Although property buyers fall in love with a home for different reasons, there are four factors that generally cause people to prefer one house over another.

For sellers, the cost of making their home more appealing to buyers can vary widely. It depends on how recently they’ve painted, updated, and made improvements to their property — both inside and out.

When it comes to owning and maintaining a residential property, one thing’s for sure: Deterioration is going to happen! It’s also human nature to postpone taking care of needed updates, minor repairs, and issues like fading paint. Even though the condition of your home may feel comfortable to you, prospective buyers will see things through a different lens. If you think you’re “too close to the trees to see the forest,” your real estate agent can provide you with valuable tips and an objective point of view.

While there are a lot of qualities house hunters look for when they’re sizing up a house, here are a few key factors that can make the difference between a quick sale and a home that lingers on the market for months or more.

  • Brightness: Inadequate light — both natural and artificial — can have a negative impact on the impression your home makes on potential buyers. If you’re fortunate enough to have newer windows that let in lots of natural light, then the look and feel of your home will be much more appealing. Heavy drapes can detract from that effect, as can overgrown bushes and trees. Lighting fixtures that are noticeably outdated or glaringly bright will also work against you. Since one of your objectives as a seller is to make your home as appealing and cheerful as possible, proper lighting is a feature that’s well worth keeping in mind.
  • Cleanliness: A factor that comes in “a close second” to brightness is cleanliness (Some might even put it in the number-one spot). Visible signs of dust, dirt, spills, or smudges can make an otherwise attractive home unappealing to prospective buyers. Undesirable odors can also turn off most, if not all people that come over to check out your house. A solution for some sellers is to have their house cleaner stop by more often to help them stay one step ahead of dirt, grime, and household messes.
  • Freshness: There are a lot of ways to create a feeling of freshness in your home, including opening windows (weather permitting), adding a coat of neutral-colored paint to scuffed walls, and displaying fresh flowers in a couple rooms — especially the kitchen. Baking soda can also help eliminate unpleasant odors in your refrigerator, sink, and garbage disposal.

While all homes for sale have different needs, in terms of staging, decorating, cleaning, upgrading, and repairing, a seasoned real estate agent can point out strategies, ideas, and improvements that will help you put your best foot forward!

If you’re thinking about putting your house on the market in the near future, then you’ve probably begun to research and compare real estate agents in your area. While experience, credentials, and training can make a big difference in a real estate agent’s ability to produce results for you, there are other factors worth considering. For example, an agent’s attitude, Web presence, and past performance are also indicators of their strengths, weaknesses, and marketing skills.

Here are a few “red flags” to watch out for in your search for a knowledgeable, proactive, and service-oriented real estate professional.

  • The quality of their Web site: If a real estate agent has a Web site that looks disorganized, amateurish, or outdated, then that could speak volumes about their own flaws. In this day and age, a fully functional and professional-looking website is an essential marketing tool in the real estate business. Having access to the latest marketing tools and techniques is a vital aspect of selling your home in the shortest possible time. Agents who are not making full use of the Internet to market their listings are doing themselves and their clients a disservice. If they can’t present themselves in the best possible light on the Internet, then it raises questions about their presentation style, in general. On the other hand, if a Realtor or real estate agent maintains an up-to-date, professional-looking website that is user-friendly and loaded with helpful information and search capabilities, then that’s one indication they’re conscientious, resourceful, and in touch with relevant technology. A timely and informative blog is another positive sign that they’re tech-savvy and passionate about what they do for a living.
  • Attitude and energy level: A great real estate agent has the ability to look at the “big picture” and realize that there will be peaks and valleys in every transaction and marketing campaign. If you choose them over the competition, you’ll eventually depend on that agent to be a problem solver, a cheerleader, and a source of positive inspiration throughout the process. When you take into account how much is riding on the sale of your home, you realize the importance of selecting a well-organized, professional, and highly motivated agent. If you’re interviewing one that spends too much time complaining about market conditions, other clients, or all the “red tape” involved in real estate transactions, then RUN — don’t walk — to the nearest door! (That advice would, of course, need to be modified if you’re meeting with them in your own home.) Here’s the bottom line, though: To be able to capitalize on opportunities and produce the best possible results, a great real estate agent needs to maintain a positive attitude — especially in the face of temporary setbacks.

The good news about real estate agents and Realtors is that the majority of them are ethical, motivated, and passionate about producing optimal results. As is the case with all professions, however, some are more positive, dedicated, and resourceful than others. That’s why it pays to interview two or three real estate agents before settling on the one who’s the best match for your timetable, your personality, and your individual needs.

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