(MyHomeIdeas) -- If you're wondering why your house has languished on the market for all these months, check out our tongue-in-cheek guide to common mistakes sellers make
Don't try to hide things inside stoves or cupboards, experts say. Potential buyers usually look everywhere.
1. Leave out your pictures, magazines, books, and knickknacks. You want a prospective buyer to feel that they know you, right?
Wrong. You want the buyers to immediately begin imagining themselves living in your house, and they'll have a hard time seeing beyond the pictures of your family at Beaver Creek and the old issues of Gun & Garden.
Even worse, they might find your taste in books laughable or your choice of evening wear tacky and decide they couldn't possibly live in your house.
So clear every surface, every side table, every coffee table, the sideboard, the desk and the dining room table. You can put one item in each room, and it should be a plant or flowers.
2. Don't change the cat litter. After all, you changed it yesterday, right? It doesn't smell that bad yet.
Or.....give your house the sniff test. It should smell fresh and clean. Nothing is more off-putting to a prospective buyer than a house that's stale-smelling, or worse.
Often, you become so inured to the smell of your own home that you don't notice scents that might offend a visitor. Empty the garbage cans, load dirty clothes into the washing machine, run a lemon through the disposal, give wood furniture a quick swipe with polish, and for goodness sake, change the litter box.
3. Express yourself! Indulge in your favorite colors in vividly painted walls and furniture. Paint an accent wall a bright color. It's fun!
Or...make your house a place anyone could imagine making their own. This means removing most evidence of your own personality. Decorate with a rigorous devotion to beige.
Neutral walls, pale furniture, soft lighting, and inoffensive art all go a long way towards creating a crowd-pleasing interior. Remove your collections to a safe place for the duration of the selling process, since you want a prospective buyer to look at the space, not get distracted by your Beanie Baby collection.
4. Stash your dirty magazines and movies in your oven or drawers! No one will open them to look inside.
Oh, yes they will. Get rid of everything you wouldn't want your mother to see. Prospective buyers will open the oven, investigate drawers for function and capacity, and study your closets and your medicine cabinet.
Part of preparing your house to sell is a ruthless purging of all these places and a thoughtful review of potentially embarrassing items in your house. If your bedroom is your personal love palace, remove any evidence of your rollicking sex life, at least temporarily.
5. Leave your furniture arranged as it is. That way people can see how much you can fit into the room!
Or....remove those extra pieces of furniture that make a room livable but add to the sense of clutter -- side tables, foot stools, magazine racks, and rocking chairs, which take up more space than a fixed chair. Create simple arrangements with maximum impact.
Often people arrange their living room as if they're hosting the neighborhood watch association meeting, with all the furniture lined up along the walls. Instead, place a sofa facing the fireplace, and flank it with two chairs facing a coffee table in between. This will create visual depth and an inviting vignette.
6. Make sure buyers know your team loyalties. Don't forget to fly that Red Sox flag!
Or...put your fan-of-the-year behavior on hold for a while, and stash your team merchandise away in the attic. What if your best prospect is a Yankee's fan? You don't want to lose a buyer over a big sponge #1 finger. The same goes for religious paraphernalia, although that may actually be less of a deal-breaker than the wrong team loyalty.
7. Don't worry about the breakfast dishes in the sink. People will understand you were in a rush to get out the door that morning.
Or....they'll think you're a slob who couldn't be bothered to put the dishes in the dishwasher, and probably hasn't taken very good care of the house. Other people's dirty dishes are especially revolting, and conjure images of squalor. If it means you have to take your family out to breakfast, make sure you leave the kitchen pristine. My Home Ideas: Company-ready kitchen
The same goes for the bathroom. Dry the inside of the sink and the surrounding counter completely before you leave the house.
8. Let the buyer fix the hole in the wall and the broken light fixture. They may want to choose their own!
Or...be prepared to lose a sale over the poor condition of your house. Everything in your house must be in good working order before you put it on the market. This process can take a couple of months, but you need to fix all broken fixtures, change all burned out light bulbs, repair any flaws in the walls, and refresh any paint that needs it.
The same goes for outdated or worn wallpaper. Some things do not get better with age, and nothing dates a room more than eighties wallpaper. My Home Ideas: Painting over wallpaper
9. Leave the yard as is. After all, it's the house they're coming to see!
Or...learn to see your yard an extension of the house, and give it a thorough once-over. Trim unruly bushes, pull weeds, spread fresh mulch, and keep it mowed.
Your yard sets the expectations of the buyer before they've even stepped in your house. Consider installing attractive outdoor lighting. It goes a long way, for a little investment, toward creating a dramatic mood. And if you have a dog, go on a hunt for "land-mines" and clean them up.
10. Leave your dog in his crate while people look at your house. He's well-behaved.
Or...he's not so well-behaved when you're not there and strangers are tromping through his house. Nothing is so distracting as a barking dog when prospects are trying to get a detailed look at your house. Even though he might be contained, his voice will carry. Take him with you if you can, or drop him at a pet-friendly neighbor's house and repay them with house-sitting or a similar service.
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