First Impressions Matter

What to Focus on When Selling Your Home

Homeowners often want to know which home renovations will bring the best return on their investment. My first tip? Go after the easy, low-hanging items that can really aide in how outsiders perceive your home.

Prospective buyers want to know they’re making a good investment in choosing a place. Especially for a condo unit where they’ll need to share upkeep and decision-making with other owners, I coach my buyers to look for indicators of where the association’s priorities lie: are they likely to proactively plan for improvements, or do they wait until a small gutter issue mounts to an ongoing basement moisture problem? (And what does that say about the health of their reserve funds?)

And prettiness can go a long way: it’s more than paint—it shapes a narrative in the viewer’s mind about the quality of the property and their future living there.

On the exterior

From the street and around the perimeter, here’s what to check for:

  • Rickety steps or wobbly railings on decks and porches; banisters that are banged up.
  • Stripping paint on the exterior: especially for the front entrance, but also the siding or any decking.
  • Gutters and roof lines that appear warped, rotted or detached from the building. (When I see roof lines in poor repair, I wonder if they’ve had issues with rodents.)
  • Roofs shingles or seams that are buckling or peeling back, whether from sun exposure or from age.
  • Cracks in the siding.
  • Door handles and locks that open easily and smoothly (door handles shouldn’t fall off in my hand).
  • Curb appeal: is there more dog poop than plantings and mulch?
  • Clean windows.

Common areas

Once we step over the threshold, I look at the common areas:

  • Walls are clean and relatively free of scuff marks.
  • Light switches work and all lights turn on.
  • Hallway is neat and organized. (A hallway full of bikes and gear or can indicate a lack of storage.)
  • No strange smells from food or pets.

Interior

When it comes to presenting your home’s interior, think like the host of a bed & breakfast: you want it to be inviting and calming.

How do you achieve this? Consider the senses: sight, touch, scent and sound:

  • If you’re painting: choose neutral colors—pale grays in flat or eggshell finish can create a clean, modern, open-feeling palette for the viewer’s imagination.
  • Make it bright: turn on all the lights for open house or photos (the photographer will decide what to turn off), especially recessed lights and dimmers.
  • Make sure the curtains are drawn evenly, but let light in: you don’t want people’s line of sight to get caught up on the haphazard curtains.
  • Wipe surfaces perfectly clean, especially counters: people can’t help running their hand over a countertop and you want them to marvel at the material, not wipe their hands in repulsion.
  • Sweep, dust, and wash stairways: these are often neglected but dust tends to collect there.
  • Remove much of your decorative and personal items (think of it as getting a head start on packing): you want to present an open canvas where prospective buyers can picture themselves and their things in it.
  • Put out a fresh bar of artisanal soap and hang folded hand towels.
  • If you have a deep soaker tub, put towel over it like you would find in a spa.

If you’re looking to market your property—whether it’s a single family house or a condo in a triple decker (or even a triple-decker multi-family), first impressions matter. Make sure it’s inviting to others who haven’t come to accept its “quirks.”