Realtors agree: Spring is the busy season for buying homes. Once May rolls around, families have done their research, visited a countless number of open houses and have narrowed down their initial list to one or two homes. What puts one over the top?
According to real estate experts across the country, it’s a combination of small things you do to your home that make it a desirable property during the spring months. If you’re ready to put your home on the market, don’t let any potential buyer set foot in your home without first checking out our list of six tips for preparing your home for a spring sale.
#1: Identify small improvements you can make in each room
My wife and I bought our home in May 2017. I remember the first time we walked through the property; I noticed all the little imperfections — everything from sloppy finishing on the drywall to a poorly grouted corner of tile behind a toilet in one of the bathrooms.
While those little quirks didn’t keep us from buying, that doesn’t mean other buyers wouldn’t cross your home off the list, says Teris Pantazes, co-founder of online homeowner and handyman community EFynch.com.
“You would be surprised how many homes go onto the market with a piece of missing trim, ripped screens, smudge marks on the wall, or a stain in the carpet,” Pantazes said. “As someone who has worked with buyers on several dozen occasions, these are the things they notice and that stick in their mind.”
His solution is to walk through each room in your home and write down two or three things you can fix.
We heard the same advice from Ryan Gibbons, an ABR agent based on Oradell, N.J. Gibbons said you have to be realistic about the tiny flaws.
“Take an honest look at your home and seek out the imperfections like light fixtures that don’t work, scratches in the paint or flooring or landscaping that doesn’t look right,” Gibbons said. “Many times, buyers will look at those minor issues and assume there are major issues hiding behind them.”
The easiest way to take care of those problems, Pantazes said, is to hire a handyman to come out for a half day and fix things.
#2 Prepare for rain with heavy duty welcome mats
It’s almost as if Mother Nature knows you’re selling your home this spring. She’s ready to quite literally rain on your parade, but afternoon downpours don’t have to ruin your open houses. They can, however, ruin your floors, says Lauren Makk, home editor at Yelp.
“With spring’s unpredictable weather, your floors can take a tough beating,” she said. “Invest in heavy-duty floor mats on the inside and outside to help trap and lock away dirt before it ruins your floors and turns off prospective buyers.”
What type of mats should you buy? Justin M. Riordan, founder of West Coast staging firm Spade and Archer, says his company uses 3’x4′, commercial-grade mats.
“Springtime is wet; be prepared,” he told us. “We love to provide two walk-off mats for our buyers to wipe their shoes. We place one outside and one inside the main entrance door.”
#3 Make sure those windows are sparkling
With dreary winter days behind you, sunshine will start pouring into your home. One way to sabotage a good showing is to leave your windows dusty, dirty or clouded from grime.
Lance Marrs, a broker with Portland-based Living Room Realty, says dirty windows are one of those quick fixes that can save you from a poor first impression. “Cleaning the windows inside and out will dramatically improve the viewing experience for the buyer,” he said.
Don’t forget that windows play an important role in the photos used in your home’s listings, too. “It’s critical that window cleaning is completed prior to professional photography taking place,” Marrs said.
#4 Prepare for the time change by providing appropriate lighting
There’s a good chance that your home is going to be on the market during the time change – it takes place on March 11 this year.
To compensate for the darker mornings and brighter nights, put your lamps on timers that follow the day/night light patterns.
“We typically set our timers to turn on around 8 a.m. and turn off around 8 p.m.,” Riordan said. “This will provide the most light possible during showing hours.”
Another tip from Spade and Archer: use warm white bulbs in the 2,700K-3,000K range. Why? Bulbs with light ratings higher than that – especially “daylight” 5,000K bulbs – will be too blue for interior spaces.
#5 Get rid of the clutter in your home
Spring is the season of cleaning and if you haven’t tidied up around your home before buyers come to check it out, you could be losing out on bids.
Brendan O’Donnell, a real estate broker for Chicago-based Center Coast Realty, calls his spring cleaning mentality the Two D’s: de-clutter and de-personalize.
“Most sellers underestimate the importance of making prospective buyers feel at home while they tour the house,” he pointed out. “Your clothes and wedding/baby photos take away from that. Instead of buyers visualizing themselves living there, they’re thinking about who lives in the home now.”
If there’s too much clutter to stow in your basement or attic, Candy Miles-Crocker, founder of Real-Life Real Estate Training, says it’s a smart idea to rent a storage space for a few months.
“Buyers need to envision themselves living in the home. This is impossible to do if all they can see is your stuff,” she said.
#6 Do a cost-effective upgrade to your landscaping
There’s a good chance your yard took a beating during the winter months. Dead vegetation, weathered bark or old mulch can undermine your efforts to attract buyers no matter how pristine the inside of your home is.
“The exterior of the house is what benefits the most from the turning of the weather,” O’Donnell said. “Cleaning up any yard waste and planting flowers can really make the first picture on the listing pop. This also gives a great impression of a home well-cared for.”
David Meisner, a Realtor with Signature Sotheby’s International Realty in Birmingham, Michigan, said the bonus of improving your landscaping is that it doesn’t have to be an expensive upgrade.
“Landscaping doesn’t need to cost a fortune but it’s well worth making the outside areas of your home look their best,” he said. “You only get one chance to make a first impression and this is the first part of your home that prospective buyers will see.”
Colorful annuals and new mulch or bark are cost-effective upgrades that add vitality to your home’s front yard.