For a lot of people, selling their home is an understandably emotional topic. But it is imperative sellers distance themselves from their sentimental attachment and view their homes as what they are, products to be sold. Disassociate yourself from your home and take the mental decision to let go of your emotions towards it. After all, the house will soon no longer be yours and you will be moving to a new home and a new future. “Sentiment does not have a value,” says Patricia Lazzari, a broker and partner at EQL (Eckel Quesnel Lazzari). “The value is in the house and land.” Setting your emotions aside will enable you to take informed, objective decisions that will ultimately allow you to sell your home more quickly.
Most people accumulate a lot of belongings and, on a day-to-day basis, a large quantity of these will be laying around the house. Buyers often find it hard to see past this build up of clutter to the bricks and mortar behind. You don’t want potential purchasers distracted by an ocean of personal artefacts, so start packing them away in preparation for your move. “A lot of the time we tell people, look you’re planning to sell the house so you will be packing up and moving your things in any case. Why not make a start on that now and remove a lot of the clutter,” says Mrs Lazzari, who is also Vice President of AREA. “It means you don’t have to do it later and it will also help your sale.” This is especially true of personal photographs and family heirlooms. Buyers should be imagining what it would be like for them to live in the house, to have their own pictures on the wall, and that’s hard to do if yours are there. This can also be extended to removing some items of furniture, if it facilitates the flow of your home. “Most houses have a store room,” adds Mrs Lazarri. “Use it; even remove some of the furniture and place it in there if it eases the flow of the house and allows people to see the room with which they have to work when they move in.” Don’t go too far and remove too much though; you don’t want to look like you’ve just been burgled.
You’ve heard it on HGTV, ‘Curb Appeal’ as the Americans call it, is that all important first impression you get when driving up to a property. As Pamela O’Brien, broker at international agency Century 21 in Port of Spain, says, “First impressions are lasting impressions.” Therefore it is important to make sure the outside of your house is attractive and inviting. Gardens, especially to the front, are important for this. If somebody sees your home advertised for sale, they might take a drive by to have a look. If the outside looks unkempt they may well decide they don’t want to look inside. Make sure your property is tidy, not overgrown, the lawn and borders are well-maintained, plants are pruned, etc and, if there is any rubbish in the yard, such as old drums and car parts, clear it away. You could even try a couple of potted plants framing the doorway, highlighting the entrance, whatever it takes to make a good first impression. “An inviting exterior ensures inspection of the interior,” adds Mrs O’Brien. “If you like what you see outside you will want to see inside.”
The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the house for making or breaking a sale, especially for women. It is essential therefore that it is neat and tidy. Do not have dirty pots and pans left in the sink and make sure all surfaces and appliances are spotlessly clean. An endless vista of caked on food is not attractive. De-clutter counter tops, store away all those ‘handy’ kitchen gadgets which never get used, so that you can see the available space. A cluttered kitchen can leave a buyer thinking they won’t have enough room to cook. Have everything organised as far as possible. It sends out a message, which says you probably take good care of the rest of the house as well. And one myth that Mrs Lazarri is keen to debunk. “Don’t cook food whilst people are visiting, it is distracting rather than anything else,” she says.
The bathroom is another room on which special attention should be focussed. Spend time and effort making it as clean and presentable as possible. Clear away laundry; clean the taps, basins, shower and toilet. Have it in showing condition. You’re efforts will not be wasted. Even get a professional cleaner in if necessary. Some people’s houses are old and the tiling in the bathroom might be outdated. Check how much it would cost to re-tile in a more modern style. Otherwise viewers may only see an expensive upgrade as soon as they move in.
You may love your dog or cat but don’t expect everyone to feel the same way. Prior to inspection, clear up any mess and deal with any odour your animal might have left behind. It’s unsightly and off-putting. “I had one property where we literally had to tiptoe between the dog mess in the yard to get to the house,” says Mrs O’Brien. “That’s not a good first impression for a potential buyer.” If your pet lives with you in the house, tidy away food and water bowls and do your best to alleviate any odour. Air the rooms, vacuum and use air freshener. Ensure that pets are tied up or out of sight when an inspection is taking place. Remove the distractions.
Minor repairs and paint jobs
You want to display your house at its best so now is the time to tackle all those minor repair and maintenance jobs you’ve been putting off for so long. A small paint job can work wonders. Painting over marks and blemishes, or around window trims, smartens and freshens a house up. Similarly re-varnishing or re-glossing banisters gives them that showroom feel. Minor repairs, such as replacing a damaged roof tile, a rusty galvanise sheet or that missing light switch cover, are inexpensive ways of improving your home’s appearance. Things that you live with are just one more job for someone to do when they buy. People don’t want to walk around and see a ‘Jobs-to-Do’ list for when they move in. “Buyers are going to look at every single detail. The less you give them to question the better the chance of a sale,” says Mrs O’Brien. “Some houses have minor settling cracks,” she adds. “If people see these they might think there’s something structurally wrong with the property. A little bit of plaster and paint and it’s fixed.”
Use the Front Door
The informality of Trinbagonians is part of what people love about living in the twin islands but it is not always a good thing, as Mrs Lazarri explains. “Always use the front door when showing viewers around. Here in Trinidad & Tobago we are often very informal and if we’re used to using the side door or the kitchen door as the main entrance then that’s what we do with a viewer. “Don’t do this, use the front door. It gives the proper entry to the house and allows the potential buyer a better idea of the flow of the home. It’s all about presentation.”
Get the advice of your Agent
When you live somewhere, you do not see it with fresh eyes, the way a buyer will when they walk in. Your agent has experience of what people look for and what may put them off. Ask them for advice on any areas of improvement in your home, things which could potentially prevent that sale from being made. And don’t get offended at the advice, it is not personal and is for your own good. The agent is on your side, they want to sell your house as much as you do.
At the Viewing
Don’t have too many people present when a viewing is being made. If you, as the owner, have to be present you should stay in the background. Don’t get in the way; let the agent do their job. They will call you if they need you. If you follow the buyer around, looking over their shoulder, they will feel like an intruder and want to leave as soon as possible. It is also less likely that they will comment on the house in your presence and the agent needs this feedback to assess how the viewing is proceeding. That is an opportunity lost for the agent to get a better understanding of what the potential buyer is looking for and how the property measures up to expectations. Also, some people like to play a lot of music. At a viewing it is best if all radios, stereos and televisions are turned off. They are just another distraction.