When it came time for Tom and Sissy Aberg to sell the house on Lakeshore they’d lived in for 15 years, they didn’t exactly know what they were doing. They’d never sold a home before.
And though the couple gives much of the credit for the sale of their home to the house itself, built in 1936 with an “artful craftsmanship,” their real estate agent, John Whiteside, says the Abergs went out of their way to make the home attractive and livable-looking for showings.
Most of us have heard the standard tricks for selling a home more quickly. Put on some soft, appealing music for showings. Bake cookies. Light candles. Make it sparkle. And those are good tips.
But there are several factors to be taken into account when it comes to selling in our neighborhood — where the average home is more than 50 years old — that people in Plano or Frisco don’t have to worry about (and aren’t able to take advantage of.)
First, the challenges:
Small closets, small bathrooms, small kitchens. Unless you’ve done some serious renovation, chances are your house has closets that aren’t fit to house the wardrobe of a seven-year-old these days. So even if it’s inconvenient, take everything in those peanut-sized spaces that isn’t used on a regular basis, and put it somewhere that people won’t see. Put shampoo bottles and toothbrushes into cupboards. Clear kitchen counters as much as possible.
“When we were even thinking about putting our house on the market,” Sissy says, “I cleaned out the closets to make them look like they were really neat. It makes it look like you have a lot of closet space, especially in these older houses.”
Lighting. Many of our neighborhood’s older homes have poor natural lighting, because either the windows don’t face the right direction to take in sunlight or mature trees block it out.
“When it was overcast out, I made sure our house was well lit,” Sissy says. “You don’t want it to look dark.”
On warmer days, Tom Aberg says, open the windows, if you can.
“A lot of old Lakewood homes have casement windows that are painted shut. Our window had panels you could open, so we’d leave one of those open, and people would notice that and remark on it.”
Original fixtures. A good rule of thumb is, if you want to take it with you, get it out of sight during showings. Sissy Aberg said she wanted to take a couple of antique light fixtures with them when they moved, but also thought the fixtures would help sell the home.
“Sure enough,” she says, “when our house was sold, the man who bought it told me the first thing he wanted was that living room light fixture.”
Unexpected surprises. Often in older homes, things can come out during the inspection process that can be deal-breakers — structural problems, termite damage and other issues.
“It can scare a buyer off if there’s too much of that stuff,” Sissy says.
So the Abergs recommend spending the extra money to hire an inspector six months or so before the house goes on the market, and then taking care of any problems that come up. But beware — the inspection process isn’t a science, and five different inspectors may find five different problems. Hire someone you trust, and then prioritize what needs to be addressed.
Also, on your own, look for those things you’ve learned to live with, like that bathroom tile that pops out occasionally. Chances are, you don’t even notice it anymore, but a potential buyer will.
Now, the advantages to selling an older home:
Unique architectural elements. So your older home creaks and groans a bit more. It’s also much more likely to have a beautiful fireplace, stunning woodwork or ironwork, and/or gorgeous cathedral or stained glass windows. If you have any of these in your home, put them on display. Keep the woodwork polished (including hardwood floors) and the windows sparkling. And on cool days, light that fireplace: The Abergs did, and it ended up being the day they received a contract.
Mature landscapes. One of the reasons people love our neighborhood is because of the trees. Keep them healthy (see page xx for tips on tree care), and keep the lawn well cared for. Don’t let leaves pile up when your house is on the market; they will only remind people that large, mature trees mean a lot of yard work.
Above all, however, remember that selling a home is going to be stressful.
“It’s an intense period in your life where people start nitpicking at the house you love,” Tom says.
Sissy agrees: “It’s an emotional roller coaster. I liken it to putting together a big wedding.”
So take your time, plan ahead, and find a Realtor you like and can work with. And between fits of dusting, polishing and organizing, don’t forget to take a few deep breaths.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.