Architect Chris French and his wife, Anya Landau French, turned up the volume on their vacant Washington condominium apartment with designer-inspired contemporary furnishings — leather living room furniture, glass and metal side tables, a black dining room table and a fake TV.
The aim of the makeover was to draw a buyer who would snap up the property — a person their professional stager imagined would be in his or her late 20s or early 30s, seeking the stability of homeownership.
“It’s a bit of a mad rush,” Chris French said about his efforts to get a head start on the spring market.
Real estate experts say now is the right time to get ready for the spring selling season. The to-do list is long, from researching agents to painting and planting.
“There are so many things, sometimes you kind of freeze,” says Jennifer Nangle, an agent with Re/Max Realty Services, the Nangle Group. “It can seem daunting, but so much of it is tidying.”
To help you manage all the tasks, we’ve consulted with real estate brokers, mortgage lenders, contractors and other experts about the most essential preparations.
• Choose agents, contractors and other professionals carefully. Many agents have preferred professionals they deal with, including mortgage companies, home inspectors, photographers, stagers, professional cleaners and contractors.
“We can save people a lot of headaches,” says Rachel Valentino, an agent with Keller Williams.
Some real estate teams offer packages of services, which might include professional photographers and designers or discounts on movers and home warranties.
Although buyers generally get home inspections, some sellers also arrange for a pre-listing inspection. Nangle and some other agents recommend it.
“They don’t want any surprises,” says Joseph Walker, a home inspector and president of Claxton Walker & Associates in Annapolis, Md.
An inspection provides not only important information — how many years left before a roof needs to be replaced, for example — but a thorough to-do list.
“That way there aren’t a lot of things that could clog up the sale,” Walker says. “The seller isn’t trying to make repairs at a panic pace.”
• Gather paperwork and do the math. Now is the time to crunch numbers. What are the comparable sales? What do you owe on the mortgage? How would making various repairs improve your bottom line?
If you don’t decide to make a particular upgrade — replacing a worn floor, for example — Nangle recommends getting estimates for the work.
“I think it’s a good idea to get photos or illustrations of how it would look, and show the numbers,” she says. “It gives [potential buyers] an idea of what can be done.”
• De-clutter. While you’re looking through file cabinets and drawers for tax returns and receipts, you might as well clean them out. “Seventy-five percent is a matter of freshening up and de-cluttering,” says Brian Block, managing broker of Re/Max Allegiance.
You probably know the golden rule about clearing off counters, dressers and tables, but don’t forget inside the refrigerator and inside closets, because potential buyers will look in them.