Jason Robie: Getting your home ready for showing

Don’t kid yourself. If you think I’m crazy enough to write an article about what women want, you must think I either (a) have a death wish, or (b) don’t want my job writing this article anymore. The truth is I thoroughly enjoyed that movie with Mel Gibson back in 2000. I believe that any guy would love to have that power if only for a few days. But what about today’s sellers? I know there are a ton of agents out there who would love to educate their buyers on a few things. None of these are earth-shattering revelations, but most are tough to hear, easy to fix and a little dose of reality. All of them are things I believe most sellers would want you to know as well. Let’s dig in.

As most of you know by now I can’t stand clutter. Your agent will agree with me on this one and would love to encourage you to get rid of some (lots) of your “stuff.” The basic rule of selling a home is to allow the buyers to see it as their own. Your family pictures, electric bills, unread copies of the Sun and other clutter lying around are going to hurt that process immensely. You don’t necessarily need to pay the money to have your home professionally staged, but a tattoo of “erom si ssel” on your forehead is a step in the right direction, even if it’s only a temporary one. (Did you figure that out yet?)

While we’re being honest with one another, I would encourage you to stop hiding things from your agent. Now, there are laws surrounding “material defects” and other malicious deceit, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. In general it is always a good idea to let your agent know about all the “issues” with your home right up front. If the air conditioner is long past its usable lifespan, the dishwasher doesn’t clean plates any better than your Labrador, or your basement takes on water like the titanic, let your agent know. Putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer, you would feel much better about the sale (and the seller) if you knew about these things up front and could plan for them in the future. Honesty really is the best policy.

Right along that train of thought, why don’t you go ahead and take care of a few of those items so you have less to disclose to your agent! The goofball that built our house did some really “creative” things with the electrical work. For example, the GFI outlet in our master bathroom (on the 3rd floor) is connected to the outlet in the front of the house (on the basement level). This outlet (and its touchy breaker) also controls the floodlights in the front of the house. So when that thing triggers, a slew of outlets and lights across the whole house stop working. This is an example of one of those things sellers should fix before listing the house. The buyers will inevitably learn about them sooner or later, and if they happen to “fail” during a showing, you look dishonest and as though you were hiding something (because you were). The obvious next question is: What else are you hiding?

“Disclosure at the outset of a listing agreement is always the path of least resistance and trouble,” notes Badger Realty agent, Jerry Hamanne. “Having all the information up front allows the agent and the seller to have more open and honest communication about the home, the ideal seller and the listing price,” he continued. Just like you would want to know the full history of a used car you are interested in, the buyers would certainly love to know all of the pertinent history of your house before they make an offer. Treat your buyers (and your agent) as you would like to be treated were the shoe on the other foot.

Moving on. Cleanliness is next to Godliness, right? OK, that might be a bit of a stretch, but a clean home goes a long way to keep buyers’ eyes on the prize. Unless the home is vacant (and has been for a long time) dust bunnies, filthy bathroom fixtures and even dirty dishes in the sink are all huge turn-offs for buyers. If you can’t manage to clean your home before a showing, which is entirely understandable for those of us with crazy schedules right now, hire someone to clean it for you. Your agent will be grateful, the buyers will be much less distracted, and you can have the peace of mind that a couple of folks in town don’t know what a “Messy Marvin” you really are! (Your secret is safe with me.)

Lastly, don’t ever forget the fact that the sale of your home is a team effort. This may vary a bit with a vacation home if you don’t live in the area, but even then you can make a trip to the home and handle a few of these tips in a weekend. For the folks who are selling a home they live in, you have to be part of the process and help out your agent in any way you can. A quality real estate professional will handle the marketing of your home and ensure that it is published on every available real estate platform. But the other pieces of the puzzle, including those mentioned above, are better done with a group mentality. If you have to hire a cleaner or even a staging professional to make your home shine for those potential buyers, do it.

Keeping your home clean and clutter-free, finding someone to watch your pets during showings, and more importantly, making sure you are nowhere to be seen during the showing are all steps you can take to speed along the sale of your home and help your agent do his or her job. Take a cruise around your home today and target the things that need to be fixed, cleaned or replaced. Start picking off that list one-by-one, and the tasks will seem like less of a burden. You may not know exactly what your buyers want, but the above suggestions might encourage them to think that what they want is your home!