Drive through any given neighborhood in Richmond and you’ll find one consistency throughout: For Sale signs. In a market inundated with available homes, what can you do to help ensure that your home stands out among the crowd?
Aside from choosing the right REALTOR®, there are several ways to put your house in the forefront for potential buyers. Small things that may seem insignificant can often be the minor detail that decides whether or not your home is on the short list for purchase.
First Things First. As with any purchase, buyers are going to base their initial judgment on visual appeal – is your home dressed to impress?
Curb Appeal.  Few things say “Keep on Driving” faster than a front yard overgrown with weeds, a front porch twinkling under Christmas lights in July or a gaggle of plastic lawn gnomes guarding the front gates.  When your home is on the market, curb appeal is vital for attracting buyers.  A freshly mowed and weeded yard free of ornaments and debris makes a huge difference in the overall look of a home. A 50 year-old home with a well maintained yard will always attract more positive attention than a new home with an unkempt yard. Take the time to power wash the driveway and entry area, and don’t forget to pay extra attention to the area surrounding the door. A dirty front door is going to leave an impression with those viewing the home, and will lead to a more critical eye while they’re inside. Replace a battered mailbox and add fresh mulch to any landscaped areas.
Clean up – Clean Out. People are going to look in your closets. Period. Expect it and be prepared. If an agent calls and says “I’m bringing clients over to show your home in 45 minutes” do NOT throw all of your messes in the closet. Keep baskets handy for emergency cleaning – no one is going to look in the trunk of your car.
Remove at least 80% of personal items from around your home. There’s no better time to spring clean than now. Pack up framed photos, refrigerator art, magnets, the ceramic frog collection and the stuffed animals lining the stairwells. Fewer items make an area look and feel more spacious.  If your home has a very specific décor, consider toning it down by 2/3.   If your house is ultra-modern try adding a few softer touches in order to appeal to a wider range of buyers. A style specific country-chic living room with coordinated lace pillows, window treatments, and hand quilted throws with heavy Victorian lamps will keep a buyer from being able to envision their own belongings in a room. Less is always more when presenting a home for showing.  Go through your house room by room with baskets marked for “Donate, Discard, or Display.”  Anything that remains should be packed up and ready for your move.
The very minimum that buyers and buyers agents expect is a clean home. Make sure all rooms are freshly vacuumed, wood floors are polished and all surfaces are dusted. Pay extra attention to bathrooms:  remove all personal items, double check to ensure the tile and grout are clean, fresh towels are out and no dirty laundry is visible. Kitchen surfaces should be clean and clear, the sink and dishwasher empty and the refrigerator free of clutter. Organize an unruly pantry and de-clutter the cabinets. Always keep in mind that these areas will be looked at, and that includes the bathroom cabinets and drawers. Don’t forget to empty the trash on your way out of the house.
If you have pets extra vigilance will be necessary during your home selling process. At no point should there ever be obvious signs of animals in the home. Food and water dishes should be kept in the most inconspicuous area available and litter boxes must be kept as fresh and clean as possible. Outdoor areas need to be checked regularly for droppings and rooms animals inhabit need double duty when it comes to dusting and vacuuming.  Yours could be the perfect home for a family, but if pet dander flares up an allergy attack the moment they enter, your home won’t stand a chance.
Stay  Updated.
If elbow grease is all your budget can handle consider updating with fresh paint, a warm neutral color throughout goes a long way toward improving your home’s appeal.  If your budget allows, prioritize what you can update with the greatest return on your investment.  A home with an outdated kitchen will typically sit on the market for much longer and is bound to sell for less. One of the easiest and least expensive ways to update a kitchen is with fresh paint, new lighting and new plumbing fixtures. Kitchen lighting should be warm and welcoming. Consider replacing harsh overhead lights with softer light fixtures. Outdated fixtures will quickly date a home, avoid gold or brass and aim for anything from brushed nickel, to polished stainless steel or chrome, to a rustic iron look.  Replace any chandeliers or ceiling fans with a newer, more buyer friendly style.  Kitchen cabinets can easily be updated with new hardware that compliments the updated fixtures
If your kitchen or eat-in area is wallpapered, take a critical look at it and consider replacing with neutral fresh paint. Along with making the room more appealing, it will help remove any lingering cooking odors. Again, buyers want a home that is move-in ready. The less work a buyer sees for themselves, the more appealing a house becomes.
All of the tips for updating the kitchen can be applied to bathrooms as well. Coordinate the fixtures and the hardware, remove taste-specific wallpaper or window treatments and update with fresh paint.
A Bright Idea
Again, if budget allows, updated lighting adds a tremendous amount of appeal considering the relatively low investment required. Add ceiling fans with lighting to any rooms without, replace all harsh light bulbs with long-lasting warm bulbs and replace all fluorescent bulbs with a warmer toned bulb. Keep all windows treatments simple and open and don’t light a room if natural lighting will suffice.  Check each light in the house to ensure that all bulbs are working. If a light doesn’t turn on, most buyers will assume the problem lies in the wiring, and not the bulb.
Final Touches
In the current market homes are a dime a dozen. Every effort made to present your home in the best light puts yours a step ahead of the crowd. Making the decision to sell and securing the best agent is only the beginning. At the end of the day it comes down to the condition of your house. A little goes a long way.