Prepping Your House for the Market

When you want to sell and you want to do it right, follow my advice: prepare your house for the market.

Home sales are necessitated by any number of things: job relocation, growing families, reducing expenses, job loss, downsizing empty-nesters. Sometimes there’s a “Honey, I took the job. We move in two weeks” kind of panic, and other times there’s a “This would be a good move for us - if we can find what we want” pace to it.

That’s why it’s important to first consider your timelines when you prep your house for the market. Sometimes circumstances dictate that we simply cannot afford to prep the house for sale, and we just need a sign in the yard, like, yesterday. No one can tell you what to do, but if you really want to capitalize on your investment and sell for all your home is worth, your first step is to consider how you can make your timeline align with the market’s timeline.

Matching Timelines

Generally, the Spring and Summer are the more active seasons for the real estate market. Why is that?

Well, in addition to the kids being out of school, which makes moves easier on families, you also have to consider the lengthier days buyers have to shop, warmer weather and safer streets, as well as blooming flowers and excellent curb appeal. Statistically speaking, the best time to list a house for sale is the first half of May.

That is a national average, so it’s also important to consider local factors that may influence the timing of the market in your situation. In my city, July has the highest sales prices year over year. However, my neighborhood does a huge block party every July 4th weekend. Streets are almost impassable, and that makes one less weekend my house is able to be shown.

There’s also a case to be made that a buy/sell move is better in the off seasons. After all, if you are to sell in the winter, that makes you a buyer during the winter, and you’re able to take advantage of a depressed market on your purchase.

Remedy the Deferred Maintenance

Once you have a good idea of when you’d like to list your house for sale, you can turn your attention to deferred maintenance.

We all have things around the house that we live with that just aren’t right. Maybe it’s been a while since we serviced the HVAC system, or a bathroom door doesn’t close completely. It could be something outside like trees that need to be trimmed, or a pool that puts new meaning to “lagoon-like”.

When a buyer walks through your home, they expect to see everything working as it should. When they flip a switch and the light doesn’t come on, they start to wonder if the house has electrical issues. Inevitably, they start to look at every single thing in the house just a little more critically. Remove those issues, and keep them excited about the house by taking care of deferred maintenance prior to listing the house.

Now that everything is working like it should, you can turn your attention to the cosmetics of the house.

Make Some Upgrades

You would be amazed at how much difference a fresh coat of paint makes. The same goes for freshly groomed flower beds and a clean roof. Suddenly a home that looked tired and neglected now looks like it could’ve been built yesterday.

The hard thing is knowing where to draw the line. Because cosmetics are so subjective, you can sometimes be better served by offering a concession or a credit towards certain things. Carpet is a perfect example. There are so many different textures and colors that you could make the wrong selection quite easily and make an investment in something in which your eventual buyer sees no value.

It’s difficult to know what the latest trends are, so my advice is to invoke the help of a realtor before you begin making cosmetic improvements to the home.

Who Are We Doing This For?

The biggest thing to bear in mind when preparing your home for the market is the buyer’s perspective. People tend to be more excited about homes that are neat and clean.

A lot of sellers I’ve worked with in the past make the comment that a market-ready home feels sterile. While you don’t want your home to feel boring or lack personality, it is important to remember that you’re trying to make the home appeal to the largest number of buyers.

So if you find yourself saying “anyone who doesn’t like that just doesn’t have good taste,” it’s probably not the best choice for the situation.

When Do We Start?

We started by talking about timing the market. It’s a really tough thing to do, and I would almost say it’s inadvisable. After all, what happens if you go through all this prep work and wait 3 weeks to try and time the market perfectly, then all of a sudden 4 homes on your street hit the market on the same weekend?

Since you can’t control outside forces, it’s more important to focus on the things you can control, and that’s your home and your timeline.

Once you know what your ideal move date would be, subtract 120 days from it. That’s your start date. 4 months?! Let’s break it down.

The average escrow period is around 30 days. That’s the amount of time between a contract being accepted and the sale being finalized. The time between listing the home for sale and being under contract will vary greatly depending upon market conditions, but the average days on market is currently around 57. Starting backward from 120, you can see that leaves just about one month of prep time for your home.

So break out the hammer and wrench, clean those old paint brushes and clear your schedule for the next few weekends; you’ve got work to do! Don’t have that kind of time? Well I guess you better get started now, or find someone who can help you with all of this (it’s me. Let me help you.).