Start now to prepare your home for sale

  • Realtor Susan Roemer

For the Monitor
Saturday, January 27, 2018

If you plan to put your house on the market this spring, you should start getting it listing-ready now, according to realtor Susan Roemer.

Most home sales in this area occur between April and October, she said. While that seems far away, starting now gives you time to get the inside ship-shape before starting work on the outside when the snow goes away.

Roemer has been a licensed agent since 1998 and has worked with buyers, who are looking for move-in condition, and sellers, who are looking for the best return.

The market has changed in the past few years, Roemer said, and sellers must adapt. Millennials, and people looking to downsize, aren’t looking for fixer-uppers.

Today’s buyers evaluate a house based on how it looks and feels. Your home should feel like a welcoming hug! And first impressions are so important. You only get one chance to make a good one.

“I put the buyer hat on before I list the home,” Roemer said. “I walk through the home and critique it as if I were going to buy it. The seller gets used to the way the house looks, and maybe doesn’t see things the way other people would see them.

We get comfortable with our surroundings and it just becomes commonplace. Does the shower need recaulking? Do the radiators need to be painted? Is too much furniture making the rooms look small?

“The perspective of a professional is there to fine-tune and improve what you have,” she said.

Roemer suggests starting by decluttering. Potential buyers will be put off by a lot of stuff laying around, and may not be able to see past it to the home’s important features. Sell, donate or toss anything that’s not going to be moved to your new home. Box up nonessential items that make the rooms, countertops, closets, cupboards and drawers look cluttered, and stash them in the basement or garage, or perhaps even in a storage unit. You want buyers to feel that there’s plenty of living and storage space.

Entrances and front doors should be tidy and painted. Nothing derails buyers more than an overcrowded front entrance or hallway, Roemer said. Get rid of the piles of boots and shoes and items that have no function. Either leave the entrance open and inviting or have some functional pieces of furniture in there like a bench or some high shelving with coat hooks.

Beyond the entrance, the house should look clean and bright. Dirt and grime that build up in high traffic areas reduce the freshness and vitality of the home, but that’s an easy fix. It’s all cleanable. Repaint if necessary, and pay special attention to woodwork and doors. Make every surface shine! Consider a cleaning service before listing the house to address overlooked or hard-to- clean areas, then keep everything neat clean while your home is on the market.

If you haven’t painted recently, a new coat of paint is a good idea even if the walls are in good shape because color trends change every few years and you want your house to look current. Choose neutral colors, regardless of your own color preferences. How many buyers will love that red dining room? Roemer can give you suggestions, as can your local paint store.

Hardware fashions also change. New kitchen and bathroom hardware is an inexpensive way to dress up those rooms and bring them up-to-date. You can find good ideas at Pinterest and at local bath and kitchen showrooms. Lighting fixtures, both interior and exterior, are small but important features of your home.

“When I do a showing with a buyer I like to walk them around the exterior of the house first, as long it’s not raining or snow-covered,” Roemer said. “Light fixtures that don’t work, or floodlights that hang off the side of the house, should be replaced. Make sure that fixtures are updated, not all rusted, and within current style, outside and inside, especially in the main rooms – dining room, living room and bath.”

Unpleasant odors can stop buyers in their tracks. If you have pets, professional carpet cleaning is a must, both to eliminate odor and remove hair. Hide litter boxes and keep them odor-free. To reduce smoking odors, wash walls, and wash or dry clean window treatments. Consider removing carpets and replacing them with hard flooring such as tile, laminate or hardwood.

Buyers want to envision the house as their own, so minimize personal belongings such as photos and trophies. Roemer can make suggestions that will keep the buyer focused on the house and not its contents.

Bathrooms should be cleared of toiletries and personal items when the house is going to be shown.

“When I stage a house or when I am prepping the seller for showing I have them put these things in a box and stick them in a cabinet,” Roemer said.

While addressing what needs to be fixed, it’s also important to focus on the positive aspects of your home.

Let the beautiful features of your home shine to potential buyers. Draw attention to the things that you love, like your fireplace mantle, hardwood or tile floors, or a comfy window seat. These may be the very things that you loved when you bought the house.

Give each room a special focus if possible and highlight its best aspects. Dress up an extra bedroom with luxurious bedding. A guest bathroom can look spa-like with thick, plush towels. The master bedroom should be a serene oasis.

Roemer, who works with a stager, can help you stage the living room so buyers can envision a calm, relaxing conversation or gathering place. Too much furniture can make the room look cramped. Instead of having a couch and two chairs, maybe have a couch and just one chair, so the space seems a little bit bigger, she said.

Pay attention to the flow of traffic through the rooms. Easy movement through the house adds to the sense of space, while misplaced or excess furniture reduces it.

Don’t forget curb appeal! While we’ve focused on the inside, remember that the view of your house from the street is the first thing that a buyer will see. Buyers might walk away before even setting foot inside the house if they’re put off by a messy yard or unattractive front porch.

In the winter, driveways and walkways should be clear of snow and ice. In the spring, do a full outside clean-up. Remove any winter debris, refresh mulch areas, and trim and cut back shrubbery as needed. That rhododendron that started out small may now be blocking your living room window or crowding your front steps.

“Less is more when it comes to landscaping and being able to see the exterior of the house,” Roemer said.

Then, do regular maintenance throughout the growing season.

The entrance should give a hint about what’s inside. Touch up exterior paint if necessary. Put seasonal flowers on the front step, outdoor furniture on the porch, or a wreath on the door. Landscape lighting adds drama after dark.

Often overlooked or not considered is a pre-listing home inspection, which should include the septic system, a radon air test, and a water test, if applicable, as well as a general home inspection.

“It’s important to me as your agent to recommend it,” Roemer said, “so there won’t be any surprises that could cost you a buyer or loss of market time.”

An experienced realtor is crucial to the whole process of selling your home, and the key to success is preparation. Roemer has 20 years of knowledge and knows the market area, so she can guide you with confidence from start to finish, coming in with the right tools to prepare the home for a listing that will stand out.

Get started now and call Susan Roemer of Better Homes & Gardens, the Masiello Group of Concord, at 491-0833 or email sroemer@masiello.com.