Profitable Home Selling Tips
by Maureen Grenier
Even if you've never been involved in the sale of house before and yours is about to go on the market, you probably know enough about the process to be able to repeat, like a litany: clean it; paint it; fix it. But do you find yourself asking: How clean does the house have to be and how do I tackle the job? Do I really have to paint? What are the best colors to choose? What do I need to repair?
When considering these questions, it's good to remember that most prospective
home buyers are an unimaginative lot. Your house may be immaculate but if the
rooms are cluttered, crowded, and dark, they may appear to be less clean and
much smaller than they really are. Picture this: an old, seven-piece mahogany
dining room suite plus a rocking chair and seven boxes of books packed in
anticipation of your move are wedged into a dark green room with a brown rug and
a window covered by heavy velvet drapes. Why is this decorating scheme a
mistake? It's because most people are unable to imagine how big and beautiful
the room would look if painted off-white, everything removed but the dining room
suite, a pastel tablecloth and a fresh flower centerpiece on the table, curtains
stripped from the window, the rug removed, and everything spotlessly clean. In
the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, you must "make it so"; otherwise, it might
take you a very long time to sell your house and the offers to buy will not only
be slower, but lower.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Your best friend when cleaning your house for resale will be tri-sodium
phosphate (TSP) or its equivalent. TSP is one of the home products that top the
list of must-haves, and it's not expensive. Roll up your sleeves, put on your
rubber gloves and scrub your walls and ceilings, and anything else that needs
your elbow grease. Unless you can afford professional cleaners, there's no way
out of this one.
Carpet cleaning is another must and there are home products for the
do-it-yourselfer or you can hire a cleaning company to take care of this job. If
you have shabby rugs scattered throughout the house, forget cleaning them; it's
probably better to remove them altogether.
There are home products to clean things that require special care – ceramic
tile, porcelain, stainless steel, wood cabinets, aluminum siding, etc., and you
can find whatever you need at your neighborhood hardware store. Ask questions
and read labels. When using commercial cleaning products, wear gloves and a
mask. It's wise to be careful.
Paint for a Pristine Finish
As thorough as your cleaning job is, it won't have much impact on sagging,
faded wallpaper, gouges in the walls, or cracked and peeling paint. Repainting
is the solution, and interior painting jobs start with stripping off old
wallpaper, attacking cracks and gouges with filler, and then getting to work
with your roller and brush. This is also the time to do all the small repairs
that need your attention: hammer in nails; repair the broken step; replace the
When selecting paint, the best colors for your walls and ceilings are white,
off-white, cream, creamy off-white – you get the picture. A light, cool, neutral
color can fit into everyone's decorating scheme. (You want that young couple to
see your home as the perfect setting for their red plush love seats.) If you
have recently painted one or more rooms in quite dramatic colors, leave them as
they are. As long as the walls and trim are clean and fresh, prospective buyers
won't mind a bit of repainting if they want to change the colors – the main
thing is not to overwhelm them.
If you need to paint the outside of your house, it's not necessary to
restrict yourself to neutral colors for exterior paint; however, a bright color
is not a good choice. Something fairly subdued is better, but be creative when
painting the front door; a dramatic touch might be needed to make your house
memorable. It's easy for a buyer to repaint a door if he or she doesn't share
your love of Christmas red or purple passion.
Remove the Clutter
It's time to say goodbye to your high school chemistry notes, the clothes you
outgrew five years ago, the playpen your twelve-year-old no longer needs, and
everything else your family will never use again, read again, or wear again. Be
tough! Do it! Take it to the dump; hold a garage sale; donate it to your
favorite charity. Don't let it take up any more of your storage space – you're
going to need it all to store the things that are currently stacked on shelves
and floors and cluttering up counter tops throughout the house.
Important home products that can help you deal with this part of your
preparation are closet organizers. They come in every size and style imaginable,
and you are sure to find something suitable. When you have everything neatly
stored in your closets and cupboards, walk through the house and pick up and put
out of sight everything else on your counters and table tops that don't need to
be there. "Clutter-free" means clutter-free and it won't kill anyone in the
family to have to reach under the counter for the dishwashing detergent or the
toothpaste for the next few days or weeks.
You probably don't think of furniture as "clutter," but clutter is anything
that unnecessarily crowds a room, a doorway, or a hall. If your home has very
small rooms and you can manage without some furniture items for awhile, arrange
to use a friend's garage or basement to store them. It will "open up" the rooms
and make your house appear larger and brighter, and that's a good thing.
Let There be Light
Sunlight is a friend to the house seller, and you should try and let as much
of it into the house as you can. Wash windows inside and out and wash or
dry clean the
coverings: curtains, drapes, and blinds. Before showing the house to a
prospective buyer, replace burned-out light bulbs, turn on the lights, open the
windows, lift the blinds, and pull back the drapes.
Ask a non-smoking, non-pet-owning friend to come into your house when you
have finished cleaning and painting. Are all the pet odors and smoking odors
gone? If the house passes the sniff-test, place some potpourri in open dishes to
add a fresh, clean scent; otherwise, get back to work.
Finally, step outside and see what a prospective buyer's first impression of
your yard is likely to be. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges and bushes, weed the
garden, edge the flowerbeds, and sweep and clean the walkway, deck, or patio.
Your yard is another selling feature of your house, and must be clean and tidy,
Home products can help make your house appear big, bright, clean, and ready
for a prospective buyer to move right in, which is exactly what you want.
About the Author: Maureen Grenier is former editor and writer for Meridian Magazine, and for the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. She is currently freelance writing and enjoys providing tips to consumers.