So get it together!
by Jeremy Fain
Thinking about moving? A quick tour of your happy home might curdle that dream before it gets beyond the planning stages. If your décor’s style is Early Desperation and you can’t remember the original color of the carpeting, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and blackmail someone to help get your home ready to sell. If you absolutely can’t coerce an acquaintance to show up in stained overalls (or our personal favorite, Jackson Pollock jeans), here are some ways you can do the vital (and unavoidable) work of improving the look of your home. Do it sooner rather than later, before a potential buyer enters the premises, screams like a little girl, and runs full-bore in the opposite direction. Trust us, we’ve been there.
Find Your Papers
Before you run yourself ragged getting the crayon marks off the walls, find all the important papers you’ll need to entice a buyer—things like the operating manuals and warranties for your appliances and HVAC system, and the paint color brand names you used on your walls. That will show your listing agent (me?) that you have things under control, even if you don’t. While you’re at it, pull out utility bills for the last 12 months. You’re probably still in denial about the money you’re wasting on water coming out of a leaky tap, but work through the pain and you’ll be A-OK. Those seasonal totals might even make your home look more appealing than the one down the street.
Straighten the Mail Box
If your house is the one with the mailbox that looks like a diseased tooth, you’re probably cringing right now. Straighten it up! Curb appeal is your friend! You want potential buyers to pass by and think someone else’s home (and not yours) is the eyesore. If you’re planning on listing your home, you have to lure people inside. To do that, you need to eliminate telltale signs that the property might be owned by a Stepford family.
Now is the time to go through your belongings and discover that there isn’t anything worth keeping. It’s a sad but liberating moment, and an annual purge is actually quite glorious. If most of your stuff is granny castoffs from the 1970s, de-cluttering your home will be easy. Things that you decide not to keep might be graciously accepted by a local charity. If a few big items are actually worth the cost of a moving van, rescue them from the general chaos and get rid of the rest. Ideally, your rooms should look open and somewhat empty (I say “spacious”). If they look more like a packed rent-a-space unit, you’ve got your work cut out for you.
Accept it. You’re never going to be able to successfully list your house without cleaning it first. Even a maid will probably take a pass on heavy-duty cleanup chores unless you make some inroads before passing the baton. If it has been a decade since you’ve washed the blinds, expect the process to be painful. Actually, dirt, dust, and grime may not be the worst part of tidying up. The worst part could be just getting to the places that need cleaning. Sure, it’s easy to recognize that you should pull the stove and the fridge out and clean behind them every couple of months, but bench-pressing your own weight may not be one of your many talents. Simple solution: bake a cake. The smell is bound to attract a somewhat willing laborer with upper body strength. Serving ice cream after you’ve finished is a nice touch, too.
Detail the Landscaping
You know when your honey spends all weekend detailing the car? Well, start doing that with your landscaping before you try to sell your home. Removing dead branches from trees, pulling weeds, painting fences, and fixing driveway cracks will keep your home from giving the impression that it’s gone native. Don’t risk having a house that looks like it belongs in one of those apocalypse horror movies where the only people left alive are eating dog food right out of the can.
Hide the Pets
Animals shouldn’t live in houses—at least according to the mantra of the real-estate industry. Do you own one of those slobbering, hairy pests that loves you unconditionally, protects you vigilantly, amuses you with its absurdities, and never judges you for your failings? Hide it. That way, you won’t have to explain how you managed to get the pet hair out of the air conditioning ducts (because you didn’t) or suck the pet dander out of the carpeting (never happened).
Take a Deep Breath—and Some Pictures
Yes, with some hard work and a little luck, you may be able to end up in the home of your dreams. Take some pictures before you do a major cleanup, though. Life’s passages can be so fleeting. Just when your kids are getting ready to move out for good, you’ll think back on the old house, with its clutter and tiny windows, and wish you’d kept a few pictures to remind you of what those unpredictable, implausible, frustrating, and totally extraordinary early years were all about.
Jeremy Fain is an accredited luxury home specialist with Greenwood Properties, as well as a member of the Houston Association of Realtors, Texas Association of Realtors, and the Luxury Home Council.