Low Cost Ways to Dress Your House for a Quick Sale

No matter how much marketing you do or how good your real estate agent is, if you want your house to sell quickly, you need to make sure that it shows well. The good news is that a few simple, often cosmetic, changes will make the world of difference to buyers. But before you get started, bear in mind these four rules of thumb. (See also: Five Tips to Sell Any Home Fast)

  1. First impressions matter. It doesn't matter how beautiful your house may be on the inside if the paint is peeling on your front door or your front garden is overgrown. Many of your potential buyers will simply drive by. Your entryway and first room are also important. If buyers get negative thoughts in their heads at the beginning, it is extremely difficult to change their minds during the rest of a viewing.
  2. Buyers tend to only see what is directly in front of them. You don't want your buyer to have to imagine what your house would look like if it were painted, tidier or cleaner. They need to see it that way with no imagination required. Don't leave anything to the imagination.
  3. Buyers are interested in your house and not your possessions. Buyers should be able to mentally picture their own furniture and appliances in your house and 'see' themselves living there. Try not to impose your personal taste and preferences on prospective buyers. This is why professional stagers mostly use neutrals and soft colorings in their work and remove personal items from display.
  4. Buyers are interested in your house and not you. Prospective buyers will be interested to know that you have loved the house and the area you live in, but they don't want to know the details of your life. Let the buyers focus on the house, not on you.

Use these rules of thumb to help you prioritize what to do to ensure your house shows well. Start by concentrating on the least expensive items at the front of the house and work your way to the back of the house.

Here's a checklist to get you started:

  • Re-paint your front door if it needs sprucing up.
  • Make sure the doorbell works and the lock is in good condition.
  • Mow the lawn and replant the grass if there are any bare spots.
  • Plant some new shrubs in the front garden and near the entrance.
  • Sweep the sidewalk in front of your house.
  • If your house needs re-painting, start with the front of the house, then the entryway followed by kitchen, master bedroom, and main bathroom. Use neutral colors.
  • Clean the house so that it sparkles. It's incredible how a good clean can bring the shine out.
  • Remove half the furniture from your house and store it in the garage or off-site.
  • Tidy and remove as many personal items as possible. Remember that to a buyer, personal belongings are no different from clutter.
  • Replace all the light bulbs.
  • Organize your cupboards and storage areas so they look as big as possible.

Getting these things done should cost you less than $500. If you still feel that your house needs more work, then consider these other inexpensive ideas:

  • Add a dimmer switch to the light in the family room and dining room. Dimmers are popular with buyers and soft lights are flattering.
  • Get some big fluffy towels and scented soap for the bathrooms.
  • If the entrance walkway is broken or damaged, replace it with inexpensive stepping-stones.
  • If your carpet is looking shabby, consider getting it professionally cleaned and/or cover it up with an inexpensive large rug in a neutral color.
  • Add new knobs to tired kitchen or bathroom cabinets.

And finally, during the viewing, follow these tips:

  • Be unobtrusive but available to answer questions if needed. Don't talk endlessly at the prospective buyers (nerves can you make you do that!), just leave them to form their own impressions and experience themselves living in their 'new home.'
  • Don't volunteer negative information about the house and area (although ensure you meet all legal disclosure rules), and have an answer ready as to why you're moving on.
  • Have some coffee brewing in the kitchen, a bowl of brightly colored fresh fruit on the counter (and one in the living room), and pop some rolls in the oven just before they arrive. The smell of freshly baking bread makes people feel instantly at home.
  • Put flowers throughout the house. These look great, provide a welcoming atmosphere, and make your home look loved and cared for.

These tips work for property in the U.S. as well as for international real estate around the world. Marketers tell us that buyers everywhere make their purchase decisions based on emotion first — and then later back this up with logic. Dress your house in a way that speaks to the buyer, connects with their emotions, and makes them linger.

This is a guest post by Claudia Gonella. Claudia blogs regularly on real estate in the US and abroad. She is co-founder of Reveal Real Estate, an overseas property site with a special focus on Costa Rica real estate and property for sale in Panama.

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