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Ask McEnearney: What Are Your Top 3 Tips for Getting Ready to Sell a Home?

This week’s Q&A column is sponsored and written by Kim Peele and Hope Peele of The Peele Group and McEnearney Associates Realtors®, the leading real estate firm in Alexandria. To learn more about this article and relevant Alexandria market news, contact The Peele Group at 703-244-5852 or email [email protected]. You may also submit your questions to McEnearney Associates via email for response in future columns.

Question: What are your top three tips for getting ready to sell a home?

Answer: This is a question that we are asked frequently, as sellers begin to think about their home sale.

First, and most importantly, use a Realtor AND choose that Realtor early in the process!

Why? Many sellers think they should get their home looking fantastic before they invite a Realtor to walk in the door to discuss their plans for selling. First, we have seen every stage of selling a home, so nothing will surprise us, and we don’t judge — we kick into gear and help. Realtors are problem solvers, and we can often save you lots of time and worry.

Along the way, there are lots of steps, starting with a complete evaluation. Your Realtor should be the one to conduct this early evaluation of your home, give input on which improvements will increase your return and which repairs are most important for the sale. They will conduct a market analysis, show you what your financial return should be if you do the recommended tasks and then assist with coordinating contractors. Your Realtor should also bring in a professional staging consultant to weigh in, getting your home in the best shape possible for presentation to the market.

These steps are all just the beginning of the sale process, the part leading up to your home going on the market. If you wait and hire your Realtor after you’ve worked hard getting ready, you may have missed some important things, and you are doing yourself a disservice, as it does not cost you any extra to take advantage of the full array of services your Realtor offers. More importantly, you may possibly do the wrong things to prepare.

The average “For Sale by Owner” home sold for 26% less than homes sold by Realtors, according to the 2020 National Association of Realtors Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. That’s because Realtors know what works. Most sellers have only bought or sold one or two homes in their lives. A professional Realtor sells two to four homes a month. Their tips and suggestions for selling your home at the highest price possible are based on experience and reliable data. They know what upgrades and repairs sell homes and what will matter most to buyers in today’s market. Their suggestions are made from solid evidence for the things that will help you sell your home for the highest sale price.

So, bring a Realtor in early to guide you through this journey. You are paying them to sell your home — why not get them started working for you early in the process? They will have you on the right path from the beginning, making sure you do the “right” updates and repairs and are getting them done by reliable, trusted contractors.

Our second tip is to clear the clutter — ALL of the clutter!

We live one way and sell another. What seems stark to you, looks open and spacious to a buyer. It’s important to clear every surface, except for a few accent pieces. Bookshelves should be culled, systemized and only partially full. Each room should be evaluated for style, to show the space, but should appear uncrowded. All evidence of pets should be minimized. Floors should be free of extra items, and carpets should be neutral and used sparingly. Bold, unusual colors and interesting decorations are what makes a home “our home.” However, open, neutral space is what’s needed for a buyer to realize the beauty of a home and to picture themselves and their own personality in the home.

Your Realtor’s staging consultant can help you identify which of your belongings can best be used to stage your home and what should be packed up and put in storage or the garage. Remember: You are selling your home, so make it the buyers home.

Our third tip: Make all of the repairs and updates needed. Don’t leave it so “the buyer can choose what they like.”

Trust your Realtor to give you guidance on what needs to be done to look great and to get the buyers into the home. Your Realtor will help you balance the cost of the list against the likely return. Sometimes, the cost of updating a bath is as simple as a new light fixture, new hardware on the cabinets and some paint. A kitchen may just need a new countertop, which can make a huge difference and costs less than most expect. We even have contractors that will take payment at settlement, if needed.

Contrary to what some believe, most buyers do not have the money or the time to do the updates after settlement. They look online and if the photos don’t look great, they won’t come see the home unless it’s priced significantly lower than market value. The overwhelming majority of buyers want the home to have basic updates, and they want them to be neutral so they can just add the accents to make it their home. If they have to do the work, then they will want to pay considerably less than the cost of those updates, and the home will sit on the market longer.

A good Realtor will help you to get quotes and will coordinate with the contractors to get the work done on the timeline needed. Your photos will look fantastic, the buyers will come and your potential for multiple offers increases.

Don’t forget about curb appeal. As soon as buyers park in front of your home, they should be welcomed by a tidy lawn, trimmed bushes, a wreath on the door and maybe even a power-washed walkway. When they walk in, they should be happy with the condition and the degree to which you have updated your kitchen, baths, flooring and fixtures. So don’t shrink your pool of buyers by leaving the work to the buyer. Remember, more buyers equal more contracts, which translates into a higher sale price.

So once you’ve done the first most important step and hired your Realtor, how long will all of the prep take? It really depends on your preference and your ability to swing into gear quickly. If you start out four to five months early, you will have a slow, leisurely approach to getting your home on market. This may be what works best for you. However, with a dynamo Realtor and your willingness to trust their judgment and recommended contractors, you can accomplish great things in just a week or two. If needed, a home can be painted from top to bottom in seven to eight days. Decluttering, purging or moving things to storage can happen within days as well. Granite counters can be measured for and installed within a week, at the same time other tasks are happening. Presto! You could be ready to go on market within two weeks or less!

To figure out and implement the best approach for your home sale, pick your Realtor early, talk through the process and your goals. Your plan should be written out, with some flexibility for the unexpected, but should be a very clear path to your projected launch date.

Kim and Hope Peele sold 40 homes in 2020, and their listings sold on average for 102% of list price. For a no-obligation consultation, call or text 703-244-5852 today!

Kim Peele is a licensed real estate agent with McEnearney Associates, Inc., lives in Old Town and works in Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. She and her daughter Hope Peele are The Peele Group. Kim is a second-generation Realtor and fourth-generation Washingtonian and is dedicated to helping owners through the challenges of selling their home.

If you would like a question answered in our weekly column or to set up an appointment with one of our Associates, please email: [email protected] or call 703-549-9292.

McEnearney Associates Realtors®, 109 S. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Equal Housing Opportunity. #WeAreAlexandria

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