Thinking about moving? One quick tour of your happy home might curdle that dream before it gets out of the planning stages. If your décor style is early desperation and you can't remember the original color of the carpeting, it's time to roll up your sleeves and blackmail someone into getting your home ready to sell.
If you absolutely can't coerce an acquaintance into putting on the honorary stained overalls or, our personal favorite, the Jackson Pollock jeans, here are some vital (as in unavoidable) ways you can help improve the look of your home. Do it sooner rather than later, before a stranger enters the premises, screams like a little girl, and runs full bore in the opposite direction. Trust us, we've been there.
Before you exhaust yourself trying to get the fingerprints off the walls, locate all the important papers you'll need to entice a potential buyer. The operating manuals for your appliances and HVAC system, notes about the paint colors you used on your walls and any applicable warranties are important to have on hand. They'll show the listing agent that you have things under control, even if you don't.
While you're at it, pull out your old utility bills. You're probably still in denial about having to pay for the water coming out of the tap -- and going down the drain -- but work through the pain. Those seasonal totals may help make your home look more appealing than the house one county over from you.
These aren't estimates of how long it's going to take you to explode when you find the six-month-old grilled cheese sandwich glued to the underside of the entertainment center. This type of estimate is about what it'll cost to replace the stuff in your home that's on its last legs -- like the furnace, roof or water heater. You may not be prepared to overhaul worn-out items now, but knowing how much it will cost could give you an edge in negotiations. You know, they say they want a cool $10,000 off the asking price when you know an update will only cost half that.
If your house is the one with the tilted mailbox that looks like a diseased tooth, you're probably cringing right now. Straighten it up! Haven't you ever heard of curb appeal? You want potential buyers to drive by and think someone else's home (and not yours) is the eye sore. If you're planning on listing your home, you have to lure people inside. To do that, you've got to eliminate the telltale signs that the property isn't owned by a Stepford family.
This is the time when you go through your belongings and discover that there isn't anything worth keeping. It's a sad but liberating moment. If most of your stuff is granny castoffs from the 1970s, decluttering your home will be easy. Just get the number for the junkyard and give them a call. If there are some things (probably borrowed) that are actually worth the cost of a moving van, pull them out of the general chaos and get rid of the rest. Ideally, your rooms should look open and kind of empty (marketers call that spacious). If they look more like a crammed to bursting rent-a-space unit, you've got your work cut out for you.
Remember when you're hubby measured how tall the kids were by carving notches into the dining room molding? Bad move. The chicken-themed kitchen was probably a mistake too. Have you ever looked in a friend's handbag? Didn't it just scream, "Invader! Get out! Get out!" Well, you don't want your house to do that. You want your house to be so benign and neutral that anyone could imagine living there -- without you.
Accept it. You're never going to be able to list you house successfully without cleaning it first. Even the maids will probably take a pass on the heavy-duty cleanup unless you make some inroads before you pass the baton.
If it's been a decade since you washed the blinds, expect the process to be painful. Actually, dirt, dust and grime may not be the worst part of tidying up. The worst part is getting at stuff to clean it. Sure, it's easy to recognize that you should pull the stove out and clean behind it every couple of months, or pull out the fridge to vacuum the condenser coils, but bench pressing your own weight may not be one of your many talents. Simple solution: Bake pie. The smell is bound to attract an only-slightly-unwilling laborer with upper body strength. Some ice cream for after is a nice touch, too.
You know when your sweetie spends all weekend detailing the car? Well, he should do that with the landscaping before you try to sell your home. Removing dead branches from trees, pulling weeds, painting fences and fixing driveway cracks will keep your home from giving the impression that it's gone native. Don't risk your home looking like it belongs in one of those futuristic horror movies where the ozone layer has fizzled out over the 'burbs and the only people left alive are eating dog food right out of the can.
Animals shouldn't live in houses. Well, that seems to be the mantra of the real estate industry. If you own one of those slobbering, hairy pests -- that loves you unconditionally, protects you vigilantly, amuses you with its absurdities and never judges you for your failings -- hide it. That way, you won't have to explain how you managed to get all the hair out of the air conditioning ducts (because you didn't) or managed to suck the pet dander out of the carpeting (never happened).
Well, actually, this is a good one to indulge in from time to time even if you aren't selling your home. When you're thinking of placing a listing, underplaying the presence of juvenile humans on the premises is a good idea. Kids are destructive. If you don't know that by now, you must not have kids and you can move to the next entry. But if you smell what we're cooking, there are some things you can do.
Once you prep your home by repairing the kid damage a prospective buyer can see, keep him from wondering about all the things he can't see by stowing the kids at grandma's house for a few days -- or until she demands that you come and get them.
Yes, with some work and a little luck, you may be able to get out of that dump and into the home of your dreams, or at least into a house where all the toilets work. Take some pictures before you do a major cleanup, though. Life's passages can be so contrary. Just when your kids are getting ready to move out for good, you'll think back on the old house, with its clutter, tiny windows and flimsy doors, and wish you'd kept a few pictures to remind you of what those unpredictable, implausible, frustrating and totally extraordinary early years were all about.
When you can't afford your mortgage and don't want to foreclose, a short sale may seem like a good idea. Find out how short sales work at HowStuffWorks,
- Big Success. "4 Things-to-Do Before Listing Your House for Sale." 3/17/08. (3/15/11).http://biggsuccess.com/bigg-articles/4-things-to-do-before-listing-your-house-for-sale/
- Colbeth, David. "5 Things to Do Before Listing Your Home." 3/4/11. (3/15/11).http://davidcolbeth.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/5-things-to-do-before-listing-your-home/
- Find Law "Things to Do Before Listing Your Property for Sale." Undated. (3/15/11).http://realestate.findlaw.com/selling-home/selling-home-process/le14_7top.html
- Home Insight. "7 Keys to Selling Your House when Sales Are Slow." Undated. (3/15/11).http://homeinsight.org/details.asp?url_id=5&WT.cg_n=Publications&WT.cg_s=0&GCID=Direct
- Inspect USA. "Things to Do Before Listing Your House for Sale & Being Prepared for The Home Inspection." 12/5/10. (3/15/11).http://inspectusa.com/blog/things-to-do-before-listing-your-house-for-sale-before-the-homeinspection/
- Jauhari, Nurudin. "10 Things to Do Before Listing Your Home." Blunt Money. 5/5/07. (3/15/11).http://www.bluntmoney.com/10-things-to-do-before-listing-your-home/
- Molina, Renee. 5 Things To Do Before Listing Your Property." 6/5/10. (3/15/11).http://realtorreneemolina.com/blog/2010/06/05/5-things-to-do-before-listing-your-property/
- Real Estate Investment. "Should you fix up your home before listing it? 2/27/11. (3/15/11).http://www.hrgoweb.org/2011/02/real-estate-sales-should-you-fix-up-your-home-before-listing-it/