If you are currently trying to sell your home, you have my sympathy. The housing market still hasn’t recovered from its collapse, and foreclosures are still running rampant. Who knows where interest rates will end up.
You’re not without recourse, however. If you’re a seller, you can use these six steps to make your home more attractive to potential buyers.
1. Price Your Home Competitively
First, you have to know the current values of other properties in your neighborhood. Try visiting Zillow, where you can enter your address and instantly get a report with estimated values of homes near you. When I first tried out the site, I was shocked to learn that some homes in my development were worth $50,000 or less. These homes are likely foreclosures, and they probably need major work before they’re “livable.”
Another question to ask yourself: Do you have to sell, or do you want to sell? Answering that question and evaluating your sense of urgency will help you determine your negotiating stance.
2. Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal
Try this helpful exercise: Get in your car, drive around the block, and try to erase any preconceived ideas of the condition of the exterior of your home. Take an unbiased, objective look at your home, and ask yourself these questions:
- How does the driveway look?
- Is your landscaping, including all trees, plants, and shrubs, attractively maintained?
- What does the front exterior of your house look like? Is it something you would want to purchase?
- What does your front lawn look like?
Think about the fact that prospective buyers have probably been shopping around for a while. They’ve seen some great homes and some average ones, and they’re getting pickier as they go along. Get some fresh perspective on the first impression your home is making, and do all that you can to improve the exterior.
3. Don’t Over-Customize the Interior of Your Home
If you’re like me, you have that one room that’s designed or painted in a way that you absolutely love. Well, guess what? A prospective buyer may hate it.
One of the biggest selling points for me when I bought my current home was that the walls in the entire house were painted white. It was like a blank page that I could make my own. The seller actually did this for this exact effect. For a potential buyer, purchasing a home that has a clean slate for re-decorating is an absolute plus.
4. Make Necessary Repairs
If you have a leaky faucet, a cracked windowpane, or a carpet stain, get these things fixed now. Don’t wait. You’re probably going to have to spend on repairs before you close on the home, so you might as well do it in time to improve the “appeal” of your home to a potential buyer.
The previous owner of my current home had to complete almost $2,000 in home improvements before I would agree to move in. If you start working on repairs now, you’ll sell sooner and avoid the expense of last-minute rush jobs.
5. Hire a Professional
This strategy falls under what’s called “professional home staging.” Home stagers perform duties that run the gamut from re-arranging furniture to advising you to re-paint entire rooms. They can also suggest replacing certain fixtures in your home. Their goal is to highlight the best features that your house has to offer, and also to make it easier for potential buyers to visualize themselves actually living in your home.
Hiring a stager can cost as little as a few hundred dollars, and they may be able to increase your home’s selling price by $5,000. That’s a pretty good return. Plus, if you’re utilizing a real estate agent for your home-selling process, you might be able to get your realtor to chip in or completely cover the cost of a stager. Remember, they want to sell the home as much as you do.
If you consider using a stager, do diligent research. Seek reviews, advice from neighbors, and referrals before deciding on one.
6. Use the Internet
In 1995, only 2% of potential home buyers used the Internet to search for a new home. By 2005, about 77% searched online, and of course the percentage is still rising. I suggest going as far as creating your own website for your home. Regardless of your level of computer literacy, you can create a web page pretty easily, and for a low cost.
It’s a great opportunity to stand out from other sellers, and highlight the features of your home and the benefits of your neighborhood. Whenever you find someone with even remote interest in your home, you can simply direct them to your house’s URL for more information and pictures. You’ll not only attract more potential buyers, you’ll save yourself time in the long run.
If you’re trying to sell your home, then you already know it’s going to be tough in this climate. But you don’t have to be held hostage by the hindered housing market or the state of our national economy. Get some fresh perspective on your home, get a jump start on repairs, and get your creative business and sales ideas flowing, and you can boost the speed of your sale.
What other ideas do you have to make your home more attractive to potential buyers?
David Bakke writes about real estate, investing, and saving money on Money Crashers, a multi-author personal finance blog with various perspectives on financial and lifestyle topics.