Secrets of the Home Sale: Why It’s Never Too Early to Prep

Here’s a common scenario: A prospective client calls, they want me to come over and explain how I’d list their home. I arrive, ready and prepared to go over every detail and after the comprehensive, detail-packed presentation they say, “OK great. Can you get someone in to take pictures tomorrow? We’re ready to sell.” 

Spoiler alert: Home selling doesn’t work like that. 

The truth is, a prospective seller might be “ready” to sell but the home isn’t ready to be listed. There’s a lot to do – thinning, clearing, freshening up – to show a house in its very best light. 

Did you know 99% of a property’s first views are online? And just like online dating, if they see your home and don’t swipe right, they’re never coming back to date you. No coffee date, no dinner and a movie. You’re done. 

That’s just the real estate environment we’re in right now. If a home doesn’t look incandescently perfect online, buyers will simply go on to the next one, even (or especially) with this slightly cooling market. There’s more inventory now and buyers have choices that weren’t available to them even a few months ago. Gone are the days of thinking a home can be on the market in any condition. If you want to get that ring on your housing finger, your home better look good. 

The goal is always to create the best-looking home possible because the initial stage of any sale is about the quality of photos and how your home shows up online. (Price of course plays into it, but once you settle on a price the photos have to match the value.) 

So, what does preparing your home for selling entail? It’s 100% dependent on the state of the home, a seller’s budget and a seller’s timeline. If a seller has months to spare and some budget to spend, it might be worth it for them to remodel the entire kitchen. If a seller has weeks and a tighter budget, it’s about changing fixtures, painting cabinets, completing small cosmetic work, cleaning and maybe even partial staging, so buyers can see the potential in your property.  

I always say it’s a good idea to have your agent complete a consultation – I offer them for free – to go over your timeline, budget and next steps. And as you discuss the budget, remember what you do before the sale is an investment in the property; you’ll get back anywhere from three to five times the money spent in the eventual sales price.

And if you’re wondering how this all plays out in real life, one of my favorite stories happened with a listing in Studio City several years ago. The client was a collector and as I surveyed the house, I saw art everywhere – carpets and large paintings hanging on the walls, art displayed on countertops – which is normally charming and eclectic but when you’re trying to sell a home, you want things clear and de-personalized, the very opposite of what this property was at the time. 

Before we could even attempt to stage the home, we recommended the seller host an extensive estate sale to clear the house. Once most of the items were sold, I returned to the empty house with my stager. At the exact same time, we looked at each other in complete shock and said, “Oh my gosh. The whole house is pink!” 

There was so much art in the home we didn’t even realize the walls were pink; even the seller’s son had no idea! 

With a clean slate and $25,000 from the sellers to invest in repairs, we painted the walls of the home a warm white, cleaned up the floors, changed out some fixtures and staged the house with a midcentury modern theme to fit the architectural vibe. The photographs were stunning and the home sold for $2.6 million. In my professional opinion, had we not cleaned up and staged the home, it would have been comfortably listed at around $1.9 million. The $25,000 investment the sellers made in their house equated to almost $500,000 in sales. 

That’s just the power of preparing your home properly for sale. Whether you’re a years-long collector or simply a seller who needs to remove several personal effects, the changes you make to your home now will pay off when you sell. It’s why taking the time to adequately prepare for the sale can make all the difference in your selling success.