Listing Your Home for Sale: How Buyers View the Things You Do and Don’t Do

When interviewing for a new job, how do you prepare yourself? You get a haircut and ensure your hands are well-manicured. You put on your best suit, pick tasteful jewelry, and shine your shoes. In short, you ensure that you present a polished, professional image so that the interviewing company will hire you for a nice sum of money. Because everyone knows, ‘you only have one chance to make a first impression.’ Now take this same lesson - you only have one chance to make a first impression – and apply it to a home for sale. I ran across the perfect scenario to illustrate my point while showing properties recently.

The first thing we noticed upon arrival at House #1 was that the lawn needed to be edged, watered and mowed. The rest of the landscaping continued with this unkempt look. The home’s exterior was in good shape with the exception of some peeling paint on the front door. Clutter, personal photos, Victorian decorating, and the leftover onion smell from last night’s dinner greeted us once we entered the home. Moving through the living areas to the bedrooms, we noticed that yesterday’s clothes hadn’t made their way completely into the hamper.

A neatly manicured green lawn greeted us as we arrived at House #2. The landscaping shrubs and plants were well-trimmed, and the flower beds were freshly weeded. The rest of the home’s exterior was in good shape and the front door had been recently painted. The interior of the home was light and refreshing. Soft music was playing in the background, and there was no perceptible odor in the home. There were no clutter or personal photos anywhere – you could barely tell that anyone lived in the home.

Based on their first impressions, my buyers decided to purchase House #2 even though it had a higher asking price. When asked why, the buyers cited that House #2 felt more comfortable whereas House #1 simply felt like a lot of work. In other words, they could envision themselves living in House #2 in its current state whereas they would need to update House #1 to make it feel like theirs.

What does this all mean to you – the home seller? First, it means that you need to get your home into top shape by painting, cleaning, and repairing or replacing things that are broken. Make sure your landscaping is neat and there are colorful flowers growing. Beautiful landscaping enhances the home’s curb appeal and entices people to see the home’s interior. ‘Curb appeal’ may seem cliché in concept but it is as real now as it’s ever been.

Secondly, you need to realize that once your home goes on the market, it is as if the home is no longer yours. Homebuyers are trying to envision themselves in various homes and a more neutral home will allow them to do this easier. There are several ways to make your home neutral – paint color and decorating style being the easiest. Another item that focuses the home buyer’s attention on the home itself is the removal of personal photos. The buyers will spend more time looking at your home’s features rather than curiously viewing the photos.

The final key to presenting your home well is ensuring its tidiness on a daily basis. Put away the clean dishes and load the dirty dishes into the dishwasher. Make sure the beds are made and the dirty clothes are in the hamper. Remove all bathroom items from the shower and countertop, and hang new, clean towels on the towel bars. Clean up and put away the kids’ toys. I won’t argue that doing all this every morning while trying to race out the door is a real pain. I will argue that it is a must since you never know when someone is going to look at your home. Remember, while selling your home, you are working on the buyers’ schedules not yours.

In the end, if you take the time and do these extra chores, your home will most likely sell faster, and depending on the market, at or above listing price (sometimes substantially). And that is the ultimate goal.