Going, Going, Gone

By Megan Willome

43 tips to sell your home

Waco — it’s where people want to live.
And Waco buyers are savvy. They know what’s trending, what’s popular.
“Buyers want to see things in the Waco market that you will see on HGTV, but they want to see everything all completely done. People don’t have the vision to do some of these things themselves. They like modern design, especially in remodels,” said Roman Novian, better known as Roman the Realtor. “People are seeing things that they see on Pinterest and on Houzz.com, and when they see it in real life, they are loving it.”
In 2018 more than 2,900 homes sold, even more than in 2017, which was also a strong year. The average sale price in December was $208,985, and the median price was $159,900. Indicators for 2019 point to strong sales in a more balanced market. Competition remains steep for starter homes, especially those below $200,000, but also among those listed as high as $250,000. Homes listed at $300,000 or more don’t always move as quickly because there are fewer buyers, and those homes are competing with new construction in the greater Waco area.

The 43 tips below are recommendations from five of Waco’s top Realtors: Trish Griffin of Kelly, Realtors; Melissa Harrell of H&A Home Team, Keller Williams Advantage; Haley Holden of Magnolia Realty; Camille Johnson of Camille Johnson, Realtors; and Roman Novian of Coldwell Banker Apex, Realtors.
Each person stressed the importance of working with a licensed Realtor. (Not all real estate agents are Realtors. For a complete listing, consult Waco Association of Realtors.) Realtors know the local market and what steps you need to take to get your particular home ready to sell.
“This is a big transaction, the biggest people do in their lives,” Harrell said. “You have to have someone that’s your advocate, knows the paperwork, has negotiation skills. Not everyone does this every day, but we do.”

Curb appeal. Everyone knows the importance of curb appeal, but does everyone do it? Every Realtor mentioned some aspect of making a good first impression, from trimming trees and shrubs to planting pansies to keeping grass mowed to adding or painting shutters. Harrell asked, “Do you need a new coat of paint on the mailbox?”

Sparkling porch. Griffin says the front door area should be immaculate. “There should be no clutter on the front porch because that first impression is huge,” she said. “You want the home to feel inviting.” Johnson also advises putting down a fresh mat. “You want it to look very manicured, that somebody loves the home,” she said.
Brown mulch. “Use dark brown mulch. Stay away from red mulch and black mulch,” Novian said. “New mulch happens on pretty much every one of my listings.”
Pretty dirt. Good-looking dirt is especially important when not much is blooming, “You can put down pretty dirt [so] it doesn’t look neglected during the winter,” Johnson said. She also recommends setting a green plant by the front door and another on the patio table. “Maybe one that doesn’t require water every day, that you can keep alive,” she said. And then she said it again: “Get something that you can keep alive.”

Backyard bliss. It’s the opposite of curb appeal, but how your backyard looks can make or break a buyer’s interest. “Backyard patios are sometimes what sells the home,” Johnson said.
Little details. Attention to small matters adds up. “Scrub baseboards, clean ceiling fans and inside light fixtures. Does your door hardware need to be replaced? Add new hardware in kitchens and bathrooms,” Harrell said. “We think, ‘I’ll get to that later,’ and we never get to that later.”
Holden also suggests changing electrical plate covers and added, “I think focusing on [rooms] you spend the most time is really the key.”
Invest wisely. Especially with your time. “Usually the thing people really need to invest in is getting their home deep-cleaned, pressure-washed and decluttered, even if that just means investing their time,” Holden said.
Routine maintenance. “Repair that leaky faucet. Clean the grout. If you take care of routine maintenance, it’s a sign you take care of other major items in your home,” Harrell said. She warned that when you don’t attend to routine maintenance, “from a buyer’s perspective, it puts that question mark in their mind, ‘What else might be wrong in this home?’”
HVAC love. When was the last time your heating and air conditioning system had a tune-up? When was the last time you cleaned the vents? Johnson said a common mistake is “not taking care of central heat and air systems, not changing filters.”
Spic ‘n’ span. “You can have a dated house and still sell it as long as it’s clean and well taken care of. You just have to price it accordingly to reflect the need of updates,” Johnson said. “You can’t get as much per foot as your neighbor who has updated their home.”
Declutter, declutter. Every Realtor mentioned it. Johnson said, “A lot of clutter is another drawback — stacks of books and magazines and a lot of stuff everywhere, all the knickknacks, too much furniture in a room. These are all hazards or drawbacks in getting a home sold.”
Novian says another reason to declutter is to make pictures of the house look better online. “When you’re taking a picture, you’re compressing all the elements of that picture into the size of a screen, and all the [clutter] will detract from what you’re trying to sell in the first place,” he said.
Depersonalize, depersonalize. We know to take down personal photos so potential buyers can see themselves in your home, but Griffin also recommends removing diplomas. “Maybe you have a diploma from Baylor, and I’m showing Aggie fans — that could alienate them,” she said. Griffin also mentioned a client who had a political magnet on the refrigerator, “and every time we showed it, we’d get comments from the other side.”

Only decorative. “Hide anything in the house that is not decorative,” Novian said. “You don’t want things out that are utilitarian, things like speakers and fans and appliances, trash cans. Those are utilitarian. You really want it to look like a model home. That includes basically your vases, pictures that are not of your family, paintings, artwork. Decorative towels are OK in bathrooms.” He finds he gets a lot of good feedback when he posts pictures of funky chandeliers. “I’ve seen people do Sputnik chandeliers, mobile chandeliers — those kinds of things have been really popular,” he said.
Neutral paint. Griffin warned against “paint colors that are too personalized. If you’ve got a dark red room, [buyers] may not like that. Keep them neutral, if possible. Paint is a maintenance item, but it will help the house sell.”
Johnson echoed the advice, saying, “Paint is cheap. Make it fresh-looking, no chipped paint inside or out. You probably want to neutralize your home, tones of grays or beiges.”
Harrell emphasized that repainting shouldn’t be a substitute for repairing — do both.  “If there’s rotten wood on fascia, repair and repaint that. If you have nail holes in the wall, repair those and repaint walls,” she said.
Not neutral paint. Although Novian considers neutral paint a good general guideline, he says it’s not a law, as long as it’s not a dark color that makes the room feel small. “If you’ve got a bathroom that has a navy blue accent wall and a nautical theme, that’s fine,” he said. “Kids rooms, especially, I don’t tell people to neutralize those because a lot of times they will remain kids rooms, and a lot of people will forgive those types of things.”

Flooring improvement. Most buyers want hard surfaces throughout the house but still like carpet in the bedrooms. “Clean the carpets, remove rugs that hide the flooring,” Griffin said. “You also may want to replace flooring if it’s in bad shape, but don’t expect to get a big return on your investment. New floors are more of an improvement to help the house sell. You can get some money back, not all, but it will help the house sell quicker.”

Matching bedding. “Good bedding, matching bedding, lots of pillows,” Novian said. “Think Bed Bath & Beyond.” At the very least Griffin advised, “Keep your beds made.”
Tidy closets. Your closets do not necessarily need to spark joy, but they should be tidy. “When buyers are looking at your home to potentially be their own in the future, they will peek into closets, your garage and even the cabinets. Having a clean and tidy space will put your mind at ease that each showing will be the best it can be,” Holden said.
But Novian would rather closets be jam-packed than rooms. “Closets and cabinets, that should be the last thing you put emphasis on. You want to be able to see how big a closet is, but really, that’s where I tell people to hide things when they’re trying to get the house ready,” he said.
‘Bye, wallpaper.’ Johnson had to take down her own ’90s wallpaper, the kind “with the fruit and flowers. I hated to take it down because it matched everything,” she said. “As my painter finally told me, ‘It’s over, Camille.’”
Tidy garage. “Garages are kind of the same as closets,” Novian said. “Put anything in the garage you don’t want seen. As long as you can walk through the garage and see wall to wall, it’s OK.”

Bathroom spa. Depersonalize bathrooms so they feel like a spa. “Put up toothbrushes, put out clean white towels, clean out showers and tubs of personal items,” Johnson said. “Make it feel like you’re entering a spa.”
Clear kitchen. “Refrigerators are a big thing,” Novian said. “A lot of people have magnets or stuff on top — clear it completely. The kitchen countertops need to be completely clear, maybe an open cookbook. The only countertop appliance I am OK with is a stand mixer. A lot of times they have color to them. I don’t like a toaster or a microwave — you’re selling the house and not the stuff in the house.”
No cookies. “Don’t bake cookies,” Novian said. “Maybe Pillsbury put that out on the web — don’t do that. You want people to look around without being distracted, and even the smell of cookies can be distracting. And when you’re hungry you don’t think very well.”

Fresh fruit. In the dining room, Johnson advised, “Just have fruit on the table, not a place setting.”

Light jazz. “If you have Alexa or any speaker or a cable music channel, I recommend to put on light jazz music, contemporary jazz music, to give some sort of noise, on a low setting,” Novian said.
Light & bright. “When showing, you want to prepare the house — turn on the lights, open the blinds. You want it to be light and bright,” Griffin said. “That includes lamps, too — turn on every one.” Johnson echoed the suggestion and added, “We sometimes take out furniture to make rooms look larger and more spacious and more open. You just want to create space.”
Novian also suggested making sure all lightbulbs match. “Make sure all lightbulbs are working and they all match each other in color,” he said. “Some people will use fluorescent with incandescent, and they don’t give the same color.”

No pets. It’s an uncomfortable topic, but Holden was adamant: “Take your pets to day care or with you so they don’t disturb the potential buyers,” she said. Harrell explained, “Sometimes we’ve been to those homes where the pet’s in the yard, and you’re uncertain, ‘Can I go in the yard or not?’”
Less is best. “Less is always more in every situation of selling your home,” Holden advised. “One of the best things a potential buyer can ask is, ‘Do the sellers live there?’ This means the home was in such perfect order it looks like no one currently lives there.”
Staging recs. Most houses for sale in Waco are owner-occupied. If yours will be empty, ask your Realtor for recommendations of qualified stagers. Griffin warned, “People who attempt it [on their own] can make it worse by doing things that aren’t appropriate.”
No mess. Once your home is on the market, it needs to be kept show-ready. “Trying to convince people to keep the home show-ready is very important because we live in our homes, but if you’re putting your house on the market, that’s just part of the process, keeping it cleaned up, picked up, presentable,” Harrell said. She also recommended putting away pet toys and food bowls and storing kids’ toys out of sight.
No Febreze. We live in our homes, with our pets and our candles, and we may not realize an odor is off-putting to someone with sensitivities. Ask your Realtor what they smell and make adjustments. “It should smell clean but not overwhelming. It should not smell like air fresheners,” Griffin said.
Good candy. Johnson recommended, “Have a candy dish at the front door with some good candy to welcome buyers as they come to visit.”
Purposeful rooms. As you decide what to leave out and what to store, “every room needs to be staged as its intended purpose,” Novian said. “The dining room needs to look like a dining room and not an office.”
Be gone. “Never be home,” Holden said. “I have never shown a home that having the seller there was beneficial. It is awkward for the buyer, and it seems to be a major turn-off.”
Avoid mistakes. “Don’t spend money on things people won’t notice or that doesn’t add value to your home,” Holden said. “Always ask an agent before doing any costly renovations to make sure you will see your return.”
Roof talk. One of those big-ticket items to discuss with your Realtor is the state of your roof. “It’s great to spend money, if there’s an old roof, to get a roof replaced. That seems to be the biggest problem in selling in the last few years,” Johnson said.
Be proactive. Once your home is under contract, it will undergo an inspection, and something will come up (it always does). But if you work with your Realtor to address issues before you list your home, it will mean fewer things to address once a potential buyer gets involved. “You’re putting your best foot forward, problem-solving, being proactive, not reactive,” Harrell said.
Don’t overprice. Holden said, “Having a comparative market analysis done by your agent is key to making sure your home is priced high enough for you to get top dollar but also low enough that your home doesn’t just sit on the market with little to no activity.” Likewise, Griffin said, “If you overprice it, it’s gonna sit out there longer.
And the longer it sits, the harder it is to sell.”
Time frame. A Realtor knows the typical and not-so-typical time frame for selling a home in your price range and location and in the particular season in which you list it. Harrell explained, “If we know a typical close takes 30 days from when it goes under contract to closing, that means that 58 days was the typical amount of time when you were working to get the home under contract. That was December. That time frame gets shorter in spring and summer.”
Professional photos. Quality online photos are a huge part of the selling process. “I have clients that if they click on a house online and there are no photos, then they go to the next house,” Griffin said.
Holden said what moves homes in Waco is “partnering with the right agent who also partners with a professional photographer and has the right tools to market your home to the fullest.”
Internet exposure. Much marketing happens online, and your Realtor should know the newest and best ways to get your home the exposure it needs to sell. Trish Griffin said, “I recently sold a house, the end of last year, to a couple — I would guess they’re in their 70s — and they were all over the internet. I set them up on automatic email to get a list of houses, and they would look through the list I sent them, and they picked out what they wanted.”
Homework time. “You want an experienced Realtor who’s up-to-date on the new and up-and-coming web and internet exposure. You want to be with a company that has a known track record,” Griffin said.
Professional Realtor. “Call a professional,” Novian said. “Just as you’d call a dentist to extract a tooth, call an agent. We’re trained. We specialize in doing it as quickly as possible and getting you as much money as you can get. That’s our job.”

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