No matter what the Northern Virginia real estate market is like, it’s always best for sellers to prepare their home for sale in order to get the quickest offer and the highest price. It’s especially important in a correcting market like we are experiencing right now. As we transition from a very strong buyers market to a more normal market, sellers need to be ready to show their home in the best possible light.
In almost 10 years of working as a top Realtor here in Northern Virginia, I’ve encountered so many different scenarios. What remains a constant is that sellers need to look at quite a few different things when preparing their home for sale. It’s so easy to forget critical steps and caveats, especially when you’re a first-time home seller or even if you’re a seasoned seller.
Not to worry, though! Bethany Kelley is a Realtor who has your back! In this post I’ll tackle the common real estate selling mistakes that I work incredibly hard to help all of my clients avoid. Use the table of contents below to jump to relevant sections, or read through the entire Seller Mistakes guide — it’s my hope that by educating the public I can help everyone avoid many of the common pitfalls that can sour an otherwise incredible journey.
Table of Contents
Not Focusing On Curb Appeal
The very first step in getting your home ready to sell should be standing back and taking a look at your home from the street. This is the first impression that buyers are going to have of your home and it needs to be a great one. It’s impossible to sell a home if you can’t even get buyers to come in the door!
Sprucing up the front (and while you’re at it, it can’t hurt to spruce up the sides and back yard of your home as well) doesn’t have to be hard or super expensive. Cleaning up your landscaping, trimming bushes and trees, adding fresh mulch, and planting a few flowers (either in flower beds or in pots on the front porch) is always a good place to start. Fill in any dead spots in your lawn and keep your grass neatly mowed as well. And if it’s fall, be sure to keep leaves raked up! Nothing turns off a buyer quicker than seeing leaves everywhere and thinking that they could be the ones raking all of those up the next fall.
Take a look at the exterior brick, stone, or siding of your home as well and see if it needs a good cleaning. You’d be amazed at what pressure washing or soft washing can do! Also look at your porch, front door, and shutters if you have them. Do they need a fresh coat of paint? Washing windows is another good way to make the exterior of your home shine.
Make sure that your garage door is in good condition and working properly. Also check any wood trim around your doors or windows for wood rot. Replace and/or seal and paint any trim that’s not in good condition.
While you’re working on getting the exterior of your home in tip top shape to sell, take a look at your mailbox and see if it needs an update. And last, add a nice wreath to your front door and a welcoming front door mat.
If you have a bit more time and money, you may want to update the hardware on your front door and change out your exterior light fixtures. Smart locks are quite popular now and appeal to many buyers. Ring or Nest doorbells are also a nice update that many buyers will like.
Most of these improvements are quick and not very expensive, but they really are important when you are trying to get your home ready to sell. You want buyers to be drawn in by the exterior image of your home so that they want to come inside and explore the interior. Once you’ve taken the time to spruce up the exterior of your home, make sure that you keep it looking good throughout the sale process.
My mission is to guide sellers, from being potentially frustrated and confused, to confident and educated. Schedule a conversation with me today!
Not Deep Cleaning Or Staging
One of the first things buyers here in our area of Northern Virginia often comment about when touring a potential home is if the home is clean. Buyers look at this as an indication of whether a seller is taking good care of the home including the behind the scene things that they cannot see. Buyers assume that if a seller has been keeping their home nice and clean, they are also doing things like having their HVAC serviced, replacing HVAC filters as needed, and taking care of any unexpected maintenance issues that might come up.
While everyone’s home gets a little messy and dirty at times, keeping your home in tip top condition while it is listed on the market is very important. If cleaning is not your strong suit, it is worth hiring someone to come in and do a deep clean of your home before going on the market. Make sure that this cleaning includes the inside of closets, cabinets, and drawers as well as countertops and appliances. It’s also helpful to wipe down your baseboards, blinds, and ceiling fans. Many people forget to look up and see the dust accumulating on ceiling fans!
If you have the time, washing your windows is also a good idea. Also take a look at your garage and basement and make sure that those unfinished areas at least get a quick sweep. Don’t forget to make sure that your front porch and door are clean and neat since that’s the first thing that most buyers will see on the way into your home.
When I mention “staging” a home, many clients think that I mean bringing in a professional stager to remove all of their items and replace them with the stager’s items. While we occasionally do this with vacant homes, it doesn’t make sense to do this with an occupied home. The better thing to do is work with your realtor (or in some cases a professional stager) to “visually” and literally declutter your home so that it’s going to show in its best light, especially in the listing photos.
I task my clients with putting away or packing up as much of their clutter as they possibly can. Then I usually come through and have them put away or pack up a bit more of their things. Often on photography day, the photographer will come through and have us put away a few more items. All of this is to help your home show the best that it can both in the photographs and in person!
While you don’t want your home to look like no one actually lives there, you do want it to not feel crowded or cluttered with too much furniture or too many knick knacks. When I use the term “visually” declutter, I’m referring to what a room will look like in photographs. You don’t want bold colored items drawing all of your attention in a room and missing out on the whole room itself. You also don’t want the room so full of furniture that it makes the room look smaller than it is. It also is a good idea to remove some of the personalization from your home. You want a buyer to be able to picture themselves living in the home so putting away some of your family photographs or any other extremely personalized items is a good idea.
While you’re working on decluttering what people see in the listing photos or when they first walk into your home, don’t forget to work on decluttering your cabinets, drawers, and closest as well. Buyers will often peek into cabinets, drawers, and closets to see what storage is like in your home. You want to make sure that they are not so full and overflowing that it looks like the home doesn’t have enough storage.
Sellers often ask what to do with their things when they are decluttering to get their home on the market. The first thing a seller should do is get rid of anything that they are not taking with them to their next home. A yard sale is a great idea (and a good way to casually let people know that you are going to be listing your home for sale soon). If you want to donate things, I’m a huge fan of Green Drop.
You can go to their website and schedule a pick up online. Be sure to them know approximately how much stuff that you have (# of bags or boxes) and what day you’d like to schedule the pick up. Green drop will even allow you to pick which charity from their selected ones you’d like your donation to go to. On the morning of the scheduled pick up, you just leave your bags or boxes outside with a sign with “Green Drop” on it and they will come and haul it away.
Anything that you are not getting rid of but needs to be put away for staging your house should get boxed up and stored in either your garage or basement. Neatly packed and stacked boxes are not a problem because buyers realize that you are packing up and getting ready to move. If you have too much stuff to neatly store it in your garage or basement, you may want to consider renting a storage unit to use until it’s time to move.
While all of this may sound like a lot of work, it really is key to have your home very well cleaned, staged, and decluttered to make it look appealing to buyers. This is something that your realtor should be able to advise you on and if not, they should be able to connect you with a professional stager who can help. This is one area that you should put your time and energy into because properly cleaned and staged homes sell much higher and much faster than ones that are not in as good of condition.
It’s always a good idea to work with an expert in their field. I am a real estate expert! Click below to get answers to all of your real estate questions today.
Not Keeping Up With Home Maintenance
One of the top benefits of a well-maintained home is that regular maintenance keeps your home’s value high, especially in the hot-and-humid summer climate of Northern Virginia. If you’re asking yourself, what even is “home maintenance” you’re not alone, Many people don’t know what home maintenance involves. To put it simply, home maintenance is the practice of making sure that everything in your home works the way it is supposed to work. This involves checking, diagnosing, and repairing all aspects of a home. In the long run, keeping up with home maintenance will save you money, minimize your risk of major repairs, keep your home looking great, and even increase the value of your home.
Best practice is to keep on top of home maintenance the entire time you live in the home, not just try to catch up right before listing your home for sale. While not everyone is good about keeping up with home maintenance, at a minimum, you should be sure that all of your systems (HVAC, water heater, plumbing, electricity, etc.) are operating properly, all of your appliances are working properly, and the interior and exterior of your home (flooring, cabinets, walls, roof, siding or brick, and yard/landscaping) are in top shape.
If you’re not even sure where to begin with assessing the condition of the systems and interior and exterior of a home, it’s always smart to ask your Relator to do a walk-through with you to determine what needs to be addressed and what is not important. Some owners will even bring in a home inspector prior to listing their home just to see what type of issues might come up and make some repairs ahead of time. One note of caution is that not all home inspectors will find the same issues and you never know what a buyer will consider a big issue so this doesn’t always work to your advantage.
When I walk through a home with potential sellers, I am always looking around for anything that might be an issue when selling a home. I tell my sellers though, that they are actually the best ones to know what problems their home has that should be addressed. If they know that a faucet is leaking or there is an old water stain on the ceiling from before the roof was replaced, these are the types of things that should be dealt with before listing a home. It’s much better to deal with any needed repairs before a home goes on the market (and often when a seller or handyman can take care of these items) than to have them come up on a home inspection where they have to negotiate with the buyer and bring in a licensed contractor to repair everything on a time crunch.
Ultimately, the goal is to keep up with home maintenance the entire time that you are living in your home, but that may not always be possible. If you find yourself ready to list and not sure where to begin, I have an excellent Pre-Listing Checklist for my clients that I’m happy to share if you reach out.
Buying or selling a home is a huge decision. You need the guidance of a real estate expert to help you navigate this process. Click here to find help with making good real estate decisions.
Make sure you join me next week for Part 2 of series 2, Mistakes in Real Estate, Top 12 Seller Mistakes! Also, if you found this content helpful, I’d love it if you could help me get the word our by sharing with your family and friends on your favorite social network(s.)