Staging your home can help it sell faster

By Steve Tytler

Question: We want to sell our older home and buy a townhouse or condominium.

Frankly, our house is a bit rundown and may be hard to sell. What should we expect from a real estate agent to sell this house?

Answer: The local housing market is doing a little better than last year, but it’s still slow. Homes sometimes sit on the market for months and sellers are often forced to reduce their asking prices to get their homes to sell. In short, it’s a highly competitive market and you have to do everything you can to make your home attractive to prospective buyers.

When the housing market was hot back in 2006 and 2007, virtually any house would sell regardless of condition because of the limited number of homes for sale, and the huge buyer demand created by low mortgage rates and loose lending guidelines.

Today, many real estate agents hire professional “staging” companies to come in and clean up and decorate homes to make them look attractive to prospective buyers.

Most people don’t have much vision when it comes to imagining the possibilities of a run-down house, which is why staging has become so popular.

If you can’t afford to hire a professional staging company, there are some things you can do yourself to make your house look better and sell faster, and for a higher price.

First of all, it depends on what you mean by “a bit rundown.”

If you want to sell your home quickly, you should clean it up and make cosmetic repairs.

There is a market out there for “fixers” and “handyman specials,” but even a good agent can’t work miracles. Sellers often hope that an energetic young couple will come along and see the potential value that can be added to their home through their sweat equity, but as I said, the reality is that most home buyers simply do not have that much vision.

That means that the main buyers of fixers are investors and professional contractors who can see past today’s blemishes to visualize the potential profit in the future. But because they are buying strictly for investment return and have no emotional attachment to the property, they will want to buy for a very low price to ensure enough profit margin to make money after they do the fix-up work and flip it.

So what should you do?

A good real estate agent should be able to give you a list of suggested improvements that will make your home show and sell better.

Pay special attention to the front door because that is the first thing prospective buyers see when they visit your house. Make sure the door’s wood finish or paint is clean and in excellent condition. There should be no visible blemishes on the door and the doorknob should be shiny and clean.

If you can afford it, a fresh coat of paint and cleaning the carpet will go a long way toward making the house look and smell clean and attractive.

Also pay attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. A thorough cleaning and moderately inexpensive cosmetic improvements can make a big difference in buyer appeal.

If you insist on selling your home “as is,” accept the fact that you will be selling for a lower price than you could get if the home were fixed up and market the home accordingly. Advertise it as a “Fix Me Up Special” or something like that. Be prepared to deal with investors and savvy home buyers who will try to beat you down on your asking price.

If you decide to go that route, try to find a real estate agent who has experience in marketing those kinds of properties. He or she should have some ideas on how to price the home, where to advertise.

Again, let me emphasize that no matter how good the agent is, he or she will not be able to get a top price for a run-down home. Think it over carefully before you decide to market your home in that condition.

Steve Tytler is a licensed real estate broker and owner of Best Mortgage. You can email him at features@heraldnet.com.