Sell fast, get your price
Are you having trouble selling your house? You’re not alone — the market is tough and potential takers are few and far between. Now, more than ever, it’s vital that those interested in your home see it at its finest.

Barring essential, major renovations don’t spend a fortune trying to make your house more attractive. In a buyers’ market you probably won’t get a return on such an ‘investment’.

The importance of realistic pricing cannot be overestimated. However, don’t short-change yourself — you can sell it quickly at the price you’d like.

Here are some simple tips on how to spruce it up without breaking the bank:

Does your house have ‘curb appeal’?

A house without ‘curb appeal’ is a house without sex appeal. First impressions last, so it almost goes without saying how important it is what your house looks like from the street.

Go outside and face your house from the road. Try to imagine that you have never seen it before and attempt to think like a buyer would. Be as objective as possible and ask your friends and family to do the same. Does anything draw your attention? Can you plainly see your house’s number? Is the pavement clear? Is the paint peeling or are there weeds growing through cracks in the driveway?

A great ‘introduction’ is the first step to ensuring a quick sell at a fantastic price.

  • The garden. Keep your grass short and the edges neatly trimmed. Grass as green as grass sells houses, so water your lawn regularly and apply compost or fertilizer high in nitrogen. Reseed or replant if there are any bare patches.
    Remove weeds from the flowerbeds and trim shrubs and other plants so they don’t block any windows or entrances. Also, take out dead plants and trees.
    Planting colourful flowers and adding mulch to the flowerbeds are cheap and effective ways of cheering up the yard.
  • Gates and fences. Fix your fence and repaint a rusty or dirty gate. Replace broken hinges and make sure it opens and closes properly.
  • Gutters. Unclog blocked gutters and re-attach the places where they might be sagging. Ensure that the soil where the water runs out isn’t eroded.
  • Pathways and driveway. You need your home to be alluring so keep these areas free from toys, bicycles or anything that clutters and remove oil stains.
  • Clear the clutter. Remove all junk and loose items like car parts, lawnmowers, toys, etc. from your yard.
  • Exterior lights. Ensure that all exterior lights are working.
  • Clean the windows on the exterior and interior and check that they all work properly. Paint faded window sills.
  • The outside walls. Do they still look clean and crisp? It’s not always essential to paint, but they should at least not be dirty.
    According to Wendy Reay, a Fine & Country estate agent, one has to consider the neighbourhood when deciding whether or not to paint. “You have to budget according to the market, so it depends on what area you are in. Is the house less the R1-million? Or more than R3-million? This factor should have a huge impact on your decision to paint or not”
    You’re going to sell the house anyway, so don’t buy expensive paint and stick to a conservative colour — white is usually best.
  • A great entrance. The entrance to your house should be very well lit, clean and free of any clutter. A fresh paintjob is called for if your front door looks dull or uninviting. Remember, this is where all potential buyers enter your house, so skimping on its renovation if it’s even remotely needed makes no sense. Tighten doorknobs, apply oil to squeaky hinges and make sure the doorbell works.
    Providing a rug to sweep your feet as you enter the house will help cement the idea that the house is tidy and therefore a good buy.
    Be creative when making the entrance as alluring as possible. “Simply having some fresh flowers at the entrance to your house can add great value,” says Reay.
    Do you normally use a back or side entrance? If so, it’s important to pay particular attention to the front entrance as you’ll be less aware of its condition. By hanging a mirror, the front entrance will appear bigger and brighter.

Preparing the interior of your house

Go outside, open the door and stand there for minute. Do you feel like going inside? Does the house ‘invite’ you in?

Reay reckons that very few buyers can envision what a house might look like after renovations have been done. There is no use in telling potential buyers of your intention to fix, clean, paint, repair or replace something in the house. They won’t ‘see’ it and will simply scratch your house from their list. “In my experience, most people aren’t visual. They don’t walk in and see the potential or they might be in a rush. Whatever the reason, they don’t stand there and think about what they could do if it was their place. This is a fact — I know that.”

Space is a top priority for many buyers, so make as much room as you can. A new furniture arrangement might inconvenience you for a few months, but it can help create a great show case for prospective buyers.

Buyers must be able to imagine themselves living in the house so it’s vital that you de-personalise your home by removing most of your pictures and family heirlooms.

Take care to ensure stylistic continuity. Giving one room an antique look while keeping another contemporary will make your house seem very disjointed.

“Consider borrowing artwork, cushions or nice lounge furniture,” advises Reay. “On one occasion I literally borrowed more than R500 000 worth of things for a house I was marketing. You can easily change the whole vibe of a room. Don’t only borrow some things, borrow a lot of stuff! You want to make money out of this, right?”

  • The kitchen is probably the most important area of a house when it comes to how fast and at what price it will sell. Having said that, if your kitchen is only somewhat scruffy, there’s no need to redo it completely for your home to leave a good impression.
    Clean the outside of all your kitchen appliances and the inside of your oven. If you have tiles, pay careful attention to cleaning the often overlooked grout.
    To create more space store all items that you don’t often use inside a cupboard.
    The counters, stove and sink should sparkle. Degrease the oven and thoroughly clean the refrigerator just in case the buyer wants to look inside.
    According to Reay, if you have some money to spend this is where to do it. “Find a good carpenter. Instruct them to buy ‘super wood’ and have them redo the cupboards. There are all kinds of styles you can choose and super wood is really inexpensive.”
  • Paint. A new paintjob does wonders for the whole look and feel of a house. Keep the colours neutral — off-white is best.
  • Floors. If the carpets are worn it would be best to replace them. If not, a good steam clean will do wonders. Vacuum if you know a viewing is imminent.
    Wooden floors are almost universally preferred over carpets — even nice ones.
    “If you have tired carpets over wooden floors, pick them up,” says Reay. “By throwing out the revolting carpets and fixing up the wood you can easily add 10 percent to the price of your house.”
  • Once again, clear the clutter. Consider all the ‘stuff’ in your house — if you rarely use it why not throw it away or store it until you’ve sold your house? Remove all your books from the bookcases and clear the kitchen counters.
  • Brighten the braai. Clean your indoor braai or fireplace and, if it’s not too much to ask, resist using them while showcasing your house.
  • Closets. Tidy closets appear larger, so go through all of them and throw out or store away everything you don’t use often. Buyers love to snoop so make sure all the closets are tidy and spotlessly clean.
  • Doors and window should all work perfectly.
  • The living room should only have a few pieces of furniture so as not to appear smaller than it is. Remove some of the books from their shelves and get rid of any ornaments that you are displaying. Remember the golden rule — no clutter!
  • The bedrooms. You guessed it — remove all clutter! Seriously, if you don’t need it every day it’s best to store it away until you sell your house. Rearrange the furniture in a way that allows a couple of people to easily manoeuvre around the room.
  • The bathrooms. Everything must be clean, shiny and smelling like daisies. Most people want the bathrooms to be bright, so fit the highest wattage light bulbs that your fixtures permit.
    Don’t forget to clean the grout when washing the tiles. Fix dripping taps and broken toilets. Remove any signs of mildew and unclog all the drains. Have fresh towels ready and hang these up before a buyer views your house.
    Reay suggests you buy some baskets filled with spa treatments such as lotions, moisturisers, scented soaps and candles.
    Get tile paint if your bathroom is very dated or has an ‘eccentric’ colour.
  • The garages. You know the drill, remove all junk! Broken car parts, old golf clubs, boxes, toys — they all have to go. Clean oil marks from the floor and allow ample room for the buyer to imagine his or her car in the garage.
    Show time!

You’re house is shipshape, squeaky clean and uncluttered. Now, it’s show time!

  • Let there be light! Open all the curtains and turn on the lights (make sure all bulbs are working and that there are no dead bugs in the fixtures). Brighter is better!
  • The sweet smell of success. Air the house out before a showing to get rid of foul odours like those of your dog or husband. Get some anti-tobacco air freshener if you have smokers living in your home. Brew a pot of coffee or bake some cookies, but make sure your house smells divine.
  • Man’s best friend, a seller’s worst enemy. Remove all pets from the house before a showing. Having pets in the way is sure to dampen the spirit of many a potential buyer. If you’ve got a large dog in your yard have someone take it for a walk while you’re showing your house. Woofles might be part of the family, but keep in mind that some people don’t like dogs or are scared of them.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness. Every nook and cranny must be absolutely spotless, especially in the bathroom and the kitchen. Make sure all linen and towels are clean and smell better than daisies.
  • Unclutteredness is godliness! Repeat this mantra over and over: No clutter, no clutter, no clutter…
  • Create a ‘rapid reaction force’. Often an agent will arrive with an interested buyer at very short notice — always be ready to rock! Allocate a task or room to each family member to take care of and make sure everyone knows exactly what their responsibilities are. Your ‘rapid reaction force’ will ensure an immaculate house even if the agent and potential buyer steps in 15 minutes after alerting you they’re on their way.
  • Supply a fact sheet. A fact sheet is a document with your house’s ‘vital statistics’. Home buyers often view many houses so it’s easy to forget which attributes makes one or the other special. Supplying a fact sheet will place your house above the others in a buyer’s mind.
    The fact sheet should include all basic information like the amount of rooms and bathrooms, size of the house, stand and individual rooms. Also, include all aspects of your house that make it stand out from the rest. This might be physical attributes such as the style of the house or other things such as access to amenities that are close by or good schools that serve your neighbourhood.
    Other things to mention: Do you have a pool? Describe the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms in as much detail as possible.
    Do you have air-conditioning? Is there a double or single garage? Do you have a pool or Jacuzzi? Is there a granny flat on the property? What are your rates and taxes?
    Your own and the agent’s contact details should be prominent as well as a stunning, high quality picture of your house.
    Print the fact sheet on quality paper and be sure to hand it to the buyer before they leave.
  • Using an agent? Then go away! Make yourself as inconspicuous as possible if you can’t get out while the agent is showing your house. If it is comfortable outside, go there until the buyers leave. You don't have this luxury if you are selling on your own. In that case, be as helpful as you can but don't crowd the buyers.

Article by: Kabous le Roux - www.iafrica.com