Few things in modern life can be as frustrating as having a home on the sales market week after week and month after month without it selling. We are currently in a real estate market that’s neither hot nor cold, but bordering on a buyer’s market. The average market time for a Phoenix Metro area single family detached home that has not sold is 134 days.
In Part 1 of our home sales series, we discussed the importance of timing the listing to go on the market. We made mention that timing may be different based on the type and location of the neighborhood and the amount of buyers that are typically drawn to it.
Last week we learned that correct home pricing trumps all marketing and home preparation. This week we will learn the importance of condition and staging to get the best selling price in the shortest amount of time possible.
There are many good articles and HGTV programming that extol the benefits of staging a home to sell. Indeed many companies and services have sprouted in the past 10 years for just this purpose. How needful, how helpful is it to have your home staged? Much, but it may not be as difficult as you think.
In my 35 PLUS years of experience I can boil down staging advice to a half dozen “its” in the order of importance.
1) Clear it.
2) Clean it.
3) Fix it.
4) Lighten it.
5) Appeal it.
6) Stage it.
1) Clear it: We are a nation of stuffers. Ideally, this step should be taken well in advance of your listing period. One of the (albeit few) advantages of moving is the golden opportunity to get rid of stuff. E-Bay or relatives for the good stuff, Garage sales or Goodwill for the rest. If you’re selling everything, you may want to consider going the “estate sale” route. You won’t make a ton of money but you get rid of everything in one fell swoop. And there is a lot to say for that. With a few exceptions, remove all clutter including family photos and wall posters. Clean and organize closets. Pack everything you’re not using. You’ll have to pack it soon anyway.
2) Clean it: If you’re not one that knows how to or wants to thoroughly clean a home, hire a professional to clean all the nooks and crannies. Believe me, people notice, appreciate, and mention cleanliness when they see it. Make the kitchen, bathrooms, and hard surfaced floors shine. Find and eliminate all odors. Ask someone who doesn’t live in the home to give it their nose test. We’re too use to these smells but someone from the outside will notice. If there are pet or smoking odors, get rid of them, even if you have to remove and replace carpet and pad. As the old commercial puts it, “You can pay me now or pay me later. In experience, strong negative odors will prevent, or at best delay, a home sale. Some buyers will ask to leave right away. What about odor masking such as scented candles? It may help, but it’s not the best. Masking is often a red flag for people to wonder what the sellers are hiding. Some owners have loaned out their pets to friends or family members while the home is on the market. And clean the windows – yes, inside and out! The bottom line is that many buyers will judge the condition of your whole house by its cleanliness.
3) Fix it: The Arizona residential purchase contracts stipulate that all the mechanicals (moving components) be in working condition prior to close of escrow. Plumbing (including leaks), electrical, appliances, heating and AC, and pool cleaning apparatus needs to be repaired if not in working order. Replace all burnt out bulbs and make sure the doorbell is operative. Repair any fences/gates and give them a fresh coat of paint or stain if necessary. Though not a requirement in the contract, having a roof that’s in good order is a huge help come inspection time. Replace any cracked windows or broken screens. Repair caulking in tubs and showers.
4) Lighten it: Natural light is a huge feature in a home. Whatever we can do to increase it, will help our sales efforts. Often times it’s as simple as having window coverings open. Painting walls can have the dual benefit of a positive fresh scent and lightening up a dark room. And always have lights on when the home is being shown.
5) Appeal it: Curb appeal is talked about a lot by us Realtors, and for very good reason. It helps us get potential buyers into your home and you can’t sell your home unless buyers take the time to go see it! Many buyers do “drive-byes” and if a house looks great from the outside, there’s a good chance they will want to go see it – and vice versa. All buyers typically view online photos and the quality of those photos is perhaps the most important reason why a buyer may or may not see a home. So a fresh coat of exterior paint, always trimmed and mowed lawns, and a clean yard will help bring those buyers into your home. Make sure all debris, toys and lawn equipment are removed. Trim shrubs and eliminate dead trees and branches.
6) Stage it: The tough part is already done including, clearing, cleaning, painting, fixing. Now the question, should we stage it? Maybe yes, maybe no. This is where a Realtor professional’s experience can be a big time help. Once all the above has occurred, you may not need to stage, but in most cases some staging advice is important. We provide the services of a professional interior designer who literally goes room to room suggesting what can be done to enhance the show-appeal. She may recommend painting (and which colors to use), item removal, cleaning if necessary, and item addition (if important). (In this staging section, it may be possible that your home could benefit by doing some updating, which falls under remodeling. This is an entirely separate issue and article that we’ll address soon)
Bottom line? Prepare well and your home will sell well!