Making Your Home Attractive, Even in a Slump

By: Lisa Gray

Let's face it, the Texas real estate market isn't the hottest one around right now. In fact, the whole country seems to be flooded with homes on the market, so Austin isn't alone. There are a few exceptions, neighborhoods that are in demand, but in general, competition exists among sellers to attract buyer's attention. That means if your home is for sale, it had better look its best.

First impressions are truly important, so don't wait until after your home has been on the market for a while to clean it up, or stage it as they say. Before a Realtor comes in to take the listing photos, do as much as you can afford to make your home look attractive.

Since the outside is the first thing a potential buyer will see of your home, in the listing photo and in person, start there with your efforts. Prune back any overgrown shrubs, weed out garden beds and mow the lawn. If you've thought ahead, you may have planted some nice flowers last summer or fall, and are now getting ready to selling right at the season they are going to bloom. If not, consider adding a pot or two filled with blooms to the outside entry of your home. Flowers can do wonders to increase beauty and good feelings.

However, if your porch, front steps or door are in disrepair, flowers will only be like icing on a mud pie. Be sure the front of your home is clean and fixed up. If new paint is needed, don't hesitate to get to work. Painting is relatively inexpensive, and is one of the best things you can do to freshen up a home and make it look appealing, inside and out. Also be sure the steps don't wobble and the door doesn't stick. If someone viewing your home encounters problems within the first minute, they won't see a nice new house for themselves, they'll see work they have to do before they move in, and will be far less likely to want to buy.

Be sure to wash your windows, all the windows, inside and out. Keep curtains open when people are viewing your home-and when the listing photo is being taken . A bright house looks more attractive. Also leave the lights on, in all the rooms, during an open house.

Another obvious way to get the house bright and appealing is to clean, clean, clean. Vacuum all those cobwebs, and wash the walls if you haven't painted them. Kitchens and bathrooms are so important to buyers, so be sure to have the porcelain and stainless steel gleaming. No one wants to live with someone else's mildew, so go to work on the corners and crevices around sinks and bathtubs. Buy a new shower curtain if you have to. Hang up your best towels, and consider putting some flowers in a vase in the bathroom, or on the kitchen table.

Clutter is another killer for a buyer's inspiration. A buyer wants to see your home, not your stuff, so do yourself a favor and get a head start on your packing. Box up almost all of your decorations. Don't leave the house bare, but be sure furniture is kept to a minimum, and arranged so that it is easy to walk around it and see every corner of every room. A common mistake is for a seller to keep all their boxes in a spare room, closet or the garage, but buyers want to see these spaces, too. Ask a friend or relative if you can use their garage temporarily, or rent storage space.

If you've already moved, don't empty the house out. Empty houses are just as bad as too cluttered ones when it comes to creating a good mood for buyers- they don't. So leave some furniture in every room, well arranged, and some tasteful art, but not too much. Some people, really serious about staging, rent furniture that is nicer or trendier than what they own. If you do move out, have carpets cleaned or hardwood floors polished before bringing some "show" furniture back in.

How far you go to make your home look nice obviously depends on your budget, but realize that you are very likely to make that money back when you get a good offer and sell before some of the other homes in the neighborhood whose owners didn't put in the same effort.

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