Spring Home Sale – Using the Winter Months to get Ready for a Spring Sale

Spring Home Sale

You will likely have seen a lot of good checklists on what to do to get your home ready for a spring home sale.  Most of those, however, focus on general cleanup and staging right before you go on the market. There is a lot to do before you even get to that phase. So below are action items you can start now while you are waiting for the spring selling season. 

Get Rid of Hazardous Waste and Junk in Basements, Attics, and Garages.  This is one of the top stressors sellers encounter as closing date approaches.  Movers won’t take them. And they are impossible to get rid of at the last minute unless you are willing to risk breaking the law and mother nature by tossing them in your regular trash.  Buyers do not want you to leave them behind, so don’t count on that.  If you visit my Seller’s Blog Page on www.michellelanerealtor.com or the www.newtonma.gov web page, you can find more information on how to dispose of hazardous waste and bulky trash items.

Get Rid of Furniture that You won’t be Keeping or Using for Staging. This is another stressor for sellers at the end of the sale process.  Charities who take used furniture will only take furniture in good condition and pickup needs to be planned weeks in advance. If you are not taking the furniture to your next home and your Realtor (me) tells you it is not worthy of being used for staging, then start planning now for it’s removal.  It is especially good to do this BEFORE you touch up paint on the walls.  My team can help you find the charities that will take your unwanted furniture and household items.

If  you are going to Need a Dumpster, Get it Now.  It doesn’t look appealing to buyers who are driving by your house before the first open house to see a dumpster in front of it.  Plus, it is too stressful to be doing all that at the last minute. So best to do this early. 

Inventory the Work that Needs to be Done around the House.  We all get used to the little flaws around our house – screens with holes in them, doors that don’t shut, locks that don’t work, cracks in the walls and windows.  We learn to live with them because they are a nuisance to fix.  The buyers also think they will be a nuisance to fix, so not only will they will call you out on these things, but it will impact their estimation of the value of the property.  

Get a pre-listing Home Inspection.  Clients often ask if they should have a presale inspection and my answer is – it depends.  If you are not going to fix anything the inspector finds, then you may want to get the inspection just so you know what you will have to negotiate post buyer inspection. But if you have no money to make any of the repairs that come from the inspection, knowing everything that’s wrong with your home will mean you are obliged to disclose all those problems to potential Buyers. If you can fix things like asbestos, mold, leaks, malfunctioning mechanicals before a spring home sale, then get an inspection and take care of those things before you put your house on the market.

Get a pre-listing Survey.  Maybe.  Surveys are not cheap – roughly $1,500.  But if you suspect a neighbor’s fence, shed, stone wall is encroaching on your property, better to find out and deal with it now rather than have your sale fall apart.  Plus, Buyers will be psyched to have that survey in case they want to put in a fence or such after moving in.

Look up Permits for Your Home. Once a client signs a contract with me, my team does this for you.  But if you want to get a head start, look up your home with the city to see if there are any open permits.  Buyers will insist that you have them closed out, which may mean bringing in the appropriate contractor.

Line up Contractors. Contractors are notoriously difficult to line up any time of the year, but nearly impossible to pin down in the spring when everyone wants work done.  So, once you have inventoried what needs to be done, start lining up the contractors now while they have the time to come out and give you quotes and get you on their calendar.

Figure Out How Much You Can Afford to Spend on Preparing the Property. And where you will spend it.  Aside from the repairs already mentioned, the biggest bang for the buck is spending the money on:

  1. Spackling and Painting in neutral, modern colors.
  2. Refinishing Floors or Replacing Carpet
  3. Changing Light Fixtures

Lighting makes an incredible difference to how a home looks to potential buyers. I can’t tell you how often people make commentary on lighting and light fixtures in homes on the market. 

Start Collecting Up Boxes.  You will never have enough boxes so start accumulating them now. You can get them from stores, on Facebook Yardsale groups or buy them at UHaul.

Donate Stuff to Charity.  If it is not going with you to the new home and not needed for staging, get it out of the house now.  My team can help you find charities that will take your donations.

Line Up Where You Will Store Extra Stuff While the House is On the Market. Perhaps you have things that you will take to the next house, but they are not necessary for selling this house – extra toys, books, clothes, dishes, etc.  Figure out now where that will be stored – relative’s house, storage unit, POD and line that up now so you are not stressed as the time to list your home approaches.   

Inventory Major Mechanicals and Improvements.  Buyers always ask these questions:

  1. How old is the furnace, hot water heater, roof, windows, etc. Look that up now.
  2. How old are the appliances? Are they under warranty?
  3. If you have an oil furnace, have it serviced. Buyers look for those service tags.
  4. If you made improvements, give your Realtor (me) information on when all those were done.

Dig up Your Paperwork on the House.  Your attorney, your agent and buyers are going to ask a lot of questions, so start digging out the paperwork now: utility bills, tax bills, mortgage details, survey and rental contracts.

Thin out Closets and Storage Areas. Buyers will open your closets.  So, they should look like IKEA closets – sparse and organized.  Same for the kitchen cabinets.  If they are crammed full of stuff, the buyer gets the subliminal message that there is not enough storage in the house.  Which means you will have some packing up to do.  If you have expensive shoes, coats, purses, those should be taken out of the house and stored someplace safe.  If you are still using them, do this as you get closer to listing the house.

Discuss Staging with Your Realtor (me).  An early discussion with your agent on staging will help you determine what to toss and what to keep.  My service is unique in that we offer partial to full staging of the home either free or at a reduced cost, depending on the extent of staging required.  An early discussion will help you know what I can stage for you and thus, what you can pack or toss.

Michelle J. Lane

Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904


Selling a Home in the 2014 Spring Market

Selling a Home in the 2014 Spring Market

by Michelle J. Lane

If you were reading my newsletters from last spring, you will recall that I spoke (ok maybe there was some whining in there) about the dearth of inventory.   Overall in the spring of 2013, there was about two-thirds the inventory of previous years.   Boston Magazine has come out with their Real Estate Issue.  It is chock full of great information that supports what I will be sharing with you in this post, so I will link to it here.  Boston Magazine Single-Family Home Prices.

In nearly every town, prices spiked in 2013.  Largely due to limited inventory.  This chart shows (in blue) the average number of houses on the market each month, and (in Green) the number of houses that went Under Agreement that month and follows the market from Jan 2012 through last month.  Look at the difference between 2012 and 2013.   The trend is continuing in 2014.  Today there are 80 single-family homes on the market in Newton.  This time last year there were 111.

Newton Housing Trends

This means Buyers are in for a spring market that is even more challenging than last year.  But it means that Sellers are in a great position to get top dollar for their homes.  So this brings up several questions for sellers – a couple of which I will answer here.  The rest in follow on Blog posts.

What Should I Do to Prepare my Home for Sale?

In this market, it depends on who will be the audience for your home.  Home Buyers fall into 3 categories.

  • Investors – looking for a home they can improve and flip or rent out.
  • Home Buyers – whose budgets are really tight so who are willing to do cosmetic work to get a home in their price range and are willing to put in sweat equity to bring the home to its former glory.
  • Home Buyers – who have no time or inclination to improve a home and who often have a higher budget.

If your home needs a great deal of work – chipping paint, floors that need refinishing, kitchen and bathrooms that need updating, older roof, older furnace, etc. it does not make sense to try to bring the home up to the level of a home that is completely updated and renovated.  Doing all that as you are leaving the home means you get no enjoyment of the improvements and you will not get greater than a 100% return on the investment.  In the Remodeling Magazine’s 2014 Cost vs Value Report, no improvement gave greater than an 87% return except installing a new front door.  Your ideal buyer will be an investor or a Home Buyer who cannot afford a higher priced home.  If priced right, your home will still get into a bidding war.  The best course of action is to pack everything up, give the place a good cleaning, fix only those things that are clearly broken, do some minor staging and get the place on the market.

If your home is in good condition overall (kitchen and bathrooms have been updated in the last 20 years), furnace, roof, electrical and plumbing are not near end-of-life, then making cosmetic changes to show the home in its best light may be worthwhile.   However, don’t take so long to do these things that you miss the opportunity to get the home on the market when the inventory is tightest.

If you home is in great condition and on the high-end of the pricing spectrum for your town, then you are best off putting your home on the market in April when most of the buyers for the high-end will be out looking.

Beyond timing, there is so much more – are there permits to close out?  Warranties and policies to dig up?  This is where your Realtor comes in.  You want to start early and work together on an preparedness strategy that makes sense for your home.

When Should I Put my Home on the Market?

As soon as you can!  You might think – oh she is just saying that because she is a Realtor.  I  refer you back to the chart.  Look how tight the difference is between homes On the Market vs Under Agreement in March, April, May for 2013.  This year will is  even tighter.   It is especially tight for homes under $1M in value.

Here is an example for you – this home sold in 2010 for $350K.  The owners did NOTHING to improve it and then put it on the market in February at $560K.   We agents all thought they had lost their minds and the house was overpriced by about $120-$150K.  Well, much to my surprise, it went under agreement – why?  Because there was nothing else on the market in this price range.  It will be interesting to see if the house appraises, but the point is someone was willing to pay that inflated price out of desperation.

12 C

When everyone starts dropping their homes on to the market in April, there may not be as much desperation for a run-down overpriced house. 🙂

Want to talk about selling your home? Feel free to contact me.

Michelle J. Lane

Michelle J. Lane
Century 21 Commonwealth
CELL: 617 584-3904