Selling your home is a big step in your life.  It might mean you are getting ready to move to a new city or that you’re experiencing a change in your life, such as having a new addition to the family and upgrading to a larger home.  Often, it is a positive change in your life and your family is excited for the change.  However, the actual process of selling your home can be a stressful one, especially when you realize how much needs to be done.  Much of what needs to be done is before you ever put that ‘For Sale’ sign in your front yard and this is the part that many homeowners neglect to think about and plan for.

Preparing your home for the marketplace can involve a couple of little tasks such as fixing a few wiggly doorknobs, repainting a room and making sure all the lightbulbs are working or it can involve some major repairs like replacing the roof and redoing your deck.  No matter what condition your home is in, it’s likely there are at least a few projects that need to be done that will increase its appeal for potential buyers.  Here are a few things to consider before you put your home on the market.

Curb appeal is probably one of the most important things to consider before putting your home on the market.  Many people will drive by your home after it has been listed.  If they don’t like what they see when they drive by, it’s likely they will never call to schedule a showing and you’ll never even know they were at one time interested in your house.  Landscaping is a huge part of your curb appeal.  Matt Keiser with KM Landscaping states, “Landscaping improves curb appeal, which helps to create initial interest in the home.  A bad landscape can deter many people because they see the expense it may take to fix it.  Well thought-out landscaping, on the other hand, is the best return on your investment when it comes to selling your home.  I would suggest getting everything in order, meaning everything is pruned, cleaned and that all the problem areas are taken care of.  Broken concrete or overgrown landscaping only looks like dollar bills to the prospective buyer.”

“The first impression of a potential buyer will set the tone for interest in the home or disinterest,” adds Susan Fetters with Exterior Designs Landscaping.  “Your landscaping should offer four season color and interest so that no matter what time of the year your home is seen the landscaping will be an asset, versus a deterrent towards interest in the home.  Deciduous trees and shrubs that flower offer colorful or variegated foliage and glorious fall color add lots of excitement to your landscaping and planted ahead of time will be the most economical solution to achieve year round color and interest.”

“Any existing landscape needs to be aesthetically pleasing,” continues Susan. “Simple sprucing up of landscape beds  will amazingly improve the overall appearance of your entire property.  Trimming plants that are unruly or overgrown will rejuvenate them and give a neat appearance. Completely remove plants that detract from eye appeal and clean out and top dress mulch or rock beds. Obviously, keep your lawn watered, mowed and trimmed.  Strategically placed decorative annual pots in beds, along walkway, on decks or patios will add that extra element of design and wow potential buyers.  Using a professional landscape and maintenance company will give you the results you need while allowing you to spend your time on other aspects of your sale.  The service that you use should be able to offer you an economical monthly bed maintenance package.

Choose a landscape and maintenance company that will work with you: ask what you want to see and explain the plant use and care.  Customer expectations should be known and addressed.  That company should install what you want without costly extras.

Remember, plant trends come and go and what is fashionable today may be passé tomorrow and do you really want you landscaping to look like your neighbors’?  Retain a company with which you can establish a good working relationship.  Bigger is not better and you will always get what you pay for.”

Taking care of your own landscaping and keeping it up while you prepare your home for the market and maintaining it while your home is on the market can be a very daunting task, especially when you’re trying to keep up with everything else that comes with selling your home (and potentially searching for a new one).  “Before you sell or buy a house, it is always a good idea to have a credited landscape company look things over for you,” says Matt Keiser.  “Many times problems can be avoided or foreseen.  For example, we deal with a lot of water problems for people and many times a prospective buyer may not see the potential problems and most sellers won’t elaborate on.  For the seller, we can point out problems that an inspection may find or we may find problems that if we fix now may save them money and be a lot less of a hassle when selling.”

If you want to go above and beyond the basic lawn maintenance and repairs, you might want to consider working with a landscaping company to incorporate some of the outdoor trends into your outdoor areas.  Matt Keiser says, “Probably the biggest trend is outdoor living spaces, which include patios, fire pits, lighting and plants.  These spaces have really caught on because they are an extension of the home.  People tell me all the time how much their quality time with their family has increased by being able to enjoy being outside together.”

Michelle Christensen of Papillion Windows & Siding suggests, “When considering putting your home on the market, take a look at the condition of your windows and siding.  Most of the time, a potential buyer will order an inspection prior to sale, so if the siding is in poor condition with evidence of rotting, it could raise a red flag to the inspector and possibly encourage a buyer to offer a lower price than is acceptable to the seller in preparation of the cost of repairs. If the repairs are addressed prior to putting your home on the market, it is far less likely to scare off a potential buyer or to cause a concern for a buyer.  Also, if a window seal is broken or wood sills are rotten, home buyers will be less likely to put in an offer for fear of potential extra expense for the repair.”

Upgrading windows and siding is a good way to increase your resale value and the interest that potential homebuyers might have in your home.  “Some of the most durable materials for our part of the country with extreme heat and cold temperatures are a pure vinyl window or a fiberglass window and vinyl or cement board siding.  There are many varieties of quality and styles.  Just as important as the materials, though, is that they are installed correctly by a qualified, certified installer.  When looking for products to install prior to a sale, keep in mind the price range of your home.  Don’t over or under improve your home in comparison to the market.”

The interior of your home, of course, is also very important.  “Make sure everything in the home is working properly including the blinds,” suggests Tom Ehly with Ehly Interiors.  “You should also make sure the carpet is clean or replaced and walls have a fresh coat of paint on them.  Updated kitchen and bathrooms add value when listing a home to sell.”

Working with a professional who knows the proper products and services to make the interior of your home attractive to potential buyers is important.  “We offer blind repair or replacement,” says Tom Ehly.  “We also offer painting services plus consultations to help with color selection.  Our product line also offers carpets from builder grade to high end as well as ceramic tile and countertops for kitchens or bathrooms.  We offer a large selection of blinds, fabrics, floor coverings and upholstery fabrics and service and have 35 years of locally owned experience in the industry and can help out any home owner who is trying to sell.”

Your home not only should be decorated nicely and appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers, but of course it should also be free of holes, wear and tear and other unsightly issues.  “When you get ready to sell your house, everyone says to declutter your walls,” states Nancy Sempek with Chirstensen Drywall.  “All those picture holes, dents from door slamming, settling cracks, etc. can be easily repaired with a fresh coat of paint.  We can match most textures that may be on your ceiling, but it may have to be painted as time, cooking, fireplaces, etc. can change the color of the texture.  If a ceiling is already painted, it would have to be scraped first and then re-textured.  All those are easy cosmetic fixes that can make your home the perfect one for that buyer.”

If you want to do more extensive remodels, Nancy also has some suggestions.  “Kitchens and bathrooms are common remodeling areas of the house.  We can work with a designer or general contractor to add those changes for you.  Drywall art, such as bull-nose and step-a-bull corner bead, all add interesting looks within a budget.”

Not all of the repairs or remodeling that you do to your home will necessarily add to its aesthetic appeal.  You also need to look at more economical changes that your potential buyers will probably be interested in.  “People love to save money,” points out Angie Timm with Complete Comfort Heating and Cooling.  “A new heating and cooling system will save on utilities and a high efficiency one is especially appealing to a lot of potential home-buyers.  There are several options to choose from and naturally the sellers prefer the ‘basic’ models and the buyer like a ‘better or best’ option.  Either way, new equipment may be the difference between receiving an offer on your house or having it linger on the market.”

“Geothermal heat pumps are the most efficient way to heat and cool a home,” continues Angie.  “There are also many great traditional systems available. To maximize the comfort level, a variable speed furnace matched with a two-stage heat pump or air conditioner is very efficient as well as controls humidity levels while maintaining a constant temperature.  When you are getting ready to put your home on the market, it is always beneficial to look into replacing the heating and cooling system if it is older or not functioning properly.  At the very minimum, get annual maintenance done on your heating and cooling system and have it cleaned and inspected before listing your home.”

Here are some more tips:

Get replacement estimates  Do you have big-ticket items that are worn out or will need to be replaced soon, such as your roof or carpeting? Get estimates on how much it would cost to replace them, even if you don’t plan to do it yourself. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home, and will be handy when negotiations begin.

Remove personalization and clutter  While you may love the purple living room and the hallways covered with photos of your children in your home, it’s unlikely that this will appeal to potential home-buyers.  Before you put your home on the market, it’s important to make it as appealing to the general public as possible.  That means removing as many personal items as you can (family photos, any collections you might have, artwork that is not mainstream, etc.) as well as making sure walls are painted in neutral tones.  You should also remove as much clutter as you can.  If you are still living in the home, this is a good time to rent a storage space so you can put some of your furnishings and unnecessary items like Christmas decorations and other storage items in it and free up room in your home.

Find a temporary home for pets  If you’re still living in your home as you try to sell it, you probably want to try to keep life as normal for your family as possible.  If you have pets, the last thing you want to do is send them away for weeks or months.  However, having pets in the home is not the best idea when you are trying to sell it.  For one thing, they make it more difficult to keep the home clean.  No matter how clean your pets, there will always be pet hair and possibly a smell that a potential home buyer will be able to detect.  You never know what type of potential buyers will be going through your home.  Some of them could be very allergic to pet dander and it’s unlikely they will consider your home if they know two hairy dogs and a cat have been living there for the past five years.  You especially don’t want your pets present during showings or open houses.  Even if you have them confined in kennels, they will still make noise and be distracting.  Probably the best option is to have your pets stay with family or friends while you are trying to sell.
Evaluate each room   Sit and think about how you use each room.  Does the dining room sit there empty 360 days of the year?  If so, then maybe that room needs a different purpose.  Does one of the bedrooms act as a catchall for leftover stuff?  Then you need to change your habits and not bring things into the house that are just going to sit in a spare room, never to be seen from again.  You can rearrange furniture, do whatever you like to try and get the most out of each and every room in your home.  People will want to know what each room can be used for when they look through your home so they can see if it fits their life.  If you just have a bunch of random rooms with no real purpose, it’s unlikely that they will be able to envision their own uses for them.

Working with a Realtor

Working with a Realtor is vital once you’ve decided to put your home on the market.  Though it may be tempting to try For Sale by Owner, you’ll probably find that you will save more time and money by simply working with a Realtor from the very beginning.  Marie Otis with CBSHome Real Estate says, “There was a time in my career, many years ago, that people had some success selling their homes for sale by owner.  That time, for the most part, has come and gone.  With the internet, buyers are much more informed than they used to be.  They know that it costs them nothing to use a Realtor.  So why not get sound advice and have an expert assisting them, every step of the way, as they purchase a home.  Unless a seller is familiar with real estate, it is also not in their best interest to represent themselves.  There are many steps involved with selling a home, why not have an expert assist you?”

Marie has another suggestion when it comes to putting your home on the market: “Use a stager.  As part of my services, I pay for my stager to meet with my sellers to give them tips and ideas of how to make their home appeal to the masses.  A staged home sells quicker than a home not staged.  I would also suggest a deep clean, a professional one would be best.  As we live in our homes we may not see all the things that need attention.  To sell in this market, you need to be the prettiest and the best priced.

If the home is staged, clean and well maintained it almost always comes to price.  A quality Realtor is going to be able to keep you informed every step of the way about your price.  What has sold in your area?  What was the selling price?  What are similar homes in your area priced at?  This information will let you know how you are doing on price.”

Preparing your home for the market does not have to be an exhausting or stressful process.  Work with the right people from the beginning who can help you make the most beneficial repairs and remodels for your budget and you will find that you will be moving on to your new home before you know it!