More houses are for sale in the spring than at any other time of year. So if you are putting your house on the market, it must stand above the competition. From curb appeal to indoor allure, the first impression your home makes on potential buyers often determines its salability.
"Curb appeal is important because buyers today are very strong comparison shoppers," said Jonathan Schwarz, an agent with Coldwell Banker McGrew Real Estate. "They will compare your home to five others in the price range before considering yours."
Curb appeal is enhanced with an attractive, colorful landscape. If your garden is not in bloom when your house is for sale, purchase some flowering plants to supplement it. Be sure the exterior of your home has been recently painted, too.
"When people pull into your driveway, they should have a good perspective of your home," Schwarz said.
Sparkle and shine
The interior of your home should appear bright and spacious. This may require a little preparation to make your home attractive to potential buyers. Merely washing walls or offering a carpet allowance for dingy, old carpeting may not cut it.
"The first impression is more important than offering a reduction in price," he said. "Where you gain the most salability without a lot of expense is with paint and replacing carpet and vinyl."
Repainting and recarpeting also will eliminate smoke and pet odors.
"Many times that involves repainting the ceiling, which many homeowners don't think about," Schwarz said. "The most attractively decorated homes will bring the top market value in the Lawrence market."
Arrange furniture in an open way to give the appearance of roominess. It should make the room look comfortable and livable yet accommodate an easy traffic flow for groups of potential buyers.
Clear away clutter and unnecessary things. Toss out or store knickknacks, magazines and other "stuff" that may detract from the spacious look of your home.
Of course, there's more to a home than its cosmetic appeal. Most buyers want to know if the house is sound. They will generally have the home inspected prior to finalizing the purchase. Sellers can increase the attractiveness of the deal by having their homes pre-inspected.
"It eliminates the unknowns that the seller would have to pay for, unpredicted problems," Schwarz said.
The cost for an inspection is around $250. Pre-inspecting for termites is another good idea.
A potential buyer may be leery if your home has a major structural flaw, such as a crack in the foundation, which may or may not present a problem. In this case, Schwarz advises hiring a professional engineer or structural inspector to provide a written report describing the damage and prescribing remedies if any are needed. At that point, the current homeowner can make the repairs or offer the report to ease concern for the buyer.
Check the market
How can sellers know what their houses are worth?
"Hire a professional real estate agent to perform and complete a competitive market analysis," Schwarz said.
The analysis compares home values of active and recently sold homes with your property, including such things as square footage, number of bedrooms, location, condition and age of the home. This will help you determine a fair dollar value.
Schwarz said a real estate agent also makes a preliminary walk-through to look at the home's condition and evaluate its condition and readiness to sell. The realtor will suggest improvements for the home's marketability, he said.
And what about other things, like appliances?
"Normally in the Lawrence market built-in appliances stay, except the refrigerator, which can be a negotiable item," Schwarz said.
If a seller is interested in keeping a particular item, such as a special chandelier, it should be removed and replaced before the house goes on the market.
"This way it is not an issue (for negotiation)," he said.
Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and home and garden writer for the Journal-World.