The Shoe Tree’s Gotta Go

A shoe tree in its natural habitat

A shoe tree in its natural habitat

Today and yesterday I came across something new – a shoe carousel.  Actually after some online research I discovered it’s called a shoe tree and it seems that you can pick one up at your local big box like Target or Bed Bath & Beyond.

I’d never seen a circular shoe tree before so took note when I came across them in two different houses for sale.  There was no missing them – each was loaded with shoes and on display in the bedroom.

I may be on the squeamish side but have to say there is something totally unappealing about a fully loaded shoe tree.  Piles of people’s well-worn shoes are typically not visually enticing. The shoe tree makes it worse since the soles face outwards.  A carousel of dirty shoe bottoms – ugh.  It’s ugly and, when displayed out in the open, an in-your-face announcement that there’s not enough room in your closets.

The houses, priced more than a million dollars apart, had something else besides shoe trees in common.  Each was a mess.

In one case the house had been on the market for a couple of months.  Sometimes home sellers get burnt out.  Keeping the house show-ready for buyers is a drag, especially as the weeks wear on and the place starts to look a bit more lived-in.  Our showing was short notice so I imagine that’s the homeowner’s excuse.  The mess was so extreme, however, that a day or two’s notice wouldn’t have been enough.  It was hard to fathom what the sellers were thinking, particularly since they were selling for less than they paid and had done renovations to boot.  It was no way to sell a house.

The other house was new to the market and while not as much of a disaster area was still messy, cluttered, and just generally unkempt.  And there was that shoe tree. It’s impossible to quantify how much money the seller will leave on the table by not making the extra effort to be show ready before opening the doors to real estate agents and buyers.  But there’s no doubt that there’s money to be made by applying some spit and polish before your house debuts on the market.

Kudos to you if you already live in a place that looks like a model home. But for the rest of us you’re really best served by clearing out and cleaning up before you have the first agent in, never mind the first buyer.  A good real estate agent will be able to help you with the fine tuning and can make suggestions about furniture or accessories to remove or even add.

And take it from me – if your home is for sale the shoe tree’s gotta go.

 

 

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First Impressions

Jellybean Rugs at Tags Hardware in Cambridge

Jellybean Rugs at Tags Hardware in Cambridge

When you’re selling your house or condo in Cambridge the first impression your home makes on real estate agents and buyers is critical.

Often that first impression comes at your doorway.  When your house is for sale it’s time to replace that worn and faded old welcome mat.  Nowadays, with stylish doormats available at your local hardware store, it’s easier than ever to spruce up your front entrance. 

These rugs, displayed near the entrance to Tags Hardware in Porter Square, are just what you need to add a splash of color outside your door.  The indoor / outdoor mats are washable – said to wash “better than your jeans” – and come in a variety of bright, colorful designs.  Dog lovers take note – several have cheery designs featuring Labs and other dogs.  No cats, however, so I bought one of the more traditional patterns – the pineapple welcome mat seen below.

The Jellybean rugs cost $29.99 – a small investment for a big return when you’re selling your home.

My New Jellybean Welcome Mat

Visit Tags Hardware in the Porter Square shopping center, 29 White Street, Cambridge MA  02140.

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Ten Quick and Easy Projects to Get Your House Ready to Sell

Prospective sellers often ask me about various repairs and projects they’re contemplating prior to putting their house on the market.  Should we put in a second bath? Should we renovate the kitchen? They wonder if it’s time for the renovations or big fixes they had always planned to do.  Usually my answer is No – you will not get your money back for big projects completed shortly before you sell your house.  Better to keep your money for a new kitchen in your next home – and have some time to enjoy it.

It’s actually the less expensive, easier fixes that have a high return.  Selling your house is all about first impressions.  You want your house to sparkle and shine from the first time an agent or buyer walks in the door.  

Here are some easy, inexpensive projects to get your house or condo in tip top shape:

1.  Declutter, declutter, declutter.  You want your home to look like a show house.  Counters cleared off, closets thinned, surfaces bare.  When in doubt – out and away it goes. 

2.  Rent a storage unit if you have nowhere to put your clutter.  It’s relatively inexpensive and the answer to the question of “but where do we put our stuff?”

3.  Depersonalize your home.  It’s ok to have some personal items scattered about the house. The goal is not to strip your home of all of its personality.  However, if you’ve turned your home into a family photo gallery or have loads of memorabilia scattered about, it’s time to thin the collections.  You want buyers to focus on the house, not on the details of your life or hobbies.

4.  Clean, clean, clean.  Your house must sparkle and shine.   Fingerprints cleaned, counters, cupboards and drawers wiped clean, bathrooms gleaming, stove sparkling, floors shined.  If you’re not a cleaning whiz have a housekeeping service do the job.

When Selling Your House Make Sure Your Windows Sparklet5.  Get the windows washed.  Dirty windows are a turnoff.  Your buyers want to see the sun streaming through clean and sparkling windows.

6.  Fling open the windows.  Fresh air is free and you want to make sure your home is free of all odors while you’re on the market.

7.  Caulk your bathtub and clean the grout.  It’s something that we sometimes overlook in our own home but one of the first things a buyer will notice in your bath.

8.  Paint the trim and woodwork.  Look around your home with a critical eye.  Stair risers scuffed?  Woodwork chipped?  Paint and some sandpaper is an inexpensive fix with a big impact.

9.  Spruce up your yard.  Keep the lawn mowed, bushes trimmed, garden beds mulched. A big pot of flowers in bloom is a nice addition to your front steps.  If you’re in a condominium, add some plants or flower boxes to your deck.  No outdoor space?  Keep bouquets of fresh, sweet smelling flowers in your condo.

When You're Getting Ready to Sell Your House Flowers Help10.  Make sure your entry looks inviting.  Your house need to appeal from the moment someone walks up to the door.  Paint the door if needed, make sure your railings and steps are secure and in one piece, get a nice new doormat.  If your decluttering didn’t extend to the entry take care of it now – when you sell your house the piles of boots and shoes, recycling bins, and other paraphernalia usually stowed in the entryway have to go.

These low cost, high impact tasks will ensure that your house looks its best and sells for top dollar

If you’re planning a move and want to talk about today’s real estate market, get advice on preparing your home for sale, or want to learn about the top marketing efforts that lead to a successful sale – give me a call or an email.  I can be reached at 617-504-1737 and I look forward to speaking with you.

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Declutter Your House To Get It Sold

Staging your house to sell has become much more important in today’s competitive real estate market. Clearing away clutter is one of the best – and least expensive – things sellers can do to make their home sell for more money in less time.  After you declutter, your house or condo will look larger, more attractive, and much more appealing to home buyers. 
 

You Don’t Sell Your House The Way You Live In It

Messy ClosetWhen I work with sellers to prepare their property for sale we go room to room to identify anything and everything that should be removed.  The goal is to have clear surfaces everywhere you look.  No piles on the nightstand, no tchotchkes on the bureau, the desk a clear expanse.  The miscellanea stacked in a corner that you don’t even see anymore – it’s got to go.  The notes and magnets covering the fridge – not while you’re selling your home. The toiletries arrayed in the bathroom – not acceptable.  We’re aiming to get as close to the model home look as we can.
 
One challenge while living in the house that you’re selling is that buyers are able to peek into your cabinets, your Neat Closetclosets, even your medicine chest.  If it’s built-in it’s acceptable for buyers to take a look inside.  This means that you can’t use those areas to stash your excess stuff.  In fact, it’s almost as important to declutter your closets and cabinets as it is to declutter the rooms.  A crammed closet sends the message that you don’t have enough closets and storage space is an important point on most buyers’ wish lists.  Thin the clothing and clean up the shelves and floors. 

Too Much Of A Good Thing

One of the bonuses of selling real estate in Cambridge and other nearby towns is the opportunity to spend time inside some truly fascinating homes.  Filled with books, fine art, collectibles, and memorabilia, many of the homes we tour are visual feasts.  But though agents and buyers may linger, gazing at the art or collectibles, the details of the house or condo fail to register.  There’s too much to see, too much beauty to absorb.  So don’t be offended when your agent suggests some thinning of the accessories.  Too much is really too much when you’re selling your home.  And I speak from experience as a lifelong collector (some would say packrat) – I live surrounded with the things I love but when it’s time to move I live like a minimalist. 

So where do we put the stuff? 

Decluttering your house before listing it for sale is a great opportunity to start packing or to weed out those possessions you don’t want to move. Some ideas: 
  • Hold a garage sale
  • List items on Craigslist for a price or for free. Freecycle is another option for giveaways
  • Buy some plastic bins and stack the filled bins neatly in the basement or garage
  • Rent a storage space. It’s well worth the relatively modest cost. One of my favorite storage facilities is the U-Haul on Route 16 at the Somerville / Medford line
  • Ruthlessly weed out and bring things to the curb. Curbside trash pickup – what could be easier?

The Reward

Why go to the trouble?  It’s simple – your house will sell for top value if it’s presented at its best.  If your agent isn’t giving you some “tough love” and advising you on how to prepare the house, you’re not getting good service.  From the moment the first buyer’s agent or buyer walks through the door you want to be show ready.  For more tough love for sellers see:

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Dollars and Scents For Homesellers

Smells In The HouseIf you smell it you can’t sell it!” the former manager of our Huron Avenue office used to say.  And she was right.  If you’re selling your house you need to think about scents.

 Scent makes a very strong impression when entering a house for the first time.  There are several things to do – and not to do – to ensure that the impression your house makes is a positive one.

 Agents are often embarrassed to tell their clients that their house smells.  So it’s best to assume the worst and do all that you can to make sure your home smells sweet.

Here’s some tough love advice for getting and keeping your house show-ready:

Fresh Air In

Let The Fresh Air InFor starters – fresh air is free.  Fling the windows open and air out your house.  Nothing is worse than stale air – in all its variations.  Even if it’s cold out, turn down the heat and let the air in for a bit – a short bit if it’s very cold.  And if it’s not the dead of winter, but not yet warm enough to leave the windows open all day, while you’re on the market be sure to give your home a daily breather before leaving in the morning.

 

Odors Out 

 If you can’t stash dirty laundry in the basement or in the washing machine, do a load of wash.  If the clothes pile up you’re in danger of entering the “man smell” zone as my colleague calls it – when the odor of unwashed clothes greets you at the bedroom or closet door.  A related no-no is the damp-towels-in-the-bath smell.  Whip those towels out of the bathroom every day and replace them with the unused set you’ve kept just for show. Every day may be laundry day when your house is on the market!

 Cooking odors are also problematic.  The scent of baking cookies – good.  The smell of last night’s fish dinner – bad.  Plan your menu accordingly or make sure to thoroughly air the house.

 Pets and smokers present their own sets of issues.  Pitch the well loved dog bed and blankets, empty the litter box daily, clean the upholstery thoroughly, and clean the carpets.  Even better, if at all possible, send the pets to the neighbors’ or their grandparents’ for the duration. If the smokers in the household haven’t been banished to the outdoors, now’s the time. Indoor smoking should cease well in advance of putting your house on the market. 

Be Careful With Sweet Smells

Baking Cookies For The Open HouseBe careful not to fall into the trap of using air fresheners or scented candles for odor control or enhancement.  The plug-ins and other types of air fresheners sold in the supermarket are a turn-off for most buyers.  Many people are allergic to the chemicals in these products and a buyer with a pounding headache is not inclined to think fondly of your house. And most people will wonder what’s being masked by the strong smelling deodorizers.

 One effective but far more subtle option is the reed diffusers that you can find everywhere nowadays.  Be careful – some of these can be quite strong too.  You want the scent to enhance, not overwhelm.  Sandalwood is one scent that doesn’t overpower.  Balsam is another – at any time of year – and one of my favorites is made by Frazier Fir.  It’s expensive but elegant year round and worth the cost. Check local shops if you want a more inexpensive alternative – there are many diffusers available for under $25.

 It really is about the “dollars and scents”.  Make a good impression and you’ll be a successful home seller – make a bad impression and your pocketbook will suffer.

 Now let’s get ready and get your house sold!

 And for more tough love for sellers see:

Stage Your House To Sell – Declutter

 

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