tip: selling your house? visit open houses!

About three years ago, I asked a real estate agent to show me houses for sale in our neighborhood. I wanted to case out the competition and if you are thinking of selling your house I would suggest the same.

What I discovered is that, in comparison, our house needed to be squeaky clean. The downstairs needed all ceramic and wood flooring (no carpet), many sellers had not updated their kitchens (these were the houses still on lagging on the market), and that the bathrooms were rather bland and boring. I also saw a lot of out-of-date brass fixtures and wallpaper in the homes that had been sitting on the market for over 6 months.

When we went on the Parade of Homes, we deliberately looked at new homes in the $20,000 range above what we had planned to price our house. We noticed that these homes had: ceramic and wood flooring on the base level, all fixtures were updated to be oil rubbed bronze or brushed nickel, lots and lots of moulding (i.e. over doors, crown in every room downstairs, baseboard trim downstairs was higher in height 4-6″), and that the kitchens were very updated with granite countertops, open shelving and glass doors.

Another thing we noticed is that all the downstairs was painted a neutral color (not white or Navaho White) but a medium putty color that showed off the white trim moulding more so.

Last weekend, the same real estate agent had an open house in our neighborhood so husband swung by to check it out. He said that if that is our competition, and we do all that we’ve talked about, the house will definitely be a standout.

The Open House had a very much outdated kitchen with laminate counters, white appliances, and a cabinet color that he and my son called whitewashed pink! The bathrooms were all cultured marble sinks and the lighting fixtures were brass. The agent said the house was completely wallpapred and she had a hard time convincing the owners to cover it up – which they did except in one room which had a deep 12″ boarder of hunter green with flowers running along the wall!

Again, the house was clean and freshly painted. The living areas had been cleared out but almost too much and had outdated, huge puffy faux leather seating. The bedrooms were too cluttered (builder show homes keep only a twin bed and a small dresser in extra bedrooms).

In re: to our house what are the overall improvements we are planning? To recap on what is left to do:

1.) Update Kids bathroom with painted cabinets, new hardware, new tile floor (previously vinyl), and new countertop. Should be done after Thanksgiving.

2.) Update Master Bathroom by removing the builders’ mirror and replacing with framed mirrors, update fixtures over sink, install crown moulding, paint effect on wall, and paint cabinets cream with a chocolate glaze and new hardware.  New countertop, new sinks, new faucets and a new toilet. Target is Feb. 2012.

3.) Update all downstairs carpet to wood flooring. Upstairs all new carpet.

4.) Update kitchen with painted cabinets, new hardware, new granite counters (replaces laminate), new tile backsplash (replaces laminate), new sink. Install crown moulding. Target date May 2012.

5.) Re-tile fireplace front and other changes to be determined in family room.

6.) New garage door.

7.) Exterior paint job

8.) New roof.

9.) New front landscaping around house.

That’s the 18 month plan anyway…all projects can be seen via easy links on The House page.

So why do all this work just to sell it? Although I am in a good housing market considering the economy it is still a buyers’ market. I want to put the house on the market and have it sold within 90 days or less. If we tried to sell it in the state it is now, we would be on the market a long time and have to take a hit on the sale price.

Of course, all housing markets are different and what you might expect in the price range you want to sell might differ then what I think would sell my house in this town. The best way to figure out your pricing is to get a list of houses that have sold in your neighborhood and what they sold for by square foot – then tour some of these homes on the market and see how your house is comparing in terms of features, fixtures, flooring, and especially in the master bedroom, masterbathroom and kitchen.

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