A well-presented home is key to sale

#479 in a series of true experiences in real estate
January 2005, Hills Newspapers

We’re right in the thick of it now. We opened our new listing for the first time a few days ago for agents to see, and we’ll be there for at least one Sunday open house as well.

It’s been more than 3 months since we first met the seller, saw the house for the first time, and put a plan for sale into place. Our most pleasant seller told us that she intended to move to an assisted living home. Once she was there and had taken what belongings she wanted with her, the rest of her things were to be organized, priced and sold.

We waited until the house was cleared before scheduling termite and general physical inspectors. And, because the house is located in Berkeley, we also got a bid for compliance with that city’s energy ordinance.

During this period, cleanup of garden and grounds was going on, and hauling of old lumber and such. The basement and garage were gone through and hazardous waste items, such as garden and bug sprays, were taken to the county collection site.

Once we had inspection reports in hand, we suggested that a chimney mason be called to inspect and clean the fireplace. And, after obtaining bids from workmen, and careful thought and discussion with our seller, we agreed on a budget for work to be done on the house.

Our stager chose paint colors for painting most of the interior and portions of the exterior. The wooden floors, which were in good shape but worn, were recoated. And several light fixtures were purchased and hung.

Sometime during the 50 years the seller had lived in the house, she’d had a clothes washer hooked up in her kitchen. But the dryer was located in the basement, and this meant that it was necessary to carry washed and clean, but wet and heavy, clothes outside and around the corner to the basement.

We gave first priority in the budget for money to move the washer adjacent to the dryer. In the kitchen, we had a new dishwasher and cabinet installed. We had our hearts set on a hefty wooden butcher block countertop, and by calling around, we were able to find one for a reasonable price. The new arrangement is useful and it looks wonderful.

The stager began work on the house bringing in chairs and tables, lamps, pictures and rugs. And she purchased and hung attractive new metal curtain rods.

Whenever suitable to the house, we ask that our stager hang sheer curtains on windows, which are left for the buyer to keep. That is what we had planned for this house, too, but the windows in this house are unusually tall, too tall for the curtains we usually buy. An Internet search turned up the right length at Penney’s. We placed our order and were pleased to receive them by mail 3 days later.

We take disclosures seriously, both our own agent disclosure and those of the seller. We met twice with our seller, asked her numerous questions, and wrote down all of the information she gave us about the house and its individualities, also improvements she’d made and when she made them.

Once typed up, she signed a written statement, as well as numerous local and state disclosures covering everything from water heater strapping to earthquake zones.

Little things were still going on at the house: new address numbers, mailbox, and doormats, new motion detector lights on the front stairs, and power washing of the brick patio. A bed of blue violas was planted by the front door and a row of neatly trimmed rosemary “trees” put in.

We were by now writing down words and ideas for an advertising flyer to be mailed to agents and given out to visitors at the house. We took photos, had a floor plan made, and the flyer was created, then sent to be printed.

The window washers and cleaners came, and now the house was largely ready. But it was close to mid-December and, we felt, not the best time to go on the market. Better, we told our client, that we wait until the market wakes up again in January.

While waiting during the holidays, we prepped our mailing list, wrote ads for the newspapers, and fretted over the rain. It rained and rained. Everything, everywhere, it seemed, was wet and muddy. We bought bags of bark to lay down outside the house and took extra doormats there.

The stager added last minute flowers, bird baths, candles for a feeling of warmth. We hung signs cautioning that the wooden stairs are slippery when wet.

Just a few days before our first open house, serendipitously we met a young man who is just starting a catering business. We liked him so much, we immediately hired him to make sandwiches for us. We are fortunate in life. The sandwiches were delicious.

And now, we are here. The house is on multiple listing and on the Internet. We’ve posted photos on our own website.

The rain has stopped, thank goodness, and we are enjoying a very favorable response to the house and to the careful prep accomplished by so many. Again and again, we find that agents and buyers do appreciate clean, good looking, well-detailed houses.

We are talking to agents, answering questions and giving out disclosure packages, and we expect that there will be more than one offer to buy the house within a week.

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