Prep for success

By Carlie Kollath / NEMS Daily Journal

If you are selling your home or getting ready to put it on the market, Northeast Mississippi real estate experts say there are actions you can take that will mean more money for you once the house is sold.
“Most people know they are going to list with a Realtor,” said Tupelo-based certified home stager Leslie Hobson. “Preparing it is the other half.”
The house might work for your living needs, the experts said, but you need to make sure it will appeal to a buyer.
The preparation process is called home staging. It’s a popular topic on home shows such as HGTV’s “Designed to Sell” because it works, Northeast Mississippi real estate agents said.
The goal, Hobson said, is to sell your home for the most money in the shortest amount of time.
Many real estate agents offer staging as a free service if you list with them. Several interior decorators also offer home staging services to homeowners.
Staging can be small, such as thoroughly cleaning your home, or can encompass large projects, such as updating bathrooms and kitchens.
“You don’t want to go on the market with a disadvantage with a surplus of inventory,” said Keith Henley, an agent at Coldwell Banker Tommy Morgan Realtors. “It’s an extremely competitive market and you have to do everything possible to position yourself to attract a buyer.”
Henley said he sees more buyers who want a home that’s ready for move-in. They want the home updated when they buy it, and if it isn’t, they have other home options, he said.
“With such a surplus of houses on the market, buyers can be picky,” Henley said.
Melissa Greer, an agent at Century 21 Sue Gardner Realty, said she frequently sees outdated wallpaper at homes, which is a stumbling block for some buyers.
“It’s very distracting or they can’t see past it,” she said. “It’s really not a big deal, but people think about how much it is going to cost to fix all that.”
Hobson and Britt Caldwell of J. Britt Antiques, Interiors and Lighting said outdated light fixtures are another buyer distraction that is relatively inexpensive to fix.
And if you have a fixture that you love, such as a chandelier, and want to take with you, replace it before you show your home. Otherwise, Caldwell said, the buyer will expect the chandelier to come with the home.

Aggressively declutter
The most often-voiced piece of advice to potential sellers in Northeast Mississippi: Declutter your home.
“A lot of times people’s things aren’t as nice as their home,” said Caldwell, who recommends packing up, throwing out or giving away a third of the items in your house before you sell it.
Decluttering your home makes it feel larger, the experts said. It also keeps the focus on your house instead of your belongings.
“They want to see what they are getting for their money,” said Hobson, who owns Leslie Hobson Interiors and Home Staging. “They aren’t buying the furnishings.”
To help with decluttering, agents offered these other tips:
Store extra furniture or furniture that gets in the way of the traffic flow. Reduce the number of throw pillows on your bed and couch.
Clean off kitchen counters. Put items that are on your vanity or bathroom counter away. Don’t leave medicine in plain view.
The only things left on your bathroom counter should be a nice hand towel or two, a lamp and maybe some greenery, said Brenda Spencer, an agent with Coldwell Banker Tommy Morgan Realtors.
“Less is best,” Henley said.
Remove knickknacks and collections from rooms and bookshelves.
Don’t just shove everything into the closet, garage or attic, the experts said, because buyers will look in those places. Pack up the items and rent a storage unit.

Depersonalize your home
The decluttering process also helps to depersonalize the home.
Henley said he frequently sees homes that have mounted animals on the walls, along with other hunting trophies and guns. Those items might turn off potential buyers, so they need to be stored.
“The biggest thing is a lot of times a person’s house will reflect their personality,” Henley said. “While that’s fine while they’re living there, we’re not trying to sell their personality.”
Hobson and most of the agents recommended taking down family pictures.
“They want to see their family living there,” Hobson said.
Spencer disagreed, saying that the buyers often want to know about the current owners so taking down all family photos would be a mistake.
“Don’t do it overboard, but have some,” she recommended.

Clean every nook and cranny
The home needs to be very clean, the experts said.
“It cannot be clean enough,” Hobson said. “You’d be surprised how many people look inside the fridge.”
Your home is competing with new construction, so you need to make buyers feel like your existing home is clean, crisp and in good condition.
If you don’t want to do the work, hire a cleaning service. And since the cleanliness needs to be kept up during the showing process, Hobson recommended hiring a housekeeper, especially if you have children and are pressed for time.
The experts also recommended a fresh coat of paint as a relatively inexpensive way to freshen the walls and make the house feel newer. Stick with neutral colors such as beige, sage, taupe or off-white.

Focus on first impressions
Potential buyers should want to look inside your home just from looking at the exterior. The experts recommended manicuring the yard and edging the driveway and all walkways.
They also suggest that you:
Trim all hedges and trees. And put down fresh pinestraw or mulch.
Make the front entry inviting to buyers.
“People come in through their garage and they forget their front door,” Spencer said.
Clean the front door or put a new coat of paint on it. Decorate it with thriving potted plants.
“When they walk through the front door, that’s the most important moment – how they feel,” she said.
Spencer gave an example of a home she had listed that wasn’t selling. It didn’t have any curb appeal, she said, so she got the lawn manicured and stained the concrete sidewalk that led to the front door.
She then spruced up the front entry area and did some staging on the inside.
The home sold within 30 days.
The experts admit that the preparation takes effort, but they say it’s worth it.
“Typically we see staged homes sell faster,” said Greer of Century 21.

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.