Finally, after what seemed to be an interminable winter, Spring has sprung!
It's the time of year when a homeowner's thoughts naturally turn to Spring Cleaning. Whether it's just re-organizing the spice-rack or remodeling the entire kitchen, there's something about seeing the sun and hearing the birds that makes this season seem like the perfect time for a fresh start.
And, if you're planning on selling your home anytime soon, this is doubly important. But, it can be hard for a home seller to know where to start and what areas to focus their energy on.
One of the most important aspects of selling a home is curb appeal. The exterior of your house, driveway and front yard are the very first things that prospective buyers see; and they are some of the most important as they can immediately excite a buyer's interest, or turn them off completely.
It can be hard to look objectively at your own home, especially if you have been in the same house for a long time. Listening with an open mind to the honest opinion of your real estate agent, allowing their experience and expertise to guide you, is a good place to start. However, if you are on the fence about selling, or don't have an agent yet (Why not? We're here and ready to help you!), there are some questions you can ask yourself to get on the right track. The next time you drive up to your home, stop across the street and try to get a buyer's perspective. Ask yourself:
- What is your first impression of the house and yard area?
- What are the best exterior features of your house and yard and how can you enhance them?
- What are the worst exterior features and how can you minimize or improve them?
Make an organized list from your answers. Try to start with clean-up and repair items first, before moving on to more cosmetic fixes. Overwhelmed? Think simple: decluttering and cleaning (stowing away the snow shovels and weeding) are easy places to start. Siding your house may be out of the question, but a bit of elbow grease in scrubbing the windows and decks and a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for a fraction of the cost.
Don't forget the moonlight!
Many home buyers will drive by houses in the evening. Keep the same list from above in your mind as you look at your house around dusk. Also, think about lighting. No one wants the house to be completely dark outside. Consider adding lighting along the driveway or sidewalks. Maybe you have an important landscaping fixture you'd like to highlight with some lighting. Even changing the front porch light to something more updated could have a big impact.
And, don't forget the back of your house and yard!
Of course, the outside is only part of your home.
As with the outside, it's important to take care of inside repairs first. Most importantly, things like water damage (and its underlying cause), improper or outdated electrical wiring, and structural condition (including the roof and foundation) must be taken care of immediately and by a professional. These fixes not only help when it comes time to sell your house (remember, New Jersey law requires a home inspection), but will also make you and your family safer, and help you keep your homeowner's insurance.
After the important repairs are done, your attention can be turned towards gearing your home to be sold.
One of the first things a buyer will notice when they walk in the door isn't visual; it's odor. Just as with curb appeal, bad odors in your house have the potential to immediately scare off a buyer. The worst part is that you may not even realize that your house, well, smells! People get used to the odors in their own homes to the point where they just don't notice them anymore. How do you get around this? Ask someone, whom you can trust, and who does not live with you, their honest opinion. The easiest person to ask is probably your real estate agent.
Two of the most common sources of bad odors are pets and smoking; in both cases these odors can build up over time.
With pets, the odors are likely to permeate upholstery and carpeting. In bad cases, the pet odors can even go through to carpet padding and subfloors. In some cases, cleaning will help, but be careful what you use! Stay away from bleach and ammonia; not only can these harm certain materials, but they don't actually get rid of pet odors. Enzymatic cleaners would be better. And, in severe cases, cleaning may not be enough; humidity especially can draw out odors you may have thought were long gone. In these cases, floors (sometimes even including subfloors) may have to be replaced.
With cigarette smoke, odors can permeate upholstery, draperies and even walls. Surface cleaners can help, but won't totally remove the odors. Air scrubbers, ozone generators, or hydroxyl generators would be a better solution. And, once you have the odors removed, do not continue to smoke in the house, especially while it's on the market.
Once odors are addressed, you can move on to the appearance of your home. Some pointers to keep in mind:
- Try to keep your home in one style. Design that doesn't flow can be jarring to a buyer. This is important to keep in mind if you are planning on remodeling. An unfinished remodel, or a partial remodel that doesn't fit the rest of your house (like a quaint Victorian house with a mid-century modern kitchen) can end up hurting instead of helping when you sell.
- Avoid design risks. While a bright orange accent wall might seem like a great idea, it can be a hard sell. Try painting rooms in light, neutral colors. For some brightness, add a touch of greenery in each room.
- Declutter and depersonalize. A house is supposed to be your home. Except when you are selling. A buyer doesn't want to see your life in a home; they want to be able to imagine their life instead. Pack away as many personal items as you can and place them in storage. Keep day-to-day things, like cosmetics in the bathroom and utensils in the kitchen, stored out-of-sight. Also, for the purpose of budgeting, cleaning and getting rid of clutter is the best option as it costs nothing!
- Repurpose your rooms. Maybe you turned a spare bedroom into an office. Or maybe your dining room is used for crafts. While this works for your life-style, it may not be so appealing to a buyer. Try to keep rooms to their original purpose. If you work from home and can't give up your office, consider adding a daybed as a compromise so that the room's purpose is clear. If buying new furniture is outside of your budget, don't fret! Borrowing from relatives or friends temporarily while your house is on the market is one alternative. You can also look into thrift shops, garage sales, even renting some furniture pieces,, as a way to keep costs down.
- Focus on certain rooms. If it seems overwhelming to renovate and repurpose your whole house, focus on the key selling points instead. Usually, the main entryway, main living area, kitchen and master bedroom are good rooms to home in on.
- Consider a professional. There are many services out there that can help you re-decorate or stage your home for selling. If you'd like to keep costs down, consider hiring a professional stager as a consultant. They can point out ideas and solutions, but you would need to put in the sweat equity.
Spring Cleaning for those selling their house can seem like a daunting task. Just keep in mind your inspiration: next year, you'll be Spring Cleaning your new home!