Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - August 10, 2012

Real Estate Matters

Is your home ready to set sail (sic), to command the highest and best price?

by Nancy MacLeod

There is no magic in achieving the goal: It takes planning and effort to prepare any home for sale. As a rule of thumb, never invest more in improvements than you will get in return. Even if you break even that is OK because it helps to sell quickly once your home is introduced to the market.

Assemble a crew to set your sail (sic): a Realtor you trust who knows the market, a home inspector who will prepare a report outlining the condition of your home, a pest-control company that will prepare a pest-control report, a stager to install furniture in some of the rooms and a contractor who can make the corrections recommended by the other crew members.

If the obvious problems are corrected prior to inspections it will look less threatening to a potential buyer. The corrections noted on the reports can be corrected and marked as completed on the report even if it is an "as-is" sale. The buyer will feel more confident if you have shown an effort to deliver a home in "move-in" condition.

Cleanliness is a must. Perform a self-test by walking down the path to your front door, observing everything as you walk. Pretend this is not your home but a potential home to buy putting yourself in the buyer's shoes. Now, open the front door and walk in. Go through every room in the house with an eagle's eye. You can do the same throughout the yard.

If you are serious about your observations you will be amazed at what you discover. None of us are perfect. We live in our domains so do not expect to find perfection, but your buyer will want it! So give them as much as you can to invite a good offer that may get bid to the highest selling price one can achieve.

Windows should sparkle and floors should shine. If old carpet covers hardwood floors have it removed and refinish the hardwood. This is a plus for the buyer and will reap many more thousands of dollars in your pocket.

Paint inside and out so everything looks fresh. Do not be afraid of color as long as it is subtle. The walls can be white or a soft neutral and then paint a wall in some rooms with an accent color.

Staging is important because an empty room looks smaller and the furnishings are fresh and new. Many buyers have difficulty visualizing placing their furniture so the staging makes it more inviting and creates ideas for the buyer.

The garden and grounds should be neat and tidy with some flowering plants to give color. Covering the bare land with bark gives a fresh neat appearance. If the lawn is shabby have a gardener add seed with fertilizer on top and in about three weeks your lawn will look lush and green. Water often.

The vast majority of buyers today review photos and virtual tours prior to visiting the open house. Professional photos enhance the listing through newspapers and the Internet.

Your agent will supply many disclosure forms that will need your attention. Protect yourself and the buyer. List every negative detail with your home and be totally honest in your reporting. By doing so you are protecting yourself and the buyer.

Price is crucial and sometimes cannot be determined until the home is ready to go on the market. Many factors come into play: how many homes are on the market; what are the most recent sales within the past weeks; what is the competition in your price range and size.

If possible move out altogether or partially. Consider taking a vacation the first week it goes on the market. The average Days on the Market (DOM) in Palo Alto are as follows: $5 million-plus = 6 DOM; $3 to 5 million = 23 DOM; $2 to 3 million = 21 DOM; and $2 million and under 9-13 DOM. These statistics are derived from the average of 152 homes sold from March through June of this year in Palo Alto. Approximately 20 percent of the homes sold never hit the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

OK, you are ready to sail (sic), so hang onto the helm because you are in for a cruise.

Nancy MacLeod has run an independent boutique real estate firm, Homes2Buy.com, since 1999. She was named Palo Alto Realtor of the Year in 2011. She can be reached at nancy@homes2buy.com.

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