Packaging techniques to grab a prospective homeowner's attention

If you are planning to sell your house, be sure to package it for the marketplace. Packaging techniques can help make your house more appealing, so that even in today's highly competitive market, prospective buyers will come knocking on your door. The packaging process need not be expensive, but it does take time, work, and a little ingenuity to prepare the house for presentation.

The exterior of the house is the first part of the ``package'' to be seen by a potential buyer. It should say to them: ``Stop! Look me over.'' Here are some ideas:

Remove dried leaves, stray toys, and gangly weeds from the yard.

Scrub stains from the driveway and recoat faded asphalt.

Repair sagging shutters and crooked fence posts. Replace ripped screening.

Wash painted surfaces. Often, repainting is unnecessary once dulling grime has been removed.

Cut back overgrown shrubs and trees. If the foundation plants are over 20 years old, replace them with younger plants. Trim lawn edges along curbs and walkways.

Once your house has attracted the prospective buyers' attention, the entrance should be attractive enough to encourage them to look inside.

Give the front door a fresh coat of paint. If the door is particularly attractive, remove any storm or screen door that may hide its appeal.

Plant flowers along the walkway and around the entry. Spread pine-bark mulch around flowers and foundation plants for that finishing touch.

Once prospective buyers have contacted your agent and are inside, draw them through the house with the same techniques employed outside. To help create a spacious, yet homey atmosphere:

Remove clutter. Sell, donate, or throw away unused, broken, and outgrown possessions.

Brighten surfaces. Apply fresh paint where it is necessary. Select light, airy colors. Polish mirrors, windows, and picture glass until they glisten.

Shampoo carpeting. If the carpeting is threadbare in spots and lies atop valuable hardwood flooring, consider removing it altogether. Use area rugs instead for accent and warmth.

Set a cozy scene. Although your furniture is not part of the actual sales package, it contributes to the total effect. Polish wooden surfaces and cover worn or stained upholstery with bright throws. Arrange furniture in conversational groupings or around a focal point, such as a fireplace or picture window. To achieve a more spacious look, move extra pieces and knickknacks to other rooms or into temporary storage. Add several house plants.

Update the kitchen, bath, and laundry areas. Install new towel racks, cabinets, or fixtures. Hang light-colored curtains at the windows. Consider taking out a small short-term loan, if necessary, to fix up problem areas. A bright, updated kitchen may be that persuasive factor in your sales package.

Once you have created a visually pleasant parcel, concentrate on other areas.

Eliminate annoying noises. Oil squeaky door hinges, repair dripping faucets, and tighten loose screens.

Reduce household odors by airing the house periodically to remove stale odors.

Be sure extra features such as smoke detectors, storm windows, and air purifiers are all in working order so they can be shown off. And make sure the heating system, appliances, and plumbing are functioning as they should.

Money is the bottom line in any sales package. Your real estate broker has access to comparable house prices in your area and can help you arrive at an equitable asking price.

Discuss ``creative financing'' with your broker. If you have a low-interest assumable mortgage to offer and can take a second trust on your equity, prospective buyers may overlook many of the shortcomings in a house.

If you cannot offer that amenity, perhaps you and your broker can devise a favorable financial wrapping for the sales package you have worked so hard to create.

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