A Beautiful Home is the Best Incentive to Buy

by : Calum MacKenzie

When real estate sales are slow, people start talking about buyer incentives - a little something extra to get people to buy your house. In the current market, with prices flat and sales slow, buyer incentives are getting a lot of play in the local real estate news. We've seen stories about sellers who are willing to throw in a big screen television, luxury cruises - even a brand new car. Before you rush out and buy a boat to sweeten the deal on the home you're trying to sell, check with your realtor. Chances are that he'll tell you what real estate professionals all over the country already know - the best incentive to buy is a beautiful home.

If your home has been on the market for a few weeks without attracting interest or offers, there could be any number of reasons. One of the most common is that the house just lacks sparkle - that special something that captures buyers at first glance. Adding that sparkle is neither as hard nor as expensive as you might suppose. Before you consider incentives that might attract buyers, take a hard look at your house. Here's a five step plan for making your home its own buyer's incentive.

1. Enlist the help of your realtor.
No one has a better grasp of what is keeping your home from selling than the professional whose job it is to sell it. Your realtor has been walking people through your house and is in the best position to hear their comments about it. Ask! Remember, your realtor's living depends on getting the best price possible for your home. You can expect an honest appraisal of what steps you can take to increase the appeal of your home and get it on the fast track to sell. Some questions you might ask your realtor are:

  • What do people like least about our house?
  • What improvements can I make in (name your price range) that will increase its appeal?
  • What low cost steps can I take to make my home more appealing to buyers?
  • Is our asking price reasonable for this neighborhood?
  • What features have been most important to people who have bought houses from you?

2. Do a walkthrough of your property as if you were a buyer.
Look at your home through a buyer's eyes. Pull up out front and study your home from the curb. Is the view appealing? Walk up to the house and keep your eyes moving around the property. What do you see? Stand on the front stoop or porch long enough for someone to open the door. What does that give you time to notice? Proceed through your house room by room in the same way. Look at your rooms from angles that you normally don't use. You might be surprised at the things you notice that you've never seen before.

3. Do a full-scale de-clutter and cleaning.
Your first step in preparing your house to sell should be a full-scale roof to basement cleaning. Get rid of all the personal belongings that make your home 'yours'. Rent a storage unit for those things you don't want to discard - but get them out of your house. Family pictures, knick-knacks on the mantelpiece, the knitting bag tucked between the sofa and the wall - they may seem neat, tidy and homey to you. Their effect on prospective buyers, though, is far different. Even if they don't recognize exactly WHY the home doesn't feel like it fits them, they'll feel it.

At the same time, take care of any repairs around the house - especially visible ones. Replace cracked or stained floors, repaint walls that show stains, fix the caulking around the bathtub. Do the same outside - repair shutters, trim trees and shrubs, give the driveway a new coat of sealer. Your aim is to make your house look as shiny and new as possible.

4. Hire a landscaper or exterior designer.
The first impression your house makes will be the most important incentive your house has to offer. It can be surprisingly inexpensive to turn your home from ho-hum to wow! Some outside improvements can even have a positive effect on the interior of your house. Here are a few of the most common low-cost improvements you can make outdoors to make your home more attractive.

  • Remove high bushes and shrubs that are close to the house. They'll make the front of your house look cleaner from the outside - and let more light into the house for brighter rooms.
  • Define the borders of the yard in some way. Brick or stone borders around gardens and along walks give a neat, uniform appearance.
  • Add an outdoor patio space or spruce up the existing one. Outdoor entertaining and play space is a very big draw - as long as it's neat, attractive and useful. If your home has a patio, make sure that it's spotless. Invest in new cushions and umbrella for the patio set and if there is a grill, make it sparkle.
  • Flowering borders, hanging baskets and container gardens can all add to the attraction factor of the outdoors, but be careful not to clutter. Make sure that any flowering areas are well-maintained. Containers and baskets are especially good for this - you can always turn them or replace them if flowers and plants start looking less than fresh.

5. Invest in small home improvements that make a big difference.
Outdated kitchens and bathrooms are the two biggest detractors in the eyes of buyers. It's not surprising, then, that improvements in the kitchen and the bathroom are the ones that are most likely to be reflected in the selling price of the house. Take the money that you're considering using as a buyer incentive and invest it in your kitchen and bathroom. Some of the most effective kitchen and bath improvements include:

  • Fresh paint/wall treatments in either room

  • New floors in either room

  • New appliances in the kitchen

  • Resurfacing or replacing the counters and cabinets in the kitchen

  • Replacing the tub enclosure in the bathroom

  • New fixtures and sink in the bathroom or kitchen

  • New lighting in either room

Before you start figuring out what you can offer as an incentive to buyers, think about how that money can be used to add value to your home. The more attractive your home is, the more likely it is to sell without any additional sweeteners in the mix. Remember, a beautiful home is the best incentive to buy.