houses need to be fixed up before they're put on the market.
How much work should you do?
The key is to get the most bang for your buck. You shouldn't
spend a dollar unless you're pretty sure it will raise the market
value of your home by more than a dollar. You should also think
it's wise to postpone listing your
house in order to make improvements. The delay might cost you
improvements are usually good bets:
lots of your stuff off the premises.
Make trips to the dump and the thrift store. Pack some of your moving boxes early and put them in a
rented storage locker. Almost all homes look nicer and larger when they’re
sparsely furnished and uncluttered. Closets and storage cabinets seem more generous when
they’re half empty.
Clean the house thoroughly.
forget to steam clean the carpets and wash the windows inside
and out. Kitchens and bathrooms should be immaculate.
up the landscaping. Trim the bushes, mow the lawn, and
plant lots of flowers.
Paint the interior if the house seems dingy or the room colors are
out of date.
Replace inexpensive things that are ugly or worn out.
Toilet seats, microwave ovens, screens, switch plates,
faucets, window coverings, and light fixtures may be worth
wash the exterior of the house if it’s dirty and touch up
any chipped paint.
problems with major appliances, and the air conditioning, heating,
electrical, and plumbing systems.
Fix the roof if it
up most of the stuff in your closets will make them seem larger.
of cramming lots of boxes into your garage, move them into a
storage locker. This will not only make your garage
seem larger, but help convince buyers that you're serious
about selling your property.
home that's sparsely furnished with tasteful furniture shows
best. If you don't own nice furniture, consider
you’ve done these things, the decisions become harder. Here are some guidelines:
If you think your house will appeal to first-time homebuyers,
scrimp on additional improvements. These
buyers often seek out fixer-uppers in good neighborhoods that
they can lovingly restore as they put money aside over the
years. If you make
the improvements yourself, you may price the house out of their
If you think your house will appeal to mature homebuyers, like
retirees or empty-nesters, consider making additional improvements. These
kinds of buyers have already gone through the nesting phase and
they’ve probably had their fill of it. They’re often seeking
a well-maintained attractive
home that’s move-in ready.
If a lot of improvements need to be
made and you're short of time, consider
doing nothing and selling the house "as-is." Contractors often
seek out these kinds of homes.
Be aware, though, that "as-is" homes often sell at a
big discount because it can be difficult for buyers to get loans
to buy them. Click
here to read more.
you’re aesthetically challenged, use an online resource
Stewart (try her Color Visualizer at the bottom of the
page) to help you develop a color scheme that works with the
colors you can’t change.
can rent attractive furniture from companies like Cort
Furniture Rental. The prices vary by zip code, but in the
San Francisco Bay Area, Cort offers a "whole house
package" (living room, dining room, and bedroom) for $300 to
$800 a month. This can be a wise investment if your house is
vacant or if your own furniture is dowdy.
rooms aren't as inviting as furnished ones. They also
signal to buyers that the seller may be
your house is worth more than $400,000, you may want to consider
hiring a professional stager. Click
here to read an article about the advantages of staging.
if you're a good photographer, it may be worthwhile to get
professional photos of your home for these reasons:
photos help prospective buyers bond with your house.
photographers have wide-angle lenses that can make small
rooms seem larger.
photographers know how to create photos that correctly expose both
the interior of a room and the view through the windows.
It's worthwhile to get these shots if your house has nice
can often get a set of professional still photos for about
$100. Virtual tour providers will usually add still
photographs to their package for a small additional
you have a point-and-shoot camera and don't want to hire a
professional photographer, here are some photo tips:
#1: Make sure the vertical lines in the photo are vertical. Don't worry so much about the horizontal
#2: Keep your camera level. Instead of aiming
the camera upward or downward, get on a ladder or bend your
#3: Stand in the corner of a room and use a wide-angle
lens if you want to capture more of it.
#4: If you aim your camera at a window when taking a
photo, the interior will likely be too dark. To
prevent this, aim the camera at a dark interior wall and press the shutter
release button halfway down to lock in the exposure. Then
(with the button still halfway down) point the camera
towards the windows and take the shot. This will
"blow out" the windows but expose the interior
#5: If you're skilled at a graphics imaging program
like Photoshop®, you can show the view out of windows by
combining two shots. Put your camera on a tripod and take
one shot exposed for the interior and one shot exposed for
lockbox is used to hold a key to your house so that people can get
inside when you're not home. They're usually placed on front
doorknobs or on pipes or railings nearby. Here are some tips:
can buy an ordinary
combination lockbox at home improvement
stores or at a locksmith’s shop.
These come in handy if you want pest
inspectors or contractors to be able to get into your house when
you're not there. You can also give
the combination to buyers’ agents who call, but I don't recommend
this since anyone can call and claim to be a buyers'
If you're cooperating with buyers' agents, I recommend you also
get a "Realtor Lockbox." These can be opened with special
electronic devices that are made available only to licensed
agents. You may be able to rent this kind of lockbox from
the flat-fee MLS broker who puts your property on the MLS.
If you get both kinds of lockboxes, I recommend you put the
Realtor lockbox on the front doorknob and the combination
lockbox on a pipe somewhere out
of view. Buyers' agents will usually expect to see a lockbox
I like to use two lockboxes: a combination lockbox for
inspectors and contractors and a "realtor" lockbox for
buyers' agents. If you only have a combination
lockbox, you may find yourself repeatedly giving out the
combination over the phone without being able to verify that
the caller is indeed an agent.
One problem with using Realtor lockboxes is that only agents
can unlock them. This can be a problem when the house
sells and it's time to return the lockbox. If you have
a thumb latch entry (as in the picture), just disassemble it
to remove the lockbox. On my Sacramento rental, the
lockbox was attached to a doorknob, and I ended up replacing
the doorknob and shipping both the lockbox and the old
doorknob to the MLS broker who'd rented it to me.
when I was at work I got a call from a prospective buyer who was in town
for the day and very much interested in my house. He'd noticed that I had a combination lockbox and
wondered if he
could have the combination so he could take a look inside.
I declined and told him that he should instead visit any real estate
office and ask the buyer's agent to show him the house. I
recommend that you NOT give combinations out to prospective buyers,
unless you're sure they're
virtual tour gives an online user the illusion of being in the
middle of different rooms and spinning around slowly. A tour
can be attached to your Realtor.com webpage. Many FSBO website
businesses can also accommodate virtual tours.
A virtual tour with four scenes will normally cost you between $80
and $200. This can be a good
investment for a FSBO seller, for several reasons:
allows buyers to screen your house before asking for a personal
tour. This can save you and them a lot of time.
tours can show what your house looks like when it's tidy and at
tours make your
rooms look larger than they are.
searching for homes online like to look at virtual tours.
Having one gives your property more exposure.
often seek advice and reassurance from friends and relatives
before they commit to buying a home. Making a virtual tour
available helps them do this.
a fax machine, answering machine, and color printer if you don't already have
Consider getting a
temporary e-mail address and phone number for your marketing
campaign. In order to sell your FSBO property, you'll want
to disseminate your contact information as widely as possible.
Unfortunately, this can sometimes lead to unwanted e-mails and
phone calls long after your home has sold.
This article tells you where you can get free web-based
e-mail accounts. You can get an inexpensive temporary
phone number at
you have appliance warranties and blueprints of the house,
dig them out. Buyers will sometimes want to see them.
a parcel map of your lot and make copies. You can often
get parcel maps from county or parish planning departments.
photocopies of your utility bills over the past year, so buyers can
know what to expect.
the phone number you plan to give out to prospective buyers with
the do not call registry.
This may protect you from an avalanche of calls from listing
agents after you put your property on the
If your area is
prone to natural disasters (e.g., flooding or fires), order
(Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report for the house.
This lists all insurance claims that have been made on the house
for the past five years. Buyers will sometimes
want to see this.
visiting open houses in your area, so that you can get a sense
of what your asking price should be.
Alden, 2008. All rights reserved.