Zach and I have been saving up to put a down payment on a house next summer (hopefully). In the meantime, I’ve been looking around at different areas we’ve discussed–from Pittsburgh, PA to Durham, NC to Denver, CO. It’s likely that we’ll just stay in Morgantown for a few more years, but the idea of remaining stagnant just doesn’t sit well with me.
While it’s silly to look for houses more than a year before searching…it’s fun. And it gives you a good idea of what the market is like in different areas (not that it’s guaranteed to stay the same). What I find so frustrating, though, is how horribly some people take care of their houses. As the title of this blog post suggests, many houses are dirty. Not just dirt that’s collected over the years and is impossible to get out…but the kind of dirt that all but guarantees the owner of the house is a slob. Dishes in the sink, spaghetti sauce on the stove, clutter everywhere. They seem to think that they can put up pictures of their homes in any state of messiness, but clean up for the open house and things will be fine. Maybe some people don’t care, but I’m not one of them.
So for all of you homeowners out there looking to sell a house, here are the five (free) things that guarantee I will not be coming to your open house.
5. Close-ups of obscure objects around the house.
I don’t care how much you just love that light fixture you have hanging in the dining room. When I click to see pictures of your house, I want to see pictures of the house. I found one seller who posted five different pictures OF THE SAME CHANDELIER, but from different angles. Really? Come on. Chances are that my decorating tastes are not the same as yours. I’m probably going to tear out that light and install one I like. And even if I do absolutely love some of the smaller details of your home…those are things I want to discover when I actually take a tour of it.
What you should show instead: The room. I want to know how big it is and how open it is. Does your dining room connect to the kitchen or is it a separate, closed-off room. Does the kitchen lead out to the deck? Is your basement finished or is it dark and depressing? I want your pictures to give me a general idea of what I can expect when I walk into your home. I do not want to see the new faucet you just had installed. If you feel like you absolutely need to take pictures of these things…I can’t stop you. But at least include pictures of the entire area. Seriously, I just looked at a house that had a picture of the inside of their (ordinary) shower…and then nothing else. Useless.
4. Pictures of your furniture.
Why are you showing me a picture of your baby crib? Are you telling me I get to keep it? If it’s not included with the house, it doesn’t need to be photographed. The houses I’m more likely to look at are completely empty. I realize that’s not always possible…maybe you haven’t found a place to live or you just can’t move in yet. But why are you making that race car bed the focus of the picture? That doll house is taking up 90% of the frame. How is that helpful?
What you should show instead: Actually, it’s not a BAD idea to have a picture of your furniture…but I don’t suggest photographing it as is. Strip off the covers and add something bland and boring. You like turquoise and hot pink together? Your buyer probably doesn’t. If you’ve ever watched one of those house-selling shows on whatever channel used to show them (I haven’t watched cable in a while), then you know rule number one of showing your house is to make it as bland and neutral as possible. Why? Because buyers didn’t come to see your crap. They want to be able to visualize their crap inside your house. Which is why, if you can, it’s better to take a picture of an emptied (and cleaned!) room. If that’s just not possible, make it as neutral as you can. And if you can’t avoid taking a picture of your couch, then try to take it from an angle that doesn’t make it the center of attention. Keeping your furniture can give potential buyers a good idea of how big the room is (especially if they’re only on the “browsing the Internet” stage). However, furniture should not distract from the rest of the room.
3. Get rid of the clutter.
I know I’ve been harping on the fact that people want to see the house, not your stuff. But this is also true of decorations. As mentioned in #4, sometimes you have to keep your furniture in the picture. But you do not have to keep your decorations. Those are small enough to go into a box…which is exactly where it should be when you’re photographing your home. I once looked at a picture of some lady’s house…and all I kept wondering was WHY she had taken bags of trash and scattered it all over her living room. And then I looked closer and realized that it wasn’t trash…it was just a ton of knick-knacks. All over the walls, the floors, the furniture. There wasn’t a single bare space in her home. If that’s how you like your home to look, it’s your choice. You’re the one living there. But once you put your house on the market…that stuff has to go. At least until you get the pictures done. That woman had a fireplace and I couldn’t even see it…despite the fact that she took a picture directly of it. There was faaaar too much stuff in the frame.
What you should show instead: Ideally, bare walls. As I stated earlier, people want to imagine their stuff in your home. When they look at your pictures or even walk into your house and see a wall covered in family photos, what you are unintentionally telling them is that this is YOUR home. And then they feel uncomfortable. You do not want that. The more neutral and bare you can make your house, the more comfortable people will feel thinking about it as their house. They shouldn’t feel the need to ask your permission to walk into your bedroom, but they will as long as your stuff is constantly reminding them that you live there. If a buyer feels uncomfortable in your home, for any reason, they are less likely to buy. So clear that out. That also goes for you parents who just covered your child’s bedroom in Tinkerbell. Seriously, it has to go.
2. Horrible wallpaper/paint decisions.
I may have said this above, but your buyer will most likely not have the same taste as you. You like bright colors and throw pillows that say, “Brat,” “Pink,” and “Daddy’s Girl” (yes, this is a real life example of as house I looked at just this morning). Your buyer might be into shabby chic. Or vice versa. Now…I love the color red. It’s my favorite. But I am turned off from a house when I see bright red walls. Anything that is too unique or anything that fits your personality needs to go. Now…a subtle wallpaper is fine. But if you have trimming that says, “Steeler Nation” all over it, I’m sorry, but that needs ripped down. (Actually, I don’t advocate leaving any kind of trimming up. It makes the room look shorter.)
What you should show instead: As I keep saying, neutral is the way to go. If you can take down that wallpaper, do it and put up a fresh coat of paint in a light, neutral color like beige, white, light blue, a subtle lilac, or even sage. But bold colors make too much of your personality show through. What the buyer wants is to imagine their personality in the home. It’s hard to do that with a mural of the Pillsbury Dough Boy on your kitchen wall.
1. Clean your messes!
I cannot stress this enough. In certain cases, I can look past all the other things I listed above…not always, but sometimes. But this one…I will click the back button so fast it will make you dizzy. I can’t tell you the number of houses I’ve looked at and thought, “This person is disgusting.” You want to show your home? Wash the dishes! No, I’m serious. Who takes a picture of DIRTY DISHES? Clean that crap up. You see the egg and sauce you spilled all over your stove? So do I! WIPE IT UP! There is no excuse. The only reason that is there is because you’re lazy. And, honestly, when I see that you can’t even clean up after yourself, my next thought is, “I wonder what kind of damage they did that I will wind up fixing.” Like, I don’t know, dripping water all over the bathroom floor and not wiping it up…which can cause it to develop mold and start rotting (another real-life example, sadly). It’s amazing how different a bedroom looks when you make the bed. When you post pictures of the outside of your house, I do not want to see two weeks’ worth of trash bags that you just remembered to take outside. Seriously…try to make your home look like it isn’t being occupied by a cave troll!
What you should show instead: Literally anything else. This also extends farther than just messes. Are you in the process of putting in new flooring? Fantastic! That’s a great idea when selling your home. But I do not want to see a picture of the process. Take a picture of the side of the room that doesn’t have holes where tile should be. Your house does not need to look like a professional decorator came in and did all the work for you. Just clean it up.
You would think I wouldn’t have to put that last one on there. But wow. Some people just have no sense. What isn’t surprising? Many of those houses have been on the market for at least a year (some for longer!) and have subsequently dropped thousands to tens of thousands of dollars in price.
Follow these guidelines and you may be surprised by the increased number of interested people you get. Remember: selling your home isn’t about what you want, it’s about what you’re buyer wants. Most things, they can fix themselves…but you have to convince them that your home is worth fixing up. Good luck!