Simple, inexpensive changes pay off in a faster home sale and a higher price
The  competitive market means it’s  even more important to make your home stand out
It is just human nature. We notice the faults of others more than our own.
And that is never more true than when it comes to buying a home.
“People are much more critical of someone else’s home,” said Celia Dunn, owner of Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty. “We often overlook our home’s shortcomings … We don’t see the peeling paint, the clutter.”
But when you’re trying to sell your home, you have to look for and fix those shortcomings, so they don’t turn off buyers. That is especially important in the current buyers’ market.
Many of the most important changes are free or inexpensive. Even a few hours of your time can net a “Wow!” from the buyers instead of a “Whoa!” It pays to put a little time and a little money into your home when you put it on the market.
“So many people cannot visualize what a space could look like, and if someone has freshened up their home it makes the place look so much better,” Dunn said. “Paint does wonders.”
A clean, neat home without clutter makes all the difference when potential buyers look at a home, Dunn said.
Renee Meighan, a sales associate in the Bluffton, S.C. office of Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty, tells her clients to think of it as “pre-packing.”
Clutter, personal photos, and such are obstacles for potential buyers, who will have a hard time looking past all those things to really look at your home.
“Most people have a tendency to live with things so long that they don’t see it as being messy or out of place,” Meighan said. “However, when someone sees your home for the first time, this is what they normally see first.”
“Given our current market, if your home is not showroom ready, you will often pay for it with lower offers or no offer,” Meighan said.
Virginia Lee and Karen Davis of Savannah Home Staging and Design say paring down and depersonalizing is important in staging a home. They say they turn a home into a house, rather than a house into a home. Working mostly with vacant homes, they’ve had their staged houses come under contract within days.
“A staged house sells,” Davis said. “It opens up the house, so the buyer can see where their furniture and belongings could go.”
Agents need to be very straightforward with their sellers about what changes need to be made, said Pam Sutton, a sales associate with Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty.
Often the potential buyers won’t even be conscious of the effect these small things have. They decide they don’t like the house, but don’t realize it’s a small fix. These little problems set the stage for how they see the house.
“That’s a terrible turnoff for buyers,” Sutton said.
“It takes much less time to sell it when it’s been freshened up,” she said. Your home might take an extra six months to a year to sell if you don’t.
When you’re putting your home on the market, these moves pay off in higher sales prices and speedier sales:
Clean your home. If it’s not completely clean, potential buyers will notice and even if their home isn’t any cleaner it will turn them off the sale. Don’t forget outdoor areas and the garage.
Clear out the clutter. The time spent clearing out your clutter will make a huge difference in how your home shows. For daily items like bills or schoolwork that can’t be eliminated, file them in a drawer or put them in an attractive basket with a top.
Clear out the clutter again. Even magnets and kids’ art on a fridge look like clutter to potential homebuyers. Pack up some of the toys –  your kids can live with fewer for awhile if it means a faster, more profitable sale. Try to make your closets, pantry and garage look neatly organized. And why move all your clutter to your new home? Sort out items to donate or sell now, rather than at your next house.
Get a storage unit or portable storage unit for items that you’ll keep but won’t need, to make your home look more open. The portable storage unit is then stored until you move.
Take down your personal items. Your photos will distract homebuyers.
Paint. Choose neutral colors so you don’t turn off buyers, but don’t paint your walls white, which can give an impersonal or apartment feel. Don’t forget your garage and laundry room.
Keep your lawn trimmed, buy a new doormat and see if your yard needs perking up with plantings to enhance curb appeal. Look at your home from the street – would you stop to tour it?
Walk through your house with your agent as if you had never seen it before. Do you have too much furniture in one room, making it feel cramped? Is your wallpaper dated, or your window coverings? Look at outside areas as well.
Watch out for small but annoying problems that might signal to a buyer that your home hasn’t been cared for. Make sure your doors and drawers all open smoothly, and your doorknobs work well. Make sure banisters don’t wobble and light bulbs work.
Some small changes like cabinet hardware or a new light fixture can update your home.
Simple window treatments that let the light in look more current than big draperies or vertical blinds. Make sure you let in enough light. Keep your curtains open for natural light when the view is attractive.
Have your carpets cleaned, especially if you have pets or get new carpet if the old is stained or damaged. Make sure you don’t have pet or smoke odors.
Don’t leave your pets in the home during showings.
Have a live plant or fresh flowers (artificial ones don’t have the same appeal).
The aroma of fresh baking or cinnamon is appealing.
Known for its tradition of integrity, Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty specializes in residential and commercial properties in Savannah and the Low Country of Georgia and South Carolina. Founded in 1981, Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty is noted for outstanding service to its clients, thorough knowledge of Savannah and the South Carolina Low Country, and excellent staff, in addition to having one of the region’s top property management departments. The owners are natives of Savannah who have more than 60 years’ combined experience in real estate. The offices are located at 9, 13, and 17 West Charlton Street on Madison Square in Savannah and 6 Bruin Street in Bluffton, S.C.
For more information, call Celia Dunn Sotheby’s International Realty at (912) 234-3323 or visit . To contact the Bluffton office, call (843) 836-3900.

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