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Secret to Prepare Your Property for Sale

Secret to Prepare Your Property for Sale

Before we launch into talking about preparing your property for sale, it’s important to agree on one thing first. You are:

  • Not selling your personal memories
  • Not selling your tenant
  • Not selling your furniture
  • Not selling your personal design

You are selling real estate.

The first step to getting top dollar for your property is to prepare it for the market. We are not talking about renovating your property for resale, although I do have a lot to share on that subject. That subject deserves another series of its own, if not a book. Here we focus on the easiest things you can do to get maximum return.

First Impression Matters.

The cover photo of your listing is almost always the exterior shot of your property. For most homes, it means your front yard, front door, front facade will all be captured in this one shot. Buyers glance over the cover photo of listings before they click on one. You have to make the front of the house look good.

Lawn

If your lawn is spotty, seed and fertilize your lawn before spring so there is time for it to grow. Don’t forget to turn on your irrigation system. If there isn’t an irrigation system, you can get an oscillating sprinkler and timer for less than $40. This will easily save you thousands of dollars compared to getting new sod.

If you don’t have a lawn, consider picking up a few bags of black or dark brown mulch for your flowerbeds. Avoid getting red mulch, as it tends to compete with the spring color of your plants.

Exterior Paint

Although it’s recommended to paint Bay Area homes every 5-10 years, most homeowners don’t.

Before and After Exterior Paint Comparison
Exterior paint job can make a world of difference

If you haven’t repainted in the last 7 years, you should consider it. Although it may cost $3k to $6k, it’s worth it, and it’s one thing a professional painter can do a much better job of than most homeowners. A good exterior paint job can do miracles.

If you are not repainting the exterior, at least power wash your exterior walls to remove spider webs and loose paint. Take the fallen paint chips to a local home paint store to color match it so you can touch up where needed. You can rent a power-washer at your local hardware store for less than $50, or have your neighborhood landscaper do it for no more than $150.

Interior Paint

Whole house interior paint will remove any smudges and fingerprints resulting from daily usage of the home, but it’s not necessary if you are selling your home with furniture in it. A quick and inexpensive way to dress up your rooms is to paint one accent wall for each room. You can probably knock out 3 to 4 rooms over a weekend yourself.

Furniture

If your budget allows and the home is vacant, consider staging the home. Even if you are still living in it, it’s worth it to have a staging designer give ideas on how to dress up the home with trendy and neutral furniture. Sometimes moving a few old pieces of furniture to the garage and only staging part of the home will give you the highest ROI.

If your garage is already full of stuff and you can’t find room to move some worn out furniture, consider renting a mobile storage solution such as DoorToDoorPods, or U-Pack. You can temporarily place the container on the street while your home is on the market and order it delivered to your permanent destination later. Compare to moving items to a storage facility, you only need to move your stuff once.

There is a caveat: Always check with your city/town planning department to see if there is any permit required for placing a container on the street. You are taking up street parking, after all. Some cities may take up to 1 week to issue such a permit, so plan ahead. If possible, negotiate with your neighbor to place the container in front of his home instead of yours. You can offer to let your neighbor park in front of your house instead.  When your real estate photographer comes, chances are your neighbor will have driven his car to work so it won’t block your house in the photograph, and your storage container can happily sit in front of the neighbor’s home, outside your home’s exterior shot.

Get a Pre-listing Inspection

Case Study: a $100,000 mistake I won’t let my clients make

I was selling one of my renovation projects in 2011. The home was less than 7 years old and was in very good condition, except the previous owner was foreclosed on by the bank and ripped out all the kitchen cabinets, vanities, heating and other systems. My contractor installed new parts for everything the owner took out restored the home to its pristine condition. When it was time to sell, because that was my first $1M+ renovation project, I hired a top producer agent specialized in the luxury market in the neighborhood to list it. Unfortunately, my real estate agent failed to advise me to get a reputable inspector to cover my bases. Soon after the house went on the market, a buyer came and made an offer $50k above asking price. Not bad, right? I regrettably went into contract with this buyer, who had a friend who happens to be an inspector and wrote many exaggerated opinions (not fact) about my house. They demanded the foundation drain pipes and concrete piers be dug up to be inspected. People in the construction trade all know the piers and drains were inspected by the city and engineers when it was built. Digging them up would cost thousands of dollars. Inspecting those items on a home 7 years new was unheard of. What’s even worse was that real estate law requires that all written reports a seller received from any buyer be disclosed to all subsequent buyers. I knew an ill-intended inspection report could scare away all subsequent buyers. While there are other homes on the market, why would a subsequent buyer want to risk dealing with a home with an ugly report written all over it? Well, only if the home’s price is low enough.

I was left with two choices: 1) spend thousands of dollars to hire other professionals to rebuke the ill-intended report, lower my price to attract another buyer and hope he would carefully examine the facts and come to an unbiased conclusion, or 2) give in to the buyer’s demand for a $140,000 price reduction on a $1M home.

It’s not my style to give in without putting a fight. I went with choice 1. Not only did that 1st buyer cost me thousands of dollars to hire professionals, I worked many sleepless nights with my contractors to try to think of any other angle a new buyer might doubt the house because of the ill-intended report. To my huge disappointment, my real estate agent who threw her hands up and did not offer any assistance in this process. She simply let me deal with it because as she put it “I am no expert in construction.”

In the end, I sold the home for $100,000 less than what I would have gotten had I received proper real estate council.

Declutter, declutter, declutter.

I can’t stress enough the importance of hiding your clutter. I don’t care how you live your daily life, while your home is on market, it has to look clutter-free when a buyer visits. Ninety-five percent of buyers can’t see the gem in your property if it’s covered by your remotes, toys, dishes in the sink and kitchen gadgets. Leaving these things out is like loudly declaring to the prospective buyers “Don’t buy this house. It doesn’t have enough storage space for your kitchen gadgets.”

One mistake most real estate agents make is to tell their clients to stuff all the clutter in their closet. I have seen many closets so full of stuff that it led buyers to think the house didn’t have enough storage. Modern-day buyers have just as much stuff to put away as you do. Cramming your closet more than 40% full is not helping you sell. If one buyer gets turned off solely by your overflowing closets, you are missing out on $2,000 to $5,000. That’s just another example of the little secrets that allow the Cal Agents’ listings to sell for more than other Realtors.

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Lex Shan

Lex is a real estate broker, real estate developer, entrepreneur and technologist. He has started an architectural design firm, real estate development private equity fund and California's largest real estate 3D marketing company.

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