By Ross Wilson
In this continuing series of articles, which are abridged excerpts from my book, The Happy Agent, I offer a few specific tips that might make the difference between a quick sale and a better sale. Or in the case of a slower market, any sale at all. Now, some of this advice may not be timely during our current pandemic of fear. But it soon will be as this social madness reaches its inevitable conclusion, as it has always done in the past. So, fear not, for this too shall pass.
An easy way to attract a buyer’s eye and enhance the market value of your client’s property is to improve its curb appeal. Forgive the cliché, but one never gets a second chance to make a first impression. Due to the emotional element, it’s important that a home not only look great online (which is even more critical during this period of virtual showings), but that it imparts a favourable first feeling on a buyer’s initial approach.
Upon entering the home, they’ll wander around and – consciously or unconsciously – seek to justify that first impression. If they’re disappointed at the curb, they’ll instinctively look with a critical eye for more off-putting aspects to justify that first ghastly impression. Of course, the opposite holds true if their first inkling is encouraging.
Your sellers needn’t necessarily spend a bundle, but a few basics might really add to the allure and help project pride of ownership. While minor front elevation improvements may not add much monetary value, they may add a little. And if the home is well priced, attractive curb appeal and great exterior photos can contribute to more activity in the form of sign and website calls – and a speedier sale.
As you know, most buyers these days insist on a home inspection. Any major or minor damage or deficiencies – patent or latent – will be noted on the report. So, if an ancient, yellowing list of repairs is clinging tenaciously to your seller’s fridge, it’s time to get crackin’, especially if it’s a lot of small stuff. If an inspector’s report includes no major problems, but is littered with minor stuff, the buyer may still waive the condition, but only if the seller does the work at their own expense or reduces the purchase price. Anticipating this, your seller might as well take pre-emptive action and get it done at the outset.
Do your sellers have a cat, dog, turtle, fish, snake or other exotica? With the possible exception of clawed door casings, unsightly fur-balls, carpet urine stains or conspicuously soiled litter trays and related olfactory offence, a cat is usually not a problem, unless it’s one that roars. Dogs, however, present other challenges. Few people enjoy being welcomed by a slobbering, sniffing, barking canine, friendly or otherwise, trying to jam his snout into their crotch or jumping all over them in sheer delight that someone (who cares who it is!) is finally home. Obviously, if Rover is defensive, your sellers will have to be home for every showing or make arrangements with Uncle Herb. Small dogs can be a problem too, if for no other reason than being irritatingly yippy.
Make sure the homeowners clean up after them – inside and out. A buyer accidentally stepping sock-footed on a warm, squishy offering will not endear them to the house. Fish are okay if aquariums don’t smell like the sea at low tide. But anything outlandish such as monkeys, lizards or pythons might be a bit off-putting. Banish them from the premises along with all traces of their residency. If Polly, the squawky bird with personality, shares the perch, she might annoy the prospects too; give her a cracker at somebody else’s house. Recognizing unfriendly terrain, people with allergies will head for the door in a flash.
If your sellers are smokers, aside from their chronically deteriorating health, they may have another problem. Many people are avid non-smokers and will be immediately disinclined to even view, let alone offer on a smoker’s house. As is the case with UFFI and handicap accessible, it’s just a matter of time before a required “smokers” check-box is added to the MLS listing form. Your sellers should refrain from further partaking of their malodorous habit inside or anywhere near the entrances. If a thorough washing and steam-cleaning of virtually every interior surface fails to eradicate the insidious residue, carpet replacement and a complete paint job may be a prerequisite.
Because of their chemical nature, air fresheners are offensive and intolerable to many people. Their purpose is to mask, not eliminate, and in my opinion, fail miserably at both. Even if a buyer can only smell the artificial scent, the toxic chemicals are still present in the air.
The same often holds true for scented candles. Better to eliminate the source of the smell, be it pets, smoke or lingering after-odours from foods such as fish or spicy dishes. One person’s fragrantly delicious scent is another’s flagrantly obnoxious odour. On the other hand, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t love the aroma of baked bread or cinnamon rolls (cinnamon is an acclaimed aphrodisiac). Your sellers might even leave them fresh and warm on a plate with an invitation for guests to help themselves. Nice touch! Make those endorphins soar!
They say cleanliness is next to Godliness. Well, I’d add tidiness to the proverb. Not much else more commonly and unfavourably affects market value than dirt, bad odour and an unkempt house. Nobody wants somebody else’s filthy, untidy mess, even if their own is in the same sorry state. Buyers want a clean slate. Before listing and while on the market, your sellers should thoroughly and regularly clean – inside and out.
And let me make this perfectly clear; window glass must be perfectly clear. No nose smears from exuberant Eddie on the patio door.
The kitchen is a home’s heart. And if the cook doesn’t like that heart, it’s no sale. Clean and shiny is a must. Forsaken dirty laundry, a cluttered kitchen and soiled bathrooms send a pretty clear message that the homeowner is not house-proud. The buyer may wonder what else needs attention. Prior to leaving for work in the morning (forget about weekend sleeping in; that reward comes after a sale), your sellers should invest some time and effort into last-minute tidy-up. Load the dishwasher, make beds, give bathroom plumbing fixtures a last minute polish, close and flush toilets, organize counter-tops, vacuum carpets, close closet doors and hide dirty laundry in a hamper.
Next time, I continue with this series with more specific advice on how to effectively prepare a property for marketing.