Four Stages of Preparing Your Luxury Home for Sale

Longboat Key home

Four Stages of Preparing Your Luxury Home for Sale

Over the last 30 years, I have participated in hundreds of luxury real estate transactions, and whether representing the seller or the buyer, there is one quote that absolutely rings true in all luxury home sales and that is: “You only have one chance to make a great first impression.” Sellers who make the commitment to preparing their home in a clean, organized uncluttered manner are rewarded with higher offers, more of them and a faster sale.

Every home and homeowner is unique – from families with young children, to retirees with decades of family keepsakes, sports enthusiasts with memorabilia on display, and collectors of delicate knickknacks. I have sold homes that belonged to a gourmet chef with counter tops laden with gadgets and small appliances, as well as pet lovers, and even jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts. In each case, a specific plan is needed to prepare the property for sale.

While all situations are different, there are four stages that I like to recommend to my luxury listing clients to ensure the smoothest transition from making the decision to sell, to readying the property for sale, which entails professional photography, and fastidious maintenance of the home for regular showings.  With an organized approach, this seemingly daunting task can be made much less stressful and much more manageable.

Studies show that a buyer’s first 10 seconds in your home leaves the greatest impression and stays with them through the duration of the showing.  To guarantee that you make an amazing first impression, your home may need days or even weeks to groom.  As your chosen realtor, while we are working on developing a pricing and marketing strategy, signing and submitting paperwork and other tasks, I can also work with you to determine the most valuable and powerful improvements you can make to affect appearances and translate into value to you the seller.

We’re happy to share this four-step approach to preparing your luxury residence for sale.

STAGE 1: PLANNING

  • Take inventory of the big picture. Does your home have major projects that need to be done such as removing or replacing landscaping, roof leaks, or a garage that has been used as a warehouse?
  • If some of the work requires significant investment such as roofing, moving and warehousing excess furniture and containers, and other large projects, how long will those take to accomplish and are you prepared for the cost of such tasks?
  • Do you have an urgent timetable because of job relocation or other obligations?
  • Is your schedule over the next several months such that you can allow regular showings of your property? 

STAGE 2: YOUR TO-DO LIST

  • Start at the curb and work your way to the front door. Notice every detail from low hanging branches on the trees, to the condition of your yard, windows, doors, roof, gutters, fencing, driveway, decking, walkways, steps…everything.   
  • Imagine yourself seeing your home for the first time. I assure you every detail does make a difference. Be hyper-critical and write down every item you see that needs attention.  I will review the list with you and help you assess where focusing your efforts will have the greatest effect.
  • Walk the entire outside of your home because you can be sure that any serious buyer will! Note where shrubs should be trimmed for easy passage or stepping stones may need leveling.  Broken sprinkler heads may need to be replaced and your driveway, pool deck or walkway could use a power washing.  Look for loose gates or shutters needing repair…is there a screen missing, torn or falling off?
  • Open your front door and stand there for a minute. What do you see?  Repeat this at the entrance to each and every room.  Make a note of every item needing requiring attention – cob webs, burned out bulbs, scuffed baseboards, furniture stains, scarred flooring, grout that needs cleaning, seals around sinks, toilets and other fixtures that should be bleached or touched up, drapes hanging askew, shades, shutters or blinds needing repair, bedding that could use sprucing up, leaking faucets, broken tiles, windows that aren’t working…the list can be endless, but don’t despair, every single small detail that receives your attention does add value to your home and helps to command a higher price.
  • Buyers will want to see how cabinets open, builtin drawers slide, and closet doors work.  Take inventory of the areas that will need the most attention for cleaning up and cleaning out.  Neatly organized closets and cabinets give a sense of space, something important to every buyer.
  • Are all of your appliances and large equipment in working order and clean? Are the outdoor areas for your pool heater and cleaner and the HVAC system accessible, neat and organized?
  • Ensure that your garage is visible and not overflowing with boxes, furniture and odd items. Buyers want to be able to see the space.  And don’t underestimate the importance of a clean, spot-free floor.   
  • It is important to remember that if small simple things are broken, cracked or dirty, prospective buyers will be left wondering what else they can’t see.

closet photo

 STAGE 3: ORGANIZING

  • After we decide which projects are most important for you to accomplish, I can recommend service contractors, specialist cleaning services, even professional organizers and home staging experts to help you get the best results at a fair price.  
  • Set dates for each of the projects to be accomplished so that we can be ready for that first showing as soon as possible.
  • Enlist the help of family and friends. I have found that sometimes it is much easier for someone else to take on tasks such as weeding through the “junk drawer.”
  • Neatly folding items on closet shelves, shoes tidily arranged, and clothes all hung help to give an appearance of spaciousness.
  • If you have been thinking of giving furniture, family heirlooms, collectibles, photo albums, tools or yard equipment to your kids or your favorite charity, this is the time to do it.
  • A light and bright room is most appealing to a prospective buyer, so would moving a piece of furniture or removing another item help to create more open space or light in the room?
  • Purchase a few different sizes of plastic storage containers that can hold your personal items that you would otherwise keep on counter tops, bedside tables, kitchen counters, and desks. After sorting through the items that you can part with, being ready on short notice for a showing is important and these boxes will come in handy.
  • If you have patio or yard furniture, clean it and arrange it in such a way that it appears you’re “ready to entertain.”
  • Cleaning, cleaning, cleaning! This cannot be overstated.  When was the last time you cleaned the oven?  The inside of your hood?  The shelves and drawers of your refrigerator and freezer?  The carpet?  Washed the windows inside and out?  As mentioned, there are professional services that work specifically on preparing luxury properties for sale.  It can make sense to have them take on the major deep cleaning then leave it to your regular housekeeper to maintain during the selling period. 

STAGE 4: MAINTENANCE

  • As a standard courtesy, realtors usually try to provide 24-hours notice of a showing of your property. However, it is not always possible so always being ready for a showing is the best strategy.
  • While your home is listed be cognizant of odors – baked fish might not be the best dinner to cook the night before a showing. Keeping a few lightly scented deodorizers in closets or small rooms can help, but keep it light.  Usually fragrances such as linen or vanilla offer a fresh scent without being distracting.
  • When getting ready for a showing, wet towels draped over shower rods or jumbled on a hook are a definite no-no. Bathroom sinks, mirrors, toilets, bathtubs, faucets, counter tops and visible shelves should be wiped down and sparkling.  Floors should be clean and area rugs neatly arranged.  Think of having some “show” towels at the ready and a basket with lid carefully placed so it is unobtrusive if you need to quickly remove used towels.
  • Consider assigning one of those newly purchased plastic storage containers to each member of the household so that when you get the call for a showing, everkitchen photoyone can pitch in to help prepare your home.
  • In the kitchen store small appliances out of sight. The sink and faucets should be wiped dry and without spots, and sponges and other cleaning supplies put away.  Back splashes and counter tops should be cleaned.  Stove top, microwave and the outside of the dishwasher, refrigerator, and oven fronts should all be polished.   
  • Don’t forget the laundry room. Buyers will want to see this area so it is important not to use it as a catch-all area while your home is listed.   
  • If you are a pet lover, you will need to think like a prospective buyer who has no pets. During our showings, it will be best to have them out of the house. I know that can sometimes be difficult, but consider engaging a neighbor to see if they can sit for your dog or cat for a short time. Putting them in the yard, a spare room or garage is just not sufficient.  Litter boxes, potty pads must be out of sight and impeccably clean to prevent any chance of odors.  Put away bowls, cat scratching posts and other paraphernalia wherever possible.   
  • In the office, be sure that your private papers are well concealed, that your desk is as neat as possible, and your computer screen is closed or off during the showing.
  • Make sure that any trash cans or bins throughout the home are either completely empty or well hidden and odor-free.
  • Make a habit of keeping the home clean and free of clutter throughout the sale period. Keeping up with it on a daily basis will reduce your stress when showings are scheduled.

Our success in selling your luxury home in the shortest time and at the best price is in large part a result of following through with well-planned preparations.  Small touches like a fresh vase of flowers (light on fragrance) on the kitchen counter or blooming geraniums in the pots framing the front step can make a big difference. Don’t underestimate the details, because a potential buyer may not notice every one, but they certainly can and will affect the buyers’ overall impression.

Together we can make your home the very best in its market.  So let’s get started! Give me a call today!

Why NOW is the Time to Sell in Sarasota

Sarasota Bird Key Boating

The Sarasota Real Estate market continues its consistent climb back to a measure of balance however, reduced inventory remains a considerable concern. The most recent TrendGraphix report showed the following statistical evidence of reason for the seemingly never-ending reports in the media about the issue.

  • Inventory of properties for sale has dropped 26.4% since last year at this time.
  • Pending sales in September increased 22.7% compared to September of 2011.
  • New listings added in Sarasota for the month of September dropped 6% from last year.
  • Average price of all active listings has risen 12% since last September.
  • Average number of days on the market for listed properties has fallen 19% from last year.
  • Median sale prices for Sarasota Real Estate has grown 13% since September of last year.

Despite the strong confidence shared by builders in our market and around the country, the number of new properties being added is falling well behind the demand. With the number of homes available in the Sarasota market near levels last seen in 2005, there is no question that we are in a seller’s market today.

As mentioned in one of my recent posts, REO/distressed properties in the Sarasota market have not entered the supply chain at levels previously predicted causing far less strain on excess inventory and cut-rate prices than originally thought. In fact, National statistics put REO’s down 24% year-over-year. Banks have implemented early intervention and accelerated processing to help reduce the pressure on the housing market. The buyer demand for REO properties was strong and it too has led to less market stress from troubled homes.

With prices inching up, inventory well below market demand, mortgage rates at all-time lows, and new homes entering the marketplace at a pace that is too gradual to meet demand, if there ever was a time to consider listing your property…now is the moment to seize a great opportunity!  Please call me so that we can discuss getting your property on the Market!

Michael Saunders weekend blog included some graphs depicting the significant changes in Sarasota Real Estate inventory. Click here to view her posting.

For a more National look at the issue, view a recent article from the KMC blog, an expert resource for real estate trends, titled “5 Reasons to Sell Now.” It, too offers some insightful data to help to make the point that this is an opportune time to sell your property.

Quick and Easy Tips to Ensure a Good Showing

You’ve done your research, priced your home accordingly, and now you’re ready to show. With so many homes on the market, you’ll want to do anything you can to help yours stand out. Here are some tried and true (though sometimes overlooked) tips for presenting your home to potential buyers.

  • Check the view from the street. To what will the eyes of potential buyers be drawn before they enter your home? Peeling paint or dirty windows are a turn-off. Make sure your walkway and front door areas are attractive and in good repair.

  • De-clutter. Remove excess furniture, knick-knacks, and other non-essential items to reveal spacious counters and clear tabletops. Doing so will create the appearance of more space.

  • Add light. Open window shades and curtains, and invest in a lamp or two if necessary—anything you can do to fill your rooms with light.

  • Eliminate odors. Air out the house before a showing (even in winter!), and consider baking some cookies. The ‘smells like home’ atmosphere will go a long way in making buyers feel welcome.

  • Add some greenery. Live, healthy plants and fresh flowers are a nice touch and send a signal that you put that extra special touch into your living space.

  • Make it sparkle. Although it may seem basic, don’t forget that your kitchen and bathrooms should be spotless. No dishes in the sink or on the counter, and no clothes or used towels littering the bathroom.

How To Increase Your Home’s Appeal

In a word, it’s all about space. Create more of it where you can, and showcase the space you have.

Buyers need to be able to envision what their things will look like in your home. To help them do this, you may need to store, eliminate, or rearrange your own furniture and belongings. Remember, it’s only temporary!

First, take stock of your furniture. Does it occupy more than 50% of a room? If so, consider storing or getting rid of it. Or, find a way to distribute it in other rooms, if suitable. If you are unsure about what this looks like, consider visiting a few model homes. It’s not for lack of budget that they are sparsely furnished; it’s so that you can visually assess the rooms and contemplate how you might furnish it with your things. Even if you don’t have large, spacious rooms, less ‘stuff’ in each of them will make them appear bigger.

Next, clear out your storage areas. This includes basements, attics, garages, and sheds. You don’t typically access these items anyway in the course of a month, so now is the time to pack them up and store them, sell them, or donate what you can to a charitable organization. When showing your home, you want any storage areas to be as empty as possible.  One of the biggest buyer deterrents is fear of not having enough room for their family to grow into.

Lastly, clean your closets. Closets, if you are blessed enough to have them, inevitably end up as a collection center for odds and ends and anything that doesn’t have a designated home. Hanging clothes, daily footwear, and a few shelved items should be the only things visible. A buyer doesn’t know (or care) what you own, but if your closet looks ‘stuffed’, they’ll wonder how their necessities will ever fit in such a small space.

Improving Your Home’s Curb Appeal

When it comes to showing your home to potential buyers, first impressions are extremely important. A buyer usually has a list of several homes to look at in one day. Ensuring that your home is in top shape from the inside out may give your property an edge over another. Here’s a checklist of things you can do to improve the curb appeal of your home and draw the eye of potential buyers, even from afar.

  • The outside of your home is the first thing a prospective buyer will see, so it pays to make sure that it’s in good condition. Often referred to as ‘curb appeal’, buyers will form a quick, overall impression on the condition of your home from a distance. Give the exterior of your home a critical inspection and think like a buyer. If you find visible damage to your home’s finish, this is something you’ll want to repair prior to listing.

  • The second aspect of curb appeal is the cosmetic appearance of the home. Consider the color of your home exterior. Be sure that the color is pleasantly neutral, appropriate for its architecture, and doesn’t clash with the other houses in your neighborhood.

  • Landscaping is the third and one of the most important aspects of curb appeal and can be used to optimize your home’s overall look. Reseed grass if necessary, water more frequently or consider installing a lawn sprinkler system for a lush, green look. Plant flowers in colors that compliment the color of your home. Also, don’t forget to prune hedges and trees to keep them looking manicured and well cared for.

  • Add the finishing touch to improving the curb appeal of your home by making sure that porches, fences, lighting, and outdoor furnishings are tasteful and in good repair.

20 Good Ideas Whether You’re Selling or Staying

Here are 20 quick-start ideas to help you maintain and enhance the value of your home.

Repair

  1. Get a plumber and electrician to make sure your pipes and wiring are in the right places and working properly.

  2. Replace chipped tiles in your shower and tub, re-grout if needed.

  3. Make sure all latches and bolts work, that the hinges are well-oiled and that they don’t creak.

  4. Take care of minor repairs that crop up every now and then immediately. Proper maintenance saves you quite a bit on expensive restoration and renovation.

  5. Make sure your house is water and wind proofed. Check for broken roof tiles/slates, blocked drainpipes, and get them fixed.

Refresh

  1. Change the filter in your air-conditioner to avoid that stale, musty smell when it’s turned on.

  2. A new coat of paint on all your walls does more than brighten up the rooms.

  3. Spruce up your front door – a fresh coat of paint, a new knocker, or even a shiny knob – they work wonders. And make sure your doorbell works!

  4. Paint the fence (or railing) surrounding your house, and get those broken boards and bars fixed.

  5. Give your yard a cosmetic makeover by getting rid of old junk lying around, trim the hedges, mow your lawn, and rake up those leaves. Uproot dead and dying plants and shrubs.

Replace

  1. Swap old, leaky faucets with shiny new ones.

  2. Reface cabinet doors, especially those that are peeling and fading.

  3. Put new blades in your ceiling fans.

  4. Redo your bathroom floor – new vinyl tiles or sheet vinyl make a world of difference.

  5. Install a new bathtub, toilet, or shower if needed.

Redecorate

  1. Hang a large mirror in the living room; it creates virtual space besides adding to overall appeal.

  2. If you have a fireplace, make sure it is the center of the room. Rearrange the furniture around it.

  3. Use throws and pillows in colors that match the room to cover up worn sofa and chair upholstery.

  4. Update your kitchen appliances; at the very least, make sure they match.

  5. Add subtle lighting effects that make your home look appealing in the dark from the outside.

For Sellers: Maximizing the Value of Your Home

Knowing the factors that affect the value of your home is important when you’re getting ready to sell. Focus on the changes you can affect and work with your realtor to minimize or compensate for the things you can’t.

7 Things You Can Change to Add Value to Your Home

  1. An updated kitchen. Big kitchens with lots of workspace are in. Savvy buyers know to look for solid surface counters and high-quality flooring, such as wood, laminate, tile or stone. Of course, newer appliances don’t hurt either.

  2. Modern bathrooms. Features such as a spa or whirlpool tub, separate showers with steam and/or multiple jets, double sinks, and a separate room for the toilet are all signs of a modernized bathroom.

  3. An impressive master suite. A luxurious bathroom, lounging or settee areas, and walk-in closets are on the wish lists of many buyers. Rather than embark on a renovation, enlist the services of a designer for some tips on altering the layout and design of your master suite.

  4. Authentic materials. Natural materials like ceramic tile, hardwood floors, and granite are very appealing. Even if it’s not the real thing, look for high-quality simulated materials. Ceramic tile or wood is preferred for bathrooms and kitchens, and wood or laminate products trump carpeting in the rest of the house.

  5. Quality windows. Windows provide important natural lighting and serve as source of décor. Equally important, they also help keep the elements out. Energy efficiency is on the minds of most buyers these days.

  6. A bright, airy vibe. They may not be able to touch it, but people do feel space and light, Many times, they even pay more for it. Wherever possible, open up your rooms to shed light and reduce clutter.

  7. Landscaping. First impressions matter. In fact, they might matter as much as 5 percent to 10 percent when it comes to the value of your home. Trees, well-maintained planting beds, and outdoor living areas help boost the value of your home. You need not spend a lot of money, but neither should your lawn and garden look like an afterthought.

Some Things You Can’t Change (And That May Lessen the Value of Your Home)

Technically, you can change anything, but these are the bigger ticket items that you probably won’t invest in when you’re trying to sell your home. Instead, talk with your realtor about the best way to minimize these things that might be perceived as negative to potential buyers.

  • A nontraditional floor plan. Small rooms and bathrooms, an inconvenient floor plan, or a layout that requires you to access bedrooms or bathrooms through other rooms will detract value from your home.

  • No garage or small garage. Unless you’re selling in the city, most buyers are looking for a two car garage.

  • Limited storage space. An oversized garage, an outdoor shed, attic space, and walk-in closets are on the wish lists of many buyers.

  • No basement. Finished basements are making a comeback. If you have an unfinished basement, do what you can to remedy any leaks or water problems before you put your house on the market.

  • A bad roof. Yes, you could replace it prior to selling, but roofs are expensive and you may not be able to roll the cost into your selling price. Instead, be prepared to take a hit in your asking price if your roof is in need of replacement.

  • Undesirable location. Though not all buyers have the same location expectations, understand that if you have train tracks in your backyard or if your driveway has a shared easement, this will, by nature, exclude some potential buyers.

  • Environmental hazards. This one probably goes without saying, but lead, mold, or asbestos problems make it extremely difficult to sell a home due to health risks. This situation requires a buyer who is willing to purchase at a deep discount and has the money to invest in making the necessary improvements prior to move-in.