Getting your home ready for sale can be a daunting task. There are so many questions: What are things you can do to make a big impression? What are the selling points that appeal to most buyers? What things can you leave alone? Putting a home on the market while trying to secure a new residence is a stressful undertaking, but there are some quick and easy ways to spruce up your space to make it appeal to potential buyers.
Experts agree that one of the most important steps is to declutter the space. Put personal items out of sight or in storage.
"First impressions are key," says Steve Richards, a realtor and leasing agent with the French Quarter office of Latter & Blum Inc. Realtors. "It's always best to have your home depersonalized as much as possible. You always want a new buyer to walk into the home and picture themselves living there."
Sellers also should clear off countertops and other surfaces, clean the windows and floors and generally make sure the home appears organized and presentable.
"Seasonal decor is also something that's best to hold back on," he says.
Bennett Pourciau of Keller Williams Realty New Orleans says to put the family photos away.
"Buyers want to think of it as their house and it helps when they don't see a bunch of photos of your family," he says.
Betsy Birdsong, owner and broker at the Birdsong Realty Group, emphasizes the importance of hiring a talented photographer to capture the home when it's picture perfect.
"Almost everyone today shops online for a home," she says. "[Buyers] generally look at pictures first (before deciding if the place is worth checking out). ... Then they call the realtor if they like the photos. If the pictures are bad, they won't want to look at the house."
Michael Ural, a developer with Liz Bertucci Realty, says buyers are attracted to homes with features that are both practical and luxurious.
"You'll find high demand in properties that are move-in ready with features and functionality that go beyond the buyer's own day-to-day creativity and what they're willing to do themselves," he says.
One thing sellers can skip is updating appliances (unless the machines are broken).
"If your kitchen is outdated and it would be a huge undertaking for you to renovate it, then you might be better off leaving it alone for a buyer who would prefer a blank slate," Ural says.
Another easy and affordable way to spruce up a home is to paint interior walls.
"Fresh paint goes a long way," Birdsong says.
She also advises homeowners to fix any structural damage caused by wear and tear or inclement weather, and document the repairs in the home listing, adding photographs if possible.
"[In extreme cases,] sometimes sellers will need to have a new roof put on," she says.
Another piece of advice: Clean the air-conditioning vents.
"Cleaning the HVAC filters is a must-do," Richards says.
"They get dirty, and it's not dangerous, but they need to be cleaned or replaced, and that's not an expensive thing to do," she says.
Experts also say homeowners should be aware that selling a house is like taking on a second job. It should be ready to show potential buyers at all times, even if the plan is to show it by appointment only. Birdsong says sellers should be prepared for visits from buyers every day.
"You have to be ready to show it," she says. "Usually it requires an appointment, but potential buyers will sometimes call on the spur of the moment, and if you don't allow it to be shown, you probably won't sell it to that person because they likely won't come back around."
An old adage advises against judging a book by its cover, but that's often the case when it comes to closing a home sale. The house needs to shine from both the interior and exterior. Curb appeal is essential, experts say. Even though most preliminary house shopping is done online, many potential buyers still prefer to scope out the neighborhoods in person.
"You don't have to spend a fortune on landscaping, but you can put in some flower beds, do some planting, and make the front of the house look prettier," Birdsong says. "If they don't like what's on the outside, they probably won't be encouraged to look at the inside."
It's also crucial to keep front lawns and backyards mowed and tidy.
"Clean up the yard, and make sure the curb is clean in front of the property," Pourciau says.
Preparing to sell a home can be almost as time-consuming as actually selling it, but to get it on and off the market quickly, putting in the extra work is worth the effort.