Confessions of a Real Estate Agent:

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She’s seen just about all the blunders sellers can make during her 10-year career as a realtor. The most common is that sellers don’t make their homes as presentable as possible. “Sellers think, ‘This is how I live and I love it.’ They think buyers can walk in and picture their clutter and mess gone,” says Sara (not her real name.)
“Think about a hotel room. You walk in there and you want

She’s seen just about all the blunders sellers can make during her 10-year career as a realtor. The most common is that sellers don’t make their homes as presentable as possible. “Sellers think, ‘This is how I live and I love it.’ They think buyers can walk in and picture their clutter and mess gone,” says Sara (not her real name.)

“Think about a hotel room. You walk in there and you want the place you’re going to spend a night or a week to be really clean, even if you aren’t a clean freak. You definitely want the house you’re going to buy to be clean,” she says. Sara tells how sellers can avoid getting burned in today’s market, and she exposes the other widespread mistakes that sellers make. Let her insider knowledge of the home sale process be your guide.

How to Get Big Bucks

“If I were to sell my house, the first thing I would do is completely de-clutter every room. I would put half of my possessions in storage or throw them out to get top dollar,” says Sara. If you’ve already moved all of your belongings out of your home or you don’t have any furniture that’s presentable, then purchase some simple and inexpensive pieces to sparsely furnish your home to make it look comfortable and livable. Apply a fresh coat of paint and clean or replace the carpets. Sara says, “The extra expense will add enough dollars onto your final sale price.”

Sara’s most thorny instruction is reserved for pet owners. “If you truly are seeking top dollar, you need to have a pet-free household. That’s the hardest advice I have, because it’s not always feasible or practical to have pets relocated while your house is on the market, but people are very sensitive to odors and allergies. Even a cat lover can be allergic to cats. So get rid of your pets and any signs of pets, and then do a thorough cleaning.”

What Do You Love About Your Home?

Sara recommends sellers make a flier that lists the most important details about the home with a few pictures, and leave a stack of fliers on the kitchen counter for realtors and prospective buyers. Sara would also make a web site where she would incorporate numerous pictures and more detailed information about her home.

As for where to advertise the listing, Sara says, “The MLS (multiple listing service) is the best source and Craigslist is second best. I would renew my listing on Craigslist every seven days, constantly put new photos on there and then link to my web site, which would have at least 20 photos.”

Sara says, “Make a list of every single improvement you’ve made to the property since you’ve lived there and approximately how much it cost.” Also make a list of everything you personally love about the home. Think of any nearby conveniences, the location and the home itself, like a nice big living room or a sunny kitchen. Put this information in your listing, and include it on your flier and your web site.

Some Final Touches

She says, “Make your home super easy to show. Use a lockbox and invite realtors show it at their convenience. Never reschedule, or the realtor might decide to skip showing your home. Leave the house before the buyer arrives and don’t come back until they’re gone. Buyers feel intrusive snooping around when the seller is there. Put the particulars in the flier and make yourself scarce,” says Sara.

“There was one situation where I told a seller, ‘I went by your property today and you had left your dirty underwear on the floor.’ The client said to me, ‘It was just a one-time thing and I was in a hurry, and I can’t have the place spotless all the time.’ And that’s not acceptable. You cannot have your house on the market and do that. Make your house absolutely sparkle every morning when you leave for work,” says Sara. “No excuses. Open the shades to let in light and play classical music to drown out any background noise. The less you can be there the better. It will keep your house cleaner.”

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