Tips For Selling Your Home in a Tight Market

Given the odds in this down market, we asked some experts in real estate, interior design and home staging for their tips on giving your home a selling edge. Here are their suggestions:

Before you put the “for sale” sign in the yard, park in front of your home and pretend that it’s auditioning for “American Idol,” the home version, and that you’re Simon Cowell, unsparing in your criticism.

Most home buyers spend the first five minutes at the front door while the real-estate agent fumbles with the lock-box key, says Rula Jarrah, design director for Signature Design Center in Anaheim. This gives the potential buyer time to scrutinize what you may have overlooked.

Take care of the basics. Add a fresh coat of paint to the front door if it looks faded. If needed, install new house numbers and an outdoor light. At the very least, make sure these are clean. Don’t forget to look under the eaves. Weed. Rake. Toss the fake flowers. Make sure the area around the front door smells pleasant.
Clean the windows. Consider having them professionally cleaned and keep them sparkling while the home is on the market. And remove dated window treatments unless they are wood blinds or Plantation shutters. If you have an incredible view, don’t cover it, showcase it.

Clean everything. Irvine interior designer Debra May Himes says sellers need to make their homes as clean as possible. That means ceiling fans, shelves, upper level niches and grimy switch plates. Keep bathroom mirrors spot free. Clean carpets and replace if necessary. Consider having grout professionally cleaned. “You want to get the house as clean and fresh as possible so people don’t walk in and see it as a hassle.” Banish smells. Don’t leave garbage in the kitchen. Empty wastebaskets. Make sure that trashcans in the garage are covered. If you have pets, have a friend come in and give your home the sniff test. Launder pet bedding and have upholstered furniture cleaned if necessary.

Up to par. When potential buyers told Kathryn and Anthony Michael that the narrow concrete walkway leading to their home didn’t match its price tag, they took the criticism to heart, Kathryn says. They widened the pathway and had a new stained-concrete sidewalk poured before they put their home back on the market.

Declutter. Guest-room closets? Empty them completely so that people walking through the spare room don’t see it as a catchall holding what won’t fit elsewhere. Eliminate items on the top shelves of closets. And don’t confine decluttering to closets and garages. Be ruthless in the kitchen. Kitchen counters should be clear of unnecessary appliances and gadgets, including toasters and coffeemakers. “No one wants to see your blender,” Scott says. Look at interior-design magazines for ideas about how to stage kitchen counters, he suggests. The same idea goes for bathroom counters. Put cosmetics, hair dryers and curling irons away.

Depersonalize. Scott suggests taking photos of each room to give you a more objective perspective. Then remove personal photos, paperwork, knickknacks, extraneous furniture, plants, pillows and collections. You’re changing this from your home to one that others can picture calling theirs.

Update. It may not be worth updating appliances that still work, says real-estate agent Tom Bryant, but inexpensive decorating changes can eliminate colors and accessories that date your home. Eliminate the artificial flowers, clay pots and other accessories on the top of kitchen cabinets and niches. Those decorations not only date the home, Scott says, but add visual clutter.

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