Any tips on selling a house?
January 18, 2004 9:04 AM   Subscribe

Any tips on selling a house?

I'm in the beginning stages of trying to sell my house. As this is my very first house, I have no idea how to go about this. Any guidance from more experienced home owners would be wildly appreciated.
posted by LittleMissCranky to Home & Garden (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The first advice a real estate agent would give would be - clean it out ruthlessly! Get rid of all clutter, and clean walls, woodwork, surfaces, everything - like you have never cleaned before. Clean the windows thoroughly, inside and out, until the panes of glass are all but invisible. That's your #1 bottom line profit booster.

Then - if this is applicable - slap on a coat of fresh interior paint (preferably a neutral color). That's #2. #3- if you have carpet covering decent hardwood floors anywhere, pull it up!

Be very, very cautious in investing money in "improvements", especially cosmetic ones - most such investment will amount to a net loss for the seller. The taste of buyers can very greatly. Still, dropped ceilings are out of fashion and will likely be torn out by new owners. Ditto for wall-to-wall carpets which cover decent wood floors.

Money is best invested in kitchens and bathrooms, but even in these areas, a hard-edged cost benefit analysis is always in order. If you have hardwood floors which could be refinished and polyurethaned, this improvement might be profitable. Again - a cost benefit analysis.

Don't take my word on this either. Local markets can vary a bit. You should be able to get some "do" and "don't" lists from local real estate agents. Get several, and cross reference their suggestions. Then, go to the net and your local library for more info.

Your efforts could boost your selling price by 10 or 20 percent - and even more. Your own sweat is your #1 best investment - or just pay people $10 or even $20 or $30 an hour to clean ruthlessly for you. Even hiring a local interior house painter would likely pay off. Also - if you have neighbors with cluttered or junky yards, ask - tactfully! - if you can can clean their yards for them, by your own sweat or on your own nickel. Explain that this will boost the selling price of your house which - in turn - will boost the value of their property after your house is sold.

I've sold a few used cars in my day - a similar affair, really.
posted by troutfishing at 9:45 AM on January 18, 2004

In addition to everything troutfishing said, I'd also suggest making sure that the house is warm and bright when people come to view it. Some people even go as far as to bake bread just before hand to make the home smell really nice too.
posted by chill at 10:00 AM on January 18, 2004

From my own limited experience:

Clean, clean, clean, like troutfishing says. Keep it absolutely clean and neat. This was a challenge when my family were selling our house in 1985, because it had me as a 15-year-old boy in it. Still, they somehow convinced me to keep the room actually and no-shit clean.

Given that keeping the house clean and neat can get you serious payback, I'd recommend getting any kids on board real fast and for real. Bribe them, with big stuff.

The other trick we used was if we knew someone was about to come over and look, we'd put a pot of water and vanilla extract on for a little while to make the house smell all homey.

Other standard advice is that if you have big, unusual, or challenging artwork, take it down. You don't want them to marvel at your decorating and good taste, you want them to be able to imagine their stuff in your house.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:06 AM on January 18, 2004

Get rid of any garden gnomes.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:50 AM on January 18, 2004

Hire a realtor.
posted by eastlakestandard at 10:57 AM on January 18, 2004

Remove a piece of furniture from every room. Prospective buyers will notice the spaciousness, not the lack of seating.
posted by Wet Spot at 11:47 AM on January 18, 2004 [1 favorite]

troutfishing is right on the money. When my wife and I were househunting, we were unfavorably impressed by cluttered, dirty houses; intellectually you know that you're not buying the clutter, but you can't help responding to it. The owners of the house we ended up buying had made a real effort to get it spick-and-span, and it showed. (We hate wall-to-wall carpeting, too, which influenced us in some cases.) And the house that had a depressed old guy mooching around in it... oy. I'll bet it still hasn't sold. Better nobody should be there when prospective buyers are prospecting.
posted by languagehat at 12:25 PM on January 18, 2004

My parents purposefully bought cluttered, dirty, weirdly-decorated houses, knowing that as soon as they scrubbed and repainted the walls, the house would be worth more than they paid.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:28 PM on January 18, 2004

1) Clean, definitely. I got my own house for less than it was worth because it had been neither cleaned nor painted for some time.

2) If you're selling in the spring, pay attention to the lawn and garden. Don't do anything expensive, but make sure everything is trim, perhaps plant some flowers, etc. Clean your gutters and check the downspouts. If you're in an area where water damage often destroys driveways, this may also be the time to resurface.

3) Some people hire their own inspectors so that they know about any problems ahead of time. Keep in mind that you can give buyers a credit for repairs.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:40 PM on January 18, 2004

What troutfishing said, plus if you're in the Bay Area or anywhere near it, give Nel Leal at Coldwell Banker a call. We cleaned mercilessly, put fresh semi-gloss white on every surface, followed his advice re: pricing strategy...and doubled up on my original investment.

I have nothing but good things to say about the experience, and hope you're able to say the same words in a few motnhs' time.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:12 PM on January 18, 2004

Oh, and I wouldn't bother with staging. It can be very expensive, and I don't believe it actually helps you sell any quicker, or for any more money, than you would have otherwise.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:14 PM on January 18, 2004

A side point about cleaning --- if you have pets, remove all traces of them, especially smells, if possible. Not everyone is an animal lover, and meeting the excited family dog when viewing a home can sour the whole experience. Similarly, you may not even notice the cat's box when you go downstairs - after all, you clean it regularly - but to someone who does not have a cat, this odor will be noticeable.
posted by ferociouskitty at 1:50 PM on January 18, 2004

Don't know where you're based, but we tend to get Gazillions of "How to sell your house" style programs on the TV here. Watch them. If you're not UK based, get somebody to record them and send them to you. (Not sure how you'll do that). They'll show you how to make your house more sellable for as little money as possible.

Also - there are countless books on the subject. 1 2 3

Finally... Clean the house; get rid of all odors (rehome pets if needed); consider repainting & recarpeting to make everything more "Beige"; remove items which make the house personal (paintings, etc), add flowers & cushions; maybe move out while it is being sold; 2) ?????; 3) Profit.
posted by seanyboy at 3:03 PM on January 18, 2004

On a slightly different tack-make sure your asking price is reasonable. If it is too high, and your home stays on the market too long, folks will wonder what is wrong with it, and you will have to come down on the price anyhow-sometimes lower than a reasonable price would have been. Remember, other people's agents know when a house is overpriced and will inform their clients accordingly.

It is tempting to go high in order to get more profit, but most of the time that backfires. I know of cases where people actually had to pull their property off the market for awhile in order to avoid having too long a listing time.
posted by konolia at 3:27 PM on January 18, 2004

I agree with the Thomas J Wise's inspector and yard care points. Spending a few hundred dollars for an unofficial inspection will allow you to research the repair/upgrade costs and build them into the price. And small shrubs are cheap. The house my wife and I bought came with a few small shrubs in pots, freshly bought.

Someone stole one of the damn shrubs in the middle of the night. Shrub thieves....bastards!

chill and ROU_Xenophobe's points are wonderful - manipulate prospective buyers through smells. Bread !........(the insidious 'bread trick' and 'vanilla trick' - gets 'em every time)

Pet odors are very, very bad - as ferociouskitty observed. No pet smells. Pets are probably bad too. Lose the pets for a bit.

One final thought - in some markets, there is a seasonal dip in housing prices between, roughly, December and the end of April.....depending on the severity of local winters : as much as 5-10% ! So if winter is bad in your area, consider holding your house off the market until spring.

There. Metafilter has solved all your home selling problems. You can divvy up a cut of your increased profits among us savants. We're worth it.

Just kidding.
posted by troutfishing at 4:30 PM on January 18, 2004

I know of some people that have sold their house through on-line agencies - I think real estate agents take between 5 and 10% - so they saved big time.

Also think of the way you want to sell - auction, tender, normal sell. I ended buying my first house by tender which meant that I had to straight out offer my top price. Your choice should reflect the market in your area and also the way you feel most comfortable with selling.
posted by meech at 4:56 PM on January 18, 2004

meech is right - there's "", for one. That extra 5-10% is a lot of money. Than again, that "" site had a really appalling search function, last time I looked. With a realtor, you usually get listed on a wide scale realtor's network with a decently functional site.
posted by troutfishing at 5:58 PM on January 18, 2004

Thanks for all the advice everyone -- it's been really helpful. Does everyone find selling their first house as daunting as I do?

Some further information: we've only been in our house about 2.5 years, and it was a new build. We painted when we moved in -- should we still repaint, or just touch up?

A couple other questions -- the lawn looks terrible. Is it worth laying new sod? Also, we still have an empty dining room. Do I need to rent a table or something to make things look more finished?
posted by LittleMissCranky at 6:05 PM on January 18, 2004

we've only been in our house about 2.5 years, and it was a new build. We painted when we moved in -- should we still repaint, or just touch up?

I suspect that the time spent touching up really well -- which is what you'd want to do -- wouldn't be that much less than cutting in and rolling.

Try touching up some and see what the results look like for the time you spent, and re-judge for yourself -- only you know your own time cost, but paint is pretty cheap.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:37 PM on January 18, 2004

The house I sold was the first one I ever owned, and you're right, selling it was not an entirely untraumatic process. The substantial profit realized in the sale went a long way toward ameliorating any remaining angst, however.

konolia's right, it's ALL about the pricing strategy. What you want to do is price it attractively enough that you'll receive a number of offers as close as possible to the absolute theoretical maximum, and let folks bid the final price up.

When people first asked me what we were putting our house on the market for, they'd grimace oddly at the answer and make some comment about how low it was. We wound up getting twenty offers, eighteen of which were above asking, and one (the one we accepted) a full 25% above asking. I'm convinced that, had we asked even $10,000 more, we would not have attracted such a level of interest.

Again, good luck.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:04 PM on January 18, 2004 [1 favorite]

We made up flyers when selling our first house and distributed them in our neghborhood.

The people who bought our house heard about it from their friends who saw the flier.

Cleaning and de-cluttering was key.

Pricing is the hardest part.

When we were looking at houses, I got a good laugh at the people who put out "fresh" chocolate chip cookies made from the tubes of dough and had music playing.
posted by Icky at 10:21 AM on January 19, 2004

Cleaning, indeed. But a good Realtor will do a walk-through with you and have lots of specific tips (touch that up, don't worry about that, clean that, etc.)
posted by Vidiot at 12:10 PM on January 19, 2004

I've never sold one, but many friends have sworn by re-doing the landscaping. A few bed flowers along the walk, trimming the shrubs, nice clean edging, perhaps even a few garden path stones can make a huge difference. Probably one or two trips to a nursery (or even a hardware superstore) and one Saturday could do it. As an alternative, there are many professional landscapers/gardeners who usually won't charge an arm and a leg for a simple cosmetic job.
Also, it may seem obvious, but clear out the garage - perhaps even to the point of not parking in it while your house is on the market.
The last tip I've heard concerns window coverings. If you have ugly mini-blinds or vertical blinds, replace them with curtains. Something like Tab-tops on a rod with nice finals shouldn't be too expensive, unless you have huge or nonstandard sized windows.
posted by sixdifferentways at 1:47 AM on January 20, 2004

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