Preparing a home for sale: when and where to invest before putting a home on the market


By Vicki Johnson

Today’s real estate market poses improved conditions for sellers, with record low interest rates inspiring more buyers to stop stalling and finally purchase a home. However, as noted in a recent report for

ABC News

, an increase in interested buyers doesn’t necessarily mean instant success for sellers. For those

preparing a home for sale

, it is crucial to present the property in a positive light.

I like to compare the process of selling a home to that of trading in a car. A great car in good condition and with low mileage wouldn’t be considered ready to go to the dealer looking dirty, with a flat tire and the children’s bobble head on the dash. Instead, the owner would wash and polish the car, fix the tire and clear out the interior before attempting to make a trade. The same goes for staging a home.

When getting ready to put a house on the market, homeowners need to remember three basic steps: clean up, perform minor repairs, and depersonalize the space. Before opening the home for showings or having pictures taken, homeowners can make the space look larger and more inviting by clearing clutter and getting rid of unnecessary or dated furniture and appliances. Next, they should go through the home and take care of affordable tweaks – new faucets or door handles, for example – so that everything is in working order. Tidy and attractive landscaping and fresh trim can work wonders on nondescript exteriors. And finally, homeowners should make sure to remove personalized décor and photos so that potential buyers can visualize their own belongings inside the space. If there are maintenance records, records of recent repairs or the balance of any warranties, sellers would be wise to inform interested buyers of these as well.

Of course, it is also possible to go overboard when preparing to sell one’s home. The trick is to present property advantageously without spending more than is likely to be recouped in the sale. Let’s return to the car analogy for an example. Leather seats are stylish in any car, but installing them just before putting a car up for sale would cost more than the bump in sale price. Same goes for luxury home remodeling options like granite countertops, new kitchen cabinets, and so forth. Most of these will not reap returns large enough to cover remodeling costs, and are a pricey gamble on the part of homeowners who can’t possibly know what prospective buyers are looking for in a new house.

In the current San Diego real estate market, there are buyers for every price point. Some buyers want luxurious spaces in pristine condition, while others already have a precise style, size and location in mind. Still others prefer “fixer-uppers” to freshly remodeled homes, and most everyone ultimately balances their needs to get the best value they can afford. Home selling is thus as much an art as it is a science, with many factors coming into play. However, the best way to start is by selecting a great agent – one who is objective, listens well, understands your priorities and responds with professional advice. For more information on

Rancho Santa Fe home sales

, contact me,

Vicki Johnson

, at