What did you check out in someone else's house.

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Hi all, My wife and I are staging our home right now in preparation for putting it on the market. We're conscientious folk who are going to leave the house in better shape than when we bought it with a number of improvements and repairs we've made. We've been watching the usual shows on HGTV/TLC etc that show people preparing their homes for sale and we *think* we've got everything covered, but you can't be too safe. Here's my question for those of you who have gone to an open house with the intention of buying a home: What did you check for in terms of cleanliness ? What did you check for in terms of features ? We're going to hire in a lady we know to dust the tops of picture frames, clean window sills, etc... but it's sort of like packing for vacation... you don't want to remember that you forgot your swimsuit when you're halfway across the ocean. So folks, what did you check for and what impressed you ?
Thanks
Otter
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I like the shows on TV that you mentioned. I think they have a lot of good advice. The first thing that I notice is how a place smells. Smell is such a primitive and powerful sense. It can instantly bring up vivid memories an evoke strong reactions. It is hard to know how your place smells because you have gotten use to the smell. Maybe you should have someone you trust walk through the house and give their opinion.
After smell, I think that you need to brighten the spaces by opening window treatments. Along those lines, one of the things I notice is ceilings. It seems that many people paint walls, but don't bother with the ceiling. I would make sure the ceilings are bright white and free of cobwebs.
I also tend to notice corners. I see cobwebs on walls and accumulations of dirt on floors. Sometimes you need to take a small brush to corners. Also, carpeting can get very dirty along walls. Using a stiff broom to clean carpeting along baseboards can result in a big improvment.
Clutter is a big problem that people can get so used to that they don't notice it. Make sure you get rid of everything you don't need. Don't just dust the picture, get rid of most of them, particularly family pictures like snapshots and craft projects that the kids made at camp. Clean out the closets and get rid of or pack everything you won't need. The less you have in the closets, the bigger they will look.
Get rid of everything on the kitchen counter and all the refrigerator magnets. Again, don't just clean the clutter, pack it and remove it.
Make sure the windows are clean. Paint the front door and polish or replace the door hardware. Be sure that the outside light fixtures are clean and have new bulbs. I would light the outside at night while the property is on the market. People often drive by in the evening to see if it is worth looking at the inside. When people come for a showing or an open house, it might not be the first time they see the outside.
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scribbled:

I disagree on getting rid of photos hung on a wall. I think it gives it a 'homey' feeling when some personal things are displayed.
There's nothing worse than walking through a house that looks too sterile and museum-like.
Nan
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Well, my advice was general. Some people love clutter. If you want to appeal to THAT target market, then leave the clutter. Obviously you can't please everyone. I think that you will simultaneously appeal to a wider market while avoiding offending people or triggering prejudices, by cleaning and editing. I doubt that you will hear many buyers say "Gee Virginia, the house was OK, but it sure needed a lot more pictures, throw rugs, and Precious Moments figurines. Lets look for something more cluttered. I want a house that I know has been inhabited by several dogs and a half dozen small children. I know they beat the hell out of things, but I like that."
One reason for depersonalizing your home is to minimize things people will find distracting or that will trigger prejudices. You might think the family reunion picture looks precious, while home buyers may think that your family looks like a Jerry Springer cast party. You never know. You don't want the buyer to concentrate on what your daughter wore to the prom. You want them to concentrate on the home. Home sellers are staging the house for a wide range of potential buyers. They aren't trying to sell their own lifestyle, but rather they are trying to clear the decks so people can imagine themselves living in the house. I can think of houses that I looked at that would have been far more appealing had they been completely empty rather then decorated with a giant stained pine, crushed velvet covered furniture and pictures of exotic animals painted on velvet.
We have a couple of real-estate shows on TV that give "tours" of available houses. As much as I resist, when I see houses all clutter up with brick-a-brack and god awful, dated, or pimpy furnishings, I tend to be turned-off. I find myself looking at the freaky interiors and thinking about the homeowner rather than looking at the house. I just can't think about myself living in the room.
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scribbled:

Wow. Stretch a bit??

I think you take your attitude a bit too far, frankly.
But hey, if it works for you....
Nan
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You would have a point if what I suggested wasn't common knowledge. You don't have to accept my advice, just call some real estate agents or simply watch TV. Browse the adds. You will consistently see the word "neutral" used as a selling point. Clutter = small and poorly maintained. Both translate into a lower price. As I said, you aren't selling your family, you are selling your house to people who want to picture themselves living there. If you know better than real estate professionals, then by all means do what works for you. Also, what one does to effectively sell their house isn't the same as what one does while living there. My home is not neutral or free of pictures and other accessories. However, I would be smart enough to stage the house for maximum appeal to get the maximum price.
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scribbled:

My mother was a realtor for 25 years. She always advised her clients to make their home look neat, tidy and "homey". Funny, her clients never had trouble netting good prices for their homes. You seem to mistake "homey" for mass amounts of junk littering every available surface.
I'm not entirely sure why you feel compelled to debate this, but whatever.
Nan
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Probably the same thing motivating you.
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I think it depends what kind of market you live in. We live near Sacramento, California, but in a rural small town. In Sacramento, houses routinely sell immediately at above the asking price. People who have been trying to buy a home for months and being outbid aren't too picky about details like pictures and clutter. They just want to get in before someone else makes an offer. In most areas, though, a little psychology goes a long way. I've been reading books on preparing homes for sale, and they all agree that the homes should be clean, well-maintained, and free of clutter and personal items. The buyer should be able to look at the house and move their posessions into it in their minds. Having too many items present, or even having the owner present when buying, makes that difficult. Buyers see too many little fixes and they presume that the house is in bad shape, whether it is or not. It's natural to assume that you aren't seeing all of the problems.
I had an experience when home shopping that proves the point. We looked at a house that was clean and well-maintained, and had a really nice back yard. My husband loved it. But the man who owned it was there A very old man who was, I believe, selling because he was widowed and moving into a smaller place. At least that is the story I wrote in my mind. He was disabled, and there were very old, beautiful pictures, of a woman whom I presume was his wife. There were needlwork samplers on the walls. All I could think of was how sad it was that she was gone and he was alone, and how someday my husband might be selling this house after I died. There is no way I could move into that house. It has too many ghosts.
Diane

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I think the California real estate market is incredible! I was looking at houses recently on the San Diego MLS. The cheapest house I could find in the suburb that I was searching was a one bedroom, one bathroom house that was 720 square feet. There was no yard and the house was on a steep hill with a gravel driveway to a busy street. The asking price was $360,000. Here in Cincinnati, that would get you a handsome four bedroom, 3+ bath, family room, three car garage, formal dining room, and nice kitchen with a full basement on a decent lot in a good neighborhood! Clearly, when you are in a seller's market, you don't have to go the extra mile. However, when you see the real estate "fix up to sell shows" that are filmed in southern California, the object is to get multiple bids well above the asking price is as short a time as possible. That would never happen here. People take the first offer, and it is expect to be somewhat below the listing price. People here will ask $190,000 and expect to get $186.00. Houses stay on the market for 60 days before the owners think about reducing the price. If you are selling after school starts in the fall, you can often expect to have the house on the market for three or four months. Once spring rolls around, the market heats up.
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We're not in the "hottest" area, but we are expecting a fast sale. Our realtor has set a range. We're going to put the house on the market at the high end, and if it doesn't sell in 2 weeks we will drop the price to the low end. It is normal for houses in this area to sell quickly and for the asking price. Our home fix-up is more to ensure that we get top dollar and a quick sale. Here's hoping. Oh - and $360,000 for San Diego is a bargain. I only wish our houses were that valuable, but then again if they were, we wouldn't be able to afford a home in the place we want to move. .
Diane

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Good luck on your sale. Did you buy the house with the intention of fixing it up for later sale, or did it just work out that way?
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Vox Humana wrote:

And herein lies the tale... Diane bought the house about 10 years ago as her place of residence. Around 5 years ago, we both decided to quit smoking and we met online in a suppport-group dedicated to helping people quit. We fell in love, I emigrated from Canada to California, we got married, and now we're just looking for a place with trees and green because I was homesick for them. So, we're moving to the Sierra foothills. Isn't that wonderful ?
Eddie
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Yes. All of it, including that you stopped smoking. I am an avid gardener and I can't imagine living somewhere without trees. I spent so many years living in city apartments where there was no place to garden and pets weren't allowed. Moving into a house and getting pets was a life changing decision.
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: Vox Humana wrote: :> :> Good luck on your sale. Did you buy the house with the intention of fixing :> it up for later sale, or did it just work out that way? : And herein lies the tale... Diane bought the house about 10 years ago : as her place of residence. Around 5 years ago, we both decided to quit : smoking and we met online in a suppport-group dedicated to helping : people quit. We fell in love, I emigrated from Canada to California, we : got married, and now we're just looking for a place with trees and green : because I was homesick for them. So, we're moving to the Sierra : foothills. Isn't that wonderful ?
: Eddie
You need to tell them from **where** in Canada you moved, and to **where** in California you moved for them to appreciate the whole story :-) I was born in the town you're living in now, and I love it, but a lotta folks would fully realize what a keeper is Diane if they knew the REST of the story....
By the way, if you want a nose to determine the odor-worthiness of your place, you can always use mine. I offered to come up there a week or so ago, but didn't hear back from Her Ladyship <G>
I'd buy your house in a heartbeat if it were a little closer to work -- but I really like my bike commute :-)
Tammy, who knows Eds and Diane from the aforementioned smoking cessation newsgroup
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I didn't get the reply. You are *always* welcome. Check your e-mail in about 5 minutes. Or sooner. :-)
Diane

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Hi. I'm NewsOtter's wife He told me he posted here. Thanks to all for the tips. I hadn't thought of polishing the door hardware, but we're spending a small fortune (well, for us anyway) to make the front look good, and it makes sense. Also, great tip about the night viewers. I hadn't thought of that. We also have major cobweb problems (I let daddy long legs have free reign in exchange for them getting rid of fly's and gnats for me - we live in the country, and bugs are a problem). We have totally fixed up the kitchen, and there is very little on the counters. I'm going to leave some things out because it's a very large kitchen, and it looks kind of sterile without anything on the counter. We rented a storage unit and have been putting everything we don't need for a few months in.
I'm more than a bit worried about the smell issue. We have 4 dogs and a cat, and I'm pretty sure that the house doesn't smell terrific. We are giving potential buyers a "carpet allowance" with the assumption that the 10+ year old carpets need to be replaced, but I've been thinking of simply having them replaced. The problem is that if I were buying, I'd rather get my own carpets installed than be stuck with somebody else's choice.
Diane

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The carpet issue is a dilemma. I would also rather have the allowance, but you might not get a decent offer with the old carpet. I think the only way to know about the smell is to get someone who doesn't live in the house to take a sniff. Carpet can hold an incredible amount of filth and odor. I would look at similar houses in your market and see what the flooring looks like. If your carpet isn't at least average, I would get some new, inexpensive carpet installed. It would most likely solve both issues at once. Painting is cheap and can cover odors. Washing window treatments will also help. Spraying your upholstered furniture daily with Fabreez will help. You can invest in some air fresheners. You might spray a new furnace filter with some inexpensive imitation vanilla extract and turn the blower on when the house is gong to be viewed. People know that they can change the wall color or even the carpeting, but they may be nervous that they will buy a house and never be able to get rid of odors.
If you are up to it, you may find that removing the carpet and replacing it with laminate flooring is less expensive than getting new carpet. If you have a Lumber Liquidator near you, you will find laminate flooring for less than $1/square foot including the padding. You would be pressed to find carpet for that amount. The down side is that you would have to do the work yourself to save money. The laminate flooring would most likely add a lot of value to the house - even more than new carpeting. We removed all the carpet on our main floor two years ago and replaced it with laminate. We also have dogs and I know the house smells lots better now and is easier to clean with the laminate.
Door hardware. I had to remove the existing hardware and put paint stripper on it to remove the lacquer. Then I used brass polish on it and cleaned it with some alcohol and put on a new coat or clear lacquer.
Clutter. You don't have to completely strip you house. It's OK to leave some stuff out.
I think the storage unit is a great idea. You have to pack things anyway so why not get a head start and put the stuff you won't need in storage.
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I have four dogs and a cat too! I use incense. Before we have company, I clean first and then light a bunch of GOOD incense about an hour before they arrive. Something clean smelling like lavender. Everyone says that my house smells sooooo good. What's under that old carpet? I found hardwood floors under my stinky bedroom carpet. I just had to give it a good cleaning and it looks great.
peggo
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We have hardwood floors, but they are badly damaged. At least the ones in the living room are. I'm not sure about the bedrooms. I'm half tempted to take up the carpet and see, but then we are committed to either replacing the carpet or putting in new floors, and we've spent about 4 months on this already. I'm so sick of fixing/cleaning/decorating/painting.
Diane

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