More on Staging...

What's that nice smell?

The smell of coffee!    When you are selling your house, be sure to plan on touching all of your buyers' senses including their sense of smell.

   Put on a pot of coffee. Bake some cookies. While your baking those cookies, put a little bit of vanilla on a handmade dish of tin foil in the back of the oven. The whole house will smell homey and good and touch even their sense of smell.

   Some realtors skip the cookies and just put some vanilla on a piece of tin foil and pop it into the oven. This is so popular that many people now know this trick and will realize that you are desperately trying to sell if they see that you really are not cooking someting.


The Yard

Don't overlook the yard!

   So you are not a gardener and you don't have a green thumb, don't ignore the yard if you want to sell. Your landscaping does not have to rival the Kew Gardens in London, but it should not look like the abandoned cemetary either.

   For most yards, even years of neglect can be fixed relatively easily and inexpensively. You do not need to buy expensive shrubs - nice grass will be enough in most cases. Fix any brown spots and buy a couple of carloads of flowers. Nobody has even NOT sold a house because there were too many flowers growing on the property.


The Swingset

Swingset from hell  Get rid of the swingset. Yes, it's true that the buyers might have kids that would enjoy it, but swingsets never increase the sale price of a home. Unless yours is a brand spanking new one and you plan on leaving it AND it looks wonderful, get rid of it. The buyers would want to buy a new one for their kids if they have them and swingsets are an eyesore for most others.


Swimming Pools

   Even if your swimming pool is a very expensive, well maintained top-of-the-line swimming pool it will not add to the value of your home.

If it is an above-ground pool, it's an eyesore and definitely does not increase the value of the home - more likely than not, it decreases it. Get rid of it and replace the brown circle with beautiful grass.

Yes, everyone loves to swim and play in the water. Unfortunately, if you want to prepare your home for sale, an above ground pool is not going to help. An in-ground pool is not going to help either, but it's more costly to remove, so you are probably better off taking your chances with it. Be sure it is in tip-top shape: no cracks, clean water nice and shiny and new looking.


How I sold my Home in a Week (Part II)

Under the gun in a bad market - a week to remodel and the next week...


Where to start?

Coming back to see our once beautiful home with all this wear and tear - and smelling like cats was an eye-opener. We needed to get into house-selling mode and quick! The first thing was to throw away everything that did not make the house look better in some way; starting with the dead plants and their dusty pots on the balcony - everything that was not nailed down.

   We then got to work cleaning. We scrubbed what we could, but some things MUST always be done when you put a house on the market. Starting with the bathroom:

  • Re-grout the tile. This is such a simple thing to do it amazes me that people will attempt to sell a home in a bad market with the slightest hint of mildew between the tiles in the bath! All you need to invest in is a "grout rake" a $10.00 package of grout, a sponge and some water!
  • If your grout is reasonably new (I don't believe you.) - you MIGHT be able to get away with using a powerful cleaner such as "Tilex". If you are not sure, re-grout! If your grout is more than three or four years old, re-grout. Clorox #01195 32OZ Tilex Remover works like magic, and should be used on tile before re-grouting anyway to remove the old soap scum.
  • "It's just a little chip." Change the toilet seat. New ones are so cheap it's almost funny, yet are one of those overlooked details you ignore. Not sure which color? WHITE! An old toilet seat with the smallest chip brings your bathroom that much closer to a gas station rest-room. A new very cheap toilet seat looks much nicer than a very expensive old one.

   As a former real estate investor (recovered?), it has never failed to amaze me when I see mildew in a bathroom when I am looking at a home I am considering purchasing. People have hired a realtor to sell their home, prepared to pay that realtor tens of thousands of dollars as a success fee. Yet they were unwilling or unable to see the mildew in their bathroom that always makes others cringe when they see it. Other people really hate to see your mildew. A $5.00 bottle of Tilex can fix it in most cases, and in fact, a $20.00 grout rake and $10.00 worth of grout would have made the entire bathroom look completely new!
    Since you now have a nice grout tool, look at the grout on your bathroom floor. Dark in some places, light in others? Good thing you have that grout tool. You know what to do!

   The last things to finesse before you can leave the bathroom are the fixtures. Do they polish up nicely or do they look old and worn out? In our case, we were able to get away with merely polishing them, as we had invested in nice ones that did not wear out over time.

.The "Invisibles"

   What are "The Invisibles"? When you live in a home, you do not see a lot of the warts that every home has. Over time, they have become invisible to you. Fortunately, we had returned to our home after a multi-year absence, and so every little flaw was very visible to us. This made it much easier for us to identify the things which otherwise would have been 'invisible' to us. If you are trying to sell your home, you should definitely create your own "Invisibles Checklist".

   Psychologists call it selective perception - or in this case a more appropriate term might be selective blindness. The "Invisibles" are those things which are eyesores to others that you simply do not see. Picture your parents' or in-laws' home - you can probably think of something they have inside or outside of their home that you would love to toss into a bonfire. Things like an old picnic bench that would be better suited for firewood. That rusting grill - it might cook up the best steak this side of Amarillo, but it's an eyesore and will not help sell your home. Invisibles can also be minor things like grass growing out through the cracks in a driveway, a rusting swingset. Unnoticeable, slight details; but one small little nick here, a scratch there and the entire cacophony of eyesores paints a far less attractive picture.


   It should be obvious that if you want to sell a home, it must be freshly painted. A can of paint is a cheap thing and looks so nice when applied to walls. Why people would try to sell a home without a fresh coat of paint astounds me. In this tough market, reach for the paintbrush or else.

There are some clever painting tricks that we employed when we painted this small condo. One of the complaints we heard again and again is that the place was too small. Ours was a lovely location, a beautiful apartment. but just a tad too small. So we had to make it bigger. How? Easy! Paint and mirrors.


How can you paint a room to make it bigger?

   There is a trick I learned many years earlier when I was renting apartments. It's simple really, you just paint one wall a different color. It must be the right wall, and the right color for the effect to work. In a nutshell - if you stand in the doorway of the room you would like to make bigger the wall farthest from you should be painted a darker color than the rest of the room. Since I always paint a home I am selling in off-white, I make the far wall beige. This gives it the illusion of distance.
The other trick is mirrors. You hate mirrors? So do I. But they will help you sell your home for a few reasons. They create an illusion of open space and they reflect more light about the room than a wall. The buyers can always take down the mirrors and throw them in the trash - they will have done their job.



   This was easy. You just know what you must do with carpets when you want to sell. Replace them. Yes, you are moving out; no, you will never get to walk on them. They must be new to sell a home. Just bite the bullet and replace the ones that need replacing. Our place was small, and so we replaced the entire living room and small bedroom carpet. The master bedroom carpet looked fine. until the new carpet was installed in the other rooms. We went back to the carpet store and bought another one for the master bedroom and put it in ourselves. Surprisingly, it was not all that expensive if you shop for bargains.


100 Watt Light Bulbs

   This is not a joke. Bright homes look cleaner and cheerier. People will come in and say, 'Wow, it's nice and bright. Good light in here." not realizing that you have thrown away all of those nice expensive energy-saving bulbs and replaced them all with profligate energy wasting 100 watt light bulbs. Don't worry, you can put those nice fluorescent ones back in - after you sell your house!
   I learned that trick from my realtor friend who made millions in real estate. He told me "Especially when you have an open house, and even if it is the brightest day of the year - at 12:00 in the afternoon in the summer and the sun is blazing. TURN ON ALL THE LIGHTS AND LEAVE THEM ON!" (Yes, even the one over the stove.) When you have an open house, make sure you do this. I heard people say "Wow, nice and bright" when they looked at my place - just as my realtor friend said they would. I don't know why I was so surprised.



   You probably read my story because you too would like to sell your house in a bad market - and sell it fast. My wife and I worked on this condo for one week straight. From early morning until the evening, each night returning to sleep at my parent's home with our two young children. After one week the job was done. Then we put it back on the market. Within the next week, we sold it. We were given an offer which we accepted. The closing was to be after we had returned home to Europe, but it was a simple matter of giving a power-of-attorney to my lawyer who handled the closing without us present.


Do you have a house to sell in a week?

   See my "Invisibles Checklist" to the right (above) and go over each and every item on it. This can only help. There is also the "To Do" list if you want to sell. You would be well advised to not only read both, but to act upon them. Your buyer is out there. Your home was right for you and it can be right for someone else - you just need to prepare it for display and your buyer will come along.

Flexible Terms

Flexible terms   Suppose you find a buyer but they have no money? Would you be willing to offer them flexible terms?

   We are in a very tough property market and there is noe end in sight. Flexibility is going to be a large part of the equation, and that means not only flexibility with regard to price, but flexibility with regard to terms.

   Will you let them pay the downpayment in installments? Can they rent to buy? There may be other creative variations on these ideas, but you will need to consult with a lawyer before agreeing to any of them. You also need to be sure that you can trust your buyer.

   During difficult times, the skies thicken with all kinds of ruthless vultures waiting to take advantage of the trusting and skip town with your hard earned equity and leave you to pick up the pieces and explain to the bank.

   That being said, I have both bought and sold houses with various types of owner finanance as part of the deal.

The Invisibles

The usual suspects...

  • Bathroom grout
  • Kitchen grout
  • Cracks in Driveway
  • Old Swingset
  • Rickety porch
  • Awful pool
  • Bare spots in grass
  • Dirty gutters
  • Cracked window
  • Cracked mirror
  • Rusty anything
  • Smokey smell (for cigarette smokers)
  • Pet smell
  • Litter box
  • Clutter of any kind
  • Junk car(s)
  • Anything broken
  • Stickers on things
  • Chipped appliances
  • Old toilet seat
  • Doghouse

   The list could go on and on, but these are some of the most common offenders.

If you are a smoker and have always smoked in your home, that's fine. It is not fine if you want to sell your home. You will have to discount it to sell it to a non-smoker.


   I once bought such a discounted home from a couple who smoked like a factory. The house stunk and we had to paint the kitchen three times to cover the yellow nicotine stains that were everywhere.


   If you really need to sell your home, and you smoke. Get used to smoking outside. Non-smokers make up the majority of home-buyers and they will definitely be turned-off by the smell of stale smoke which permeates any house where smokers light up at will.


Turning off potential customers in a very bad real estate market is not smart salesmanship.

No Smoking!