Preparing your home to sell – the truth (can you handle it?)

In today’s market, “move in ready” means more to a Buyer than just fresh paint & clean carpet; it means modern details & no “to do’s”.  Even with the basics covered, a Buyer will consider a home a Fixer Upper if they wouldn’t be comfortable hosting a dinner party the day they move in.

Even if you will fall into the less than move-in-ready category, some preparation is prudent.  Getting the best price is as much a function of perceived work as true malfunction.

In order to put your best foot forward, I suggest 10 main points.

Declutter If you are really planning to move, start packing.  Creating room in closets, making rooms easy to view & move through, reducing distractions are all good reasons to start packing.  Don’t get rid of so much that the home looks vacant.  We still want to easily know the function of each room.  Buyers just want to imagine themselves living in the house, not you.

Clean Honestly, you live in a home differently than you sell it.  Consider this: if a restaurant was cleaned to your typical home standards, would you eat there?  Buyers feel the same way.  Little touches matter, like doorknobs & light switches, finger printy trimwork.  Odors are paramount – Buyers often wonder if the smell will go away with the current furnishings, so smoke, strong cooking odors & pet smells can foul a deal before it ever happens.

Fix Stains, loose edges, leaks, missing components? Buyers are suspicious of unfinished work.  Creative fixes can be fun, inexpensive and effective, but don’t do amateur, cheap work.  If the Buyer doesn’t spot it, their inspector will.

Replace Old, worn carpet will never get clean enough.  Peeling or chipped paint, missing shingles, rotten trim.  Old Countertops and cabinet handles date any Kitchen.  These items need attention.  Don’t ignore them.  Buyers won’t.

Remove Do you want to keep that special chandelier or the new washer & dryer?  Don’t let the Buyer even get a look at them.  Buyers consider everything negotiable & suspect any unseen replacement.

Don’t skip the closets, attic, garage or basement If possible, store packed items off site.  Clean these spaces as you would the Kitchen.  It reflects a level of care that really impresses.  Leaving them a mess communicates shortcuts that you don’t want the Buyer thinking about.

Maintain the work you have done It can be exhausting, but assume the home will be shown every day.  That means keeping it clean, fresh smelling & addressing any issues that crop up as soon as possible.

LIGHTS! Install the highest wattage bulbs (within safety limits) and be prepared to turn them on & leave them on.  Agents showing your home will appreciate not having to figure out what switch operates which lamp while answering Buyer questions & trying to juggle the lockbox, keys, paper, phone….

Get out And take the dog & the cat, and especially the snake.  Buyers stay longer in a home where they feel comfortable. That means no Seller eavesdropping on their conversation, dog barking, cat trying to sneak out or reptiles just scaring them.  Seriously.

Know your bottom line Buyers make offers based upon what they see in the marketplace.  That means your competition, recent sales & even things they see on TV.  Unfortunately, how much you need to pay off your mortgage, buy your next home or pay off your credit card have nothing to do with the value of your house.  Knowing your break even is important in knowing if you can really afford to move.  Your real estate agent can help you determine the cost of sale, because it is more than your mortgage.  There are a lot of little costs that add up.  Be informed & the process will be smoother.

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Things I wish homeowners would stop doing

  • Putting Master Bedrooms in the lower level. In this age of Baby Boomers, Extreme Sports & War Veterans, knees & hips are looking for the ease of main floor bedrooms & baths. And I’m not going to start on the spiders.
  • Improving their homes beyond what’s happening in the marketplace (& expecting it to pay off immediately). Enjoy your home. Really. But don’t expect everyone else to. It’s like buying a $5,000 wedding dress, having it tailored to your exact proportions & expecting someone to buy it from you at a profit, after the wedding.
  • Putting permeable flooring in basements or other places prone to moisture accumulation. We had this discussion about carpet in the bathroom or kitchen. You won’t even smell the mold until you come home from vacation & find “home sweet home” isn’t.
  • Smoking. You know it isn’t good for you. It isn’t good for your house either. It gets into the popcorn on the ceiling & creates a film on the windows. Go wash one & see. I’ll wait.
  • (see, I waited)
  • Ignoring maintenance. If your house is too expensive to maintain, sell it now. I hate to say it, but not taking care of stuff will not make it more valuable next year.
  • Keeping stuff they really want to get rid of. Putting it in the basement won’t make it easier sort. It just means you will need a bigger dumpster later.

The energy in a well kept, well designed & well loved home is so attractive that it has a special value.  Those are the properties that I love to show Buyers!

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Good Neighbor Sewer Maintenance

Though you’d never see those 4 words together?   Consider this:  For the second time in the 11 years that I have lived in my home, my sewer has backed up.  The line to the street is clean, so why did this happen?

Our street has tree roots in the main.  The city has us on an ”enhanced” schedule for cleaning the sewer line, but when the roots combine with the many solids coming through the line, with the additional pressure of water coming from cycles at the near by water tower, trouble can ensue. 

The technician whose unpleasant job was to both clear the clog and explain them mess gave us this primer:  People put things down their drains that the sewer is not designed to handle, especially under these circumstances.  Grease, dental floss, even rags.  What’s more, many products billed as “flushable” really aren’t.  They are essentially “not unsafe for a septic system”, which does not translate to appropriate to put in a city sewer.

So, we cleaned up, again.  We are extra vigilant and having a back flow preventer installed on the waste line.  But we are also more cautious about what is allowed in the line.  And we are hoping that our neighbors are, too.

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My ears are ringing.                We move through groves

My ears are ringing.
We move through groves of tall pines,
Planted in rows that flash at different angles,
First from approach then full on from the road.

There’s a fog over the reservoir
A haze obscures the tops of trees, distant buildings.

We speed to a destination
we don’t want to reach
Love, regret
Obligation, Loss
fear, relief

It is dawn, the full day is ahead
Spring with its promise, presses on
oblivious.

The destination is not the goal.
This journey is a branch of the true path.
A way stop not intended to sustain us.

Push through, eyes open!

Recognize this place,
you can be nowhere else now.

Be ready.
You can’t stay here.

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Why I don’t move to a warmer climate…

Having grown up in south Minneapolis, moved around & now living in a 1st ring suburb, I can attest to the wonderful things our area has to offer.  While your own experience & expectation determine where you are comfortable, I love it here! The general quality of public schools in the Twin Cities (& Minnesota) have been celebrated nationally.  There are also many incredible private institutions.  Higher education is also nationally recognized, from the U of M to the abundant smaller private colleges scattered throughout the area.  Great medical institutions are at hand with a teaching hospital in Minneapolis & the Mayo in Rochester.

Culturally, we have museums, concert venues, theaters & nightlife.  There are food & performances from around the world, delivered by wonderful people with first-hand knowledge.

But the jewel is the urban forest: our parks, lakes & wildlife sanctuaries within the 13 county “Metro”.  Bike trails, urban cross country skiing, little downhill runs close by… do your own sports or attend any of the professional, semi-pro or college games almost any day of the year.

It’s all what you make of it.  I’ve visited other places, but I love to call the Twin Cities home!

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Constitutional Amendment

I am considering writing my legislators to demand they introduce a constitutional amendment limiting marriage of stupid people.  In my religion, stupidity is the highest sin & since marriage is primarily designed as the socially accepted forum for procreation, I would demand limiting the increase in the population of stupid people by limiting their procreative options.

I have already begun to design the tests to determine acceptable intelligence, the rest of which would be worked out after passage of my amendment.  But I’m certain most of us could support at least the following:

  • Demonstrate the proper spelling, definition & usage of: To, Two & Too.
  • Demonstrate the proper spelling, definition & usage of: Their, They’re & There.
  • Use the term “Hypocrite” in a sentence of at least 12 words, without reference to either political party.
  • Define the term “Hyperbole” & use it in a sentence.

The behind the wheel portion would have to include blinker usage & parallel parking.

I imagine that we might use the test to determine if people were simply lazy or really stupid.  Remedial treatment might be available to the lazy, giving them hope for reintegration into polite society with enough work.  For the truly stupid, we should find a formula for determining if a prospective spouse’s intelligence adequately compensates for the offenders stupidity, although some financial penalty might be needed, in case society had to support their idiot offspring.

Just a thought.

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Reflecting on Memorial Day

We attended the ceremony at Fort Snelling National Cemetary this Memorial Day, listened to politicians & clergy make speech about the soldiers who sat in the crowd, as well as those whose mortal remains rest on the grounds.  Then, one of the speakers asked: “Why do veterans cry on Memorial Day?”  It stirred something I’d been mulling all morning.

We take this time to think, reflect and experience gratitude for those who have come before us, sacrificed that we might enjoy our rich and privileged lifestyle.  This takes another leap: we must recognize this privilege and be aware – really take an honest look – at what is outside us.  How often do we truly do this, to practice this awareness, to see the contribution of others, to understand the special nature of our existence is built on others work.

“No man is an island.”  Although we act like it, we cannot do it ourselves.  In our society, we are not so independent that we could survive a day without the food cultivated by others, water purified by the work of others, roads developed by others, homes built with supplies manufactured by others, vehicles invented by others, fuel gathered by others.

And, by correlation, we are dependant on the environment around us to support us.  Like the Native Americans, we would do well to recognize that we are but pieces in this great puzzle.

“Every day should be memorial day.”  Let us clothe ourselves in gratitude, every day, for those who contribute to our lives, those who came before us & for the privilege of being alive.  Do not let this privilege blind us to our responsibility to pay it forward, for how can we allow others to enjoy it?

“It is for us to be consecrated… to carry on this work.”                                                        Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address

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