Getting Your House Ready To List

While spring is a good time to put your property on the market, the season alone won’t turn a listing into a sale. A variety of factors contribute to the overall appeal of a home, and to help us understand them—and optimize the potential buyers’ experience—we asked Murdoch Matheson, who specializes in signature properties at Charlottesville, Virginia-based Frank Hardy Sotheby’s International Realty, for advice. Here are his recommendations:

Start preparing early. Certain seasons are better for showing real estate, but you never know when the buyers will arrive. Therefore, getting a head start on preparations is important. By spring, you’ll want your house looking its best, so if weather permits during the winter months, try to start tackling the following to-dos:

• Cleaning up garden beds
• Washing windows
• Painting (indoor and outdoor, large-scale or touch-ups)
• Repairing the driveway
• Addressing roofing/gutters and downspouts
• Polishing brass doorknobs

Make a good first impression. Setting up an ideal initial encounter for prospective buyers should be your top priority. Curb appeal matters, and anything you can do (within reason) to enhance your house’s appearance and make it look and feel inviting is important. This does not mean you need to spend hours gardening every day; it does mean you should remove the overturned bicycle from the middle of the front walkway and consider that barking dogs—friendly as they may be—might not be for everyone.

Have a decluttering session… It’s a simple fact that a house overflowing with objects won’t show as well as a decluttered one. Prospective buyers want to see that the house works, so try to find a place for everything. Closets should be organized, garages cleaned out, tools put away, and tables and countertops emptied—all in an effort to paint a picture of a functioning house. You don’t have to be as draconian as Marie Kondo, but for those interested in the methods and benefits to de-cluttering, her book is not a bad place to start.

…but don’t feel like you need to completely depersonalize. It’s okay to remove personal items from view to a certain degree, since it’s true that some buyers walk through a house and get hung up on photos, memorabilia, etc. However, I have never advocated for getting rid of all personal pictures just to sell the house. If it’s a distinctive property, the personal aspect of them is welcoming, friendly, and adds an authenticity and energy that helps to sell the house.

Be sensitive to smells. While I have no scientific documentation to prove it, I have been told repeatedly that the sense of smell is the strongest of our five senses. Scent triggers all kinds of reactions, including memories, nostalgia, and familiarities that are all deeply rooted, so it’s important to consider the odors in your house. While baking cookies before prospective buyers arrive isn’t necessary, eliminating odors that might be offensive is a must.

Create easy access. Within reason, you want to be able to accommodate any and all showing requests—even with very short notice. If you can, put some systems in place with regards to naptimes, housekeepers, pet caregivers, and other services so that your home will be easy to show whenever someone wants to see it. It can be a pain, but if you set the ground rules early and stick with them, it will cut down on any conflict.

Don’t underestimate the value of feng shui. I’m not an advocate of mysticism and I have rolled my eyes plenty about the little tricks of this trade, but there is a lot of common sense advice involved in the art of feng shui. Buying a book on the subject or talking to someone who has studied it can teach you to walk around your house and property with an objective eye to the way energy is working through your home, allowing you to notice furniture blocking pathways or a front door that is not well lit or lacks plantings. You won’t sell your house without a plan and a positive vibe.

Expert tip from Murdoch Matheson of Frank Hardy Sotheby’s International Realty in Charlottesville, VA.