Sold!(Updated from my original post on 3/9/12)

You just decided you want to sell or lease your home, as many sellers do in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area do each spring. You, the Jones's and many other would-be sellers get ready, cross their fingers (and toes) and hope the process will be painless- that they will sell their home for top dollar quickly before spring turns to a long, hot, Arizona summer.

Some will succeed and others' homes will languish on the market well into the summer and fall.  Getting ready and making a good first impression is the best way to get off on the right foot and get your home sold.

What should you do to get your home sold? What is the best way to ensure that you impress the buyers that dare to set foot through your door. It's not rocket science and these 8 steps will get your home sold.  Better yet, I've gone a step further created 2 options for each of these steps- one for the budget-minded seller and another route for the seller with a little extra money on hand.

1. Clean, clean, clean: cleanliness is next to godliness, someone (probably my mother) once said. The easiest way to make a buyer march in your door and walk right back out is to have your home overrun with dirty dishes in the sink, last week's take out cartons on the counter, and/or a dirty bathroom.

These buyers have to envision themselves in your home and the probability of that happening if they can't imagine taking off their shoes, let alone getting comfortable is hard to do.

  • Budget solution: Roll up your sleeves and make friends with Mr. Clean. Mop your floors, clean your kitchen and bathrooms. Pick up the dirty clothes and put them out of sight. I've seen even the dullest of homes get a little consideration if they are spotless because after all the mess is picked up, it's still a blank slate your buyer can use to envision their life in your home. Heck, while you're at it, clean the windows too!
  • Splurge solution: Hire a cleaning service. Whether it's for the first deep clean you've had in some time or service every week or 2, cleanliness will go over big with buyers- that and it may take a little pressure off you to always have your home show ready. Hiring a window washer could be as inexpensive as hiring the kid next door looking to make a few bucks or hiring a professional who can reach the really high ones that you couldn't reach if you tried. Call me for a referral!

2. Let the light in: Ever walk into a fun house or haunted house? Notice how dark it is? You know when you walk in, there will be all kinds of surprises lurking behind every door. That's how your buyers feel walking into your dark home with every curtain drawn, blinds shut and doors closed.  They may expect the boogeyman might be waiting for them.  It's just plain creepy.

  • Budget solution: Open the blinds, let the sun in- yes your pet vampires will go away, but your buyers might find a sense of safety with knowing that they can see the all details like your newer digital thermostat, your spacious master bedroom or [insert your favorite feature of your home here]. Chances are, what sold you on your home when you bought it just might sell another buyer too. Better yet, when you know a buyer is coming to your home, put the lights on for them. Go on, show them what you've got- they just might like what they see!
  • Splurge solution: Swap out tired fixtures for newer, brighter ones or hire an electrician and add recessed lighting.  The last time I sold my own home, right before we listed I spent $1500 to add recessed lights (also known as "can" lights) in a hallway that was previously lit with low, pathway lights that were so dim, I could NEVER see into the nearby closets. I added some more recessed  lights in my master bedroom (just 4), master bath and a few in the kitchen.  I had a new found liking for my home after doing this because I could see how nice what I had was.  The buyer who bought my home after 3 days on the market seemed to agree. My electrician does this quickly and even cleans up behind himself. Just ask me and I'll share his name with you.

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3. Spruce up your landscaping: Many sellers are so wrapped up in attending to the inside that they completely neglect the exterior forgetting that potentially buyers have to drive up and actually look at them home as they get out of their car. I've had many an instance where we arrive at a home and the buyer says "I'm not getting out of the car to go see that..."

  • Budget solution: mow your lawn, cut down or spray the weeds, trim branches that touch or will soon touch your house and rake your rocks if you have desert landscaping. Again, elbow grease goes a long way. If you can't see the front of your home because the landscaping has grown in so much that it's obscured by vegetation, that's bad.  As for tree limbs that might be touching your home, cut those back so there is about 3 feet between the limb and your home. If you don't, your buyer's general inspection may also note the same thing and your buyer may ask you to do it anyway.
  • Splurge solution: add color (flowers) to your front and rear landscaping or anywhere that gets lots of visibility. Here in Phoenix/Scottsdale, geraniums, petunias & gerber daisies grow nicely in the spring and do so in pots and planter beds for not very much more than a trip to Home Depot or Lowes. **Tip: Home Depot has a 1-year guarantee policy on their flowers so if one pot goes kaput in a week and you know that you watered, fed and tended it properly, they will replace the dead one for you with another. My gardener has done this for me many times and can meet with you quickly.

4. Take the "Sniff Test": ever notice that when you walk into other people's homes, there is often an odor? This can range from light floral, to heavy candles, last night's spaghetti and meatballs or worse-yet Fluffy, the cat's one too many accidents on the hall rug. YUCK! Smells also drive buyers out in a hurry.

  • Budget solution: Ask someone who you trust to be honest, who doesn't come to your house too often to walk in and take a whiff. The best answer you can get is that there is no smell at all.  This is the answer that's least likely to offend a potential buyer's nose.
  • Splurge solution: Eliminate stubborn odors (i.e. pet) with a good carpet cleaning (I'm not talking the Rug Doctor with a little warm water, which can make things worse)! The worst thing is to walk in a home on a hot day and walk into a home with pet odor. The scent is enough to make someone pass out. If cleaning carpets or tile can't get the smell out, consider replacing the rugs, flooring or other source of the odor. If stains penetrate the subfloor below, some carpet cleaning companies have a special treatment for the subfloor too.  I can give you the name of the carpet cleaner who has done this for me many times before.

5. Declutter: Do you have every wedding favor you've ever received displayed somewhere in your home? Is your living room close to last night's episode of Hoarders? Even if it's not close at all, you still want to consider removing items that detract from the feeling that your home is open and spacious. The more stuff you have, the more closed in your home will feel.

  • Budget solution: Want to make your closets look bigger, go ahead and clear out roughly half (yes, half- the half that you haven't touched in the last 6 mos.) of it's contents, box it up and put it away in the garage. Better yet, throw it out or donate the portion of the stuff you don't need. There's no sense in moving with stuff you don't need or want.
  • Splurge solution: Hire a professional organizer. Did you know, you can pay someone to come into your home, analyze it's contents and they will help you do this? They may charge a consultation fee or charge by the hour (figure a few hundred at a minimum and more if you really have a lot to clear out), but if you can clear out your home enough for a buyer to be able to envision their stuff in there, it's mission accomplished.

6. Make minor repairs: Do your doors squeak when you open/close them? Does the slow drip at the kitchen sink appear to have become a faster trickle over night? The leak in your roof that you remember only when it rains can kill a home sale fast. All these little things can make buyers imagine that there are way bigger problems lurking behind the walls.

  • Budget solution: Make a list of the offending issues, pull out your tool kit and get to work. It's amazing what you can do with a can of WD-40, a couple of screwdrivers, and a few other things can do. Have a project that intimidates you, ask a friend for help in exchange for a 6-pack and/or a nice dinner.
  • Splurge solution: Hire a handyman to do the work for you if you're strapped for time. They may have everything needed to get it done fast or might be able to get to a hardware store to get it done fast. Want to go the extra mile? Get a home inspection. Your buyer will order one to see what kind of condition your home is in. By ordering the inspection up front and anticipating repair requests and or deal-breakers, you know what to expect and can be prepared. Best of all, you can share the inspection with the buyer who may opt not to have another inspection at all as long as you can prove you did the work.  I can give you the name of my handyman and general inspector if you ask me.

7. Stage your home: Staging your home means getting it ready for the main event: Buyers coming to see it! Have a dress rehearsal, clean it all up and have your best friend walk through it as though they were a potential buyer. What is left out for everyone to see that really should be behind closed doors?

  • Budget solution: when you get a call from your agent or a buyer's agent that buyers are headed over, open the blinds/curtains/shades, put on all the lights, put on some soft music, spritz a little air freshener. Get your home ready for it's date with your potential buyer. You'd do it if you were entertaining guests, right? Why not for a potential buyer.
  • Splurge solution: Hire a professional stager. For as little as a few hundred dollars, a professional stager will come in and arrange your own accessories and/or bring in a few of their own to get your home ready for buyers. If you have no furniture, you can hire a stager to bring in furniture- this can be very expensive and may require a long-term commitment of at least 3+ months but it may be worth it for higher end homes. I can help to assess this to see whether it's a good option for your home in and around Phoenix or Scottsdale.  My stager has worked for me on many jobs in Phoenix and Scottsdale and is really very inexpensive. I'm happy to share her name with you.

8. PRICE YOUR HOME RIGHT: Even if you do each of the 7 other items and opt to spend the extra cash on everything, pricing your home too high will make sure that buyers who come through will never make an offer, despite how much they LOVE your home.

This is the single biggest flaw a seller can make when selling their home. Pricing your home too high out of the gate will not only ensure that you won't sell your home fast, but it will also pretty much guarantee you a lower selling price down the road when you do find a buyer that will pay what you want.

  • Budget solution: Your Realtor should know what comparable homes sold for and how to judge the direction the market is moving to set a realistic pricing strategy. Better yet, your Realtor should be following up with buyers' agents after showings to confirm what the consensus is with buyers. Perception is reality. If 90% of buyers think it's too high, you're probably not going to get an offer anytime soon. Here in Phoenix/Scottsdale, where our market is recovering by leaps and bounds, good homes sell fast with multiple offers. After 2-4 weeks at any price, reassess whether you're still priced in line with the market.  Call me for your free, no-obligation property evaluation.
  • Splurge solution: Pay for an appraisal. Having an appraisal in hand to show buyers that the value of your home was confirmed with an appraisal may help to justify your price, providing that you used your appraisal as a guideline.

This is pretty much my checklist for every home that I list. Obviously the seller has the final say about what they will or will not do. Those who stick with the program are usually the ones who sell the quickest and for the highest price... Try it for yourself. ;)


Related Info:

Success With Staging Listings

7 Points Home Sellers Must Know About the New TRID Rule

Is Your Homeowner's Insurance Keeping Up with Your Home Renovations?