If you have decided that you’re ready to sell your home and have found a professional, experienced and qualified real estate agent to help you sell, the next step in the process is to let potential home buyers come to view your property in person to assess whether yours is a home that they can see themselves living in for years to come.
A lot of effort goes into marketing campaigns for your property. There’s the professional photos, the listings in newspapers and online and, eventually, the inspections by potential buyers. And even though real estate agencies’ approach to marketing is constantly changing to keep up with the times, the open home inspection looks to be a mainstay of property marketing in Australia.
This part of the selling process is can make or break a sale, and potential buyers will arrive at your property and expect to see what they saw in the marketing material that was put out by the real estate agency you use to help you sell your property, which is why home sellers can’t drop the ball here. We’ve all experienced the deception of the internet at some point, and people who are looking to invest in a property will be acutely aware of this when viewing a property.
Open home inspections are more than just viewings of the property. The main aim with home inspections is to emotionally engage potential buyers who already found your home appealing when viewing it on sales platforms. This is your chance to make potential buyers decide that your property just feels right. Don’t trivialise the way a property makes potential buyers feel: a home that doesn’t elicit an emotional response from buyers won’t stand out from the thousands of other properties that are on show every day.
While some home inspections have set times, but it might also happen that your real estate agent calls you to say he’s five minutes away with people who are interested in buying your property. Even worse: he takes people to view your property when you’re not there.
How To Be Inspection Ready When Selling Your Home
1. The basics matter
There are a few things you can do to ensure your home is always ready to be viewed by (and to impress) potential buyers. Here’s how to be inspection-ready all the time.
Even though you’re still living and following your normal routine in the property you’re looking to sell, you might have to be ready to open the door and have potential buyers view your home at a moment’s notice. If the viewing is unexpected, or happens just after you’ve arrived home from work, you probably won’t have time to properly clean and dust every room.
While it is true that your surfaces probably won’t sparkle as much if you have just a few minutes before people arrive, as opposed to having a day’s notice, there are some small, basic things you can do to make sure the house is tidy and presentable.
- Do the dishes every evening: It’s easier to rinse two cups, two glasses and four plates every evening, than to dash through the house looking for used mugs and facing a mountain of dishes and a dirty kitchen that needs to sparkle in five. Remember to take out the rubbish before the smell becomes apparent.
- Make the beds every morning: It really doesn’t take any effort to make the beds in the morning. A bed that is neatly made instantly makes a room look tidy.
- Keep personal effects and clutter to the minimum: If you got rid of personal effects and sentimental items for that first home inspection, it’s easy to keep it that way. Small knick-knacks may mean the world to you, but these distract potential buyers from picturing themselves in the space.
- Clean and tidy as you go: Getting into the habit of keeping your home clean and tidy entails a few small things every day, instead of leaving a big mess to clean up just before people arrive. Clear used cups and dishes from the living room as soon as you’ve finished using them and pick up toys when you see them lying around. Store toiletries under the basin in the bathroom instead of on it, and you’ve already taken great strides in ensuring that the bathroom (one of the rooms that potential buyers will inspect very thoroughly) is always neat.
Mobile storage like boxes that are marked according to the room that contains the items you are storing away can go a long way to aid you in quickly getting rid of clutter before potential buyers arrive. Put away anything that doesn’t serve a specific purpose or don’t contribute to the general look of your property. This can include anything that you do not use often, as well as personal and sentimental items that prevent people from seeing themselves living in the home – your real estate agent will be able to advise you what these items could be. Store the boxes in the garage or another space where they won’t draw attention.
You might feel tempted to stuff everything you aren’t using into closets and cupboards, but beware – potential buyers may want to open them to see what space is available, and you don’t want to be left red-faced. Take the time and tidy your cupboards and closets one weekend, and keep them tidy. You’ll be grateful when it comes to packing when moving to your new house. In this regard, the philosopher Horace’s words ring true: “He who has begun has half done”.
2. The outside is the first impression
Do not underestimate the impact that kerb appeal has to attract potential buyers to your property. This is an easy and inexpensive way to impress potential buyers from the very start, and it takes very little effort to get it right.
Clear the garden and make sure that the boundaries between your garden and your neighbour’s garden are clearly defined. If you’ve never really been a gardener, you don’t have to start now – a few simple plants in pots at the front door are warm and welcoming and can be bought from the nursery, minimising the effort you have to put in. Do make sure that the garden is free of weeds, though. Start watering the lawn a few weeks before your property goes on show and remember to keep it trimmed and neat at all times. Make sure that there is no rubbish on the kerbside on days when you are expecting to have viewings, and make sure all the mail is removed from the letterbox.
People like to call the entrance and front door of a property the house’s handshake, and for good reason: some stylists believe that potential home buyers make a decision about a property within ten seconds of entering a home. If your front door is looking worse for wear, that’s an immediate bad impression. Sand down doors that are weathered and give them a fresh coat of paint. For a personal and inviting touch, replace a ragged doormat. Remember, you want to welcome potential buyers into their new home from the very start.
Clean the windows that face the street. This will not only allow for natural light to enter your house, it will also give the impression of a home that is well maintained and clean. Small things like clean windows often draw the attention away from that corner where you forgot to dust, and buyers appreciate the effort. Cleaning windows is not something that needs to be done on a weekly basis, but doing it before your home is put on the market will make a much bigger difference than you might think.
3. Clean as you go
Nobody is saying you have to spring clean the entire house every day. Simply cleaning up as you go will keep the house clean, neat and tidy without you even realising you’re doing it.
Wipe and mop up spills, use the toilet brush in the toilet every day, rinse out the basins… all of these things take a few minutes at most, but will ensure that your house is always clean, not just on the day after you’ve completed your weekly cleaning spree.
If you’ve had a particularly crazy day and the house still seems to be a mess even though you’ve religiously kept tidying up as you go, there are ways to quickly create the illusion of a sparkling clean house without having to actually clean every nook and cranny.
Clear the clutter in each room by using mobile storage, and then turn your attention to the two rooms that potential buyers will pay the most attention to: the kitchen and the bathroom. Wipe down surfaces, countertops, the shower floor and tub, as well as the fridge. Quickly run a mop over the floors in these rooms, and make sure the fixtures and faucets are sparkling by wiping them down.
If you do have some more time on your hands, you need not feel overwhelmed by the size of rooms that need to be cleaned. Getting into the habit of working the room from top to bottom and left to right will give your cleaning some kind of logical order, and will ensure that you don’t miss any obvious spots. Start by dusting from the top down, and then clean and tidy from left to right, paying particular attention to items and areas that will draw the attention of potential buyers. These include ovens, floors, and fixtures in the kitchen and bathroom. If you know what potential buyers will look for, it’s easier to make sure that these eye-catchers are always clean.
By following this routine every day or two, and then cleaning the house more thoroughly and deeply once a week, your property will always be in a state that you won’t have to feel embarrassed about, and you won’t have to constantly be cleaning, or scurrying around to get everything done in a few minutes.
4. Make sure all repairs and renovations are already done
Nothing is more off-putting to potential buyers than repairs and renovations that are not done prior to an open home inspection. Your real estate agent knows which repairs are more urgent than others, and knows what absolutely has to be done before meticulous potential buyers come to view your property.
As mentioned earlier, the bathroom is one of the rooms in your house that potential buyers will inspect with a hawk’s eye. Plumbing and water-related issues should never be left or not disclosed. These can rarely be hidden, and water stains and corrosion will be a red flag that can put potential buyers off even considering buying your home. The same goes for clogged drains, water penetration issues and any kind of dampness. Check your water pressure – because you can be sure that potential buyers will – and repair any water-related problems before putting your house on show.
Just like water issues, cracks in the wall and wall plastering may not be major problems, but potential buyers might see them as such. A fresh coat of paint livens up a space and gives the impression that a home is well maintained.
In the kitchen, all fitted appliances should be in a good working condition, and the taps and sinks should also be working and without drainage or water pressure problems. Buyers will check this when they come to view the property, so you’d do well to take care of any issues before they notice them.
Pay special attention to the state of your roof, as any problems in this regard will automatically discourage potential buyers from considering buying your property. Even though roof repairs may be a bigger expense than other repairs in and around the house, you will be making your pool of potential buyers much smaller if you neglect to repair this.
When it comes to repairs and improvements around the home, a qualified and experienced real estate agent is your best advisor. Real estate agents will consider your budget and make recommendations accordingly, and the advice they give in this regard should not be taken lightly, as they have been down this road before and have your best interests at heart.
5. Get tips from the experts
A home that is well presented put buyers’ minds at ease, because it suggests that they probably won’t have to deal with any hidden problems after they have bought the property. Real estate agents will often recommend professionally staging your home for marketing purposes. This step in the marketing process can make the difference between a home that has average appeal, to a home that has potential buyers scrambling over one another to buy it.
If you had professional photographers take pictures of your property to use for marketing purposes, take a page from their book. Photographers often style rooms and areas in and around the house in a way that is meant to attract the attention of potential buyers. Take a second look at the photographs that were taken, and try to style your home in a manner that is similar to the way the photographer did it before potential buyers start viewing the property. There’s nothing wrong with adding a personal touch, but keep in mind that these are professionals who know what appeals to the broader market.
The interior of your home is just as important as its kerb appeal, and trying to style your house in such a way that it speaks to a wide range of tastes isn’t as difficult as you might think. Investing in something as small as white towels in the bathroom give a home a spa-like feel, not to mention that you’ll have beautiful towels for guests the next time someone comes to visit.
If your taste tends to be eclectic, try to tone it down a notch by putting away any items that draw attention for all the wrong reasons. You’ll know which items these are, as the photographer will immediately remove them so they’re out of the shot when coming to take pictures of your property.
Aim for a colour palette that is more monochrome than Joseph’s-Amazing-Technicolour-Dreamcoat. Sure, people will style the home exactly like they want it after they’ve bought it, but colours and décor that are overwhelming can hurt your chances of that happening.
Quirky décor is fine, as long as it seems to fit with the general feel and atmosphere of the home. A modern home that is kitted out with furniture that was popular a few decades ago is just as bothersome as a Queenslander-style home with an interior that looks like it’s from 2050. Interior décor should always enhance the style of the home, because it’s the style of the home that attracts potential buyers to it. If you’re not sure how to make this happen, hand it over to a professional who will style your home correctly.
Finally, add some flair by creating sitting areas that just beg the seller to sit down and absorb a home’s ambience. Quick tip: creating a seating area in the bedroom can also make it seem bigger than it actually is.
Opening all the windows at least an hour before people arrive gets rid of any odours that you may not be aware of and leave it smelling fresh. If you have pets or children, let them spend time outside while the property is being viewed so as not to distract potential homebuyers from the task at hand.
Also: putting some freshly baked cookies out for buyers to enjoy while they chew on the idea of buying your home isn’t bribery. It makes potential buyers feel comfortable, and the aroma will ensure that they remember your property.
Open home inspections are the final step in your and your real estate agent’s efforts to sell your home at the best possible price. Neglecting this step in the selling process could ultimately have a big influence on the price your house fetches when it is sold, and also on the average days it spends on market.
A house that is clean and uncluttered should be a given, but there are easy ways to ensure that your home is always welcoming and sparkling when potential buyers come to view it, even if you don’t have a full-time housekeeper.
Getting into a routine of keeping things neat and tidy around the house is as easy as clearing away and cleaning as you go. Don’t forget to pay attention to your home’s first impression. The garden, driveway and front door will be scrutinised by potential buyers and will lead them to making their first judgements about the property, so making sure these areas are well maintained will create an expectation that the rest of the house is well looked-after, too.
Listen to your real estate agent when they make recommendations about repairs and renovations that should be done prior to having buyers view your property, and ensure that the biggest repairs are done as quickly as possible. This will help you and your real estate agent to avoid uncomfortable questions and negotiations to bring the price of the property down.
You don’t have to be an interior decorator to style your home in a way that appeals to the broader market, either. Stick to colour palettes that are neutral rather than loud, and put away anything that could be deemed offensive or tacky.
In the end, it’s the small things that matter. You want potential buyers to be able to imagine themselves in your home, and like everything else, first impressions matter. Just keeping a few small things in check will make it easier to stick to a routine of keeping things tidy and being ready whenever opportunity knocks.
Contact Perfect Agent to find a real estate agent who is qualified and experienced and has a proven track record of sales, and don’t hesitate to ask for advice from your agent when it comes to the little things that mean the difference between a sale and a loss.