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How To Prepare A Home For Sale:

“I am quite confused after talking with two agents about selling our house. We want to get the best price we can, but this place needs a lot of work. One of the agents advised me to just list it and to do nothing before showing it to some buyers. It was explained to me that because the purchase contracts are only for ‘as is’ sales, we would be wasting time and money to make any changes. The second agent recommended we spend $15,000-$20,000 on what is called “staging.” All that agent’s ideas seemed almost too much for me to even think about, but I don’t want to be foolish and lose over $50,000 like that agent said we might. Can you suggest how we can prepare our property for sale without feeling overwhelmed in the process?”

A long-time Santa Monica homeowner

My experience has shown that a home will sell sooner and for more money if it is properly prepared. And most homes do not require remodeling or paying $20,000 to have professional “staging.” Many simple, inexpensive things can be done to improve a home’s showing condition. However, if your home is in the $2.5 million or more range, you might consider a large investment to help it show at its best.

Many interior decorators and well-trained real estate agents can give you good ideas for simple “staging” of your home. Is your house too cluttered? Are your kitchen counters and refrigerator door covered with a lot of things? It won’t cost much to put some things in storage or in the garage. Do you have dozens of photos and mementos on shelves, walls and mantles? It may help to “depersonalize” your home by removing most of these. Do you have posters in a teenager’s room that might offend some people.?Does any furniture block easy access and energy flow through the room? Do you have any distinctive odors from pets, garlic, or tobacco? It won’t cost much to remedy these conditions! Do you save on utility bills by using low wattage light bulbs? Try increasing the brightness and see how much more inviting the spaces may feel. Does your landscaping have fresh and well-maintained plantings? First impressions make all the difference. Even just painting the front can help improve curb appeal.

Some agents do not notice obvious opportunities to help improve the perceived value of a home. Others avoid saying anything they think an owner may take personally. The second agent you talked with had no such hesitation, and you can at least do these simple and no-cost actions now.

By the way, even in a “seller’s market,” buyers will almost always feel there is more value in a home that has a well-maintained feel. To “do nothing,” as the first agent suggested, may be to do yourself a disservice! That agent may know a prospective buyer who would buy it quickly, but you could end up with far less money.

I have sold dozens of homes that other agents were not able to sell for six to 12 months or more. Most of them had not been prepared for sale before, and only a few owners chose to do extensive “staging” before we began active marketing. In almost every case the homes sold within a few months, and within 5 percent of their listed price, demonstrating the value of preparation.

Another aspect of your question implies that some repairs may be needed. Depending on the cost and necessity, you may decide to do some repairs before having any showings. Did either of the agents discuss “pre-inspections” with you? There is more peace of mind when a seller invests $400-$800 for a property inspection. Even though the buyer probably will also have an inspection done, it allows you to fully disclose the “as is” condition that the buyer will be accepting the property in, and may also minimize any hassles or re-negotiations during escrow!

Should you bother repairing a roof or a plumbing leak? What if your house might be considered to be a major “fixer”? Is it worth replacing old carpeting? Will a buyer pay more if you patch and paint walls and ceilings? Give me a call and I’ll be glad to help you weigh the costs and benefits. If you want further tips on getting your home ready for sale, I can mail you a copy of our “Home Enhancement Guide.”

For the past 24 years Michael Edlen has provided real estate counseling services to prospective buyers and sellers. More tips and information are available on MichaelEdlen.com. He can be reached at 310.230.7373 or Michael@MichaelEdlen.com.

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