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Selling your home this spring? Grab a copy of HomeLight’s Top Agent Insights Report for Q1 of 2019. We surveyed over 900 top agents across America’s hottest real estate markets to bring their expertise to you, the homeowner, on a variety of topics. In there, you’ll find the latest market trends, home staging secrets, and the ROI of common projects around the house.
Plus, we‘ve condensed and organized all the seasonal advice here in one place as a resource for spring sellers that will stand true every year, including color commentary from agents collected from the survey that you can’t get from the report alone.
If your house needs a little extra TLC (and whose doesn’t after this harsh, wet winter?) follow this game plan to tackle necessary maintenance, deep clean, and apply impactful staging touches based on recommendations from the best agents in the business.
How is the spring 2019 market shaping up?
As the snow melts and flowers start to bloom, buyers come out of hibernation and start hunting for their perfect home. For this reason, year after year, spring is one of the best seasons to sell a home in many markets. And, 2019 is no exception—according to Freddie Mac’s March Forecast, the rebound in consumer confidence and lower mortgage rates will drive a strong spring home-selling season.
But if you think you’re the only homeowner on the block with the idea of a spring listing, do a quick cruise around the neighborhood and count the for-sale signs. You’re likely not alone—so it’s a bit of catch-22: there’s more buyers out there, but also more homes to compete against.
Though more than 58% of surveyed agents believe that we’re still in a seller’s market as of the first quarter of 2019, nearly half also say that inventory is on the rise. So, now’s when you have to put your best foot forward when it comes to selling your house to make sure you get the most value out of your investment. From big-ticket maintenance issues to pricing advice, here’s what top agents had to say about selling your home in the spring.
Get serious about spring cleaning
Virtually all agents recommend sellers declutter and deep clean their house before putting it on the market. If you don’t, you’re frankly leaving money on the table. The survey showed that decluttering and deep cleaning can add nearly $4,000 in resale value to your list price.
Start with these spring cleaning tasks agents are most likely to recommend (as shown in the chart above!)
1. Declutter countertops and surfaces
97% of top agents recommend decluttering countertops (and junked-up spaces around the house) to prepare your home for sale.
First, take care of the mess in the kitchen. Clear up the scattered paperwork, stacks of unopened mail, chargers, and random mugs. Find space in your kitchen cabinets for storage, then put items in containers like these stackable woven storage bins so that you can organize by category: One for extra sponges, one for computer and phone chargers, and so on.
Then, place only the essentials on the countertop, such as a clean coffee maker, toaster, and decorative spice rack.
Bathroom countertops also tend to get cluttered over time with empty bottles of face wash, used razors, soaps, and bobby pins lying around. Pack up the hair dryers and shavers (gross). Then, scrub the sink until it’s spotless and that most of your toiletries are either organized in the medicine cabinet or cleared away completely.
Add a bathroom tray with a soap dispenser and clean rolled up towels instead of leaving out your gray, overused toothbrushes for display.
2. Wash your windows
Window washing likely isn’t in your frequent house-cleaning rotation of tasks, but it can make a big difference in how your house shows.
From inside the house, you’ll want to wipe down the glass panels with cleaning solution to get rid of smear marks and dust. From the outside, we recommend using a squeegee to clean the windows that you can reach (follow-up with a towel to remove swipe marks). For exterior second-story windows, your best bet is to hire a professional window cleaning service.
3. Dust and wipe every shelf and cabinet
Nearly 90% of agents advise sellers to dust shelves, lamps, and ceiling fans, and wipe down cabinets, closets, and baseboards as part of their home prep. You can use a Swiffer duster and follow-up each area with disinfectant, like Clorox wipes.
4. Polish hardwood floors
Polish up your hardwood floors before you list so that the years of wear and tear aren’t as noticeable when buyers step into your home.
To tackle this project, first test a small, unnoticeable portion of the floor to make sure it won’t cause any damage. Some floors need to be waxed instead of polished and the wrong technique or solution could dull the finish.
Then, move aside as much furniture as possible and give the floors a quick vacuum to get rid of any dust and debris. For each area of the floor, whether it’s your dinette or hallway, pour small amounts of polish and work a flat-surface mop over the floors. Wait at least a day before moving anything back so that the polish can settle in. And, boom! Squeaky clean and polished floors that you can see your reflection in.
5. Get rid of the dog smell
Don’t let your house get overpowered by the musty stench wafting from your sweet 11-year-old dog’s bed cushion. 57% of agents surveyed suggest owners wash pet beds and crates as part of their spring listing preparations.
Vacuum the bed, carpets, and areas that your pet likes to lounge around to get most of the shedding. Then, spray down the bed with pet odor and stain remover and get to scrubbing. Many pet beds are machine washable, so once you’ve pre-treated it, you can toss it in the wash. Otherwise, see if you can remove the cover from the bed to toss in the laundry.
Focus on curb appeal: Make your home stand out from the street
Spring brings fresh green lawns, healthy tree leaves sprouting out of their buds, and bright perennials bringing life to your yard.
But, take a look around—mildew on the porch, dead leaves leftover from the fall, and piles of weeds and debris at every corner of your house. Oof, there’s a lot to do before you can sell your house.
Mindy Olander, a top-selling agent in St. Petersburg, Florida, believes that spring landscaping can breathe new life into your home. “Make sure your exterior is an amazing focal point,” she commented in the survey.
“If the buyers pull up and your landscaping is excellent, it already begins to create a positive mindset before they open the front door.”
90% of surveyed agents agree with Olander that homeowners must tackle landscaping and curb appeal before selling a home. Here are four ways you can spruce up your curb appeal for the spring season:
6. Tend to the yard and landscape
A simple way to take care of the lawn is to rake away the debris and tree branches and get them into compost bags for your city pickup. Bust out the lawn mower and then with sturdy shears, trim and prune the overgrown shrubs and smaller trees.
Spring is the best time to add fertilizer to the lawn, which you’ll want to maintain a healthy green for when home buyers come to view your home. Popular Mechanics, a longstanding DIY home improvement magazine, provides an easy to follow guide on what kind of fertilizer to use for your lawn (alternatively, you can hire it out to a local lawn care company).
7. Plant pops of color and lay down fresh mulch
About 83% of agents in the survey agree that adding bright flowers and fresh mulch is a great way to amp up curb appeal.
Depending on the mood you want to set for the buyer, stick to brightly colored flowers that reflect the vibrant season and will catch buyers’ eye. Red flower varieties, like zinnia, pop against a neutral-colored home while yellow flowers, like easy-to-maintain daffodils, exude warmth and happiness.
Before you get to planting, make sure to re-mulch your flower beds. You only need an inch of fresh mulch for the beds, which will help your flowers retain moisture and keep the lawn looking clean for the rest of spring.
8. Make sure the front door is pristine
The key to swoon-worthy curb appeal is a functional, spotless, and newly painted front door with a few simple decorative touches.
First things first, make sure the door works. The creaks that wake up the whole neighborhood and key-shoving that you tolerate when trying to lock the door won’t impress buyers.
So, check if the door opens and closes, that it latches well, and it doesn’t let in a draft. Most common door problems include sagging and sticking, and you’ll need to get those items addressed before you list.
Then grab a rag, a mixture of gentle dish soap diluted with water, and scrub down the dirt and grime on the door, doorbell, and fixtures.
Be sure to get into every corner and wipe away any cobwebs, dead bugs, and dust.
Lastly, touch up the paint for your front door. Cover up any chips and scratches, or consider repainting the door a different, brighter color altogether, such as Greek Isles from Behr or Living Coral, the Pantone color of the year, to add spring vibes and appeal.
Take care of necessary repairs and general upkeep
From the survey, top agents ranked these top 5 spring maintenance items as must-fixes before selling a house this season.
9. Clear the rain gutters
All you need is a hose, ladder, and shovel. Scoop out dead leaves and debris, then spray the hose through the gutters. If you have a two-story home, hire a gutter and downspout cleaning professional in your area who can clean the not-so-easy to get places.
10. Test the AC unit and change out filters
With more than 60% of real estate agents in agreement, HVAC maintenance comes in at a close second for the most recommended spring maintenance task. If there’s no time for a full HVAC check-up from a professional, change out the filters and test that the AC unit still works. Buyers will want to feel that nice cold air coming through the vents when you show the house on warm days.
11. Inspect and clean the siding
The siding of your home (if it’s in good condition) not only enhances curb appeal but also protects your house from day-to-day wear and tear. After years of putting up with the elements, your home’s siding is probably dirty at best.
That’s a problem when buyers will be inspecting it up close. To get it clean, first figure out what kind of material your siding is made of, such as vinyl or stucco siding (the two most common kinds in the U.S.).
For vinyl siding, Bob Vila, an expert home maintenance advice website, suggests a 70% water and 30% vinegar cleaning solution and a soft-bristle brush to get rid of mold and mildew. You can also suggest using an all-natural cleaner, like Simple Green, that works for all types of siding. Overall, make sure to clean up the outside of your home so that it’s ready for showings.
12. Power wash the driveway
Spring is the perfect season to power wash your driveway. Now’s your chance to remove stains, oils, and salt from the winter just in time for the open house. We recommend buying a pressure washer nozzle that you can switch between modes of pressure. The angles for the nozzle range from 0 degrees (this is the maximum amount of power and is the most dangerous) to 65. For siding, Consumer Reports recommends 40, and for the driveway, 25 degrees.
13. Get the roof inspected for any winter damage
A roof lasts only about 25 years, so if you know your home’s roof is approaching that deadline, it needs a quick inspection from a professional. Roofers actually recommend getting a check-up for your roof twice a year, once in the spring (after winter) and once in the fall (before winter).
This helps catch any missing or broken shingles and mildew build-up, which can cause water damage and leaks in the house. Also, you’ll want to check for chips and cracks on your chimney, dusty skylights, and critters that might have sought refuge on your roof.
A real estate agent can give you a second opinion on whether your roof needs repairs, but your best bet is to hire a professional roofer who can give you a quote and thorough examination.
Top it off with these final showing touches
After you take care of the necessary maintenance and repair issues for the house, start thinking about staging and how to take advantage of the spring season for your house showing.
Here are the top four tips that surveyed agents use for spring showing preparations:
14. Let there be light!
97% of surveyed agents recommend opening the blinds for natural light (especially once you’ve washed the windows…does it get much easier than that?), while about 36% advise sellers to open the windows for fresh air. You need to let out the cooped up dust and air that you trapped indoors from the winter and make sure your home is bright. This tip costs zero dollars, but adds so much to the buyer’s overall experience.
15. Take the “you” out of your home
Cindy Dunnican, a selling agent in the top 1% of agents in Rowlett, Texas, recommends depersonalizing with the buyer in mind. “Go room by room and try to look at your home through the eyes of a buyer,” she commented in the survey. “Depersonalize your home and pre-pack collections, winter clothing, and any items you can live without for the next 90 days.”
You want buyers to feel like they can build a life in this house and move in the very next day. So, pack up the family pictures, stow away your sports memorabilia, and take your late cat’s urn to your mom’s place.
16. Liven up the space with pops of color
After you depersonalize, you should still provide a homey vibe you want buyers to feel when they step through your door. 53% of agents agree that a great way to add back that personality is to put pops of color throughout the house with accessories, such as pillows and artwork.
You can add knitted coral pillows and a cotton multicolored cushion to mix, match, and layer colors and materials. Find simple watercolor pieces with pastel colors for your artwork as neutral wall decor.
Last piece of advice? Price the house against the competition—you’re not the only homeowner with the idea of a spring sale!
“First impressions are everything when selling your home,” says Courtney. “If your price is perceived as too high, you will quickly lose this initial audience and find yourself relying only on the trickle of new buyers entering the market each day.”
17. Run a comparative market analysis and don’t get greedy with your price
You’ll need to check out how much other homes on your block and neighborhood have sold for in recent months. These homes are called comparables, which will have the same number of rooms and square footage as your own house. A comparative market analysis helps you determine how much your own home is worth.
A real estate agent is the best person to consult when running this analysis, since they have access to thousands of homes through the MLS and are actively selling and buying homes in your area. They know how to price your home for the right buyers and market it online to get the best offers possible.
“Markets are dynamic, and your price has an expiration date,” advises Courtney. “You have one chance to grab attention. Make sure your pricing helps you stand out on the shelf — in a positive way.”
If you ask for too much, your house will get overlooked for others that are priced correctly the first time. Even if it’s a seller’s market, buyers are informed with their own agents and research from real estate sites that show the prices of other houses in your area are. The longer your house stays on the market, the more value it stands to lose.
For the best advice on selling your house in the spring, hire a top real estate agent
Get through these tips and you’ll be ready to sell your house this spring. Supported by more than 900 agent responses from across the country, you know you can trust their spring selling recommendations that will help you sell your home fast and at the right price.
For a second opinion, consult a top real estate agent in your area who knows what buyers are looking for this season.
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