Prepare your home for a sale

by Dan Krell
© 2013

Home for sale

It may be an exciting year, especially if you’re planning to sell your home. If you’re like most home sellers, you’ve got some work to do to prepare your home before it goes on the market. So, let’s get to it…

One of the most important things to do before you list your home is to declutter. Decluttering can be an overwhelming endeavor because of a commonly held misconception that the goal is to make your home immaculate. Rather, the underlying principle to decluttering is to remove items from rooms to give a more spacious feel; you decide what items get thrown out, donated, or kept in storage. So as not to get overwhelmed, plan the decluttering; rather than trying to complete the activity in one weekend, try decluttering one room (or even one part of a room) per day.

After the decluttering, you’re often left with items that need to be thrown out. However, some items require precautions and/or special disposal: some items may need to be recycled; some may need special handling; while some may need to be hauled to a processing facility. The county or municipality may offer special pick up for some items that cannot be disposed of by the regular trash collection. If you’re unsure about the disposal of certain items, call your local “Department of Waste Services,” (like my local Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services) which can offer guidance and information for local disposal/recycle procedures, facility locations and hours.

“Neutralize” your home to provide a vision to home buyers how they can live in the home. Although you’ve spent years giving your home a personal touch; items such as trophies, awards, diplomas, family and personal photos should be removed because they can distract home buyers’ attention from the home itself.

Home buyers should feel at ease when viewing your home. Having too much and/or over-sized furniture can make an otherwise large room feel cramped. Eclectic furniture collections and furniture that is wrongly placed can not only make a room look awkward, but can also give people an unsettling feeling.

Does your home need staging? Home staging is a way to create a “vision” for home buyers by adding a modern flair. Some home sellers stage every room, while some only stage featured rooms to be focal points of the home. Although home staging can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes having an extra lamp or removing a painting from a wall can make the difference between shabby and chic. If your furniture is out of date or in poor condition, consider a short term furniture rental for that featured room.

Although we’ve talked about your home’s interior – don’t neglect the exterior of your home. Home buyers’ initial opinions are created as they approach your home; no matter how nice your home looks on the inside, it may not matter if home buyers never make it inside. Simple landscaping can make a lawn appear “manicured.” Make sure that the home’s siding is clean and in good condition.

Your real estate agent should be able to provide guidance to prepare your home for sale. If home staging is a goal, many agents either work with a home stager or have been certified for home staging. You can also research home staging by visiting The International Association of Home Staging Professionals website (

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This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of January 14, 2013. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2013 Dan Krell.

Strategies to sell your home in a sluggish market

by Dan Krell © 2008

If you are a considering selling your home this spring, you can expect more of the same from the local real estate market (picky home buyers and lots of competition). You can better position yourself and make your home stand out by doing what many other home owners are doing- returning to the basics of home selling. Homeowners are hiring Realtors to list and sell their homes, as well as making their homes more appealing for prospective home buyers.

Hiring a Realtor can help you decide on a list price as well as executing a marketing plan once the home is listed. Pricing your home appropriately is crucial to a successful sale in this market, so consulting a Realtor early in the decision process to get an understanding of the neighborhood market dynamics will be helpful. Every neighborhood is different and you cannot judge what your home will sell for based on media reports or general statements about market conditions. Having a Realtor analyze your neighborhood listing and sold information will help you understand the trends and prices.

Analyzing the days on market trends to understand the consequences of listing at a higher price is important. Many home sellers make the mistake of listing at a higher price believing that home buyers will make lower offers and ask for closing cost assistance; however, this strategy has left many homes languishing on the market. A more realistic approach is to have your Realtor determine a list/sale price for a 30 day sale, 60 to 90 day sale, and a 120+ sale. Although a 30 day pricing strategy is aggressive and not for everyone, you will see that it makes sense compared to carrying costs (paying mortgage, utilities, insurance, taxes, etc.) of an extended sale.

The Realtor you hire should have a detailed marketing plan to advertise and attract interest in your home. Some Realtors rely on their broker to market your home, while others take a more personal approach to marketing your home. Although marketing strategies vary, you can decide what marketing strategy is best for you based on the data provided.

With pricing and marketing in place, how will you satisfy picky home buyers? Discerning home buyers can be influenced by making the best impression when the home is viewed. To make the best impression, you may need to make repairs or updates. For repairs and update ideas, consider having a pre-listing home inspection, a home energy audit, and hiring a home staging professional.

Having a pre-listing home inspection will allow you to find out what items need repair and which systems need updating. Don’t worry about having to make all repairs; the home inspector will explain which repairs are a priority (due to safety) as well as offering recommendations on system updates.

Since home buyers have become more concerned with energy efficiency, having a home energy audit may reveal areas in your home that need updating or repairing to increase the efficiency of the home’s energy use.

Finally, a home staging professional can create an environment within your home to give a home buyer the best first impression.

Selling your home this coming spring will be challenging. However, being prepared and hiring the right professionals can sometimes make the difference to making the sale.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of December 22, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.

De-mystifying Home Staging

by Dan Krell © 2008

Home staging is often thought of as a fancy name for decorating or cleaning a home prior to it being sold. In fact, “home staging” is a term that is used to describe the process of preparing your home for sale that goes beyond normal maintenance. The purpose for staging your home is to make your home as appealing as possible to potential home buyers so your home will sell quickly. Surveys conducted by the Accredited Staging Professionals a ( and Homegain ( indicate that staged homes sell faster than non-staged homes.

Although home staging has been around for over thirty years, it only gained wide acceptance this last decade. Many home staging techniques are derived from interior design; home stagers often sketch rooms to analyze the best use of space.

Staging your home’s exterior is just as important as staging the interior because a home buyer’s mood is set by their first impressions. You should consider the condition of your home’s landscape, façade, roof and gutters. Unkempt flower beds and cracked walkways can quickly give the impression that the home is in disarray. Additionally, missing shingles and misaligned gutters give the impression that the home has been poorly maintained.

The basics of home staging include decluttering, rearranging, and sometimes redecorating. Home sellers often have tunnel vision about their homes. Removing the clutter of your daily life from your home is the cornerstone to home staging. Decluttering goes beyond cleaning and storing unused items. Because home buyers can get distracted by the home seller’s lifestyle when viewing a home, home stagers talk about “depersonalizing” a home.

You may have spent years making your home personal to your lifestyle, however now that you are selling it you need to depersonalize it. Depersonalization means to neutralize your home by removing as much of your lifestyle as possible from the home so anyone can feel as if this could be their home. Personal items, such as family photos, can focus the home buyer’s attention on your lifestyle and away from the home.

Additionally, the layout of each room needs to be considered so it feels bright and roomy. Properly placed furniture can assist home buyers to feel at ease and “at home.” Too much furniture in any room tends to make a large room look small and feel cramped. Additionally, misplaced furniture can make a room feel awkward and unsettling.

Let’s face it, sometimes a room needs a makeover. However, redecorating does not have to be an expensive affair. Sometimes having an extra lamp or even painting a wall can make the difference between shabby and chic. If your furniture is out of date or in poor condition, furniture rentals can be a short term solution.

If the home you are selling is vacant, staging each room tastefully can facilitate your sale. An Appraisal Institute study indicated that a decorated home sells faster than an empty home.

Although many real estate agents have been certified in home staging, professional home stagers usually have a background in interior design. The International Association of Home Staging Professionals ( is a source of information about home staging, including tips on staging your home and finding a home staging professional.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 11, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Dan Krell.


Does a Vacant Home Sell Faster?

by Dan Krell © 2007

When I list a home I invariably get the question, “Don’t vacant homes sell faster than occupied homes?”

It is an interesting debate in the real estate industry. Well, not so much a debate as it is a difference of professional opinion and culture. The rationale for vacating the home prior to listing it includes ease and convenience, for both the home seller and the prospective home buyer. After all, the home seller will not have to be bothered with keeping the home clean on a daily basis anticipating home buyers coming to see the home. Additionally, strangers won’t be traipsing through the home at odd times or while the home seller is taking a shower (which does happen).

For the prospective home buyer, viewing a vacant home can’t get any easier. There are no restrictions on showings; there aren’t any worries on going too late in the evening or too early in the morning. Also, there aren’t any worries on letting out pets because there are none in the home.

When the real estate market was on a run away pace, the advice of vacating a home may have been harmless as well as making some sense. The thought was, “Why not move out before listing? Some one will be moving in the home in several weeks.”

Now that the real estate market has become (or becoming) more realistic, the reality selling a vacant home is setting in. An empirical study conducted by Chien-Chih Peng and published in the June 22nd 2004 issue of the Appraisal Journal concluded that vacant homes take longer to sell as well as selling for less than occupied homes.

While viewing a vacant home, you notice traffic patterns as well as furniture footprints. If you have ever moved furniture out of a room, you probably noticed that the room looked a bit shabbier empty than with furniture because of the marks left behind from furniture and traffic through the room. You tend to notice more imperfections than if the home was furnished. Additionally, if the home is on the market for an extended period, dust buildup and an overgrown lawn becomes unsightly. Sometimes an unused toilet gets a ring that will become a home buying deterrent. If the home is not maintained on a regular basis, the vacant home looks as if it is an abandoned home that has no appeal.

Why do home builders fully furnish their models? It’s not because they want to advertise someone’s furniture, it is because they want to give you an idea of how the space can be used. Home builders know that selling a home is much more than a financial investment, it’s an emotional investment. Vacant homes are bleak and sterile, whereas a furnished home can show its warmth and connect emotionally with the potential home buyer.

Finally, savvy home buyers may look at a vacant home as a sign of a desperate home buyer in need of a quick sale. A vacant home may be an invitation to lower offers because it is thought to be a financial waste or strain on the home seller.

The message is clear. Whether or not you plan to live in your home during the sale, keep your home furnished modestly, clutter free, and clean.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This column was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of 2/5/2007. Dan Krell © 2007.