Selling in Spring: Start Now!

It may feel like the dead of winter, but here in Northern Virginia, many homeowners are already gearing up for the spring home selling season. With low inventory across the region, buyers from Fairfax to Stafford and beyond are expected to kick off their spring home searches as early as March. If you’re planning to sell your home this spring, right now is the time to prep! Putting off what you may think are minor details can cost you significant delays when it comes time to list – which could mean fewer offers and a lower sale price.

 

NOW IS THE TIME!

By April (and in some areas, as early as March), many families will be on a mission to move before their children start the next school year. You want your house to capture their attention and imagination; you want their first glance to feel like a homecoming. Spring buyers are not just motivated because of the time of year, the warm weather and beautiful atmosphere inspires many families to see what’s out there. Leverage that excitement, and make your home the most desirable one they tour. Start the process with an experienced local real estate professional; do that now, before you do anything else. An experienced agent knows exactly what work will produce a positive return on investment in your neighborhood. Together, walk through the house and make a list of anything damaged or stained that should get fixed, replaced or cleaned. Discuss what work is likely to increase your sale price well above its cost. The value of an upgrade can vary widely from street to street here in Northern Virginia, but there are many things that are almost always well worth the time and money. Below are the steps I encourage most of my own clients to take prior to going on the market.

 

HOME PREP THAT PAYS

Before making a checklist of the visible fixups in your home, your agent may recommend ordering an inspection report. Any major foundation, plumbing, electrical, or mechanical fixes can be discussed and – if warranted – knocked out early in the process.

Begin your checklist by walking around the exterior. Check your roof, gutters and chimney for evidence of visible disrepair. You may need to give the driveway a new coat of slurry seal, power wash the deck and house, and apply stain or paint in certain areas. Inspect the caulking around your windows and the weather stripping around your doors. Consider repainting the front door and the trim (e.g., awnings and shutters).

Also, don’t forget the house number, which should be visible on the curb as well as the house. Next, walk through the home and make a list of every little thing that doesn’t exude “welcoming, clean, stylish, and up to date.” This is about updating your home to show your personality; it’s about creating an inviting and tasteful atmosphere that any number of personalities would be drawn to. New light fixtures, ceiling fans and hardware are small ways to make a big impression. And of course, there’s nothing like fresh paint to brighten up a room (especially if there are nicotine stains on the ceiling or nail holes in the walls).

When it comes to paint, white is a common go-to color because it seems safe, but it can actually come off somewhat stark. To soften the effect, try creamy colors such as oatmeal or khaki, or warm hues like gray or sage. A latex semi-gloss provides a subtle shine, while an eggshell finish adds some texture. Easy-to-clean walls are always a plus, especially in the bathrooms and kitchen. Stick to neutral colors, don’t go crazy, and skip the faux finishes. Let the new homeowners see an inviting but blank canvas, one they personalize at their discretion. In the kitchen, sometimes a full remodel makes sense. But more often than not, you can actually get more bang for your buck by doing an inexpensive facelift. A new coat of stain or paint on the cabinets, new cabinet door handles and drawer pulls, and modern sink fixtures can add thousands to your sale price. You may even want to install a backsplash of tile, tin or copper. You can replace a flat cooktop and the front panel of the dishwasher to resolve minor damage issues without buying new appliances. And remember, keep your style choices modern, neutral, and in line with the age and style of the rest of the home.

When in doubt, consult your agent. Once your painting, repairs, and updates are done, work on de-cluttering. Yes, this includes the garage! Some of my clients rent a temporary storage for things they won’t need for a while, so buyers can walk through clean, open spaces. A hundred dollars or so to show an cleared-out home can mean thousands more in an offer! The final step in preparing your home is a thorough deep cleaning. If you don’t have several days to spare, or if you have doubts about your cleaning skills, it may be worth a couple hundred dollars to hire professional help. You’ll want to vacuum and shampoo the carpets, sand and polish any hardwood floors, and bleach or replace the grout between your tiles (on the floors as well as around the bathtub). Wash the windows, wipe the baseboards and crown molding, and dust and sweep every corner of every room. Scrub the bathrooms, shine the shower doors, mirrors and hardware, and clean in and around the sink and toilet. If your kitchen appliances are original, be sure they are free of any buildup, especially if you are replacing a cooktop or panel.

 

WHEN YOUR WORK IS DONE, YOUR AGENT’S WORK BEGINS

When you’ve finished all your prep and cleaning, do a final walk-through to make sure nothing got overlooked. Once your home is market-ready, your agent should call in professional stagers and photographers. He or she should then price your home according to how the market is performing and how well your home shows. Depending on your location, a well executed pricing strategy on a beautifully staged home could mean multiple offers and an above asking sale price. Here at Linton Hall Realtors, we spend a ton of time and money pinpointing the perfect asking price and creating stunning presentations for our listings, and we market them aggressively across multiple channels. When we’re able to push these listings out early in the season, they get a lot more attention than late-to-the market homes. For a successful spring sale, take my advice and get to work now!

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