signs of water entry or mold. If there is evidence of water have the water problem fixed, buyers hate wet basements. Minor mold can be killed with a 50/50 mixture of bleach and water. Mold growth is an indicator of moisture.
- Make sure that gutters are clean, and downspouts have extensions that are at least 6 feet from the foundation. Keeping water away from the house minimizes the chance of getting water in the basement.
- If the basement is finished it should be maintained in manner similar to the up stairs living areas. If it is unfinished, it should be neat and clean.
- Do not do a slip shod job on repairs. Poor workmanship is worse than not doing the repair. If there are signs of poor workmanship on previous repairs or upgrades they should be corrected.
When finished with repairs and maintenance ask a friend or your agent to walk through the house with you to get their impression of how the house shows.
Staging has become popular. If you watch the home and garden channel you can see the huge difference a little staging can do on the impression a house makes. If your house has been personalized with vivid colors or decor, you may want to consider changing it to be more neutral. Remember, people buy what they see. The ideal decor is one that appeals to the highest percentage of buyers. You are no longer decorating for your tastes, but are decorating for the tastes of the average buyer. If you have ever toured model homes, you probably know first hand the impact of staging. They are staged with furniture that is the right size and style with floor and wall colors reflecting contemporary tastes and there is an absence of clutter. The house looks like it isn't lived in.
If you have an older house, keeping the decor up to date makes the house appear newer than it is. While paint is cheap, buyers tend to focus on what is rather than what could be. We can assist in the staging process. In most cases a house can be staged with minimal color changes and with the seller's own furniture. Below is a list of simple staging ideas that cost little to nothing.
- Clear closets until they are 2/3's full. This makes the closet look bigger. While there is a lot in the closet it still looks like it has plenty of room.
- Minimize the number of furnishings in a room to make the room look larger.
- Remove excess clutter.
- Have display cases and bookshelves neat and orderly with plenty of open space on the shelves.
- Have counter spaces as open as possible.
- Do not use the refrigerator as a bulletin board.
- Minimize pictures and other wall decorations. They should only be used to accent the wall.
- Coordinate styles and colors within a room.
- Add rugs and other accents as needed.
- Consider replacing out dated window coverings and fixtures to make the house look more modern.
When finished, ask a friend or your agent to walk through the house with you to get their impression of how the house shows.
A house in showing condition is clean, free of clutter and with everything put in its proper place. Of course, no one actually lives like that, but it gives the buyer the impression that your house is meticulously maintained and cared for. Keeping a house in showing condition takes work but it pays off in the end.
Sometimes agents don't give us much advance notice for showings, so it is recommended that each morning the house is left in showing condition. That way the house is ready on short notice. If possible, before leaving to accomodate a showing, turn the lights on and open the blinds or curtains. Doing so helps provide a strong first impression and lets the showing agent concentrate fully on the showing. You should never be present during a showing!!! Buyers like to view houses in private with their agent. Below is a list of things that can enhance a showing.
- Turn the lights on to brighten the room.
- Open curtains and blinds so buyers can look out of the windows and natural light can come in.
- Leave the blinds drawn if there is a view that is best not seen, like a close up of the neighbor's garbage cans.
- Clean the windows, inside and out.
- Make the beds, pick up the rooms and stash anything that shouldn't be seen.
- Vacuum and clean as needed, the house should look spotless.
- Buyers will look inside appliances, so keep them clean and don't use them for storage.
- Drawers, cabinets and closets should be kept neat and orderly.
- Pack anything you are not using. It is OK to neatly stack boxes in the basement or garage, but it is better to store in an off site storage unit.
- Don't have fans, space heaters or dehumidifiers where they can be seen. Fans and heaters call into question the effectiveness of the HVAC system and dehumidifiers hint at water problems.
- Avoid heavy air fresheners or candles. They could be seen as a cover up for odor problems. If you need to enhance the smell of the house bake some cookies and leave them out for the buyer. Everyone likes free food.
- NEVER smoke in the house or garage!
- If you have a sound system it is OK to play music lightly, ideally, classical music (90.7 FM)
- Have flyers, and disclosure documents placed in a conspicuous place.
- Keep the yard clean and trimmed.
- Leave the house at least 15 minutes ahead of the scheduled showing.
Our showing service will schedule showings. They will contact you at the phone number provided to us and can notify you by phone call or text, whichever you prefer. After a showing, a feedback request will be sent automatically to the showing agent. Any feedback received will be forwarded to you. Not all agents will respond. Some may not take the time while others may not have any useful feedback to share. All contact with the showing agent should be made through your agent. Remember, the showing agent works for the buyer. Any communication, verbal or non verbal, will be used to the buyer's advantage.
The open house is a tool for getting prospective buyers to see your house in an informal setting. Before the proliferation of the Internet they were an essential tool in exposing buyers to the market. Open houses are still relevant, but not essential. If you choose to hold an open house here are a few tips.
- Ask your agent to place an announcement in the Multiple Listing Service at least several days before you plan to hold the house open. The open house information will be syndicated out to local broker sites and third party real estate sites making it easy for buyers to find it.
- Place Open House signs where they will be seen! They should direct the prospect to your house. Make sure you get permission from any neighbors or houses whose yards you may need to use to post signs.
- Prepare your house to show its very best!
- Have home information sheets available at the front door, along with a picture of your home for any interested prospects. You may wish to have a sheet available for people to sign with their names and phone numbers. Tell them you would like to call them should you have any messages regarding the sale of your home.
- Refreshments add to your home's atmosphere. Any baking you do will give the house an attractive aroma which adds to your home's overall appeal.
- Fresh flowers add a lively touch to any home.
- Have small children at a relative or friends house, so they are not around to take your attention away from your prospects.
- You may believe that you will not budge on price, but never project that attitude. Defer any negotiation on terms and conditions to your agent. Give them your agent's card or take their phone number and ask your agent to call them.
- Above all...RELAX. Do not rush through a tour. Be at ease and make your buyers feel at home.
If you find someone that is interested in putting in an offer direct them to www.mikesalkin.com/offer.txt and ask them to follow the directions on that page.
The purpose of the photographs displayed on line is not to show what the house looks like, but to show what it could look like. Each photograph should be composed, as if it were a work of art. The subject, the room or exterior of the house, should be properly staged. It may not be feasible to keep the house staged, so it is OK to move things around or away for the picture and then move them back. Most people like to live in their houses and not just look at them. Buyers on the other hand need to see the house in its ideal stage when they are looking online.
Photographs represent a three dimensional object in two dimensions, so space can get distorted. That can work in your favor with the right staging. Pictures aren't going to sell the house, but they have to sell the appointment. There should be enough of them to give the buyer a good feel for the house. Leave out rooms that are too small or don't reflect well on the house. If there are any major rooms that don't reflect well, you may want to consider correcting that.
If you are in charge of taking the online photographs please take a few moments to review the information below and then look at the photos for the houses featured on the "Our Listings" page to get an idea on how they should look. Please keep in mind that on some of the listings the photos will be taken by the seller and may not be an ideal example.
Below are some tips on creating photographs that will sell the prospective buyer on looking at your house.
- Never have more than two walls in a photo. Three walls will create a "canyon" effect and make the room look narrow.
- Close the curtains and blinds on the windows that will be in the photo and open them on the windows that will not. To minimize under exposure of the room you want to minimize the light aimed at the camera and maximize the light behind it. Setting the flash to "force flash", where the camera flashes with each photo, may allow you to leave the blinds open to capture the view and still maintain the proper exposure inside.
- Another technique to avoid under exposure of a room is to focus your camera away from the bright light source and at a wall or floor area that has average or below average lighting, then lock that level in on the light meter and take the picture. The picture of the room should look bright and cheery. To accomplish that, normally the room will be correctly or slightly overexposed and the window will be overexposed. Check to make sure there aren't any dark corners in the picture or shadows. Dark areas can be minimized by turning the flash on rather than leaving it set to "auto".
- Setting the light meter on many cameras can be done by focusing the camera on the area you want to use to set the correct lighting level and pushing the shutter button down half way. Hold it and aim the camera at the area you want in the picture, then depress the shutter button all the way. It is a good idea to check your users guide for the manufacturer's recommendation on setting the light meter. Try taking the picture using tha camera's auto function first to see how it turns out before switching to manual.
- The camera has to adjust internal color settings based on the type of light in the room. If the colors do not look right, try manually setting the light type or turning off the lights and letting natural light and the flash illuminate the room.
- Eliminate as many unnecessary items in the picture frame as it takes to give the room an expansive look. A cluttered room looks small no matter how large it is.
- Position objects so that the photo looks balanced and the objects in the photo do not look cramped. You may need to move them out of balance so that they look balanced in the photo. That is the two dimensional aspect of photography versus the three dimensional aspect of real life.
- Review the photo on the camera before moving to the next shot to make sure it looks right.
- The photo will be resized to 1024 x 768 by the MLS, so it is best to have a resolution of at least 1280 x 960 which is 1.2 megapixel. Anything larger than triple will just make the file larger and won't add to the clarity. I like to shoot at 1600 x 1200. The file shouldn't be larger than 2,000 Kb otherwise it may not load on some sites. At 2 to 3 megapixels you should be fine. Try to take pictures so the height is 75% of the width (4:3), which is the ideal ratio for the MLS. The wider the image is relative to its height the shorter it will appear on the MLS.
- Avoid vertically oriented shots where ever possible, they do not look right on the MLS.
- If needed, use a photo editing program to further enhance your photos. You can easily correct darkness due to underexposure, rotate the photo, and edit out unsightly blemishes. Usually, by adjusting the brightness or gamma, a photo that is too dark or too light can be improved. Photos can be rotated in windows by right clicking on the photo and selecting a rotate option.
- A camera is preferred over a cell phone. Most cell phones do well with exterior shots, but lack the flexibility to render good interior photos.
- Most importantly, know your camera. The best way to do that is to read the manual and practice using the different features. If a picture isn't turning out the way you want it to, try different camera and flash settings. A buyer's first impression of your house will mostly likely be from your photographs. If you can't supply quality photographs hire a photographer or ask your agent about our photo services.
In a highly competitive market making a good impression on the buyer can mean the difference between selling your house and not selling it. It can influence the buyer's perception of value and net you a higher sales price. The best house salesman is the house itself. Use it effectively.