Selling a home can be stressful, especially if you are a military family with PCS orders forcing you to move on a deadline. Whether you are selling your home quickly, or trying to lock in a sale before you purchase your next house, you want to get top dollar for your investment. PCSgrades spoke to real estate expert Margaret Neubauer of Panama City Real Estate near Tyndall Air Force Base to learn about smart, simple choices military families can make to successfully sell a home.

According to Neubauer, when you are planning to sell your home, it’s important to realize that you live in a home differently than you market it. When you are preparing to put your home on the market, the goal is to help potential buyers envision themselves in the house. The best way to do that is to clean out the space and remove anything that’s personal or distracting.

Neubauer says, “If people can’t emotionally move in, that will affect the sale. It’s a big thing to pack up collectables–stuffed animals, dolls, statues, etc. Those catch people’s eye and distract them from the house. Anything distracting or expensive should be packed away. Clean out the closets. Boxes are ok, but a pile of messy things is too distracting. It’s better to have closets with boxes in them than closets with a pile of stuff. If the guest bedroom is crowded, turn it into neat storage so they can envision their own furniture there.”

There is a lot of work a family can do before listing their home for sale. In the current home market, houses are selling quickly across the country. Neubauer says homes are selling in a week to 30 days in some places! A military family can contact a real estate agent as soon as they get orders to get information about price range and typical moving dates. The agent can give recommendation for improving the home’s condition and making it stand out from comparable houses on the market. 

Neubauer advises families planning to sell a home to focus on cleaning and de-cluttering, which are the simplest ways to make the biggest impact. “We want it to be in the very best condition, because condition and price are the only things we can change. It’s important to get minor repairs done, and have the home power-washed. Now everyone is home shopping on the internet and you have to have the photography in place and looking good. Most companies provide professional photographers and you want the home to be ready to photograph when they come.”

Typically, there is no need to pay for professional staging services, which can cost from $3,000 to $5,000. Neubauer says families can still make a good impression to potential buyers with simple tips such as:

  • Clean off kitchen counters to make the space feel larger.
  • Straighten up the utility room and closets to make them look less cluttered.
  • Put seasonal clothes in boxes, so you only have half your clothes out.
  • Move furniture around to make the area seem more spacious. (You can always move it back after taking pictures.)
  • Get a cute basket or chest to throw things into before a showing, so toys and clutter won’t be in the way.
  • Even if you will use military movers, place items into cardboard boxes or storage containers, which is less distracting than piles of clutter.

For families with pets, Neubauer advises them to invite a friend who does not have a pet to come into the house and give feedback about pet odor. “You are used to the smell, but any pet odor or smoking odor is a big deal to a potential buyer. Clean and deodorize carpets, and upholstery like couches or beds. This should be done before you list the home for market. A little light scent can be helpful to freshen things up during a showing, but if there are candles lit in every room, then people will wonder what you are hiding.”

Other repairs and improvements such as repainting and replacing carpets will depend on the individual condition of your home. If a carpet is damaged, consider whether it is better to replace it, or to just add a carpet allowance or “decorating allowance” to the listing. This gives buyers more flexibility, and lets them know you are being upfront about the home’s condition. According to Neubauer:

“Repainting really depends on the condition. If paintings have been hanging on the walls for a while, touch-ups won’t work because every rectangle will be visible where things were hanging. An accent wall or bold statement is ok, because people know they can paint over it. But if there are too many bold or dark colors we recommend neutralizing at least the living space. A painted nursery or kids room is ok. And bathrooms are usually not a big deal to repaint. In the kitchen, cabinets take up much of the space, so it usually isn’t necessary to repaint a kitchen wall. Focus on the living area so they can see themselves there.”

Ultimately, preparing your home for sale is all about getting it in the best condition when compared to competing properties. Neubauer points out that it’s important to get your home in the top 10% for price and condition of competing homes. “The condition and price puts you in the top for your tier. You want your photos to stand out so you are constantly at the top of the list. If buyers only look at 3 houses, and yours isn’t on the top of the list, they may never get to yours. Your agent will help you balance condition and price at your initial consult meeting. If you have 3 months to move, you may be able to start out at a higher price. If you are moving in a month, you will have to start lower.” 

PCSgrades has a network of military-friendly real estate agents across the country. We interview a new member each month to get expert feedback that will help during your next PCS move! You can connect with Margaret Neubauer’s team in Florida at: www.eraflorida.com