Selling a home

One man's trash is another man's lost sale Part 1: Tips for selling in a tough market.

One man's trash is another man's lost sale Part 1: Tips for selling in a tough market.

Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home_June 2011_real bush
Rumor has it there’s a house for sale behind that bush Photo by Christina Pesoli
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home_June 2011_bush
Ugly colors and even uglier storm doors make these doors scream “Do not enter! Photo by Christina Pesoli
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home_June 2011_good door
With fresh paint, new hardware and no storm doors, these same doors tell your buyer “Welcome home! Photo by Christina Pesoli
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home_June 2011_flowers
Flowers for $12.47? Your buyer won’t say, “You shouldn’t have!” to that touch Photo by Christina Pesoli
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home_June 2011_real bush
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home_June 2011_bush
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home_June 2011_good door
Austin Photo Set: News_Christina Pesoli_trash treasure home_June 2011_flowers

Want to sell your house?  So do eleven thousand other folks in the area, give or take.  And that means you have a lot of competition.  Gone are the days when you could slap a “for sale” sign on a crack shack, kick back and watch the bidding war rage until you shut it down thirty minutes later by choosing the most lucrative contract out of multiple offers--all over list price.  That scenario is soooo 2007.

I’m not trying to scare you.  I’m just telling it like it is.  Selling your house in today’s market isn’t for the faint of heart.  To say it’s a tough market out there is like saying our summer has been a smidge on dry side.  But I’m not here to point out problems without offering solutions.  (And I’m talking real solutions, not a Gov. Perry-style, “let’s pray for rain to end the drought”-type solution.) 

There are some simple steps you can take for little to no money that will maximize your chances of selling your house quickly.  But I don’t want to overwhelm you, so we’re going to do this in two parts.  This week, we will focus on the outside of your house.  Then next week we’ll take the party inside.

Before we begin, let’s go over a couple of caveats:

Caveat #1: Don’t flub your debut

The market loves fresh inventory.  You know the scene in Cinderella when she makes her grand entrance at the ball and everyone is completely wowed by her?  That’s what you have the potential to do the first week after your house hits the market.  So don’t blow your big chance to make a good first impression.  You wouldn’t show up to prom rocking sweats, wet hair, and no make-up, then go to the bathroom to doll up while the party is in full swing.  Same thing goes for listing your house.  Don’t put your house on the market and then set about working through the “to-do” list you already know needs to be done.

Caveat #2:  The eyes have it—but not yours.

Unless you plan to sell your house to a friend, your potential buyer is a total stranger who has never been to your house before, so he will notice things you stopped seeing years ago.  So, when you look at the list below with an eye toward deciding which of these things you should do to your house, try to see your house through the eyes of someone who doesn’t know you at all. 

For example, let’s say you exercise religiously so you have a treadmill in your master bedroom.  You don’t really notice the treadmill when you look around your room because it’s been there so long.  But when a stranger walks into the master bedroom, all they see is a metal monster.  They don’t notice how there is an entire wall of windows behind it, or the coved ceiling, or your detailed decorating.  All they see is a treadmill that becomes the focal point and reminds the buyer that the house is your house, when you want him to be thinking about it as his house.

So, with those two caveats in mind, take this list and walk out to the curb in front of your house.  Then put yourself in the position of a potential buyer who is approaching your house for the first time. 

1. Ambush your Bushes.  A potential buyer shouldn’t need a can of Deep Woods Off and a machete to get from his car to your front door.  Your job is to make that short walk easy and enjoyable.  Look at your landscaping:  Have the dainty bushes and shrubs that the owner planted twenty years ago grown so massive that they are taking over the yard, spilling onto the sidewalk, or blocking the front windows?  If so, don’t just mow and edge, but thin out your landscaping and cut those shrubs way back.

2. That Looks Mulch Better.  Spreading fresh mulch in flower beds is a simple way to freshen up your yard.  Even in areas where you don’t have many plants, so it ends up being more “bed” than “flower,” that’s okay.  Mulch is a way better look than scorched earth or dead grass.

3. A Jazzy Number.  Is your address spelled out on the front of your house in those nailed-on metal numbers?  Chances are there are some much better options as close as the nearest Home Depot.  Go buy another set in a cool new style.  (And while you’re there, take a look at the new mailboxes.  It’s just a suggestion.)

4. Get the Door.  Your front door can either really help or really hurt you sell your house.  And making sure it helps is so simple that there’s no excuse not to do it.  First things first:  If you have a storm door, get rid of it.  I don’t care how practical it is.  It’s ugly.  Now that that’s settled, there are two other things to address:  The hardware on your door (as in the knob and lock), and the door itself.  When it comes to the hardware, you can get a whole new kit that will dramatically update the look of your home’s entrance for under $100 at Home Depot.  Look into it.

When it comes to the door itself, you have two choices:  You can either replace it or you can paint it.  If you have one of those faux brass-trimmed, leaded glass-look front doors that were standard issue for builders in the 1990s, consider replacing it with a simple, stained wooden door.  But if replacing it is not in the budget, paint your door a color that compliments the exterior of your house, but gives it some pop.  Black or red are popular because they tend to go well with most other colors.  But you can also look at the color of your exterior paint, and go with a color that is a few shades darker on the paint chip spectrum.  The goal is for the color of your door to be different enough to stand out, but still compatible with your overall color scheme.  Remember, it’s only paint.  If you hate it, it will take you about fifteen minutes to redo it.

5. Say it with Flowers.  Nothing says a house is cared for like a couple of pots of flowers on the front porch.  If you don’t have the time, talent or supplies to put these together yourself, Home Depot usually has pots all put together for under $20. 

That should give you enough to do for now.  Meet me back here next week so we can take a look at the inside of your house. 

Until then, repeat after me, “Mi casa es su casa.”