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 Your Basement Smells (Part 3); Things to Consider when Selling a Home
By: Darin "Sid" Cameron, CRS
Tue, Feb 15th, 2005 11:35 pm

This blog is part three on my subject I started Sunday…  You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

When I go on a listing call to potentially list a home for sale, one of the things we discuss is how to prepare the home for show- both as an overall strategy as well as how to put together a, “people will be here in 30 minutes” plan of attack.

Remember, when you list your home for sale you are basically putting out a blanket invitation for anyone who wants to see your home to come and see it.

Unfortunately, it also means you have to work on the buyer’s schedule- and that means having the home ready to show on a moments notice. For every restriction you place on showing your home (i.e. no showings until after noon, no weekend showings, etc), there is a potential buyer who will decide to skip seeing your home.

Welcome to life in a “fishbowl!”

Things to think about:

Security- Like it or not, potential buyers are also complete strangers. Although a buyer’s real estate agent will be escorting buyers through your home, it’s impossible for them to watch their client’s every move- especially if it’s a couple. That’s why it’s important to find a place to store (and hide) things like jewelry, money, small antiques, or other valuables when you prepare your home for show.

Renting a temporary lockbox at a bank or a storage bin at a secure storage facility can be some of the best insurance you have. Another option is to just pack up those belongings early so all the buyer sees are plain brown boxes setting in the corner. Although theft is rare, it’s always best to be safe rather than sorry.

Breakage- More common than theft is the potential buyer who accidentally runs into something while gawking at your ceiling fixtures, or the one who gets curious and decides to pick up and examine something. If something is extremely breakable, pack it up or get it out of the house prior to your listing.

My advise it to assume that at least one potential buyer will bring several hyperactive children with them who will want to run and touch everything in site. If the home has been “child proofed” with all breakables packed away safely, there will be nothing to worry about.

Distractions- While you’re packing away your valuables and breakable items, go ahead and pack up those “conversation piece” items as well.

Preparing your home to show buyers is very different than preparing your home for a gathering of friends or family.  Most buyers work on a time frame and only allocate so much time to any one home.  What you absolutely do NOT want is for a buyer to enter your home and get so caught up looking at your wall of vacation photos, or autographed sports memorabilia, or anything else you own that is unique or interesting, that they forget to actually look at your home.

Uniqueness- I always tell first time home buyers that one of the most exciting benefits to owning your own home is personalizing it and making it unique to you.

Unfortunately, those tailored personalizations will be a turn off to anyone whose taste is different than yours. I’ve seen otherwise great homes set on the market for months without so much as a warm lead because of pink carpet (throughout the entire home), excessive use of flowery wallpaper, and “interesting” paint color selections.

I’m not saying every wall needs to be painted “Oyster White”, but sometimes toning things down will allow prospective buyers to imagine the home decorated with their personal tastes, and not yours.

Pets- There are so many problems pets create for someone trying to sell their home. (Having a house full of cats and dogs I know most of them first hand!).

First off, you’ll never sell your home if the seller is afraid to enter the front door.

If your dog is territorial, barks a lot, or is just unfriendly to strangers, you may wish to kennel him/her during the day when you are at work or come up with a plan on who will remove the pet from the home when a listing call comes in.

Although this might seem like a lot of work, you are legally liable if your dog bites someone trying to tour your home- even if you have the dog tied up in the back yard with a big “Warning, Dog Bites” sign posted.

If your dog is friendly, you still might want to lock them outside (if your yard is fenced in) or put them in a garage. A lot of people flat out don’t like or are afraid of dogs, and you don’t want your potential buyers cutting their tour of your home short because of your dog.  At the same time, even as a dog owner I still don’t like being jumped on with muddy paws when I’m working with clients wearing dry clean only dress clothes.

This brings us to cats.

I’ve been with people who have stopped three feet inside the front door of a home and refuse to go any further because of severe allergies to cats.

Keeping your home clean and using a HEPPA filtered vacuum cleaner will at least reduce pet dander enough to let people with allergies tour your home.

The litter box is another major problem. Cleaning the litter DAILY and taking extraordinary steps to mask litter box odor should be a priority when listing your home. I can’t stress enough that if the house smells like a dirty litter box, buyers will cut their tours of your home short (it happened to us last Sunday- thus this blog!)

Then there are “unique” pets- snakes, rats, birds, spiders, scorpions, iguanas, skunks, etc.

If at all possible, get them out of the house before listing. Your potential buyer will either be terrified of them (and cut short their tour), or be fascinated by them (and forget to look at your house). Either way, nothing good comes of it.

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[ Previous Article: Your Basement Smells (Part II) ]


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Darin "Sid" Cameron spent 15 years working in the technology industry which in 1998 relocated him to St. Louis. In 2004 he took over web development tasks for Kimberly's real estate team and later became the full-time Marketing and Operations Director in 2005. In 2011 Sid launched two brokerages, The Realty Store, Inc. and Realty Referral Partners, Inc, while continuing to perform marketing and operations for Kimberly's team. Sid holds a real estate broker's license in Missouri, CRS certification and was the first CyberStar in the St. Louis area.
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