Selling Your Home? Get Handy


This is the second post in a five-part series about getting ready to sell your home.

As discussed in part one, once your home is on the market and buyers are walking through it, it is of the utmost importance that your home encourages buyers to fantasize about a blissful future. If your home makes a good first impression, you can be sure that at that point buyers will being to fantasize about their idealized future in your home. If, for example, they fantasize about making Sunday morning pancakes, they will begin opening the refrigerator, pulling out drawers, and walking from the pantry to the stove with their imaginary mixing bowl. If your home puts out a good first impression, buyers will start rummaging through your home; mentally going through the motions of their idealized futures.

As buyers are going through their fantasy, you want them to notice how the sunlight streams through the kitchen windows (because you washed them and trimmed the hedges outside the window), how the entry way closet is perfectly spacious for kids’ backpacks and coats (because you emptied nearly everything out of that closet), and how the master bedroom feels calm and relaxing (because you patched the walls, put on a fresh coat of paint, and put a new, plump comforter on your old bed).

You want your house to reassure buyers that living there will be nothing but easy and that each day will feel joyous. Of course, this isn’t true because life will always have its challenges but when buyers are in fantasy mode, reality gets thrown out the window. So, let them stay in fantasy mode and not be jerked back into reality when they see mold on the bathroom ceiling, struggle to open a stuck closet door, or are overcome by the smell of cat urine in the basement (a surprisingly common experience).

Here is a good, real-life example of what I mean. Recently, I held an open house on a sunny but cold Colorado day. That day, I watched multiple groups of buyers walking receptively through the home. People were imagining themselves coming through the garage door into the home after work, taking food from the kitchen to the dining room, and I overheard several conversations about where the couch and TV would go. I could see that this home was putting many potential buyers into fantasy mode. But what I knew that they didn’t was that the sliding glass door to the backyard was a disaster.

Although the door opened well enough, trying to close that thing required me to use a lot of upper body strength to lift the heavy glass door off its track to get it back into the closed position. Not wanting people to be pulled out of fantasy mode, every time I noticed buyers walk up to the house, I opened the glass door to encourage people to walk in and out without feeling obligated to close the door behind them. Then as soon as they left, because it was a wintery day after all, I would go into Hercules mode to close that door. Despite these efforts, whomever makes an offer on that house will have their dreams cut down to size just a little bit when they experience the poorly functioning door for themselves. Don’t let this be something that happens with your home!

So, here are some things you should start to fix to get your home ready for prime time:

· Patch all holes

· Touch up paint where needed

· Re-paint rooms to a neutral white, grey, or beige if you have rooms that are a color only you would love. (It’s amazing how quickly buyers can be pulled out of their fantasies by colors they don’t like. Often, people will walk away from a place with a negative feeling but not even realize that it was just a color that put them in a bad mood. Seriously, it happens. A lot.)

· Re-caulk bathtubs and other areas where seals are worn or look dirty. (It’s a simple fix that goes a long way towards taking several years off your home.)

· Deep clean grout and often forgotten areas like behind the toilet or under the bed. (If you’re having trouble getting white grout back to its former glory, try using dish detergent and a good scrub brush (remember to wear gloves). The lye in the dish detergent acts as a degreaser and can pull up years of stuck-on grime.)

· Quiet those windows and doors. (If you have windows or doors that are not opening smoothly or quietly, get out the WD-40! You want people to feel confident that everything in your home will operate efficiently for years to come.)

· Remove dead plants. (If you don’t have a green thumb, that’s okay but let’s remove the evidence. You don’t want your home feeling like a place where life cannot thrive.)

· And while we’re on the subject of plants, be sure to pull up weeds, especially the ones growing out of the cracks in your driveway. (Remember, we’re going for the impression that your home has been well cared for and properly maintained for years.)

As a rule of thumb, anytime you’re trying to determine whether it’s worth tackling a long-neglected to-do in your home, ask yourself if this needed repair has the ability to pull a buyer out of their fantasy and into the harsh realities of home ownership. If the answer is yes, it’s time to get off the couch and put on that tool belt…. or call a handyman.