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Clean and Neutralize Your Home For Sale

Aug 17, 2007
We often arrange our homes to express ourselves - our travels, collections, families, favorite colors and unique tastes. However, when selling a home, the goal is to create just the opposite - a clean, neutral background that many different buyers would like to move into. Buyers must feel that they could fit right in and be comfortable in your house. You can help to create this feeling inexpensively by simply cleaning and neutralizing your home before putting it on the market.

(1) Clean Wall to Wall

Bathrooms
Clean bath tile with mildew cleaner. Often the caulking around the bathtub is darkened. This may need to be removed and replaced. It can be purchased in rolls, which is easier to install. Wash or replace shower curtains. Make sure all soap residue is removed. Remove toilet brushes or cleaners from view in bathrooms. Mirrors, counters and all bath fixtures should be immaculate. Buy new soaps and towels, if necessary.

Windows
Have the windows cleaned. Clean windows add a sparkle to the room. During showings, open blinds and expose as much glass as possible. Nothing sells a house better than natural light. If your lights are dim, increase the size of the bulbs. Combine indoor lamp lighting with natural light for warm, cheerful rooms. Remove any broken blinds or dusty curtains.

Floors
Floors must be immaculate. Make sure that your tile grout is perfectly clean. If your flooring is worn or damaged, consider replacing it. Often clients ask if they should provide an allowance for carpet replacement. Rather than offering an allowance, go ahead and replace the carpet. Your home will benefit from the improvement in presentation. New carpet will transform a house, and make everything in it look better. Do not worry about whether the buyers will like it. Just choose a neutral shade.

Walls
Walls usually need touch up, especially if there are children or pets in the house. Freshly painted walls are a strong contributor to the value of your home. Don't forget the baseboards and door trim. Fix nicks and paint over, for a fresh new look. Remember to leave some labeled paint cans for your buyers. They will appreciate it. Surfaces that cannot be cleaned can be painted.

Kitchen
The kitchen carries a lot of weight in the purchase decision. Kitchen appliances and countertops must sparkle. If needed, new stove burner pans may be purchased at Home Depot. Make sure the oven is clean. Look closely at cabinets. Repaint or refinish any scuffed cabinetry. Do not leave trash containers on display. Clean, and empty the under sink cabinet. Do not display any object that is stained or dirty. Invest in new kitchen towels.

Smells
Buyers are sensitive to bad smells, and will be suspicious of a house with an odor. Pleasant smells are subtle, but important. Use potpourri, candles or cinnamon sticks in hot water. Do not use air fresheners to cover up bad smells - this just compounds the problem. Remove the source of the smell first. Often, people cannot recognize a smell in their own home. If you smoke, have pets, or cook with strong spices, ask for feedback on smells from a third party. Unfortunately, if pets have used your carpet as a bathroom, the only choice is to replace the carpet. Cleaning does not work. The smell is in the pad under the carpet. In the garage, chemicals that have a strong odor should be sealed in plastic bags or removed.

Exterior
You may need to wash the exterior of your house with mildew cleaner, or with detergent and chlorine bleach. Often the shady areas have dark stains that will disappear with washing. Deck wood may need to be washed and sealed. Clean out flower beds and add fresh mulch. Purchase a new door mat.

(2) Neutralize the Space

Simplify Floor Materials
Neutral colors will increase the pool of potential buyers for your home. Your home will appeal to a wider audience. Stay within the range of tans, beiges, and cream colors for tile and carpets. Avoid strong colored or white carpets. Wood floors may be variety of browns. Natural stone floors have their own earth tones that work well. Avoid having many changes in floor materials, if possible.

Use Muted Wall Colors
Unify the house with the same or similar colors. Accent walls are OK in moderation. If buyers see pink and purple walls, they see work. Remember, buyers are in the process of moving, and are already overwhelmed with things to do. Light colors can be very appealing, but stay fairly neutral. Grayed yellows, sage greens, creams, light browns, and tans are muted colors that create a warmer, richer look. In general, avoid stark white, very dark, or bold colors.

Refinish cabinets
One of the problems we often see in kitchens is worn out cabinet finish. Consider painting woodwork for a fresh new look. Natural wood cabinets can be improved by lemon oil or wax. "Howard's Restore-a-finish" from Benjamin-Moore Paints works wonders to bring back color on scratched, or faded cabinets. New, updated cabinet pulls are an inexpensive improvement for cabinets. If you have dated wallpaper, consider painting the walls instead of replacing paper.

Create a Neutral Background
Strong political or artistic statements are not appropriate when your home is on the market. We do not want buyers to focus on these matters while viewing your house. Large groups of family photos are distracting. Collections, trophies, clippings and projects should be put away, for display in your next home. It is hard for buyers to look past these and visualize themselves in your house. Create a clean, simplified background. Within this background, use nice pieces of furniture, books, art and other objects to add color and beauty. Flowers in the entry and kitchen are very nice touches. Find the best visual presentation using your furniture and possessions.

Clean and Neutralize to Sell
It seems obvious that you should clean you house for sale, but, surprisingly, many people do not. An immaculately clean house is a well cared for house - the kind that buyers love. Clean the place wall to wall. Paint over anything that cannot be cleaned. Neutralize the space in terms of colors and objects on display. Allow buyers to imagine themselves in your home during the showing. The goal is to reach the buyer emotionally, and sell your house quickly and profitably.
About the Author
Roselind Hejl is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker United in Austin, Texas. Her website - Austin Texas Real Estate - http://www.weloveaustin.com - offers homes for sale, market trends, buyer and seller guides. Austin Real Estate Guide
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