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Getting Your House Ready to Sell

* Introduction: Emotion vs. Reason
* De-Personalizing the House
* Removing Clutter
* Fixing Up the House Interior
* Fixing Up Outside the House

Getting Your House Ready to Sell

You have decided that you want to sell your home in Nuuanu, and of course the first thing you do is call me. Well I’m going to ask you what kind of condition the house is in and make recommendations about what you can do to get it ready to sell.

Just like getting ready for a first date, you want to make a good impression on your buyers. That means usually changing some things around the house and making it a little more sellable. Think about how buyers will look at the house when they walk in. What will their first impression be? You want buyers to be impressed, because a well staged home can often get you thousands of dollars more than one that looks like it needs an extreme makeover.

Introduction: Emotion vs. Reason

You love your house, but to every buyer that walks in, it’s just a house. They don’t know it like you do, and they don’t have any emotional attachment to it. What you want to do is make someone fall in love your house the momenty they step foot in it, and that can mean something totally different than making it comfortable for you to live in.

Some people will walk into your home, and defying their own logic, they will love your home and buy it if it feels right to them. You can help people fall in love with a house just by making some changes doing some cleaning, and updating. When I meet with you to list your home, I’ll give you staging ideas to make sure your home shows as good as it can. Just think about how a car dealer sells a car. They clean it, armour all the tires and make it smell nice, steam clean the engine and put on new tires. They want it to look new.

What we want is for your house to feel as new as possible, to look like a builder’s model. If you have ever been in a model home, then you know what I’m talking about. You want the décor to feel modern, the paint to look fresh, the house to smell good, the mood to be happy.

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De-Personalizing the House

Everybody is different, and one of the things I love about my job is seeing all the different ways that people decorate their homes. Even in a condo complex where every unit is about the same layout, you will find tons of different ways to decorate a home. Some people have stuff everywhere, little nick nacks of all sorts, some people have hardly anything except the bare essentials, with nothing on the walls and no color anywhere.

What you want to do is take yourself out of the home as much as possible and make the home appealing to just about anyone. Picture what the home would look like if it were a nice custom furniture store and not your living space. You may have to remove some pictures, although none is no good too. You don’t want the home to seem stark, but you don’t want it to seem like it’s all about you.

A lot of times I walk into a house that seems nice, but the main think I notice is the owner’s collection of whatever they collect. Sometimes it’s cows, sometimes it’s flowers or little disney figurines, or Japanese dolls. Whatever it is, it takes my attention away from the home itself. I walk away thinking about the thing the owner was collecitng and not the home. You really want to avoid this.

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Removing Clutter

Hawaii homeowners tend to like clutter. I think it’s mostly us Asians ( I am Japanese) that like to have lots of little clutter around the house. My mom is terrible like this and so is everyone in my extended family. As a Realtor, clutter is one of my worst enemies. It makes a house seem smaller and dirtier. Even if you love your little Japanese geisha dolls, please get rid of them for the time being so we can sell your house!

If you have a lot of any one type of thing, get rid of it. If you have junk sitting around the house, get rid of it. I have recommended to some Hawaii home owners that they rent a storage space until the house is sold. When they move into ther new home they can do as much as they want with their collection of ceramic turtles or whatever they have.

Clutter will keep people from seing your house at all. Even in Hawaii where inventory is usually low, clutter will make people go look for a different home. Can’t buyers see past it? No, not unless they are very experienced, and even so, they may make you pay for it by offering you less than you want.

Closet Clutter

This is an area for debate, but it’s safer to get rid of hidden clutter too. It might mean sticking everything in boxes and hiding them in the attic or the garage, but you don’t want clutter anywhere that people can see it. Now keep in mind that a stack of boxes can be clutter too if it’s in plain view, so keep it in the closet or in the attic.

Clutter could cost you thousands of dollars on your sales price, while renting a storage space might costs you only a few hundred.

Think about having a garage sale, which should actually make you some money on the stuff you are not using. Then consider donating some things to get a tax write off (and help the needy).

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Plumbing and Fixtures

Plumbing fixtures are a cheap and quick way to update a house, If your bathroom and kitchen sinks have old rusted fixtures or have calcium deposits around them, consider replacing them with something nice from a hardware store. It won’t be hard and it will be a cheap way to update your bathrooms and kitchen.

The kitchen is the first place people want to see new stuff, so if you have an old grimy sink or faucet, please consider replacing them. Even just one new fixture can make a difference in the feel that a house has and the impression it leaves on a buyer.

While we’re at it, I also recommend replacing the toilets. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been grossed out by people’s toilets. You can buy a new toilet for about $150 at City Mill and maybe less at Home Depot. Then you can install it or pay someone about $50 to put it in, and believe me the change in your bathrooms will be well worth it!

Also did you know that you can get a new shower head for about $30? Usually you just screw them on with your hand, so it’s a very quick and simple improvement. If you’re selling a million dollar home in Kailua, isn’t it worth a few measily bucks for a nice looking showerhead? I’m often surprised at the lack of effort that sellers will put in, when they are trying to make a $100k or $200k profit.

Ceilings, Walls and Painting

The cheapest and quickest way to change the feel of your house is to paint inside. Outside paint is great too but is much harder and costs a lot more. If you’re just painting the inside of a house, you probably need very little preparation and you can do an entire room

The most common recommendation is to paint the house something neutral like beige, but these days just about any color will do better than white, as long as the color is not too bright or gaudy. However, I’ve seen bright red rooms that looked great, and dark green that really made a house come alive. Also it’s advisable to paint some highlights, like white trim around the doors and windows, to contrast color you choose. A nice dark mocha or creamy brown can really highlight the white borders around the window and doors.


Is your carpet worn out? Does it have holes or big ugly stains? It’s probably worth the couple thousand dollars that it will cost to replace it, in order to sell your house for money money. Believe me people will factor in the carpet and will offer you much less, or they won’t even offer on your house.

Carpet is a cheap way to make a house feel new again, and old carpet is a cheap way to make a buyer go away. When I walk into a home, the first things I notice are the paint, carpet, furnishings, and smell. In fact if you can you should consider putting in wood or engineered wood. Even laminate looks better than bad carpet. If you do replace the carpet, pick a neutral color and get a nice thick pad. Thin pads make a house feel industrial.

Windows and Doors

In Hawaii there are a lot of old metal windows, mostly jalousie style, which helps the rains stay out but allows us to keep the windows open. Well it’s too bad because a lot of those windows are rusty and they look very cheap these days. If you have old rusty metal windows, you should really replace them with vinyl windows. The nice new white vinyl makes a house feel very modern, while the metal jalousies make a house feel like an old school or a run down wharehouse.

Doors are also an issue in Hawaii because the sun and rain cause them to wear out and look very beat up. Sometimes a nice paint job on a door can help a lot. Now this might sound a little uncommon, but I recommend painting a door a nice bright color like red or blue. No more plane white doors please. Give me a nice door that is bold and says, “Hey buy this house!” Also if you can, buy a door with windows in it, or expand the front door to double doors. It makes a huge difference!

Odor Control

Have you ever walked into a house that stinks? Sometimes when I’m showing a house I’m surprised that people can live with the horrible stench of their own home. I was once in a condo in Aiea that smelled like a dozen dogs lived in it and never went outside.

It’s important when selling a home to make a good first impression, and no matter how nice the house looks, if it smells like Kim Chee or like a cat box (same smell if you ask me), you’re going to have trouble selling it. Buy some Fabreeze or get some incense, or better yet buy an air purifier that has an ozone maker, and de-stink your home. Have someone other than a family member walk in and tell you if there is any odor at all. Make sure your house either smells like nothing or like flowers or something pleasant. Have you ever walked into a Pier 1 Imports and noticed how good it smells? It makes shopping there very pleasant. Make your house smell like that and not like some dead animal.

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Costs of Repairs

Usually the cost to fix something is well worth it. If you have a roof that needs repair, it might cost $10k to fix. A buyer who makes an offer is going to take that into account and offer you $10k less than you would get, or he’ll ask you to repair it. You might as well make the repair so it doesn’t scare some buyers away. Most buyers are not looking for a fixer upper. They want the house to be in perfect condition and your 10 yr old sun baked roof is not going to cut it. In Hawaii, roofs don’t last as long as they might on the mainland because of our year round sun and nearly nightly rain.

Yes, in some areas it will be sunny nearly everyday, and rain nearly every night. This is the worst combination for a roof. So you might as well put a new roof on. Whatever it is that your house needs, you might want to do it before you list the house. The less time on market the better, and the less repairs needed the better too.

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Fixing up Outside the House

The outside of the house is the first thing a buyer sees. In Hawaii a lot of houses look like a dump on the outside while the inside is really nice. I’m often surprised at how plain a house can look from the street even if the entire inside is perfect and updated. A lot of people here put way more effort into the inside of a house than the outside.

While the kitchen and bathrooms are often said to be the best place to spend money a house, it also helps a lot to make it look good from the street. Curb appeal is a lost art in Hawaii, and we need to bring it back. I want my buyers to love a house the minute we drive up. Too often we have to overcome the ugly driveway and dead plants outside. Not a good first impression.

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More and more people are beginning to appreciate how much money and work it takes to have good landscaping, so houses that are well landscaped can go for a premium. Some nice small shrubs, green grass, and colorful flowers can really make a house come alive. It’s a good idea to begin watering all your plants and grass very heavily a few weeks before beginning to sell your home, so that everything is bright green.

You want the grass to look perfect like golf course grass, and you want the plants and trees to look alive and healthy. Make sure to get rid of anything that is dead or dying and clean up the fallen leaves. Anything brown needs to go, because it shows that it hasn’t been taken care of. The home should look well manicured from the outside, to show pride of ownership. Think country club.

If you don’t have any good hardscape or landscape, go buy some cheap plants and flowers and put them outside the house in pots. Anything to make the house look lively. Whatever money you spend may be tax deductible and you can take the plants with you to the next home you buy, so you’re not throwing money away. Besides, even if you have to leave the plants, at least the house gets sold faster and probably for more money!

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House Exterior

Before you list your house, walk out to the street and look at it as if you’ve never seen it before. Try to notice little things like paint chips, dead plants, stains in the driveway, and anything that looks like it needs repair. Try to look at it as a buyer would when they drive up or the first time.

You can also ask a friend or neighbor to look at your house and see what they notice. Take a picture and study the picture. Try looking at the picture upside down to notice anything that you have missed.

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The Back Yard

The yard should be clean and picked up. There shouldn’t be toys or tools or anything laying around, and you may have to take things to storage to clean it up. Make sure the grass is nice and green and cleanly cut. Put some nice seating out there, even if you have to go buy a few chairs and an umbrella. Shade is key in Hawaii, so if you don’t have any, make some. Creating a nice shady place to sit outside is very important for those hot summer days in Oahu, so investing in a gazebo or a covered lanai can be well worth the money.

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The Front Door & Entryway

Think about the first thing that a buyer sees as they walk in the house. You want it to feel warm and welcoming. Put some candles in the entryway and light them for showings. One thing I see too much of in Hawaii is a pile of slipper at the front door. You should find a place for people to put shoes so that your front door doesn’t look like a used shoe store.

Make sure there is a nice welcome mat and maybe something inside the door for people to wipe their feet.

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