Real estate professionals should be prepared for sellers’ most common question—how to prepare a house to be listed, says Colorado real estate professional Phil Barru, broker associate of RE/MAX Professionals.
Barru says agents should be ready to dispel common myths about getting one’s home ready to sell and review essential pre-listing improvements with their clients.
Barru says that when he speaks to prospective sellers, he is often asked, “What should I do to my house to get it ready to sell? Should I remodel the kitchen or bath? Finish the basement? Replace windows? Do a landscaping makeover?”
His advice? Costly and time-consuming major improvements will add value to one’s home, but they very rarely add as much immediate resale value as they actually cost. Barru tells prospective sellers that it is best to tackle major remodeling tasks several years before they plan to sell so they regain much of the value by their own enjoyment. “Plus, most of these improvements will increase the appreciation of a home and over time will fully offset their costs,” he said.
According to Barru, the most important pre-listing improvements are frequently overlooked by both sellers and agents. They are relatively inexpensive, yet will have a huge impact on both the market appeal and sale price of a home, as well as help a home stand out from the competition in the market.
The White Glove Test
The No. 1 pre-listing improvement is to have the home immaculately clean inside and out. This is the least expensive upgrade that adds the most value. “Thousands more than homes that are not so clean,” stressed Barru. “Everything should shine, including all surfaces, windows, inside of cabinets and appliances, garage and unfinished areas. Nobody wants to live with someone else’s grime. Extreme cleanliness appeals to 100% of buyers!”
Furthermore, the impression buyers will have when they tour a gleaming clean home is that the owner takes excellent care of it.
The second pre-listing improvement is to take care of all of the visibly obvious repairs and maintenance items. This too is usually inexpensive and has a very large return. “They should fix all those dripping faucets, lights, and switches that don’t work, loose or missing trim and hardware, doors that don’t close properly, and cracked windows,” advised Barru. “Most buyers don’t want to make repairs to their new home -- even minor ones. They want to move in and enjoy it from day one. Again, a turnkey home appeals to 100% of buyers. Very few listings fit this category so set yourself apart.”
Décor and More
Thirdly, if one is selling an immaculate and repair-free home, they should consider basic decorator items like paint, carpet, refinishing existing hardwood floors, etc. This will also add more value than their cost, in most cases, and the value of decorator items will be greatly amplified when the home is extremely clean and all repairs are completed. Barru’s listing service includes a free consultation with a professional home decorator/stager to help with color choices and design ideas. The synergy of properly executing these three home preparation categories can add many times more than they cost.
“Sellers can often add tens of thousands of dollars to a mid-priced home in our market. Notice that I make no mention of major projects. There are definitely times when big improvements are worthwhile so please consult an experienced real estate professional about your specific situation,” concluded Barru. “However, the lower-cost items mentioned above apply to virtually every home in every market condition and will give sellers the biggest ‘bang for the buck.’”