Now that the markets are returning to a more normal balance between sellers and buyers, you may need to put more effort into marketing your home to make it as attractive as possible and have it stand out from the crowd.
You usually only have one shot at impressing potential home-buyers, so take some time to prepare your house for showings. You may be rewarded with a faster sale and a higher offer.
"Staging" is the process of preparing any home for sale. The first step of staging is getting buyers through the front door. If potential buyers don't like what they see outside, they may never walk inside.
According to 2003 figures from the National Association of Realtors, more than 71 percent of all home-buyers use the Internet to shop for a new home. People shopping on the Internet give it one look. If they don't like what they see, that's it. How your house looks from the outside can often mean the difference between a house sitting for months or selling in a few weeks.
Here are a few tips to improve the curb appeal of your home:
• Examine the big picture. Recognize that people are not going to look at your house the same way you will. After you've lived with fading trim or a shutter that hangs crooked for a year or two, you may not even see it anymore.
Ask your realtor or a close friend to look at the front of your house with a fresh set of eyes. Ask if they would be interested in the home if they didn't know you.
• Do the obvious. Keep the lawn mowed and gutters clear. Trim brushes, get rid of any dead branches, and fix anything that's hanging or broken. Keep working outdoor lights on in the evening.
• Fit into the community. Keep your audience in mind as you show your house. For example, if there are many kids in the neighborhood, it is okay to have a bike in the yard. Not so if your neighborhood is mostly retirees.
• Use flowers. If you have the room, place two traditional large planters on either side of the front door or walkway. Fill them with colorful flowers in the spring or summer, and evergreens in the winter. This creates a focal point for home-buyers, forcing them to focus on one area rather than the whole.
• Make your home inviting. Consider hanging a colorful flag out front. A new welcome mat is a nice touch. Paint or clean your front door, and change all the hardware to new bright brass fixtures.
• Apply the pressure. If the exterior needs a brighter look, consider getting it pressure washed. This is a great way to clean trim or walkways.
• Invest in landscaping. If you have just a little money to spend, consider landscaping. If you have a small yard, plant it with flowers and greenery. If you don't have a lot of time or a green thumb, create one or two informal garden areas in the front yard, such as a birdbath.
A quick way to create the look of a manicured yard is to put some fresh mulch or bedding materials around plants in the yard and use a hoe to make the bedding edges sharp.
Now let's examine the inside of the house:
Aside from the kitchen, which most home-buyers consider to be the most important room in the house, the bathroom is considered the second most important room in the house. This is especially true if the house has a master bathroom or suite area.
• Clean, clean, clean! Everything from floors to windows must be spotless. Remember to clean the oven and other major appliances. Skylights should be crystal-clear, too. Don't forget to make bathrooms and kitchens shine.
Make sure your mirrors sparkle, the water spots are gone, and the floors are spotless. You may consider a professional service that specializes in getting houses ready for sale and/or open houses.
• Kill the offensive odors. They are the first thing buyers notice, and are often a permanent turnoff. You can spray a mild, natural scent - think vanilla, cinnamon, lavender - a few times in each room in the morning before you leave for work. Or bake some apples, a loaf of bread or even cookies before a showing.
• Eliminate clutter. Clutter is the No. 1 problem that turns off potential buyers. Though you may think your decorating is cute and of impeccable taste, buyers don't care. They want to imagine their "stuff" in this space.
Put away small kitchen appliances and other items that are sitting on countertops and tables. Remove photographs from table-tops. Remove all those magnets and photos from the refrigerator. Organize the closets and kitchen cabinets.
If there's not a reason to leave something sitting around, remove it!
Andrew Lasner is a Realtor and a Senior Real Estate Specialist at Keller Williams Preferred in Newtown. He can be reached at 267-594-8838 or via e-mail at: Andrew1@comcast.net .