Moving is pretty stressful so most home buyers want a house that is move-in ready. So what does this mean? In the strictest sense, a house must have a certificate of occupancy or CO issued by a local government agency saying a house is ready to be occupied. COs work for new construction houses but doesn't help buyers of a house that's 5, 10 or more years old.
Home buyers find it easy to list things they want in a new house, things like a great neighborhood, square feet, number of bedrooms and bathrooms. They may also say they want a house that's “move-in ready” but there's no standard way to measure this.
They want a house that's been well maintained and doesn't require major renovations right away. Many new homeowners also want time to get used to their new home before they pick paint colors and window treatments, so they want colors they can live with for a while. But let's dig a little deeper.
What Move-In Ready Means to Buyers
Each home buyer will have different priorities Here are some guidelines to help you make your home “move-in ready” to make it easier to see your house. And think about your own move. Do you want to have to paint the entire house, undertake major renovations or worry about replacing the roof?
- Are major systems in good working order? This includes heating, cooling, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems?
- Is your home's exterior well maintained and most important, water tight?
- Does your home have attractive landscaping and great curb appeal? It should be well maintained and easy to care for? Ask sellers for the names and contact information for service providers like landscapers, pool maintenance, etc.
- Are the utility bills reasonable, indicating your home uses energy and water efficiently? Don't be afraid to ask sellers for copies of their last three months bills, which should also show the past years usage.
- Does the house have adequate lighting from windows and light fixtures? Older houses typically don't have ceiling lights in bedrooms, so you'll have to hire an electrician or buy additional light fixtures.
- Is the kitchen updated with new/newer cabinets, counter tops and appliances?
- Do bathrooms have updated fixtures or features? There will always be surprises with a new house, even new construction. After two or three showers in beautiful clawfoot bathtub, I found myself heading downstairs to avoid the shower curtain clinging to me.
- Are the paint colors neutral so you can live with the colors until you're ready to paint? Sellers take note: you should always paint over bold colors that will turn off buyers, something I've had to do for years (read: 7 Steps to Staging a House).
Steps to Get Your House Ready to Sell
The selling process takes time, and when you do things in the right sequence, you will sell your home faster and get the best price possible. So let's review the key steps in getting your house move-in ready and who can help you with things you aren't comfortable doing yourself. You might also enjoy the tips in this article, 21 Ways to Prepare Your Home for Selling.
- Clean, de-clutter and de-personalize your home so it looks like there's plenty of space for everything buyers own. Hint: Professional organizers and home stagers can help you here and the cost for a consultation is very affordable.
- Make repairs, both cosmetic and functional. You don't want to turn buyers off with peeling paint and you don't want to haggle over who should make repairs identified during the home inspection. Hint: Your local handyman can get your project list done quickly and efficiently.
- Once repairs are done, have photos taken showing your home's best features, inside and out. Don't forget to update photos seasonally if your home doesn't sell right away. Hint: Make sure you get professional photographs to attract the most buyers to your home.
- Decorate your home so people can see how they'd use each space. Turn your master bathroom into a spa, create a reading nook in the hallway window seat. You don't want clutter but you do want people to see themselves living in your home.
- Make your home as inviting as possible online, from the curb, at the front door and don't forget outdoor living spaces which are becoming more important. Focus on kitchens, bathrooms, closets and lots of storage space, all of these key to selling a house.
Spring is when lots of people sell their homes so they can move over the summer school break. We hope these tips will help you proactively prepare your home for sale, and see your goals come to pass.