What do you mean, no hurry? It’s already the end of January.
Before we know it, seriously, the Spring Market will be upon us. In fact, the buyers are already circling, frustrated and anxious because there is a shortage of housing inventory in Alexandria, VA and they are not finding what they want.
So, yes, it is time to start planning – and doing – now.
Unless you are living in a pristine-show-ready house that could literally go on the market tomorrow (I’m sure they exist), most of us need some time to take stock of how our homes would appear to others and tackle some projects.
Before you rush out, though, and start buying cans of paint or ordering new carpet, I have some words of wisdom to impart.
While it is absolutely fine to start decluttering and hauling things off to the local Goodwill store, please do not make plans for any home improvements before you hire a real estate agent.
After all, who knows better what buyers are looking for these days than those of us who are in the trenches day in and day out, seeing what houses are selling (and which ones are lingering), observing what buyers are responding to (and what they are rejecting)? There is nothing more heartbreaking for a listing agent than to walk into a house with thousands of dollars of very taste specific brand new updates, all of which were done without today’s buyers in mind.
Not only can we make suggestions as to what updates or improvements you can make to get the most bang for your buck, but that is part of our job we truly enjoy – and we love sharing the knowledge we have gained from years of experience with our clients. Plus, as an added bonus, we have great contacts with local contractors and service providers.
So, what if you’re anxious to get started and aren’t really ready to think about hiring an agent? Well, while, of course, I would argue you should hire an agent at the very beginning and leverage their experience at this stage of the process (because it is part of what we do), if you really want to put that off for a bit, well, there are plenty of things you can do of which even the most persnickety of agents would approve:
- Declutter, declutter, declutter. If you have magazines, books or junk mail sitting around, while you wait for a chance to read it, go through it, see if you can live without it and trash it. Or give it to a friend who may like to have the latest issue of Bon Appetit (and has time to cook!). A garage full of broken small appliances or unused sports equipment? Whatever, time to toss.
- Ditto for clothes you no longer wear (but eventually I will! I just need to lose 10/20/30 pounds. Seriously!) or bed linens you have not put on the bed in the last decade…if you are a pack rat by nature and not by necessity, it’s time to shape up. If you cannot bear to just throw things in the trash bin, no problem. There are many worthy causes who would love to have your gently used hand-me-downs. So, help others while you help yourself and put your house on a diet. Think about it this way – you have to pack eventually, because you are moving, right? Go ahead and get started.
- Think model home. Think clean surfaces. We’ve all been in them and swooned over the beautiful furniture, the to-die-for accessories, the perfect window coverings…why do you think builders spend a small fortune staging their new homes? Because that’s what sells new homes. And it will sell your home, too.
Right now, you’re just getting ready of as much clutter and “stuff” as you possibly can so that you’re prepared when the time comes to get your house ready to go on the market.
Take a critical look around at the basics. While you are decluttering and getting rid of things, take a good, critical look around…not at the house you have lived in for the past few years, but at the house as a stranger would see it.
What do you see? Peeling paint and faded hardware on your front door? Faded and scuffed paint inside? Mildewed grout in the bathrooms? Dirty grout in the kitchen? Missing shingles on the roof? Stains on the carpet? Closet doors hanging off their tracks? A dented mailbox? You don’t want that deferred maintenance to come back and bite you when buyers make the assumption your house has not been as well maintained as your competition down the street. While some maintenance items cannot be tackled when the weather is characteristically “wintry,” this is Virginia and we always have some nice days interspersed with the cold, blustery ones, so do your research, find your vendors and be ready to have someone to come out when we do hit a warm spell.
It’s time to make a list of those items you can and are willing to tackle. I think you’ll find there are lots of improvements you can make that won’t cost you an arm and a leg, but will pay big dividends in how prospective buyers see your home.
Once you’ve gotten your house decluttered and gotten the deferred maintenance taken care of and are ready to hire an agent, you will be in great shape to hear her or his suggestions for paint colors, flooring, and any other updates that you may need to make to be sure your house puts its best foot forward when it goes on the market.
After all, that is what we do!