It would be nice if selling your house was as easy as posting a “For Sale” sign and sitting back while a bundle of sky-high offers came in. Alas, it is not that simple.
Luckily, four of the region’s most experienced real estate agents have offered up some advice for sellers. Here are their tips:
GET RID OF CLUTTER AND PERSONAL ITEMS
A messy home is a turn-off to prospective buyers, so it is important to make your house look as clean and as organized as possible. “Sellers must look at the property as a buyer would,” says Roey Berman, an agent serving Marin and Sonoma counties with Alain Pinel Realtors.
Berman, who has been in the industry for more than 20 years, says buyers want to envision themselves living in the home. “Put away the souvenirs, the notes and photos on the fridge,” Berman says. “The home should have a neutral palette, allowing the buyers to see their own belongings [and] furniture.”
Joan Wachter, a 24-year veteran agent who serves Marin, Santa Clara and San Francisco counties for Coldwell Banker, says sellers need to make their homes accessible for everyone, which means clearing the hallways and closets of junk. “You can always put things in storage,” Wachter says.
GET AN INSPECTION
It is important for the seller to have everything disclosed to the buyer. Thus, using a pest and home inspector before the house goes on the market is essential, says Caroline Werboff, a 39-year real estate veteran with Hill and Co. Real Estate in San Francisco. “Pre-inspections are always good,” Werboff says. “It shows the seller what the buyer will see when they run their own inspection.”
Checking for pests and making sure the house is in good order ahead time also gives the seller a chance to fix things up if necessary, Werboff says.
FIX THINGS UP, INSIDE AND OUT
Nothing is worse than looking at a beat-up house for sale. Buyers want to see the place in its best possible light — and sometimes that means paying for repairs, replacing carpets and painting.
“If necessary, paint and install new carpet or other floor covering,” Berman says. “The home should be sparkling clean. In kitchen and baths, clean and caulk sinks [and] tubs if necessary. Replace cracked tiles. Keep it light and bright.”
It is important to make the home look contemporary and spacious, says Diane Mintz, an agent with Marvin Gardens Real Estate in Berkeley. Mintz, who has been in real estate for 30 years, says staging the home is a critical step when selling.
“Stage with an eye to openness and a minimum of furniture,” Mintz says. “Pay attention to detail: drawer and cabinet pulls, light switch plates [and] light fixtures.”
All of the agents say the lawn and shrubbery should look healthy, and fresh flowers always enhance the look of the property.
Sellers can price themselves out of the market if they are not careful.
“Never price too high,” Mintz says. “If your house stays on the market too long, it becomes stagnant and thought of, rightfully or not, as having a defect.”
Wachter says a seller needs to price accordingly, and looking at the last three months of comparable sales in the area helps. “Don’t price yourself out of the marketplace,” she says.
It is better to price slightly below the value of the home than over, Wachter says. A bidding war can sometimes bring the final sale price above the value of the home, especially in good neighborhoods.
Werboff says buyers in every price range are placing good value over emotional appeal when buying a house.
Being that we live in the 21st century, sellers have multiple ways of showing off their house. Werboff recommends that sellers take every available avenue to let it be known their house is for sale.
Besides advertising in newspapers, she says, sellers should have a virtual tour of their home online.
“You want exposure everywhere,” Werboff says. “People are Internet savvy and sometimes they will rule out a home based on pictures alone.”