How To Sell Your Home On The First Day!

Following on from yesterday’s blog, the shock of a buyers Offer on our home on the first day on the market was mind boggling! Sure, as a REALTOR®, it is always one’s aim to sell a property fast, so that the seller can minimize costs and move on, but when it’s your OWN home, the time crunch is devastating!

The buyer asked for a 30-day Escrow but there was no way that we could execute an out-of-state move in an organized fashion in 30 days – the buyer agreed to 60 days.

Why had the property sold so fast, and why had the buyer made an offer on this property, which was $60,000 above their ‘high water mark’, 4 months before they originally planned to buy?

Quite simple: They found a home that ‘spoke’ to them!

De-Clutter! Be mercenary! If you haven’t used it in the last year, get rid of it! If it doesn’t fit you or your haven’t worn it in the last year, put it on the garage sale! It’s amazing how very ‘cleansing’ de-cluttering can be and you’ll find things that you thought you had long since lost! If you’ve learned to live without them, you don’t need them any more!

Don’t keep things just because your emotion dictates that you should. For example, all the pictures that my kids drew for me (and my grand kids)? I scanned them and tossed the originals. Let’s face it, very few of our children will one day be deemed a Michelangelo or a Picasso, so keeping the original is futile. Besides which, these masterpieces deteriorate by tearing and fading as time progresses and the paper combusts. Scanned masterpieces, if backed up, can last forever!

Because we were moving out of State, we had to consider the cost of transporting heavy items. In our case, we were paying .65c/lb, so the cherry wood office furniture had to go – even if we lost money on it. The buyers fell in love with some of our furniture (including our bedroom set and bed) and paid us a good price for it. This meant that if nothing else, we would have a bed to sleep on right up to the morning that we left!

Curb appeal: We have heard this a gazillion times, however it bears driving home. Even in a community governed by an HoA that maintains the exterior, no matter how nice your property is, if the communal areas are in disrepair, it has a bearing on the salability of your home. The buyer is going to ask what the HoA dues are and what they cover, so peeling exterior paint, or rusty gates are not a good omen. The message sent to the buyer is that this community has no reserves or that they can expect a special assessment!

If you have any control over the situation, ensure that grass is well trimmed, paint (inside and out) is spruce and that there is no trash lying around – even if this means that you have to walk across the street to pick up that discarded McDonalds supergulp container!

Our patios consisted of mainly palm trees, which gave a distinct tropical flavor to them which was inviting but easy to maintain and our HoA did a fine job of the communal area.

See your home as they do: When upgrading or redecorating, it is important to look at your home through the eyes of the buyer. Ask yourself if your collection of thimbles or headless Victorian dolls are things that might attract buyers? A potential buyer might like the area, the price, the floor plan and even the décor, but if they are conservationists, the stuffed moose head mounted on the wall, might make them choose another property where the contents don’t offend them.

You have 7 seconds to make a lasting impression on your buyer – make sure that it’s a good one! I wanted a cool, open look on the ‘living’ level, so I chose 18” porcelain tile, laid on the diagonal, when we moved there. To make the area look bigger, I had them run the porcelain tile all the way out to the edge of the patios, which brought the inside, out. Then I matched a couple of palms on the inside to bring the outside, in.

I created two focal points in our living room, which were the first things the buyer’s saw when they walked in:
1) a tall wrought iron stand, which held a dark red bamboo urn, and
2) a striking original framed abstract oil painting over the mantelpiece which was lit by pin spots (small spotlights) purchased from TJ Maxx for $99 (the frame cost $350, but don’t tell my husband!!). Our colors were neutral except for the reds in the bamboo urn ($25.00 on sale at Pier 1), the painting, scatter cushions and full length curtains that framed the windows. Red is an excellent accent color when you are selling, and I could have sold those curtains again and again! I got them from JC Penney at $69/drop.

Allow them to visualize themselves in the property: Now that you have created the minimalist look in your home, your buyer can see the space between the objects, and better visualize their things in the home. The home will also look much bigger. Make sure that walls are painted a neutral color and that bedrooms are not gender specific – it’s hard for the buyer to visualize their football team of sons in flowery pink and lavender ‘girly’ bedrooms! It’s also hard for the buyer to see their things in the house when your home is a rogue’s gallery of three generations of family photographs! Pay special attention to politics and religion – your buyer may not share your views and obvious indicators of this could be a deterrent to your buyer. Seriously…. Would you buy a home from an owner who practiced voodoo and ritual sacrifices? As normal as your views and beliefs are to you, they could be the polar opposite of your buyer!

Closets and garages are part of the home, too! Many sellers do a ‘left arm sweep’ by shoving everything into the closets or packing clutter into the garages. Buyers need to see these areas and at best, an inspector cannot do his job, if these areas are not accessible. Remember: Buyers open closet doors, so if there is something there, that you’d rather they didn’t see (such as underwear), store such items in snap-shut plastic tubs.

Our garage floor was prepped and sealed with epoxy before we moved in. To do the double garage, cost us $110 and as it was so easy, we did it ourselves. This went a long way to giving a ‘clean’ look to the garage, In addition, we purchased rolling stainless steel shelving carts from The Container Store (also available at Lowe’s and Home Depot) to store boxes, tubs etc. When we left, we were able to take the shelving carts with us.

In the closets, I arranged clothing according to item and then color – Trousers together, dresses together, shirts together and then all like colors together in each category. In addition, all hangers were the same type and the same color, giving a neater appearance.

Think before you spend: In this market, it is not advisable to sink a lot of money into upgrading the property for sale, if you do so just before you sell, because you won’t get a return on your investment. Besides, let’s say that you install black granite and the buyer prefers neutral colored granite….. your granite and your money will end up on the garbage pile – OR …. The buyer will make an offer on a property that has not been upgraded.

When we upgraded, we did so before we moved in, so that we could enjoy the upgrades whilst we lived there. One thing that I insisted on was a vessel sink in the guest bathroom as these really do create impact. Expensive, yes, but beautiful none-the-less. The one we got cost $250 and was clear glass, however, before you leap into buying a vessel sink, check out the prices of the faucets because this is where they ‘get’ you! The faucet I bought cost $768 and again…. Don’t tell my husband!!!!! Shop around because you can find some outstanding ones very much cheaper than that, online. (Home Depot considers these as special orders).

Kitchens and bathrooms sell the home! The very first thing I did in the bathrooms was to do away with the old style wall-to-wall mirrors and the medicine cabinets – these just dated the property. I bought large tasteful mirrors from Home Depot ($30 each on sale) – one of which had a brushed nickel frame, so that I could match the brushed nickel faucets, towel rail etc. My husband almost fainted when I told him that I had spent $500 on towels (for three bathrooms), however, the buyer paid us full price for them as they were unused. These were ‘dress’ towels – our regular towels were hung neatly behind the doors!

When we installed granite in the kitchen (and yes, I chose black because it complimented the wrought iron in the dining room), for a little extra expense, I had them run the granite up the walls from the counter to under the hanging cabinets. It looked so much better than having a sliver of backsplash and a little bit of painted wall and it was infinitely easier to keep clean). I sanded down the old oak cabinets and sprayed them ‘Heirloom White’ – yes, even the shelves! The accent color was red, so the effect was very dramatic. If you choose to do granite, choose the best quality at the most reasonable installation price.

Your house can’t be clean enough! Hands down, an orderly home sells faster than a disorderly home and a clean home sells faster than a dusty one! A clean home that smells nice is irresistible and will encourage prospective buyers to linger, longer. As we have a dog, regular bathing and washing of blankets kept the doggie odor at bay. I got some perfumed candles from Pier 1, which were strong enough without having to light them. Do be careful as many people are allergic to fragrances and lit candles might affect them.

Don’t ignore windows! There’s nothing quite like dirty windows to make a room dark and dingy, making the room appear smaller. Pay attention to window and door screens as these should be in good repair and free of dust, too.

Beds and linens: It goes without saying that your bed should be made up before visitor viewing. Many years ago, a good friend gifted me a comforter set that he got from (I think) a thrift store in LA. This beige, silk set, with chocolate brown edging had apparently adorned a guest bed in the home of the late Rock Hudson. For us, it was the perfect match to our African theme boudoir! I bought two leopard print scatter cushions (19 each) and one black one ($12, to break the busy-ness of the pattern) and found two black and beige striped lamp shades ($12 each) to go on the bedside lamps that I had bought years ago from Target (about $20 each at the time). I used one existing animal mask and 2 existing African pictures for wall adornment and topped it off with a leopard print sheer sash over the top of the sliding door. Total expenditure in the master bedroom – about $150.

Feel free to have OCD! Although it is my normal way, many people commented on the INSIDE of the kitchen cabinets, because all spice containers were in order, with labels faced forward and groceries, like dishes were stacked neatly and lined up. Counters should be as empty as possible. Believe me ~ when you’re selling a property, OCD is an asset!

The total cost of our improvements, upgrades and furnishings two years ago was $40,000. Yes… a LOT of money, however, this home had been a rental (our investment property) and had not been upgraded since 1985! To amortize that expenditure over 25 years works out to about $133 /month. It was time! When we placed the property on the market, we carefully considered comparable sales in the area and the community, took into account the cost of our upgrades and subtracted that which we had enjoyed during our two years. Because we had kept all the receipts, we had no difficulty in justifying the cost.

And by the way, we spreadsheeted the electric and gas bills, so that our buyers knew exactly what their overheads would be!

Tomorrow: How to hold a successful Open House!

Althea Garner
Exit Beach Cities Realty
Exit Realty All Professional
Your House Of Homes Online
DRE 01516817

Search over 50,000 listings at my web site:

Women’s Council of REALTORS(R):
VP Membership – 2010 (South Orange County)
Treasurer – 2008 (Coastal-West)
Webmaster – 2009 (Long Beach)
Editor – 2009 (Long Beach)
Education Committee – 2009 (California State)

Orange County Association of REALTORS(R):
Education Vice Chair – 2009


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