August 2, 2023

Staying prepared for when it's time to sell your home

After more than two long years of fierce competition, sky-high costs, and intense bidding wars, the pandemic housing craze screeched to a sudden halt in the spring of 2022.

With inflation on the rise, the Federal Reserve began hiking its baseline interest rates. Mortgage rates followed, and monthly house payments doubled in a matter of months. Affordability has become a big homebuying issue.

But it's been an even bigger issue for home sellers. Current homeowners - most of whom secured mortgages at record-low rates by purchasing or refinancing before or during the pandemic – have little to no motivation to put their properties up for sale. It is not so much the lack of demand, but the lack of supply, holding back housing's recovery.

But within the laws of supply and demand lies another economic truth: What goes up will surely go down.

Many homeowners are already planning to move. It's just a matter of when the affordability scale swings far enough the other way. When mortgage rates return to normal, potential sellers should to be prepared.

It is good advice to pay attention to cleaning. Spending an hour a week on picking up, dusting, sweeping and vacuuming takes care of the surface mess, and reduces time spent when you want to do a deeper clean.

Run a carpet shampooer. If the weather is warm, leave the doors and windows open to let the carpets dry. The natural smell of outdoor breeze cannot be beat. On top of regular sweeping, regularly clean hardwood and tile floors with an inexpensive polish.

Clean the kitchen and bathroom thoroughly and get in the cracks. Scrub behind the fridge, the stove, and the toilet. The buyer may or may not look there, but it helps maintain cleaning momentum.

Don't just make the beds, but de-clutter and minimize. Consider having a professional come in and stage your home with rented furniture and design sundries.

Curb appeal matters too. Since you can’t pick up your home and move it to a better neighborhood, make sure to put its best foot forward. Mow the lawn and do the best you can to trim vegetation. Use a pressure washer on the siding, driveways, and walkways, and clean all the windows.

Keeping a clean home also gives homeowners time for "little extra effort" projects, which can make a significant difference.

For instance, you can use spackle to fill in any small holes and cracks, and a foam cleaning eraser to remove wall scuffs.

Major remodels are not necessary. The return on investment is usually just not worth it in the short term. Buyers don’t care so much about aesthetic flaws. Those they expect.

However, studies show they DO notice little maintenance defects: Peeling paint, leaky faucets, slow drains, missing molding, and nail holes. These are easy repairs. Fix them if possible.

If you are going to replace anything, make modest updates - like a new backsplash in the kitchen or a new front door. It won’t cost you a lot of money, and who knows? It might make a difference to the buyer.

Leave little if any artwork on the wall if you’re going to be showing. Multi-colored walls and “funny” wallpaper send the same message. Taste is entirely individual. What the buyer wants to do is try to imagine you gone.

A coat of beige or other neutral-colored paint allows the buyer to imagine themselves living there, with their stuff, and without you.