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Start With A Reality Check     Making The First Impression (exterior prep)

Interior Preparation     • Time to Show It Off!

· Note: Print this page as a handy guide! ·

Start With A Reality Check

Go stand across the street from your house and take a good look at it, just as a prospective buyer would. What gets your attention? What stands out, whether good or bad? Your objective is to see your house through your prospective buyer's eyes, so you can enhance its curbside appeal as much as practically possible.

Are there "warts" that stand out, such as shabby landscaping, or faded paint, or a roof in need of replacement? Or does your house have lots of "eyeball", meaning it stands out and makes a good first impression? That's what you want to shoot for. Despite the old adage, "Never judge a book by its cover", people usually do. Even if your home's interior is beautiful, tasteful and immaculate, many people won't even get inside if they're presented with a negative first impression OUTside.

The reality is that most buyers lack the vision to imagine what the house will look like with the warts removed. That's just human nature. So the key is to fix the things that need fixing, before you put your home on the market. If you lack the money to make such repairs, consider that some contractors will do them with the understanding that they will get paid out of escrow.

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Making The First Impression:

Remove any junk and clutter from the yard. Whether tree limbs cuttings, leaves, dismantled cars, bikes and toys, etc.

If your home's exterior is in need of paint, do it or get it done. If it's dirty, rent a pressure washer and clean it up.

Make sure the front lawn is mowed AND nicely trimmed and edged. If your lawn has dead or bare spots, re-seed them.

Landscaping should also be clean and well-defined with no obvious missing elements (for example, if you have a brick border around a flowerbed, replace any broken or missing bricks). Trees, shrubs and plants should be properly pruned and trimmed. And of course, NO weeds. Once weeded, adding mulch to the bare ground areas throughout your landscaping can really freshen up the look (helps reduce weeds, too). If the season is right, you can also accent your existing landscaping by adding colorful plants and flowers. Lastly, if you have any artificial plants or plastic floral arrangements accenting your landscaping, get rid of them.

If you live upcountry amidst potentially messy trees like pine and Madrone, rake up the excess seasonal debris (pine needles, leaves, etc.) and dispose of it (or burn if allowed--but clean up the resulting ash piles).

Driveway should be in good repair. If it's concrete and has cracks, or suffers rotting or missing expansion joints (the material between the poured sections), have a concrete contractor replace them. If there are cracks, patch them. Likewise for asphalt driveways: seal cracks, or if there are lots of them, reseal the entire driveway. If you have a gravel or stone driveway (especially if it's greenstone or other distinctive decorative rock), fill in sparse areas, or if necessary, add a new coat of rock to restore its appearance.

Decks and porches should be clean, and that means the gaps and spaces between the deck boards themselves. A high-pressure nozzle on a garden hose it great for this, though you can also rent a pressure washer to do it if you wish. If the wood is in need of paint or stain, do it.

If you have wood siding, note the trim. It should not be distorted, twisted or pulling away from the siding. Likewise, the windows should be clean, in good condition AND operational. If you have windows with internal grids, the grids should be intact, not crooked or misaligned. If they are, replace the affected panel. If you have double-insulated windows with internal condensation (indicating the hermetic seal on the glass "sandwich' has failed), replace them.

If you have stucco siding, pressure washing is a great way to remove the accumulated dirt and spider web debris that typically builds up on stucco. Removing it also restores much of the original color, too. If the stucco had any cracks or holes, repair it.

Make sure all outdoor lighting and electrical is working correctly: porch lights, yard lights, landscape lighting, pond and fountain pumps and lighting, pool and spa lighting, filters and pumps.

Gates and gate hardware (latches, hasps, etc.) should work correctly. The garage door should also open and close smoothly. Truly interested prospects will eventually uncover these and other "secondary" items that may not have been noticed during their initial tour of your home. So if these items aren't working correctly or at all, it builds suspicion as to how well the house was maintained. It pays to have a reputable handyman service come to your home and do a "once over" maintenance to make sure everything is adjusted and lubricated for smooth operation. Here's why: prospective buyers don't always take conscious note of items that work correctly, but they DO notice items that don't look right, or don't work correctly. Be wise and eliminate these warts from the outset, before people tour your home.

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Interior Preparation

If your walls and/or ceilings are discolored, scuffed or marked up, repaint them in a neutral tone (antique white, Navajo white, etc.). The same goes for rooms painted in moderate to dark hues. That's because darker colors make rooms appear smaller (many people experience that "closed in" feeling) whereas white or off-white hues make the room appear larger and more expansive.

Carpeting should be professionally cleaned (do-it-yourself rental machines rarely match the performance of professional, truck-mounted cleaning units--and they take a lot of time, too). If there are permanent stains in your carpet, worn patches, or the carpet smells, replace it. Vinyl flooring should likewise be in good condition, with no visible or separated seams. If it is noticeably dull or worn, replace it. You can offer a flooring allowance for such things, but you'll still run into the problem mentioned above: prospective buyers rarely have the vision and imagination to transcend what their eyes see before them. So you're best off to do these things before putting your house on the market.

Make sure everything works: electrical (switches and lights), plumbing (faucets, drains, shower valves, toilets, etc.), built-in appliances, heating and air conditioning systems (including wall-mount units), pumps and filtration systems for Jacuzzi tubes, pools and spas, etc. If you prefer to have this done by a professional, call a home-inspection service to help you.

Check all doors and windows to make sure they operate smoothly, don't stick, etc. If any glass is cracked, replace it (nothing looks tackier than cracked window panels!).

Inspect of safety-related items. These include structural things (handrails, railings, stairs in good repair, etc.) as well as security items (door hardware and locks, window locks, alarm systems, etc). Repair or replace anything that's not up to snuff.

Get rid of clutter! If you have lots of "stuff", or an overabundance of furniture, get rid of it! Throw away what you can and put the rest in storage. Nothing makes a room look smaller than excess "stuff" (furniture, clutter, etc.). NOTE: This also goes for closets. If they're crammed full of stuff, it makes them look smaller. So clean your closets out too!

Have your wood-burning stove, pellet stove or fireplace inspected and (if necessary) cleaned by a professional.

THOROUGHLY CLEAN! Can your home pass the "white glove" test? Remember that visitors are far more likely to notice things you may simply overlook due to your familiarity with your own home. Therefore, clean... clean... clean!

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Time to Show It Off!

All your work on the preparing the exterior and interior, not to mention the thorough cleaning, now comes into play and leverages the various marketing efforts that Sharon has and continues to do on your behalf. Here are some general tips to help you "pull it off without a hitch":

Open all window coverings and turn on all the lights. The old wisdom about making your home "light and bright" is right on the money, yet it's amazing how many sellers don't follow this simple advice.

Air out the house before the prospective buyers arrive. Do this even if you think your house smells great. Remember, you've acclimated to your home's characteristic "fragrance" but visitors have not. What smells fine to you may not to them, and you can bet they'll pick it up. So open up all the windows and air things out for 15 minutes or so, then close things back up 10 or 15 minutes before your guests are supposed to arrive (unless the weather and temperature is really nice). Here's a tip: DON'T bomb the place out with aerosol air freshener, incense, aromatherapy or other perfume-like scents. Many people are sensitive to such fragrances and find them irritating and overbearing.

Clean up the clutter of daily living. Make sure fresh towels are hanging in all bathrooms, the kitchen is cleaned up (no dishes on the counter or in the sink!), the floors are clean, magazines and remotes aren't scattered around, etc. Also pay particular attention to the kitchen and bathrooms in terms of general cleanliness, particularly in regards to sinks, counters, baths, showers and toilets.

Make sure the house is at a comfortable temperature. If you are extremely frugal, for example, and normally set your air conditioning to 78 degrees on a hot day, set it to 72 degrees in plenty of time for things to cool down (better a little chilly than too warm). It's important to send the message that your home is a comfortable place (even if you don't normally use those settings) and that the cooling and heating systems can do their stuff when called on.

Get the pets OUT of the house... and vacuum thoroughly before your prospective buyers arrive. Many people are allergic to pet dander and hair, and what goes unnoticed by you may cause their allergies to act up, making their tour a miserable experience. Why take the chance? If possible, get the pets off the property, which shouldn't be a problem if you're planning on leaving while your home is being shown (see next item, below).

Have your fact sheets ready. Place them in an obvious place (on the kitchen table, or the kitchen counter in a prominent location, etc.). Sharon will create these for you, but you should always make sure you have several on hand to put out when your house is shown.

Disappear! If your prospective buyers are seeing your home with an agent (quite likely), take off before they're scheduled to arrive (such as just before you close the windows back up). Go get a cup of coffee, take your pets on a walk, but don't stick around. It's very uncomfortable for prospective buyers when the owners are present, and they deserve the time alone with their agent, without you.

If you have any questions about the above topics, please call Sharon today for
good, solid advice. You can reach her at
(209) 296-7438, or via e-mail her at

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