Buyers are on a blind date with your home, and they want love at first sight. So make it pretty. Steve Vieux got rid of heaps of stuff -- including things belonging to his brother, who had once been a roommate -- and spent $2,500 to have his house cleaned, the interior repainted, the exterior power-washed, and his tiny yard spruced up.
If time and money allow, replace lighting and plumbing fixtures, cabinetry hardware, and maybe those harvest-gold appliances. The new stuff needn't be top-of-the-line, just clean and current. Agent Janis Morgan advises her clients in San Antonio to add granite countertops to make their kitchens "pop".
Agent Bob Bower of California's Silicon Valley urges sellers to pay for home and termite inspections (about $650 to $750 for both) and fix as much of the little stuff as they can before putting a house on the market. Then he presents the reports and a "work completed" worksheet to buyers, a strategy that he says inspires higher offers.
With the basics taken care of, it's time for staging -- window dressing your home to increase its appeal. Staged homes sell more quickly and at the top of their price range compared with similar homes that aren't staged. Stagers declutter if you haven't, rearrange furniture to improve traffic flow and create a sense of spaciousness, and make your decor less reflective of your personal tastes. If your home is vacant, they bring in furniture so buyers can imagine themselves living there. Home sellers spend an average of $1,800 to stage a home, but the cost can be $5,000 or more. Agents may provide staging as part of their fee. (For more information on home staging, read 6 Ways to Stage Your Home for Less Than $1,000)
One bit of good news for sellers: Agents say contractors, including stagers, are anxious for the work. Bower suggests asking for two or three bids and playing them one against the other.
When you're ready to show, "pretend you're giving a party," says Morgan. Hide the cat box, don't leave the bed unmade or laundry on the floor, and open the curtains and leave all the lights on.