If a homeowner plans to put up a “For Sale” sign in the front yard this spring and summer — when many homes are put on the market — the time to start preparing is now, local real estate experts say.
“The most important thing a seller can do is to contact their agent when they are two to three months out to have them look at the house and give advice on what buyers are expecting the home condition to be right now,” said Shari Royston, managing broker at Keller Williams Greater 360 in Poulsbo.
Homes will face competition. The number of Kitsap County homes put on the market climbed nearly 75 percent between last May to June, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service says.
Once a homeowner decides to sell it’s good to have a licensed home inspector examine the place, advised Doug Miller, owner of South Kitsap Properties in Port Orchard. “The whole idea of having a pre-inspection is kind of like having a physical — it’s preventative maintenance making sure everything checks out with the house,” he said.
If the inspection reveals fixes are needed in areas important to buyers — like plumbing, electrical or structural issues — it’s best to address them before the house goes on the market, Miller said. The last thing a seller wants is a repair issue in the middle of a sale. “As a seller, you are already stressed about your move, maybe a little uptight about the timing of where you are ultimately moving to. Anything we can do to remove that stress ahead of time makes the process much smoother for you.”
The majority of home inspections are clean. Not many things show up and in most cases, the items that need attention are not terribly expensive to fix, Miller said. “You may find a leaky toilet seal or outlets that aren’t working properly. In some cases, we may find roof leaks. Here in Western Washington where we get so much rain there are times, we may find water in the crawl space.”
Royston said other advance work includes servicing the furnace, scrubbing the fireplace, and cleaning roof and gutters.
Getting a home in shape is particularly important in these times of higher interest rates, which have reduced the number of buyers. “Now buyers can be a little more choosy about the home condition and what they are willing to accept,” Royston said.
Even in the shifting real estate market, basic maintenance remains the order of the day. “We want to avoid [a buyer] thinking they have to remodel the kitchen or update a bathroom. Most of the time that is not the case. Repairs need to be done; updates don’t have to be,” Royston said.
If a major problem is noted, sellers can either open their wallet and fix it or factor the issue into the selling price, Kitsap Realtors say.
The adage you can only make a first impression once holds true in real estate. “The first impression that a buyer has of your home is paramount to getting your home sold. That first moment that they drive up to your home, a lot of times, can make or break whether a buyer is going to be interested,” Miller said.
Royston added: “We want them to pull up and go, ‘Oh, this is so cute,’ verses, “Oh, wow. There are a lot of overgrown bushes.’ We want that warm feeling from the minute they pull up to the curb.”
Inexpensive ways to enhance the curb appeal include manicuring the hedges, putting down fresh beauty bark, hanging flower baskets on the porch, and planting blooming flowers from the nursery. “Things as simple as painting the front door can make a huge difference in that making that first impression,” Miller said.
Improve the interior
Decluttering the inside of the house is also important. That makes the interior look as large and airy as possible, experts said.
“I use the term ‘minimizing,’” Miller said. “If there is too much furniture or things in rooms it can feel crowded or even feel darker. I’ll walk with [the owner] room by room and create a list of things to take out — like an end table, a recliner. Or, I’ll say, ‘Let’s move this chair against this wall or takeout the dining room table insert to make the room feel larger.’”
Depersonalizing the home is another way to make it feel inviting to a prospective buyer. That means taking down personal photographs and moving a knick-knacks collection into storage.
“Buyers going into your home want to see themselves in your home,” Miller said. “If your home has a lot of personal pictures, collectibles like baseball memorabilia, or things that are going to draw buyers’ attention away from the home we try to eliminate them. We try to make the home as neutral as possible so that when buyers go in, they can see themselves in the home. We want it to feel homey; we just don’t want it to be so obvious that it’s your home.”
Choosing a Realtor
Most homeowners facing the task of selling their home will want help. Getting the right real estate agent is key. In Kitsap, there are roughly 1,000 active agents and 139 real estate offices, the Kitsap County Association of Realtors says.
The right agent is a person the homeowner gets along with and is familiar with the neighborhood, Royston and Miller said. They also suggest looking up reviews of potential realtors to learn about their past job performance.