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How To Prepare To Sell Your First Home

Hanna KielarJuly 25, 2019

If you’re a first-time homeowner, this may be the first time you’re selling a home. Before you think you have no experience and therefore no idea how to sell your house – think again. You may not have sold a home yet, but you know how buyers think and what they look for. You’ve been in their shoes before, and that gives you an advantage. Preparing to sell your house doesn’t have to be tricky or overwhelming. All you need to do is take the knowledge and experience you gained from buying a home and apply it to your selling strategy. These tips can also help ease the process for even the most novice home seller.

Make A Good First Impression

First impressions are everything. Potential buyers can make a decision about a home as soon as they pull into the driveway or walk in the door. And if their first impression of the home is a negative one, they often won’t change their minds no matter how great the rest of the house is. To make sure that doesn’t happen, start off on the right foot by enhancing your home’s curb appeal.

Revamp The Home’s Exterior

If you don’t take care of the outside of your home, potential buyers may wonder what you don’t take care of on the inside. Ease their minds with a few easy updates to your home’s exterior.

Add vitality to lackluster trim by repainting it and replace dull or rusted pieces with shiny, new hardware like copper handles, door knockers and a modern mailbox. Add new house numbers that pop so people can easily spot your address.

Wash the siding to remove any dirt or mold that is hiding your home’s true beauty. You can hire a professional to do it or clean it yourself with a soft cloth or pressure washer set on low.

Maintain Your Landscaping

Landscaping is one of the most important parts of curb appeal. And if your potential buyers don’t like doing yard work, a yard that requires a whole lot of work may scare them away. You don’t have to do much to keep your home’s landscaping neat and well-manicured.

If you’re selling your house in the spring or summer, mow your lawn once a week, trim your bushes and pull any visible weeds. Bright colored flowers always give off a welcoming vibe and brighten up any yard. If you don’t have a green thumb, use hanging baskets or window boxes instead of planting flowers. If you’re selling your house in the winter, shovel and salt your walkways so they are clear of snow and ice. In the autumn, rake your lawn and keep gutters clear of fallen leaves.

Invest in some small path lights to light the way to your home – these will be especially helpful if you have an open house that runs later in the evening. Consider outdoor uplighting to really show off your home once the sun goes down to any potential buyers who may cruise by at night.

Create A Welcoming Entrance

Make those home buyers want to turn the door handle and walk-in by subtly welcoming them into the home when they first step onto the porch. Wipe down your front door or throw on a fresh coat of paint to help it stand out. Add character with a seasonal wreath or other small door decorations.

Sweep your porch and add a welcome mat. If your porch tends to be slick when wet, consider adding anti-slip adhesive strips, a cute outdoor runner or painting it with gritty, outdoor paint. If you have furniture on your porch, wipe it down and add clean, colorful pillows. You can also add pops of color with potted plants, cozy throws, outdoor rugs or decorative pieces like a simple welcome sign.

When outfitting your porch, make sure you don’t use personalized decorations, like a big sign exclaiming “Welcome to Our Home.” This will make potential buyers see it as your house, not their future home, making them feel like visitors in your home rather than potential owners.

Depersonalize The Home

On that same note, buyers need to be able to picture themselves living in the home, so you should also remove any other personalized decor. That means taking down family photos, souvenirs and sentimental items. You’re going to have to pack them eventually anyway, so you may as well get a head start on it.

Remove any furniture and decorative pieces that show off your unique personal taste. Your style may be dope to you, but it’s yourstyle, not theirs. What looks great to you may be a turnoff to others, and anything that isn’t their cup of tea may be too distracting to get past. That may mean that the bright red couch, politically-driven art piece or neon green walls may have to go. Instead, opt for slipcovers or basic furniture and bare walls painted in neutral colors. It may be boring to you, but it can be the perfect blank canvas for someone trying to envision their stuff and own sense of style in the home.

Organize Your Stuff

Ample storage space is a big selling point in a home, so make sure you aren’t downplaying yours by being messy. Overflowing closets and drawers and untidy rooms can give off the impression that there just isn’t enough space to store everything you own. When a room is free of clutter and everything has a place, it can seem like there is even more storage than there really is.

Appeal To All The Senses

Many home buyers choose their new homes simply because of an overwhelming feeling that it was made for them. They immediately walked in and felt at home. Appealing to a person’s senses helps them build an emotional connection to the home without them even knowing it. Here’s how you can prepare your home to do the same for each of their five senses.

Sight

Space is another major selling point, so design your room to look spacious. If you still have furniture in the room, spread it out. Get rid of any bulky furniture if possible and remove any unnecessary items adding clutter to the space. Rooms look their best in natural lighting, so open up the curtains and blinds and let the sunshine in.

Smell

Bad odors can be distracting and a possible deal-breaker for many potential buyers. Follow these tips for getting rid of odors like cigarette smoke, pet odor, cooking aromas and rotten food:

·     Pinpoint where the smell is coming from and fix the problem right away.

·     Spray an air neutralizer in rooms where the odor is present.

·     Clean litter boxes frequently and cover them if possible.

·     Sprinkle baking soda or deodorizing powder on carpets and mattresses.

·     Open windows to allow fresh air to circulate.

·     Use an air purifier to improve your indoor air quality.

·     Clean out your fridge and toss any expired or moldy food.

The night before a walkthrough, refrain from smoking inside or cooking smelly foods like bacon, cabbage or brussels sprouts so you don’t create any new odors.

In addition to eliminating bad odors, bring pleasant scents into the home with fresh flowers, scented candles, fresh ground coffee or fresh-baked cookies. Just make sure the scents aren’t too strong or overpowering – you don’t want anyone to think you’re trying to hide something or leave the home with a migraine.

Touch

People want to feel comfortable in their homes, so show them just how cozy they can be in your home by setting the right temperature and staging rooms with comfy furniture and soft fabrics. You also want to make sure there are no sticky surfaces, splintery wood pieces or doors that are hard to open or shut.

Taste

No, we aren’t suggesting putting up flavored wallpaper like in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Instead, if you’re hosting an open house, leave out snacks and bottled water for people to enjoy as they walk through the home. This kind gesture can make your home memorable and stand out just enough from the rest. Just be sure to pick packaged drinks and snacks that won’t leave stains, crumbs or sticky fingerprints around the house.

Sound

Try to minimize any noises that may be unpleasant or distracting. Add oil to any squeaky hinges and lay runners down on any squeaky wood floors. If you live by a school, try to schedule showings during times when kids are in class or gone for the day. If you have any noisy appliances that do not need to run during a walkthrough, turn them off.

Add to the aesthetic by playing soft music in the background. Think elevator music, not rock concert. You want it to be discreet, so keep the volume low so it isn’t too distracting and play something that is relaxing and soothing, like classical music or soft jazz. Steer clear of anything that may be jarring, like fast-paced electronic music or screamo.

Play Up Each Room’s Purpose

You want to show buyers each room’s potential. That means no room should be a dumping ground when you’re selling your home. If you haven’t moved your furniture out yet, make sure you stage each room to highlight its purpose. For example, don’t just have a bathroom; have a spa getaway with calming colors, scented candles, clean towels and bamboo features.

If there’s a special feature you want to emphasize, use a bright color to draw the eyes to it. Want to show off that beautiful bay window? Throw a couple colorful pillows on its bench seat. Is the fireplace even more beautiful up close? Put some red candles around the mantle or in the hearth to draw the focus to the piece itself. Want to showcase those unique built-in shelves? Fill them with strategically placed books with rich bindings in reds, greens, browns and golds.

If there is a room that is just storing your stuff, consider temporarily moving your things into an actual storage unit and showcasing that room as an office, guest bedroom or playroom. Or for minimal effort, throw in a couple green plants, floor pillows, candles and a yoga mat to make it a minimal meditation room. For even less effort, keep the room completely bare and leave it up to the imagination of the home buyer.

Put Yourself In Your Buyer’s Shoes

Become the home buyer and think about what you would look for when purchasing a home. Walk through each room as if you’re thinking of buying the house and see if anything stands out to you – either in a good way or a bad way. What would turn you off as a buyer? Look for any minor repairs you may need to fix, such as leaky faucets, squeaky doors, holes in the wall or cracked tiles.

Make The Home Sparkle – And Keep It That Way

A little deep cleaning can make a home look good as new.  The newer the home feels, the more people will want to live there. Your home is at its best when it’s clean, so bust out the supplies and give your home’s interior a good scrubbing. Wash the windows, sweep, vacuum and wax the floors, dust wood furniture and polish metal fixtures. Remove dust bunnies and cobwebs by wiping down your baseboards and crown molding. If your beautiful, stainless steel appliances are staying in the home, make them shine by cleaning them with a special cleaner.

Don’t forget to clean the inside of anything that opens. Thorough home buyers will make sure to check every nook and cranny, and very curious buyers may take a walkthrough as an opportunity to snoop. Clean the inside of your fridge, make sure your dishes are neatly put away in the cabinets and wipe down the inside of your medicine cabinets. If there’s anything you don’t want a stranger to find, remove it from the home or lock it up.

Cleaning takes quite the effort, so don’t waste all that hard work by being messy. If you’re still living in the home, pick up after yourself and do not leave anything lying around. Get into the habit of tidying up every day. That doesn’t mean you need to do a full-blown cleaning session each day, but wiping down the counters, straightening up and putting dishes away will make a world of difference. You may want to do a more thorough cleaning once a week or before any scheduled open houses or walkthroughs. Avoid making too much of a mess right before potential buyers show up by leaving pets with a sitter, ordering takeout instead of cooking or spending the night at a friend or family member’s house.

Detach From Your Space

Part of preparing to sell your house is preparing yourself for the sale, too. This was your first home, after all, so it is probably full of many firsts and a whole lot of nostalgia. But, if you can’t let go and view your home as a piece of property to sell, you’ll never be able to hand over the keys.

Before you put the home up for sale, begin the process of saying goodbye to your abode. If you need to, walk through each room, think of the memories you’ve made in it and say your goodbyes. Remember that the memories aren’t just contained in those rooms. If you need something to hold on to, take pictures of the rooms you just can’t say goodbye to. Remember, too, that many tangible memories will be packed away and moved to the next home – a new place to make even more memories. Throughout the process of selling your home, keep reminding yourself that it is just a structure to sell that will soon be someone else’s.

When you’re ready to sell your home, talk to a Rocket HomesSM agent who can help you establish a listing price, sell your home and review, negotiate and accept an offer. Selling your home on your own? Put your listing up on ForSaleByOwner.com, a “by owner” real estate website that provides everything you need to sell your home directly.

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    Hanna Kielar

    Hanna Kielar is an Associate Section Editor for Rocket Companies focused on personal finance, recruiting and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.