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How To Sell a House: Make Your First Impressions Count

Published on Thursday - July 25, 2013

Whether they know it or not, prospective homebuyers are heavily influenced by their first impression of a respective property. The average house hunter will often decide, within a matter of seconds, if they are interested in a house. Therefore, it is imperative to void the property of any potential drawbacks or visually unappealing characteristics. A bad first impression may be all that is needed for a potential buyer to avoid looking at a property all together.

Whether online or in person, “that first impression sets the tone for the whole experience,” said Roger Piro, president of the Sarasota Association of Realtors, and an agent with Town and Country Real Estate. “If it’s negative, then they’re going to be on the lookout for other things they may not like. They’re thinking, ‘What else might be wrong with this place?’”

There are three particular thresholds to take into consideration when deciding how to sell a house: online appeal, curb appeal and entry appeal. While these three criteria are subjective, a collaborative effort is paramount to their success. Each must work in unison to create a good first impression and facilitate the transaction.

Those learning how to sell a house should familiarize themselves with the Internet and its intricacies. It is a powerful tool that must be utilized. Nine out of ten homebuyers are believed to start their search on the Internet. Accordingly, it is equally important to portray your house in a visually pleasing light. Real estate photography is therefore a critical element to selling and making a good first impression. Second only to price, quality photographs are one of the biggest factors considered by consumers when purchasing a house.

According to information provided by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “listings with nicer photos gain anywhere between $935 and $116,076” more than those that don’t. Take the time to enlist the help of a professional photographer. Their effort will not only drive potential customers to your house, but will likely increase their subsequent offer.

Done correctly, quality photographs online can bring clients to the physical location of the house. However, the first impression process is far from over. Once on site, curb appeal must draw their attention. Provide the client with a reason to enter the house. “If you want the chance to show them how great the fireplace is, you’ve got to get them through the door,” said Rose, an agent with Coldwell Banker in Sarasota.

Several techniques may be implemented on a house’s exterior to create a great first impression. Installing a contoured flowerbed, where grass meets mulch, can provide a visually appealing statement for minimal investment. Michael Saunders & Co. agent Nancy Phillips suggests adding color with annuals like impatiens and marigolds along with plants that conjure images of a tropical paradise.

In addition to flowerbeds, sellers may also benefit from the strategic placement of various plants. In particular, buyers are attracted to properties that have plants outlining various features. Placing plants on the front corners of the yard or along driveways and walkways can provide a great first impression.

Projects should focus on improvements that are universally appealing; do not pigeonhole yourself with unique features. Doing so can significantly limit interested clients. Consider conservative changes: replacing worn gutters, patching cracks in the driveway or a new mailbox.

As perhaps the most universal of all projects, updating the front door may result in the most return on your investment. The prospect of a visually appealing entryway may be all that is needed for a client to enter the house. “You want people to feel welcome, and the front door is an important focal point,” said Rose.

The average cost of a half glass 20-gauge steel door is approximately $1,218. However, by replacing a standard wood door with a steel door, you can increase your home’s value by as much as $1,243. That is a 102.1 percent return on your investment.

The addition of exterior lighting can literally brighten the prospects of making a great first impression. Lighting fixtures will not only enhance curb appeal, but they will also instill an enhanced sense of security. Their presence can also illuminate characteristics that you wish to display, further contributing to the overall feel of the property.

Up to this point, your first impression has consisted of an online presence and curb appeal. If executed to the customer’s liking, they will want to immerse themselves in the house’s features even further. Therefore, there is one more threshold that must make a great first impression. Assuming the prospective buyer makes it to the door, the next threshold is the entryway. Make sure the space is free of clutter, particularly personal items that may distract buyers from envisioning themselves in the home.

As perhaps the most crucial of all interior first impressions, smell can break a deal faster than it can make one. Make it a priority to eliminate any potential source of smell, including mold or mildew. Due to the overwhelming aroma of plug-in scents, many agents suggest baking cookies or apples prior to showing. The aroma may instill a sense of ownership, allowing the clients to envision themselves living in the house.

Moving beyond sensory applications, improvements should be centered around substance rather than style. Avoid trendy updates that are more permanent in nature, Rose said. “The life cycle of home improvements … is much shorter now than in the past, and things can look dated more quickly,” she said. “Stick with classic materials and design on things like kitchen cabinets and tile.”

Those looking to improve the features of their house would be better suited to focusing on particular rooms. Investing primarily in the kitchen and bathrooms will help those learning how to tell a house. Prospective homebuyers are naturally drawn to these functional areas. However, it is not necessary to completely replace fixtures altogether. Many sellers will benefit from re-facing and re-surfacing countertops and cabinets. Similarly, updating the hardware can go a long way to improving the quality of each respective room.

Lighting is another critical element that can greatly enhance the value and perception of a house. Out of date lighting is indicative of an aging home. When possible, rid the premises of unattractive lighting fixtures that provide little light. Plastic coverings should be replaced with glass whenever possible and the installment of recessed lighting is always a bonus.

Each house will require a particular set of features to enhance its “sellability.” However, it is important to take into consideration each additions return on investment. If the numbers do not add up, it is not worth it. It doesn’t make sense to overhaul all the fixtures and finishes when the new buyers might not like your. Chances are, they will update them to their liking. Not making changes can be more important than unnecessary additions when deciding how to sell a house.

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