With the busy holiday season complete, thousands of locals will take advantage of the quiet winter months to prepare to list their homes for sale this spring.
But where to begin? Selling a house and finding a new home can feel like a daunting task. To help locals navigate the overwhelming process, we went to Hunterdon County real estate expert Kim Ward Bacso, Broker and Owner of River Valley Realty, for answers to some of the most common real estate questions from sellers. With 20+ years of local experience, Kim and her agency have advised on the sale of historic farms, country estates, farmhouses, in-town properties, and river front homes.
Put your mind at ease and prepare for a successful sale with these simple tips from River Valley Realty.
I want to sell my home in the Spring. What should I be doing now?
Kim: The winter months are a great opportunity to prepare your home for the spring selling market. At River Valley, we prepare a Pre-Listing Evaluation. In effect, we compile a checklist of items that should be addressed before putting your home on the market. Some items might require “sweat equity” and others “dollar equity.” But all, if resolved, will help you obtain the best price for your home.
To accomplish this, we schedule a tour of the home. As we walk around we will take notes and ask you to point out upgrades, improvements and favorite features of the interior and exterior of your property. If needed, we will take measurements and photos. We will also note the ages and condition of the structure, systems and appliances.
From this tour, we will create a list of interior and exterior items for repair, review or renovation. You will need to repair obvious maintenance or safety issues, if they have been neglected. Some of the recommendations will be about de-cluttering and de-personalizing, and other will be of a cosmetic nature. Some might have significant cost, and we will be very honest about the “return on investment” for such repairs or renovations.
For example, many of us come in and out of our homes via the garage or a side entrance. When I arrive at the home, I take a good long look from my car, parked at the curb or driveway which is the same perspective the prospective buyer will take. I look at the big picture; landscaping, roofs, windows, garage doors. But, also the small details like mailbox, door color, and decorative touches. At River Valley, we use a professional photographer for all of our marketing, so I might take a basic snapshot to determine how we can maximize the appeal. I’m looking at your home through the lens of the marketing that will be developed for it: What features stand out? What makes it unique? And where is the value to the next home owner?
The Pre-Listing Evaluation, in turn, will list these specific action items that will improve your home’s curb appeal. Next, I will actually walk up the walk way, noting uneven walk ways, poor lighting, or any safety/access concerns.
These items will be added to the Pre-Listing Evaluation and so on, until the River Valley agent has completed an assessment inside and out.
I watch a lot of HDTV…should I stage my home?
Kim: In addition to a Pre-Listing evaluation, some potential sellers do need advice on how stage the home. Very simply, the way we live in our homes on a day to day basis might not be the best way to market the home. Over the years people repurpose rooms for their individual needs, and sometimes we need to assist them in returning the room to its most marketable use. Often, owners make decisions about furniture and lighting based on their preferences and comfort. Our job is to identify the features in the home that will appeal to today’s buyers, and making sure that those are highlighted by furniture placement, window treatments, lighting and color. However, there are very few cases where the overhaul needs to be as dramatic as it is on the popular TV shows. Usually, an experienced realtor can use the possessions you have to create an environment that will photograph and show well.
I can’t do everything! What’s most important?
Kim: Our most frequent advices is Clean, De-clutter and Curate.
- Clean: Be sure to do a thorough cleaning, ceiling to floor and all in between, including appliances, closets, windows and cabinetry/shelves.
- De-clutter: Since you are moving anyway, now is the time to donate, dispose or pack up your extraneous “stuff”. This is a big task for many people, and at River Valley we have had occasions to recommend professional help doing this. We have a few resources who are very effective, and reasonably priced. We encourage our sellers to set a goal of 2-3 boxes per week, to help make this task manageable.
- Curate: Your home does not need to be totally de-personalized, but you need to take your possessions and collections and curate them. Bookshelves need to be emptied of half the books. Photos need to be selected with care, and judiciously. Small Knick knacks distract the eye, and should be packed away. Larger decorative items can be used to pull the eye towards a positive feature of the home, but not overused.
Still need help? Contact Kim Ward Bacso and the River Valley Realty staff for more expert advice on listing your home here.