3 Common Mistakes Home Sellers Make

Monday, January 20, 2020
If you are getting your home ready to sell, part of your "homework" should be to check what's current in your local online real estate listings.

This kind of research is crucial because once you see how homes like yours look and what the asking prices are, you'll have a good idea what your competition will be.

Don't compare your property to the ones that show poorly. Compare yours to the ones that show well, and then do what's smart to meet or beat them.

If you're like me, looking at online photos or at open houses, you'll begin to see some common mistakes made by poorly motivated (or else naive) home sellers.

These are the three that stand out for me, mistakes I don't want you to make!

The kitchen has no updates

The kitchen is to many buyers the most important room of the house. Because so much goes on in the typical kitchen, a lovable one can be a major selling feature.

And an unlovable kitchen can be a dealbreaker. How does yours look? How does it function? Does it show off some updates?

You don't need a full renovation to keep your kitchen market-ready. Good kitchen cabinets can last up to 50 years. If your cabinets are well maintained and sturdy, consider giving them an update with a coat of paint and new hardware. My vote goes to white cabinets, either bright white, or a softer white, depending on what other fixed features are in the room. Work with the undertones in your flooring, counters and backsplash to choose a good white.

All white kitchens are still popular. Don't be afraid your white kitchen will look too sterile. You can add warmth and color with props like cutting boards, plants, fruit, cookware or dishes.

If your kitchen floor is dated or shows signs of wear, get estimates on replacing the flooring. Depending on what type of flooring you choose and the size of the room, you may be surprised at what a quick and economical fix it can be.

If your kitchen is large enough to accommodate one, add an island, one that is not fixed to the floor, but one you can take with you like a commercial-grade, stainless work table, or a farmhouse style vintage table.

A jazzy new faucet and sink are sure to impress buyers. Shop around for the best bargains. Or work with a local plumber who can give you suggestions for saving money.

White is always in style, in dining rooms, kitchens, baths...everywhere.
It's easy to warm up these spaces with wood tones and the right accessories.
Even though this dining room has a wall of windows, a light over the table
centers the room and adds another layer of light. 

Some rooms are dark

A well-lit home is a brighter, more spacious home. Sometimes just changing light bulbs to LEDs isn't enough. You don't have to purchase high-end lighting fixtures to make a room look big and bright. Shop online or at a Habitat ReStore for modern, economical fixtures that add plenty of illumination and style.

If you've rearranged furniture and the ceiling fixture isn't in an appropriate place anymore, it's possible you can easily swag it to a new location. You can find tutorials online for swagging or wiring a ceiling fixture yourself. Just follow instructions carefully. Take your time, watch where you step, and use a wooden or resin ladder that does not conduct electricity. You never see an electrician with an aluminum ladder!

Most rooms need some accent lights and task lights in addition to general ambient lighting.  I like floor lamps because they look important, illuminate well, and don't eat up tabletop space. For your table lamps and floor lamps, avoid lampshades that obscure too much light. White, drum-shaped lampshades are in style now and they allow plenty of light to shine through and above and below them.

Don't list your house until you've made it as light and bright as you can. Pull back those curtains or use sheers. Make sure your Realtor knows where important light switches and lamps are located, and label them if it's not clear. Put some of your lights on timers or smart devices.

Your bath may not be huge or glamorous, 
but the right staging can help it 
look that way! Photo: Betsy Brown 

There's nothing unique

I hope you have one element of your home that sets it apart from all the other homes in your price range. If it's something you're proud of, make sure buyers see it!

Your unique feature could be the one thing they remember about your home after viewing five other properties that day. They will want to return for another look.

What you see as special about your home might not appeal to every buyer, but those who appreciate it will be willing to pay for a beneficial and unique characteristic. Again, go through those online pictures of your competition to discover what you have that the others do not.

Maybe you have an extra-large backyard. If so, show it off with landscaping or even adding a major element like an herb garden, a seating area around a fire pit, a patio with a grill, an enclosed hot tub, or a tennis court. These are the kind of improvements that make a home above average in buyers' minds.

Maybe you have a beautiful fireplace. Make it the focal point of the room. If your master bathroom is what you love most about your home, keep it pristine and gorgeously staged like a spa. If the garage is a selling point, don't use it for storage, but organize it, clean it, and stage it to make people jealous.

Don't have photos of your house taken until you have at least one special feature that will make online house hunters want to schedule a viewing.

A fireplace is always an asset, so make yours the star of the show by
clustering furniture around it. Artwork above and a simple mantel staging
make this beautiful Sarah Richardson living room fireplace-focused.

Your home inspection will reveal all

While you prep your home for sale, remember that whoever makes an offer on your property will likely be paying for a home inspection. You won't have any secrets. That mold in the basement? He will write it up. That window that doesn't close? He'll notice. That bathtub that drains slowly? Yup, that goes into his report, too.

Buyers will either want these problems fixed, or they will want a discount. You can speed up the sale of your home and save yourself some money by taking care of any neglected maintenance issues before you even talk to Realtors. The discounts buyers ask for will probably exceed what your repair costs will be.

So, make those roof repairs. Check stairways and railings, both inside and out, so there is nothing that could cause someone to fall. Have your HVAC system and plumbing system checked. I recently read that a trillion gallons of water, worth $6 billion, are wasted each year as the result of running toilets, dripping faucets, or other leaks. If a buyer sees that your home has damaged fixtures or obsolete systems, they may put an offer on a home they like as much but that needs fewer repairs. People want move-in ready!

Get the Look. Get the Book.

You can avoid these mistakes and others common to home sellers if you download my home staging eBook. I'll walk you through all the smart steps you need to get your home market-ready so you can get the price you like, and quickly. Staged homes sell faster and for more money than unstaged homes. Maximize your investment when you sell. It's easy when I show you how.

Here's How to Make Your Green Home Someone's Dream Home

Friday, January 10, 2020
When the home you are listing is an up-to-date, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly green home, some buyers will be skittish about exactly what they are buying.

"It's fancy, schmancy and trendy," they're thinking, "But what does that mean to me and my pocketbook and what skills will I have to learn to maintain these new systems?"

Your job as a home seller is to set these qualms to rest and let the prospective buyers know the distinct advantages of buying a green home. Most likely you'll communicate with prospects only through your listing agent, so it's crucial that your Realtor understands these benefits.

There are two ways to do this. One is to have a walk-through of your property with her, when you will point out the specifics that are considered energy-efficient money-savers or safety features. Or you can pass along literature you have (or can create) that explains these features, such as copies of the manuals that came with your Energy Star refrigerator or programmable thermostat. Alternatively, you can provide online links to these manuals.

Ideally, you can do both. It's all about communication.  

Talk about the safety

Especially if your home is an older one, buyers might be concerned that materials and construction techniques used 50 or 100 years ago won't be energy-efficient by today's standards. They might be worried about the structural integrity, termites, radon, outgassing plastics, lead paint, asbestos, mold, and outdated plumbing or electrical systems.

Let your Realtor know whatever you know about the strength and quality of the materials in your home, highlighting their reduced impact on the environment. For example, if your home is partially constructed of recycled steel, buyers might be happy to know that steel is the most recycled material on earth, with up to 90%  of recycled content.

A home inspection will reveal if there are problems with plumbing or electric wiring, but if buyers are nervous about an old fuse box or copper pipes, they might walk away rather than pay for an inspection.

If your home has asbestos siding, buyers need to be reassured that it poses no danger unless it is cut, sawed, or broken into small enough asbestos fibers that can become airborne. Actually, undisturbed asbestos is rot-proof, fireproof, and good at insulating a home. Termites don't bother it, and it's easy to paint.

Point out materials that may be unfamiliar to buyers, like flooring made from sustainable bamboo, or recycled flooring materials like stone, old wood, cork, and rubber. Emphasize the methods used to create certain recyclable plastic components, like reaction injection molding  -- the new way molded polyurethane parts are made, when two liquid components are mixed and injected into the mold where they chemically react and cure.

The Realtor should know about exterior lights that automatically come on at dusk and off at dawn, about the video doorbell that lets you see from your phone who's at the door, and about any home security system you have, including the fact of whether or not these things convey with the home purchase. The more information your home shoppers have, the more confident they'll feel about buying your home.

Talk about the savings

Buyers love saving money. The more specific you can be about energy costs, the better. Heating and cooling make up 54% of annual utility bills in an average home. If buyers think they are paying extra for your double-paned glass windows and other energy-efficient features, let your Realtor have a statement from your utility company that shows your billing for the past year to demonstrate the savings that come with good windows and up-to-date insulation and HVAC systems.

If your major appliances convey with your house and they are new-ish,
make sure buyers know they are energy-efficient. Photo: ComEd  
Major appliances account for 25% of a home's energy costs. If you are replacing older appliances with newer models as part of your staging, you might even leave the yellow and black Energy Star stickers on them to make it obvious how energy-efficient they are!

If you've had insulation added to your attic space, basement, or crawl space, let your Realtor have copies of the invoices itemizing the work that was done. Buyers will be happy that they don't have to pay for the work.

Buyers can also learn that you've swapped out your incandescents with warm-colored LED bulbs that last 50 times longer.

A programmable thermostat looks impressive, the simple ones aren't expensive, and they can shave as much as 10% off heating and cooling costs. If you have a tankless water heater, specify it in the MLS data, because people will notice. Typical water heating accounts for 12% of a home's utility bill.

Look for ways to decrease energy consumption further before listing your green home. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Program estimates that adding insulation and properly sealing air leaks, monthly energy bills could be slashed by up to 20%.

Eco-friendly homes emphasize lower energy use for the sake of a reduced carbon footprint, and less energy consumed means more money saved.

Talk about the environment

While some eco-friendly, green homes feature unconventional landscaping like an overgrown wildflower meadow for a front yard, or an expanse of barren rocks and sand in place of turf, an environmentally sound landscape doesn't have to call attention to itself.

A drought-resistant yard design that relies on native plants
can look good all year. Photo: ThePressDemocrat   

If your landscaping is appropriate for your climate, if it conserves water, if it incorporates indigenous plants instead of exotics, if it includes some wild areas as habitats for wildlife like birds and butterflies, if deciduous trees shade your home in summer and evergreen trees protect it from winter winds, and if you have mulched around flower beds and trees to reduce water usage and minimize lawn, then you have a right to brag about it as an environmentally friendly landscape.

Other signs that you are conscious of your home's impact on the environment: a bat house that will help control the mosquito population, ground covers that don't require chemical fertilizers or irrigation to thrive, and a rain barrel. Most people don't realize that one inch of rainfall on a 1,000-square foot roof can produce 600 gallons of water that can be collected in rain barrels at the corners of the home and used to irrigate a property.     

Your city or county may have restrictions in place that ban some plants as invasive species, that don't allow an outdoor clothesline, that determine how near trees can be to your home, or how much water can be used for irrigation. Ideally, any irrigating you do will be on a drip system rather than a more wasteful spray system.

When you're marketing your home, it's crucial to fine-tune your curb appeal by keeping trees and shrubs pruned and tidy. Avoid "topping" them, and instead practice "crown thinning" to keep them healthy and attractive, removing only 10 to 15% of the live growth in the tree's interior.

Once you've listed your home, you'll need to check features like fountains, birdbaths, and pools so they are clean and functioning. If you have a pool, it can boost your home’s value by up to 7%, if it is customary in your market area and if the pool is in good condition.

Get the look, get the book

Your home may be greener than you realize! Advertise your eco-friendly qualities by making them obvious and attractive.

Selling an eco-friendly home doesn't have to be a challenge. In fact, savvy buyers will appreciate the modern conveniences, the safety, and the ethics of your property. Even buyers reluctant to purchase a home only a techy could love, once they are educated, will happily get on board. And that means a purchase offer coming your way!

Learn more about how to get your home sold quickly at a price you like by downloading my eBooks on home staging.  You can start your staging today.

How to kick off your homestaging

Friday, January 03, 2020
Is one of your New Year's resolutions is to sell your home this year? If so, it's never too early to begin planning for success.

Even if selling isn't on your agenda yet, if you own a home, chances are that sooner or later you'll be selling it. Last year, the stats show that the average homeowner in America moved after eight years. 

The time to begin your home staging plans is as soon as you are confident that you will place your home for sale. Here is my 7-step program to make the home-selling process smooth and profitable.

1. Choose a Realtor

I always encourage sellers to work with a real estate agent. I've given tips on how to choose a Realtor and how to work with your Realtor so you both benefit.

An experienced Realtor will provide you with the information to get you started and help you understand the process, the current market, and a realistic value for your home. Get to know what your competition looks like. Study online photos of similarly priced homes. You need to meet or beat those standards!

2. Plan your budget

As soon as you know what your home could sell for, you'll have a better idea of what you can spend to make it as marketable as possible. Yes, it takes money to make money. Every home needs tweaking to become the dream home for a large demographic. Even if it's just cleaning supplies and a storage unit, be prepared to spend something to get the best return on your most important investment.

3. Evaluate your home

Get real about your home's problems and needs. Here's another area where a Realtor and a home inspector are indispensable. If you've chosen the right ones and pay attention, they will steer you in the right direction about ways your home might be outdated, cluttered, or in need of repairs. Don't get offended or defensive. It's just business. It's time to detach yourself emotionally from this piece of property.

Even when a home doesn't have an open floor plan,
buyers like to see from one room to another.
Keep doors open, and let photos for MLS
reflect how rooms relate to each other.   

4. Plan furniture arrangement

Determine the traffic pattern through your home -- the way people on tour will enter and walk through your house. That's the first step in deciding what furniture will go where.

Make the path obvious and easily accessible.

Make the focal point or best feature of each room quickly visible.

Make the eye move evenly and smoothly around the room.

Make the singular purpose of each room clear.

5. Take Inventory

Based on what your real estate agent has told you and what you've learned by studying your floor plan and traffic pattern, you can determine what furniture will best increase the perceived value of your home and what will detract from it.

Do you want to sell the furniture that "just isn't working?" You might decide that some can be refreshed with a coat of paint, or a new slipcover to jive with a simplified color scheme. The furnishings that don't help sell your home, but are pieces you value and don't want to part with can be stored off-site.

Once you know what furnishings will stay, it's time to list what pieces might be missing. Now's a good time to hunt for bargains. Don't forget to let friends and relatives know what you need.

6. Create a staging area

Your collection of samples and possible
staging supplies doesn't need to look this neat.
But it should keep you motivated.
Photo: BeachBlissLiv   
This next step really gets the ball rolling and convinces you that your home will be on the market soon!

Anything new that will be part of your home's staging can ideally be stored in one place.

Clear an area somewhere in your home where you can keep everything from fabric, notes to yourself, color swatches, and inspirational shelter magazines, to that new end table you found at Salvation Army and the throw pillows you're going to recover.

Seeing all these items in one place is constantly reassuring to me.

When you've set up your staging area, there's always one place to go when you need to check a measurement or color match. It's also a place to put the "maybes" -- those pictures and vases and trays and blankets you're not sure what to do with yet. 

Your staging area might be part of a closet, under a bed, a corner of the garage, or it could be a spare bedroom or the attic. Of course, this process is much easier if the home you are staging is vacant, but most DIY home stagers don't have that luxury.

7. Buy my eBook

As a final step to home sale prep, you'll need my $4.99 eBook, DIY Home Staging Tips to Sell Your Home Fast For Top Dollar. The title says it all. I give you everything you need to make staging both economical and effective! You'll learn what I've learned over my 27 years in the construction, real estate, and home decorating businesses. It's all there in a 150-page pdf -- the formulas, the secrets, the shortcuts, ideas, and encouragement you need. You can do this! You're just two clicks away from kicking off your home staging plan.

Top and middle photos: BHG   

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