Weeds poking out through cracks in the driveway. A grimy front door. A dirty kitchen. Closets crammed with stuff. Too many garden gnomes. Garages that can no longer fit any cars.
Although sellers often think about replacing big-items such as roofs and flooring, veteran Realtors say the former often overlook small and inexpensive fixes that can help eliminate big turnoffs for potential homebuyers.
"It's amazing how much small things matter," said Orem Realtor Chris Nichols. "The little details really do add up quickly."
If you are thinking of selling your home, Nichols and other real estate agents have some thoughts on how to get your home show-ready, on the cheap:
Declutter (and declutter some more) • "I think we become blind to what our home really looks like because we see it all the time," Nichols said. "The trick is to step back and look at your home through the eyers of a buyer."
Having trouble doing that? Enlist the help of someone who isn't in your home every day. Ask them to be brutally honest. That deer head on the wall? Perhaps it's time to pack that away, now.
Realtor Mary Olsen said for those who don't want to part with all their stuff, packing it up and storing it off-site can increase a property's appeal. "I'm always telling people, 'Get a storage unit.' "
Most Realtors say clutter is one of the biggest turnoffs for homebuyers. Messy homes and yards often appear much smaller than they are, and buyers often have difficulty envisioning what their own stuff would look like in a new setting.
Many sellers try to declutter by shoving everything into their closets. Big mistake, because many buyers open closet and pantry doors to check on space. So be sure to declutter and organizing your closets, as well.
Olsen has spent two months cleaning, painting, organizing and pulling weeds to get her home ready to sell.
Think about how much stuff is in a model home there's not a lot of extra items around. "Your home has to be beautiful," Olsen said. "No dumps allowed. You have too much competition," particularly in today's challenging market.
Fix things that need fixing • "If you have some small repairs, like a leaky faucet, get them done now," said Realtor Kenny Parcell, president of the Utah Association of Realtors. "A bunch of little problems can scare off a buyer because they'll wonder else might be wrong with your property."
Deal with smells • Have someone who isn't in your home every day give your home the sniff test. This can help you discover potential problems. Consider relocating a smelly pet temporarily during the time your home is listed for sale. Have a cat? Clean the litter box more regularly and keep it out of view. Consider taking your pets with you while your home is being shown.
Update your online photos • Many homebuyers start their search on the Internet, which is why most properties have multiple photos available online on different websites, such as utahrealestate.com. If your outside photos were taken when snow was on the ground, it's time to take new ones to reflect the change in seasons.
Clean up your yard • Spring is the time for outside work. "If you want to get top dollar, you want your home to be spic and span," said Ogden Realtor Shawn Janke. "For cheap or free, you could paint a front door, plant some flowers, pull some weeds and mow your yard. Little things like that make a big difference."
A new welcome mat can help make your home look more inviting, according to HGTV's FrontDoor.com, which also recommends that sellers clean out the gutters and downspouts, clean the windows from the inside and outside, and banish any lawn gnomes, pink flamingos or other decorations or at least keep them to a minimum.
Clean your house • Once you have addressed your property's curb appeal, start cleaning the inside. Wash walls and floors. Dust furniture. Vacuum. Clean the stove, the oven and other appliances. "If someone doesn't take the time to clean their house, buyers wonder, 'What else are they not doing?' " Janke said. And don't forget the refrigerator and pantry. Some sellers like to take a peek.
Price it right • All of this advice isn't worth much at all if a seller doesn't price a home properly. The days of putting your home on the market at an inflated price to see what happens are long gone. Values continue to fall in many areas along the Wasatch Front.
If the property isn't priced right from the start, some buyers may not even bother. It doesn't matter how much you paid for your home, how much you owe on your property or how much you desperately wish your property was worth. Zero in on your home's value by looking at the selling (not listing) price of comparable properties.
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Some other ways to get your home sold that may be worth the cost:
Focus on fixes in which you get the biggest bang for your buck. • New carpet and paint can do wonders to freshen a home's appearance. But some buyers are picky, so a seller could opt to offer a set amount of cash at closing so they can choose colors and styles themselves. ($1,000 or more)
Offer to purchase a warranty on behalf of the buyer. • Policies can be purchased that cover major repairs for a specified amount of time. ($300 to $500)
Pay for a home inspection before you list your property. • That way, you'll know about any issues before a buyer's inspection. At http://www.ashi.org, the American Society of Home Inspectors lists examiners who meet certain education and experience criteria. ($300 to $400)