Home Base: First impressions are Key

05 Jun, 2014

By Megan McCarthy

real estate, hangers

There are really only two basic ideas to keep in mind when getting your home ready for the real estate market:

  1. Look at your home through a buyer’s eyes;

  2. Simplify, simplify simplify.

Buyers like homes with a clean, “spacious” feel.

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Start decluttering immediately. Now’s the time to sell or give away all that Stuff you don’t need or want any more. Remember secret hiding places like attics, garage shelves, and closets.   I don’t know about you, but it’s amazing what I can cram into a small closet. The idea is to have buyers open that tiny closet and think, “Wow, look at all this space.”

I’ve had clients rent storage rooms to put away their Stuff while the house was on the market. Other clients made their adult children empty their rooms of possessions or lose them to charity. When selling my own house years ago, my friends let me put some Stuff in their garage while the rest of the Stuff drove around in my car with me.

It can be exhausting to whittle down 20 years of life into a clean, well-lighted space…but I promise you the reward of a higher selling price than if you hadn’t bothered. And, you have to do this anyway in order to move.

Buyers want to imagine themselves living in the home. Don’t overwhelm them with “you.”

Ideally, buyers should enter your home thinking, “This is a nice living room with good flow…I can see us living here” vs. “Wow, these people must have collected Disney figurines for 40 years.” Taper down on overwhelming displays of knick-knacks, collectibles, and family photos. A few of my clients hired professional stagers whom I recommended, which yielded terrific results in the selling price of their homes.

You might also consider taking down ponderous draperies and washing windows to let in light, rolling up rugs to show off wood floors, giving a fresh coat of paint throughout, power washing the exterior, trimming back the man-eating shrubs, etc.

17 Bronson Avenue in Larchmont, a three bedroom/two bath house which is an estate sale, sat on the market unclaimed since last October. First listed at $795,000, it’s now $735,000. The listing agent took it off the market in April, repainted the inside and refinished the floors, and put it back on in May as a “new” listing. Now buyers can more clearly see the architectural details. (But, as the agent notes indicate, the exterior still needs to be power washed. Boy does it ever.)

Right before your home goes on the market, it’s time for fun cosmetic touches. Examples: a big glass bowl of green apples on the kitchen table, a vase of (real) tulips in the living room for open house days, a cheap and cheerful new bedspread, bright flowering plants in your garden or planters, nice towels and fresh soaps in bathrooms, etc.

About pets. We have three dogs, so I get it. But if possible, remove your dog from the house for showings. Febreze Air Effects, the “rain” scent, is great for that lingering dog smell. For cats, if possible, move the litter box from your bathroom to the basement, and keep it clean. Put away the food bowls. Some buyers not only dislike but are afraid of household pets. It’s a real turn-off for them.

I could go on and on with ideas. Home decorating magazines can also give you a glimpse at today’s buyers’ tastes.

Should you go to the trouble and expense of redoing the floors? Will a new sidewalk add to your home’s resale value? Should you redo the kitchen? Each case is individual, and should be evaluated as such. A realtor up on the current local market can help you determine if the costs of such work are offset by a greater selling price.


Megan McCarthy is a licensed real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Larchmont. meganmccarthyhomes@gmail.com or 914-309-4648
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