Experts offer tips for speeding sale of a home

McClatchy/Tribune Newspapers: The Sacramento Bee

The spring home sales season is under way, and pros say this year you'll need every trick in the book to sell your house.

So take the mounted deer head off the wall, roll on a coat of cheery yellow paint and bring out the vanilla spray, say real estate agents.

With thousands of homes for sale, and thousands more waiting in the wings, 2007 is going to be more competitive than ever for sellers.

"Price it right and present it right, and hope you get lucky," says Yuba City, Calif., broker associate Doug Bryan.

But what does it mean to present a house right? What gives a house a "wow" factor? And what exactly is the "it" factor that makes a buyer say, "This is the one"?

For sellers, those questions may be the difference between selling a home in four days or four months.

Real estate agents claim to know precisely what pleases or repels people when it comes to the biggest financial transaction that many will ever make.

It's not rocket science, they say. Certain colors stir certain emotions (yellow supposedly says "buy"), and certain smells (fresh-baked cookies) take buyers back to childhood.

In a trade where most potential buyers supposedly decide within 20 seconds if your house is a go or a no, agents say subtle tactics can give a house an advantage over its competitors.

Rule one for sellers is much like the doctors' code: "Do no harm." Agents advise doing nothing to distract buyers.

No cat box in the laundry room. No sexy glamour shots in the bedroom. No cobwebs in the corners, no dust on the ceiling fan.

"You want to take away your personal stuff," says Sacramento, Calif., real estate agent Patrick Lieuw.

That means no stuffed elk heads on the living room wall.

"If people like to hunt, they put up a trophy," Lieuw says. "If you happen to find a hunter, they love it; but someone from the Sierra Club, it turns them off."

Family photos? Lose them. Buyers want to envision themselves in the house, not the owner and especially not all the owner's furniture, household clutter and children's baby pictures.

"Put away all the photos that hang up on the wall. [They] will distract the buyer," Lieuw says. "If you believe you're really going to move, why not start to pack? Less clutter makes your house look bigger."

Finally, no all-white interiors, says Elk Grove agent Tracey Saizan, 2007 president of the Sacramento Association of Realtors.

"White is sterile. It has no personality," she says.

When it comes to painting, the simplest application may be just doing the exterior trim, say some agents.

What makes people like a house? It often starts with the surrounding ambience.

For instance, the older, tree-lined neighborhoods around downtown Sacramento are seeing per-square-foot prices stabilize, while they're still falling in many new neighborhoods.

On older streets, big shade trees pack an immediate "wow" factor. But in any neighborhood, so do green lawns and flower beds.

"Fertilize the grass so it's as green as it can be," Saizan says.

When it comes to flowers, Sacramento broker associate Elizabeth Weintraub believes in the power of yellow, which she says stimulates the buying emotion.

"There's something about yellow that just makes people feel comfortable and warm and happy," says Weintraub. "And you want people to feel that way when they're contemplating buying your house."

Marigolds are inexpensive, she says. Flowers and anything welcoming to would-be buyers are a plus.

Saizan even suggests hanging a small flag with the word "Welcome."

"A brand-new doormat that says `Welcome' is $5," says Folsom real estate agent Susanne Wolter. "It gives that feeling of newness and being taken care of."

She also likes seeing a new doorknob and handle, followed by a whiff of vanilla spray as a browser enters the house.

"When they walk in and get a scent of vanilla, they have this whole sensation," Wolter notes.

For open houses, the aroma of fresh-baked cookies can evoke memories of the buyer's childhood home.

But what about when there's a drop-in visitor and no time to bake?

"I buy a can of vanilla spray and give it to my seller," says Wolter. "Every time somebody comes by, do a little spray throughout the house."

Saizan says sellers also can sprinkle a few drops of vanilla on the oven door and set the temperature on "low."

It fills the room with a "fresh-baked" smell.

"You can burn a candle, too," she says.

Above all, these agents say, have a clean exterior, because it immediately suggests to buyers coming up the walkway that the home's interior is also clean and neat.

The rest is all about price.

"That's all good," Bryan says, referring to aromas, colors and welcome mats. "But the price is what does it. If the buyer feels it's reasonable for them, they'll make the leap."

Adds Lieuw: "If you price a property right, it's still moving. Pricing is critical nowadays. You don't want to test the market anymore.

"You want to be proactive instead of reactive. Pricing is really the key for the 'wow' factor."

That and a spotless front porch.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad