Home sellers might have aging floors or outdated carpet. They might have overgrown plants in the front yard making a good hiding place for a burglar. Or they might be at an age when removing 30 years of junk is too tall a task to do without assistance.
Here are a few tips from two of the Washington area’s real estate experts, Barbara Ciment and Jaime Selvin, on how to make your home presentable before it is sold.
Give yourself at least six months
Before putting a home on the market, it is important to realize how much work is required to transform a house that had been inhabited by someone with specific needs and make it attractive to a typical potential buyer. Silver Spring Realtor Barbara Ciment, of Long & Foster, recommends walking through the house to take inventory of just how much needs to be done.
Tasks that may be required, Ciment noted, include removing wallpaper that may have been popular a decade or two ago and replacing carpet floors with hardwood ones. For some with busy lives, Ciment said the number of jobs needed to prepare a home can be overwhelming.
“Sometimes people call me a couple years ahead of time [the sale] and I say, ‘Start doing the work now,’” she said.
Less is more
Ciment said one phase in the home-selling process that can be time-consuming is decluttering. A quick and easy step, she said, is to call 1-800 GOT JUNK or a similar service. The 24/7 junk removal service takes all types of items, from furniture to appliances, and can recycle, dispose of or donate them to charity all for one fee. Ciment said this worked well for a 94-year-old client she worked with last year. She said for people who have lived in one house for 30 or 40 years accumulate “junk” at a rapid pace and this type of service might be needed.
“You don’t want an empty house, but you want to make it spacious,” she said.
Appearance is everything
That is the first piece of advice from Jaime Selvin of Silver Spring, who runs a professional organizing concierge service called A New Leaf. Selvin helps clients who are selling their home determine what needs to be done to the house in order to have it “staged,” or open for viewing. She said a house should ideally be set up in a way that resembles a magazine spread.
“If you’re staging a home, you may want to have all the furniture removed except for a couple of pieces,” she said. “Is the furniture really old and not in good use? Could the furniture be arranged more? We do part of that.”
Selvin added that staging a house is particularly important when selling to millennials, who are likely to be first-time buyers and are expecting a home to look presentable.
Look for possible bad spots
A person selling a house who has lived in it for several decades may not have maintained his or her house properly. Selvin said she recently worked with a man who sold his house and went to live in a retirement community. Before he could sell the house, however, he had to replace hardwood floors that dated to the 1950s. This house smelled terrible, she said, and this was due in part to the aging floor. But there was another problem — the air vents hadn’t been cleaned.
“When [maintenance technicians] went in to clean the air vents out and [one] took pictures and put them on his website, he said, ‘This is probably the worst I’ve seen,’” Selvin said.
It is important to make sure cosmetics are addressed before staging the home, she added. “When you walk into a home as a potential buyer, you’re looking at everything.”
Sellers may also want to consider landscaping the front yard to get rid of overgrown shrubs, which may be cause for concern to a potential buyer, Ciment said. “If you’re worried about somebody breaking into the house, you need to deal with the shrubs.”
Keep everything in perspective
Ciment said moving can be harder for people older than 60 because it is difficult mentally to get over the idea of moving to a new place after having lived somewhere for so many years.
“I help everyone move and I’m very positive, but when I moved, I understood what people had to go through,” she said.
Part of what makes the process difficult emotionally, she explained, is the process of depersonalizing the house. That might mean taking a custom-designed room and converting it to one for general use.
Walls may require repainting.
“You have to make very neutral colors that will appeal to the most people,” she said. “I love purple. But not everybody does.”
Still, for some, cleaning out a room can be therapeutic instead of taxing, Selvin noted.
“If you go into a kitchen and the sink and counters are full of everything, once you do those dishes and clean off those counters, you suddenly feel more relaxed and calm,” she said. “It’s the same with selling.”