As the post-Labor Day real estate season approaches, old and new clients are calling with the question that has always been music to my ears: Can you come by and tell us what to do to get our place ready for the market?
Everyone seems to have gotten the message that buyers are out in huge numbers and that inventory is way down (by 20%) from where it was a year ago. Buyers are willing to pay top dollar, and their top is higher than ever before with these historically low interest rates. However, they are and have every right to be very picky. If a home buyer is going to outbid half a dozen other people in a multiple-offer situation — and bidding wars have been the norm for months now in Roslindale, J.P. and West Roxbury — the product they end up with must be excellent.
Here’s my top 7 picks for items that your home must have (and I’m talking mainly about single families right now) to get the price you want:
1. If you have two levels in your house (or condo, with rare exceptions), you must have two bathrooms. A half bath on the first floor is fine but it must be nicely finished. (P.S. Save your money and don’t get a spa-style tub.)
2. First floor must have an open floor plan. Knock down as many walls as you can between living, dining and kitchen areas. On a budget? Get creative with mirrors and lighting to maximize spaciousness.
3. Your kitchen must be clean, serene, and mostly updated. Granite and stainless are the quickest way to effect this illusion, but there are many less predictable finishes that also make buyers pull out their check books.
4. Front of the house, including masonry and carpentry, must appear perfect. That first approach has to be positive or you’re dead in the water. Remove unattractive shrubs. Back porches and stairs must be solid and pretty, too.
5. Eliminate wallpaper, paper borders (egad — a fad whose time is SO long-gone). Pull up any wall-to-wall, except maybe in finished attics. And in those spaces, it must be new and clean and neutral.
6. Replace a heating system that’s more than 20 years old or is rusty and nasty looking.
7. Take advantage of the strongest sellers’ market in many years, and possibly for many years to come. Listen to your Realtor, not your best friend — unless he or she is an interior designer — and get your place sold quickly at a price that will thrill you.
See you out there — and fasten your safety belts for a wild fall (market)!