On the House: Prepping homes for the spring market: Tried and true

Paying attention to curb appeal gets buyers to slow down and see what else your house offers.
Paying attention to curb appeal gets buyers to slow down and see what else your house offers. (DANIEL ACKER / Bloomberg)
Posted: February 17, 2014

For many years, my late-winter routine was to write about real estate agents' suggestions for getting houses ready for sale.

It worked fairly well from 1993 to 2002. As the market began to boom and buyers were offering anything sellers wanted, no matter the condition, the annual exercise seemed pointless, though.

Then the bubble burst, sales and prices plummeted, and the best advice I could offer was to leave buying bank-owned repossessions to the professionals, who appeared to be wallowing in cash.

With the housing market moving slowly toward one that most real estate agents would consider normal, perhaps it's time to resume the ritual, or at least to find out whether and how the advice has changed.

Two constants endure: curb appeal and pricing properly for a quick sale and an acceptable return.

Curb appeal is even more important now than in the past, because today's picky buyers won't even slow to the speed limit if they detect a turkey.

As Jennifer Radonski, of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Fox & Roach's Southampton office, suggests, sellers should not go overboard when attending to outdoor areas.

"Sellers of average homes should focus on 'pretty, not pricey,' " Radonski said.

"Make sure the lawn looks full and green. Make sure the edges of the lawn are neat. Keep the grass trimmed. Put fresh mulch in the beds. Plant flowers. Pull weeds. Put tools, toys, and trash cans away. Rake leaves. Shovel snow."

If the deck is warped or splintered or has loose boards, fix that, she said.

"Buyers hate wooden decks that have seen better days, [yet] it's really not necessary to spend a lot of money."

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, Radonski said.

Before digital photography made it easy, agents recommended that people planning to sell in the off-season have photographs showing their property in its best light.

That's sound advice.

"While buyers these days are more educated in many aspects of the process and what to look for in a home than they were in the past, what we used to advise sellers to do in the spring to prepare their home for sale still holds true: the Three D's - depersonalize, de-clutter, and deodorize," said John Badalamenti, of BHHS Fox & Roach in Collegeville.

Since 1993, most real estate agents have called on home stagers to carry out this process. Having a professional do it speeds up the time to market.

Depersonalizing was once summed up by an agent this way: If your son's room is papered with posters of heavy-metal bands, take them down.

That also goes for those family photos lining the stairways - even though removing them leaves evidence of their departure behind on the walls.

De-cluttering not only helps a seller cull what he or she will have to move, it also opens up a vast amount of space.

"Clutter eats equity," said Noelle Barbone, of Weichert Realtors' Media office. "Clear the clutter. Less is more."

Deodorizing means really freshening the air. Don't hide smells with potpourri, since, as an apartment manager once told me, too much is a dead giveaway of a deeper problem.

Barbone's agents also suggested home inspections before listing, but there's a big debate among Realtors about that.

A new one on the list: a pre-listing stucco inspection, because many employers of relocation buyers are recommending against buying the stucco homes, Barbone said.


215-854-2472 @alheavens

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