Eleven Must Dos to Sell Your Home For Top Dollar

Home For Sale Real Estate Sign in Front of New House.

Recently, we put our own home up for sale so I invited a Home Stager to inspect our home and give us some tips on what we should do to stage our home for sale with the idea of maximizing the sales price and selling the home quickly. Most Realtors will tell you that staging your home for sale is an important consideration if you want to sell the home quickly and maximize the price.

Home staging is doing everything you can to make your home more sellable prior to putting it on the market. The home staging specialist spent about two hours with us identifying the things we should do to make our home appealing to buyers. We wrote down everything she said. When we finished, we had a list of 85 things we needed to do, which was a bit overwhelming to say the least. We decided to focus on the ten most important things we identified to sell our home quickly for top dollar. Here’s what we did.

First, we decluttered the home. That’s interior design lingo for get rid of all the crap you’ve accumulated over the years. After 25 years in the same home, we had collected a lot of stuff. Over the course of two weeks, we boxed the things we wanted to keep and put them in storage. We filled a whole storage unit. Then we carted off the things we thought we less important to us and either gave them to friends and family or donated them to charity.

Second, we painted the entry way and some of the rooms. Since the two of us live alone, we hadn’t marred the walls, so not every room needed painting. We did repaint using neutral colors. Even though we loved some of the paint colors we had chosen over the years, the stager informed us that people visiting the home are imagining their furniture in the rooms, not yours. Therefore, it’s important to keep the colors of the rooms neutral otherwise your favorite paint colors may be off-putting.

Third, we installed new carpet in some of the rooms. It’s surprising how worn and dated your carpet can become over the years. Since you’ve been living with the same carpet for years, you become used to the look and feel of the carpet. You don’t notice the faded colors and wear patterns. So, we installed a complementary neutral carpet color and installed it in the rooms that needed it the most.

Fourth, we rearranged some furniture and put knickknacks on the empty shelves. This gave the home an “interior designed” feel. Rearranging the furniture to make the rooms feel more open helped a lot. Putting knickknacks o the empty shelves gave the rooms a finishing touch. It made each room feel like someone cared.

Fifth, we eliminated odors and smells. Every home has a smell of its own, just like a new car or a hair salon. When you live in the home you get used to the smells, but when you’re coming from the outside, you notice every smell. Get an unbiased opinion about the smells in your home. Don’t be offended when someone tells you there’s an offensive smell in your home. Hair sprays, cleaning solutions, cooking sprays, detergent, all have a distinctive odor and some may be offensive. To cover up smells, some people simmer a cinnamon stick on the stove while others burn a Scentsy® candle or even bake cookies.

Sixth, we made the uninviting rooms more inviting. In our home, the ceiling height is eight feet, which was standard height 25 years ago, but today most homes have nine-foot high ceilings. The original owner of our home, designed it with a sunken living room, which created a nine-foot tall ceiling in the living room, but created a seven-and-a-half-foot tall ceiling in the main room in the basement. To counter the short basement ceiling height, we designed a home theater room for the basement. Now people focus on the surround sound and theater room rather than the short ceiling. Look at each room individually and see what you can do to make that room more inviting.

Seventh, we cleaned the garage and removed most of the lawn and garden equipment to make it look fresh, clean and big. Older homes have two car garages, which make them less appealing, especially when the home is valued well above a starter-home value. It’s almost impossible to overcome functional obsolescence. In appraising, functional obsolescence is a reduction in functionality due to an outdated, and not easily changed, design feature. A two-car garage is functionally obsolescent in a larger home. About the only thing you can do, unless you want to start ripping out walls or adding a new garage, which isn’t always cost effective, is to drop the price to overcome the functional obsolescence. In our case, we cleaned everything out, power-washed and painted the garage floor to give it a clean, fresh look.

Eighth, we got new bedspreads for the beds and fresh, white towels for the bathrooms. It’s amazing how different the bathrooms look with fresh, white towels hanging from the towel bars and new rugs on the bathroom floors, not to mention the difference it makes when there are new bedspreads on each of the beds in the home. It gives the home a clean, fresh look.

Ninth, we cleaned up the deck and repositioned the outdoor furniture. Decks tend to be a catchall for mismatched outdoor furniture. Often, they are cluttered with old, dated lawn furniture or tables and chairs. To make a deck or patio more appealing, think of it as an extension of the rooms in your home. Give it the feeling of an actual, well-thought-out living space. Bring a touch of the indoors to the outdoors. It can add a lot of appeal to the home.

Tenth, we spruced up the yard, planted some flowers, and made the exterior inviting. An unkept yard with overgrown shrubbery and weeds is uninviting. It detracts from the appearance of the home and gives an unfavorable first impression. On the other hand, planted flowers in the yard and in pots, make the home inviting. They give a favorable first impression and help the home seem appear warm and inviting. It says, “we really care about our home.”

Once we completed these staging improvements, we invited the Realtors® in for a tour. The comments we received from the tour were amazing; Gorgeous home, beautiful yard, fabulous storage, great floor plan, nice kitchen updates, very nice features, and shows really well were among the most favorable comments. They also gave some less favorable comments like, some of the cabinetry is dated and short ceiling in the basement is an issue. Surprisingly, no one mentioned the two-car garage, which I found interesting. Almost everyone said the home was priced right, which is what Realtors® know how to do best.

Eleventh, we priced the home right. If it’s not priced right, it won’t sell regardless of how good the staging is. Getting the price right is a must. As a homeowner, you always think your home is the best one in the neighborhood and should sell for the most money. Homeowners always point to the little features they’ve added which they think add value to the home, but home appraisers invariably ignore these comments. In the end, it’s all about square footage and number of bedrooms and bathrooms and the functional age of the home.

I’ve discovered that, if you over price your home, you lose all the momentum you’ve created by staging it well. Regardless of how beautiful you think your home is, in the end it comes down to price. Real estate, both residential and commercial, is all about supply and demand. If there are several homes for sale in your area and the home is overpriced, it won’t sell regardless of how well you’ve staged it. If there are few homes for sale in your area and you’ve overpriced the home, it won’t sell either.

There’s a thing in real estate called equilibrium. It means that supply and demand are in balance and homes are priced right for the market. Right now, the market is in disequilibrium, meaning there are fewer homes on the market making it a seller’s market. That’s why it’s so important to hire a professional Realtor® to sell your home.

This is where using a professional Realtor® to sell your home makes a big difference. You can try to sell it yourself, but nine times out of ten, you’ll make mistakes in pricing and marketing the home which will cause it to linger on the market long after it should have sold. When that happens, everybody, meaning other Realtors®, neighbors, and friends, begin to wonder what’s wrong with your home because it hasn’t sold quickly.

It’s like going to a restaurant where you were served bad food. Once it gets a reputation for serving bad food, nobody wants to go there regardless of how many changes are made in the menu or preparation of the food. Once your home gets a bad reputation, you’re sunk. So, when you decide to sell your home and want it to sell quickly for top dollar, you must do two things: Stage it Right and Price it Right. Those two things are more important than anything else you can do.