So, You Want To Sell Your House

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By PETER ROSENTHAL, President
V.I.P. Trust Deed Company
March 2000

On the assumption that you sell your house through the services of a Realtor, this advice will just expand on similar advice that the Realtor will give you.  There are many, many helpful tips or “tricks of the trade” that Realtors employ to HELP YOU obtain the best and highest price and terms for your sale.  Again, if you’re using the services of a Realtor, compare this advice to the Realtor’s.  In the event that you’re contemplating selling the property on your own as a FSBO (For Sale By Owner), here are some tips that will make your house MUCH more saleable.

Before I go into specific tips, let me relate a true story and my advice that is only a week to ten days old.  A trust deed customer of ours owns a property in Pasadena that had been previously rented.  Since the property is now vacant, they wanted to sell it.   I arranged to have the property listed by a “name brand” broker in the Pasadena area who is extremely familiar with that property.  The previous tenant was a smoker and the first impression, upon entering the residence, was a complete turnoff.  The broker obtained estimates for a quite inexpensive interior painting and thorough cleaning, including carpets.  I felt the price was a true bargain.

In a meeting with my clients, the wife said, “Can’t we sell the property as is?”  Frankly, that is the real reason for this article.  Of course, they could sell the property in its present “as is” condition, BUT it was totally unappealing for a potential buyer.  Not only would the look and smell be a turnoff, but also a still-interested buyer would certainly make an offer substantially lower than an offer they would have made for a clean, sharp, “new paint smell” property.  My answer was that they could sell it “as is” but would lose a substantial sum of money by taking that option.

Now lets get to the nitty gritty.  No matter how large your house is, I’ll bet you that your entry closet has too many coats in it.  For that matter, I’ll bet most closets in the house are crammed or semi-crammed with junk and clothing that you haven’t worn in years.  California houses don’t have basements and, therefore, I’ll further bet that your garage cannot accommodate the number of cars it was built to house because of bicycles, lawnmowers, car parts, etc.

A two bedroom, one bath, 1,000 square foot house can be made to look MUCH bigger than it is.  On the other hand, a three bedroom, two bath house, if crammed, can look tiny.  The solution is simple, PS (i.e. Public Storage) or other storage facility.

If a woman is reading this, your husband will probably hate me.  Do your spring cleaning now.  Give items to charity, take all next season’s clothes and move them OUT OF YOUR HOUSE.  Take all the junk in your garage and sell it or move it BEFORE you list your house for sale.  First impressions mean a lot and you have this opportunity to make your house look bigger NOW.

  • Does your house need painting?  Perhaps the trim is the worst – PAINT THE TRIM.
  • Is your lawn a mess?  Have a landscaper come and do AS MUCH as they can on a limited    budget.  This may be only be sprinkling rye seed and watering.
  • Does the garage door sag?  Fix the springs.
  • Do you have pets?  If so, ask an impartial person if there is any smell.  If so, FIX IT.  There are many professional services that can make a 90% improvement in eliminating the odors.  At least I didn’t tell you to take the pets to the Public Storage!
  • Is the kitchen vinyl flooring cracked and unsightly?  REPLACE IT.
  • Is the carpeting worn and dirty?  Get it professionally cleaned.  I didn’t say replace it because your taste and budget may be totally different than that of the potential buyer.  The buyer may ask for a credit for carpeting – so be it.
  • Is the fence sagging on one side?  Hire a handyman.  Does it need restaining?  Stain it.
  • How about the windows?  Have a professional come in and clean ALL the windows.
  • Do you have a teenager?  Public Storage is really the answer here.  Since the County Child Protection Services Division would not be happy with this solution, perhaps it’s time to lay down the law.  The room must be presentable at all times – just for a few months.  Who knows, it may become a habit in the new house – you should be so lucky!

I will not go on and on, as my suggestions here are obvious.  Do anything that is not expensive to make a GOOD first impression.  If your broker gives you the “bake an apple pie” trick during open house – save me a piece!  This may sound like silly advice, but let me tell you something.  I personally held an open house in 1976 on lower Oakwood in La Canada.  This was an old movie star’s estate and I happened to have a Sunday car at that time, a beautiful 1957 black Bentley with red leather interior.  I parked the car in the driveway of the house the first time I held an open house at the property.  It rained all day.  I sold the house that day to a walk-in buyer.  I’m not swearing that the Bentley did it, but it sure made an impression.

Peter Rosenthal
VIP Trust Deed Company