Friday, June 19, 2009

Ready for Sale (Part Four of Four)

Over the past three weeks we have taken a look at what some local experts say is the best way to get your home ready for sale. Some have commented that the ideas have been helpful, while others have offered their own suggestions, some of which were good enough to be included in future articles.

For this, the final installment in the series, I want to share some of the ideas that have come from discussions I have had over countless cups of coffee with scores of people involved in various areas real estate. These ideas have been synergized into my way of thinking so unfortunately I won’t be giving credit where it is most likely due. So in advance let me apologize to anyone whose idea I have “borrowed” whether or not I have had permission.

The current housing market is more oriented toward the buyers than the sellers. Housing inventories are high and interest rates are still low. (Okay they’re higher than they were a few weeks ago, but seriously, 30-year fixed rates in the 5% range are fantastic rates.) This combination makes tilts the balance such that the seller is walking uphill to get every dollar they can out of their home.

Conversely, buyers are looking for the best value for their home buying dollar. Buying a home is in some ways like buying a vehicle. Sure it runs well on the test drive, but what unexpected repairs could I be facing in the near future? And how much will these repairs cost me? The home may pass inspection, but after three weeks of ninety-degree heat, the A/C compressor may just give up the fight. That could be a financial challenge.

So here are three suggestions that can go a long way to help quell buyer suspicions and reinforce the price the sellers set. I will give fair warning that these suggestions will cost the sellers a bit of money, but could make the difference on whether or not you have to drop your sales price to get an interested buyer.

Get Your Home Inspected. Sure most buyers will have the home inspected before they close, but if a seller orders a professional inspection and then affects the suggested repairs this pro-activity could encourage prospective buyers to give extra consideration to that home. Have the inspection report laying out on the kitchen counter along with the paid receipts for the repairs. Buyers will be impressed that the seller is not trying to hide anything negative about the house. Once they put an offer on the home they will hire their own inspector, but if the necessary repairs have already been affected, everyone will be more comfortable with the transaction.

Get a Pest Inspection. This should be an annual event for most homes anyway. So contact a pest control company and get a licensed termite inspection. Again, have this report available for prospective buyers to see before deciding whether or not they will make an offer on the home. Yes, the buyers will more than likely want to hire their own pest inspection, but when their report matches the one the sellers provided, the home’s value is established even more.

Get an Appraisal. By now some of you have already clicked off and have decided that I’ve lost my last marble. But hear me out...uh, I mean, you’ve read this far so finish the article. Here’s what I’ve discovered. Realtors representing the sellers look for comparable properties that justify the highest possible price for the home. That’s okay they’re supposed to do that. Realtors representing the buyers look for comparable properties that validate a lower price for the home. And that’s okay too. They’re supposed to do that. But if an complete appraisal is done and paid for buyers (and Realtors) have more difficulty making an effective challenge to the seller’s asking price.

Buying a home is an emotional journey for everyone involved. These three suggestions will cost the seller some money up front, but can go a long way toward helping minimize stress in everyone’s corner.

Ready for Sale (Part Three of Four)

Most home owners know what they would look for in a home, if they were shopping for a new place to live. The problem comes when the home seller tries to second guess what qualified potential buyers are looking for when they schedule a tour of a home. In this, the third installment of the four-part series we will address a couple of “inside the home” topics that can make all the difference in how your home shows.

Even before potential buyers can appreciate how the inside of your home looks, they are already making judgments by the way your home smells. Just like people we know who smoke and then douse themselves with cologne or perfume; covering up inside home odors doesn’t work either.

There are products on the market that claim to absorb and eliminate odors when sprayed on drapes and upholstery. I’ve used these in my home. At the risk of getting into trouble with my wife let me say that we have a very clean home. But it seems we have to use these products on a somewhat frequent basis to once again remove the odors that were supposed to be eliminated in the previous application. Perhaps it’s just our home, or we aren’t applying the product correctly. I don’t know.

“If you have indoor pets, smokers, frequently cook spicy fried foods, or clean fish in the kitchen sink (yuck!), a thorough carpet and upholstery cleaning is recommended”, says Steve Dowling, owner of Oklahoma Steam Clean and Restoration ( “Regardless of who the homeowner contracts to do the job, they need to make sure the company uses the right equipment and the right products to remove the source of odors, not cover them up” Dowling said.

Of course home owners do have the option of renting carpet cleaning equipment from the grocery store. And who hasn’t done this? Dive to the store, load up the equipment, unload it at home, figure out how to work the thing, push and pull it for a couple of hours, work on high traffic areas and tough stains, empty the water collector several times, load the equipment back up, drive to the store, unload it and then wake up the next morning to carpets that are still wet.

But perhaps the most frustrating things about the do-it-yourself route, is that often too much of the cleaning product is left in the carpet, which when dry attracts new dirt like a magnet. Within weeks the carpet can look worse than it did before the do-it-yourself self-torture.

Another important area of the home is the tile and grout. This area is more often overlooked than it is addressed by sellers. “It’s just plain bad to go into a house and immediately be knocked out by a mildew odor coming from the bathroom” said, Brad Womack, owner of Integrity Tile Services ( “Grout that has molded or mildewed in and around the tub and shower areas is usually the culprit for mildew odor” Womack added.

Besides replacing broken, chipped or missing tiles anywhere (including kitchen counter and backsplash areas), all tile and grout should be thoroughly cleaned in order to eliminate stains and odors and to make the home look its best.

Womack suggests, “If you choose to clean/seal the tile and grout yourself, make sure that the surface to be sealed is very clean; you don’t want to trap any dirt under the sealer.” There are a number of products on the market that effectively seal grout. But if you don’t have time or the energy to do the job yourself, Womack suggest calling a professional who has the knowledge, skill and equipment to do the job quickly and effectively.

After you have done everything you think needs to be done in order to make your house shine, try this. Shoot a video of your home as if you were a potential buyer. Begin filming by driving up to your home and continue the shoot as you walk up the sidewalk, enter the door and tour the home. Once the video is complete (and unedited) sit down and watch it with your realtor. Then humbly and calmly accept their suggestions.

Ready for Sale (Part Two of Four)

Last week I began a four part series on the subject of getting your home ready for sale. If you missed last week’s installment you missed current real estate market trends that can help any prospective home seller set appropriate expectations.

This week we take a look at the outside of your home. Making certain that your home is the house prospective homebuyers remember and are attracted to. I called on Edmond Realtor, Ryan Hukill for help with this article. Hukill is a veteran Realtor with Paradigm AdvantEdge who has helped many sellers get the maximum value when selling their homes.

Me: “Let’s cut to the chase. When it comes to getting your home ready for sale, what is the most important thing people need to do?”

Hukill: “When it comes to selling your home, curb appeal is King. Quite simply, it's a beauty contest. A home can have the nicest interior amenities in the neighborhood, but if that home’s exterior doesn’t invite prospective buyers inside, these interior amenities will go unnoticed. I’ve seen it time and again, investing the time and money in boosting the home’s curb appeal will pay big dividends with more showings and a quicker sale.”Me: “So what are some of the specific suggestions you make to your typical client?”

Hukill: “The top three things I ask of my selling clients are that they clean, paint, and trim. Scrubbing the outside entry area of the home is critical for making a great first impression. Cob-webs, dirt, and wasp nests must be removed. Very often my clients are waiting at the homes entrance while I unlock the door. If the first thing they see is dirt and grime, it would be logical that they would assume that the inside of your home is unkempt as well.

Me: “So get specific. What should people do to boost curb appeal?”

Hukill: “If the street side entry is congested or cluttered, clean it up, even if that means getting rid of it all. The biggest mistake some people make is thinking that if their home looks good to them, it will look good to prospective buyers as well.

Me: “So your saying trust your Realtor to tell you what other people will think when they look at your home from the street?”

Hukill: “Absolutely. And don’t assume that a complete exterior makeover will be necessary. Perhaps all that is needed is a fresh coat of paint to the porch and front door to make it shine! Then get all the weeds out of the beds and lay down a fresh bed of mulch. Planting some colorful flowers will help brighten the front of your home as well. But take it one step further and edge all areas of your lawn to show potential buyers that the current owner really does care about the details. If that’s the impression projected by the home’s exterior, it'll be assumed that the interior details are just as perfect.”

Me: “Give the readers a summary thought. One thing they can hold on to that will help them sell their home in the least amount of time and get the highest sales dollar.”

Hukill: “If your home looks like the most cared-for one on the block, potential buyers will see the value and will be more willing to pay the top of the market in your neighborhood. That’s it. Like I tell all my clients, MAKE IT SHINE!”

Next week we’ll address some of the most important features on the inside of the home that are guaranteed to make your home irresistible to prospective buyers.