Most sellers don't keep their home in the condition necessary to sell quickly and for as much money as possible.
While sellers may clean up and organize their home, there's more that could make a nice house shine.
Everyone--even exceptionally neat people--has a place where the day's paperwork collects. If you have children, it might be several places where their artwork, memos from school or camp applications might be found. You might have takeout menus, envelopes with friends' addresses or even old holiday cards. Or, perhaps it's a junk drawer that's grown out of control.
There are a couple of problems here, particularly if you're selling your home. First, if you sweep everything into a pile, and stash it under your bed, it's a great way to lose things.
Next, if you have a pretty wicker basket and put your papers in there, you run the risk of someone peeking into the basket and thumbing through your personal items.
* Keep private information private.
Many homes have a home office. It's the place where you catch up on the household bills, or perhaps you run a small business from your home. Sometimes the home office is an alcove in an upstairs hallway, built out to accommodate one or even several computers. It allows parents to monitor their children's homework and Internet habits.
It's likely that your home office space and computer contain sensitive financial and personal information about your family. There might be medical bills, credit card bills, department store bills and other papers that identify you, the seller, in a way that, if stolen, could cause you considerable harm.
Before you have a showing, lock down your family computers, and put away sensitive information, bills and paperwork. If you have a cabinet in your home office that locks, use it. Although most home buyers don't care if you're carrying a $4,000 balance on a credit card, there are people who pretend to be home buyers simply to steal items and information.
* Remove half the items from each closet and reorganize.
Buyers like to poke about. They're not really being nosy. What they're trying to do is gauge how easy it will be to fit their stuff into your home. Having ample closet space can be a huge selling point when it comes to a home. Most people aren't well organized, and having a large closet where they can shut the door is a big plus.
To sell your home successfully, you need to play to the buyers' expectations of what a suitable home should have. And what every buyer thinks the right home has is a lot of closet space.
You can't build additional closets in your home, but you can show the buyer that you have enough closet space for your stuff--even if you're a little short. Go around your home to each closet and remove half of everything inside the closet.
After you've removed half the clothes, half the linens and half the toys from the kids' toy closet, reorganize what's left. Your closets should look neat and spacious.
You'll enjoy several results from all this work. First, your home should feel much bigger because you've created extra space. Second, if you've either packed away or given away all the stuff you took out of your closets, you're ahead of the game when it's time to close on your sale and move.
Ilyce R. Glink is a syndicated columnist. Write Real Estate Matters Syndicate, P.O. Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or visit www.thinkglink .com. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.