- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

I had forgotten how much work it takes to sell a piece of property until I put my own condo on the market a few weeks ago. While it's an exciting venture to sell a house, it also takes a lot of work even in a seller's market.
Obviously, there were the small items that had to be taken care of. I knew what I had to do to get the place ready to sell and it was going to cost me some money.
First, there was the faucet in the kitchen that had to be replaced, along with the installation of some shelves to replace an old trash compactor and some patch work on the wallpaper.
The bathroom also needed some touching up with a new faucet and medicine cabinet, the rehanging of a towel rack, touch-up painting and a new (modernized) light fixture. The old Astroturf on the balcony was replaced with new indoor/ outdoor carpeting.
My contractor was able to complete the work in less than two days and I was on the market with less than $1,000 out of my pocket. But now the real work begins. I can no longer just hop out of bed, throw the covers over the bed, toss the towel over the washer and head out to work. The morning regimen takes a lot longer these days.
Every little piece of paper, fuzz, popcorn kernel, et al., must be picked up and tossed in the trash. Speaking of the trash, I have to make sure there's nothing smelly in the can.
The kitchen cabinets must be sparkling by the time I walk out the door all fingerprints on anything, anywhere (chrome, plastics, windows, etc.) must be cleaned. All of this goes without even talking about the need for dusting at least every other day. After having my home on the market just a couple weeks, I now have some new advice for sellers out there.
Take time to look at the little things. While I was having my contractor fix the glaring items in the house, I also took a look at some small things that would catch the buyer's eye. Caulking, for instance. The bathroom needed some new caulk in the tub and shower area, but so did the kitchen. A nice clean bead of caulk between the counter and wall does wonders in making the place look new again.
Declutter, pronto. Even if the place looks clean, every house can undergo a little more clearing out. The first set of Realtors from my listing agent's office all said the place looks good, it's priced right, but it's cluttered. So my first volley of packing is to remove all the stuff I'm not going to need and get it out of the house.
Plan before packing. As I'm packing things up to get ready for the move, I did overlook one small detail where were all these boxes going once they got packed? While my office looks its most uncluttered in years (what can I say, I'm a writer), the boxes holding years' worth of files, articles, clippings and research have to go somewhere. I was able to get a friend to take them for me on short notice. (As we all know, a friend who will take storage for you is a friend, indeed.)
Plan your cleaning. This means schedule your routine. The dishes cannot sit in the sink during the day for washing later that night. More than likely, Realtors are either previewing the house for their buyers or bringing them by during the day. Keep the dishes flowing through the washer and store them in the washer while waiting for a full load. In addition, once the load is done, clear it ASAP. Keep the vacuum cleaner handy and get a new can of Pledge. Dusting can be easy, I have found, by just doing one room at a time during lulls in your day (or during commercials of your favorite TV show). Make these added touches of maintenance as much a part of your routine as eating and breathing.
While we may be in a seller's market, there are signs that buyers are not going to pay too much for a house.
A messy house tells them the seller may not have taken care of the parts of the dwelling that are hidden (infrastructure, etc.). Don't make the mistake of letting a seller's market dictate what condition your house will be in for the buyers coming by. The three idioms of selling a house still remain in the seller's market: location, pricing, condition.
M. Anthony Carr has written about real estate issues for 12 years. You can send your comments to him at [email protected]

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