Every real estate agent will give you advice on how to get your home ready for buyers to select, inspect, and, hopefully, accept. Each region of the country has its own criteria for home maintenance and upkeep, and wise owners will keep their place in great shape to increase its appeal when it’s time to sell. Southern California is no exception, even with our mild climate that generally goes easy on exteriors and interiors.
But showing a home to prospective buyers is a team effort between buyer and agent. To get some insight, we asked a veteran REALTOR® for her tips on preparing any home for sale in SoCal. Christie D. Horn of our Del Mar office is the force behind Christie D. Horn & Associates-The Dream Team. Christie has been a top producer for six years, and she was glad to share some tips on how to choose an agent, make some home improvements, and assure a great first impression after the for-sale sign goes up.
Tasks to Do Before you Sell:
- Hire an experienced agent with whom you feel comfortable. Having great rapport and trust with the agent you choose is critical to a successful sale. Buying or selling a home is one of the most difficult things we do in our lifetime, so it isn’t about selecting the most widely used agent, it’s picking the agent you feel most comfortable with, because it’s a give and take whenever you’re selling a home. Get referrals from friends and family, then sit down and chat with the agents you’re interested in. Check their online reviews and social media, but there’s nothing like a face-to-face conversation with the agent. Remember: You’re not shopping the price of the house when you’re interviewing an agent. So you shouldn’t shop an agent based on the recommended price.
- After the agent, the condition of the home is the second most important task. Bottom line: The cleanest, freshest homes always sell first for the most money.
- Declutter and remove most personal photos. When people are walking around the house, you want them to look at the house itself, not at your pictures, because it will detract from the showing. A staged home sells quicker for more money than an empty home. A decluttered home feels much bigger than a cluttered home.
- Inside: Walk around the home with a critical eye, repairing any deferred maintenance. Easy things like cracked kitchen and bathroom caulking and cracked baseboard to stone grout/caulking inside are great examples. Those are indicative of deferred maintenance when showing a house.
- Outside: Repaint cracked paint, especially around windowsills and doorsills. You don’t have to paint the whole house, but you don’t want any cracked or peeling paint. If there’s permanent color in your landscaping, awesome. If not, add some inexpensive annuals to improve the curb appeal. In a condo, just put some potted plants out on the patio. It’s all about making your home stand out against the rest. It’s got to be something that makes people smile when they walk in.
- One of the most inexpensive tasks with the greatest impact is to have your windows professionally washed inside and out. For the money, this has the largest influence on making the home feel clean and fresh. Also, have your carpets professional cleaned before anyone steps foot in your home for a showing.
The Best Home Improvements to Make Before You Sell in Southern California:
- Kitchen: Christie’s motto is that we are selling a lifestyle, not a home, and since the kitchen is the center of the home, that’s always the first one. Remove antiquated window coverings so you can let the light shine through as well. This is Southern California, so everybody wants light and bright.
- Bathrooms: If nothing else, give them a super cleaning, Fixing caulk and grout is easy to do; don’t ever allow cracked caulk. If you have the budget to do more to fix it up, by all means do it.
- Outdoors: Next most important, depending on your budget, is to fix up the outside. Even if you don’t have the budget for expensive hardscape, do what you can do to help buyers visualize what they can do with the space. It’s amazing what a little outside staging can do to help potential buyers imagine living in your home, which will help sell your home more quickly and for more money. Maybe 50 percent of people who go to buy a home can’t visualize what it looks like unless they actually see it, so try to help them imagine it.
In this region, we’re all about indoor/outdoor living, so if you have a patio that’s connected to the kitchen, even better. Have a seating area out there so the eye is drawn to it. If your home already has a dynamic outdoor space with built-ins and lots of hardscape, then you’re already there. But if it doesn’t, strategically placed seating areas help immensely, or showing prospective buyers where a fire pit could go. Do whatever you can to show them what it would be like to live there.
Above all, remember: When selling a home, we are selling a lifestyle, not just four walls and a roof.
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