John M. Lee: Preparing a Home for Sale

The newspapers have been bombarding us daily with how tough the current real estate market is. Then why is it that some of my buyers get out-bidded on three to four houses before getting an offer accepted?

Have you ever wondered why some homes sell and some just sit on the market? Even in today's slower market, some homes are receiving multiple offers and sell for more than the asking price,z while others are not receiving any offers. The answer lies in pricing and emotional appeal.

This column will discuss how you can prepare your home in order to obtain the highest possible price. Purchasing a home is a very emotional process and is usually a very stressful time in the life of the home purchaser. Many times, they are making the largest financial commitment of their life and are unsure whether or not they are getting the right deal.

Thus, when other people are making an offer on the same property that a buyer is looking at, it reassures the buyer that they are doing the right thing because others feel the same way about the property as they do. As a seller then, how do you create these feelings so your property will sell quickly and for the most money in today's market?

Preparing a property for sale is especially important because people today are busier than before, and they are looking for properties in "move-in" condition. There are many inexpensive types of preparation work that will bring returns many times over for sellers.

First of all, unclutter the house. It's amazing how much stuff accumulates over the years. By removing large items, such as furniture, and putting things away it makes a home show larger than it is, and gives the impression that it is spacious and well cared for. Painting and freshening up the backyard can be inexpensive, and yet gives the impression that a home is well maintained.

Refinishing hardwood floors will do wonders for showing off a home. If you want to go further, staging companies are available that will bring in complete sets of furniture to complement the age and decor of the house. We have found that this adds tremendous value, makes your home show like a model home, and separates your home from others on the market.

When a buyer walks into the home, I often get a good feeling about whether or not he or she will buy that home by their initial reaction. In order to obtain the highest possible price, buyers need to feel comfortable and need to know that the home has been taken care of.

From a buyer's standpoint, you must not only look at the staging or furnishings in the home but you must be able to step back and look past the decor to imagine how your furniture will fit in the space. After all the surface finishes are removed, the rooms will just be bare walls and you will have to decorate it the way you want to.

Buyers are sometimes disappointed in homes they have purchased after all the staged furniture is removed. I always recommend that buyers stand back and picture the rooms empty. Then imagine their own furniture in each room and see how it feels. That way, they won't be as distracted by the staging and focus more on the home.

On the other extreme, I have had some buyers who loved the staged furniture so much that they even approached the stager and purchased all of the furniture with the house!

Buying and selling a home is a stressful and emotional time in one's life. But with the proper preparation, it can be a rewarding experience for both the buyer and the seller.

John M. Lee is a top-selling broker at Pacific Union, specializing in the Richmond and Sunset districts. If you have any questions about real estate, call him at (415) 447-6231 or e-mail