For a Quick and Easy Sale Make Your House the Belle of the Ball

A charming Santa Fe style house with crisp canvas awnings and a high-pitched shingled roof is the backdrop of many of my childhood memories. Its polished wood floors creaked under the footsteps of four generations of my Irish clan. We gathered there to celebrate countless Christmases and Easters, births, baptisms, and marriages. And in times of illness and death, its fortress-like adobe walls provided us solitude and comfort.

Though we felt we all owned a part of this house, it belonged to my aunt who inherited it from her parents. And when she died 10 years ago it was sold to a young family. It sold in a matter of a few short weeks. Prospective buyers were eager to look inside the house because its outside was inspiring. The lawn was green and healthy, the shrubs were neatly trimmed, and the outside—both front and back— was absolutely free of clutter. The house was also priced appropriately and it was in a good location. All reasons, say real estate experts, homes sell quickly.

First impressions do matter. If you’re preparing to sell your house, make sure the outside of your home looks appealing to potential buyers who may be driving down the street. Are the lawn and shrubs maintained? Are there sizeable cracks in the foundation? Is the siding in good condition? Are the gutters clean and free of debris? Are window casings, shutters, or doors in need of a fresh coat of paint? Is the property free of garbage and debris? Removing detractors from your home will help pave the way to a quick sale.

Make the place spic ‘n’ span. We used to joke that my aunt would come back in her next life as a box of Spic And Span. Cheery Lynn’s floors always glowed, the silver sparkled, and the windows were spotless. My aunt’s super cleanliness paid off. Because she’d maintained the home so beautifully over the years, we had to make very few improvements before placing it on the market.

Even if your home isn’t in tip-top shape, the few hours you spend cleaning and organizing it will go a long way with potential buyers. Consider applying a fresh, neutral coat of paint to tired walls. Scrub floors, wash baseboards, and clean windows so they sparkle. Shampoo dirty carpets, clean bathtubs, replace unsightly caulking, and make sure to fix dripping faucets and oil squeaky doors. Is your oven clean? Some prospective buyers may judge the overall cleanliness of your home by how clean you keep your oven. Inspect areas that are junk depositories, such as closets, basements, and attics. You want to give potential buyers the impression that there’s ample storage space in house.

Clutter can be the kiss of death. If potential buyers have to perform gymnastic moves to avoid running into extra furniture and boxes, you may have to wait a while before you sell your house. Bric-a-brac and too many personal items are also detractors. From the minute prospective buyers walk into your home, you want them to be able to imagine themselves living comfortably in the house surrounded by their belongings and keepsakes.

Set a fair price. Naturally you’ll want to get as much as you can for your house, but be careful not to overprice it. An artificially high price may cause your house to sit on the market for too long. And the longer it sits the harder it will be to sell. When setting a price for your home, you’ll need to consider your home’s location, the current economic conditions, the local housing market, your school district, and average home prices in your neighborhood. Consider asking a real estate agent to perform a market analysis that shows the selling prices of three properties comparable to your own in your neighborhood. The agent can help you appropriately price your home, taking into account any unique features your home may have including a fireplace, pool, or professionally finished basement. In case your home doesn’t move as quickly as you like, be prepared to facilitate the sale by paying the buyer’s closing costs.

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