For the first year ever Zillow Group has release what I assume will now be an annual Consumer Housing Trends Report. To generate the report Zillow surveyed some 13,000 people. Some homeowners, some renters, some buyers, and across all demographics. The outcome is a fairly robust set of data that is useful for consumers and real estate professionals alike.

One data point that stuck out to me in my first browse through the information is what Zillow unearthed in terms of the top seller regret after completing a sale. You might think this top regret would be the agent chosen, asking too much at first, or asking too little.

But no, the top regret from home sellers in this survey was not taking more time to prepare the home ahead of the listing the home for sale. From the inside looking out, this being the top regret makes total sense.

Taking careful consideration when preparing a home for sale is part of my regular drum beat, and for good reason. A well prepared home will provide fewer snags for home buyers as they view the home online and especially as they see the home in person. Whats more, once you have a buyer lined up for the home, their home inspector won’t have as many items to add to the list on the inspection report.

The inspection report will seem overwhelming to the buyer already, so any reduction to the list helps. However, when you don’t have the small items that “everyone has” according the inspector, that inspector will be impressed, and will often say so to the buyer.

What types of preparations are we talking about? In many cases you are talking about basic changes and repairs. Painting is by far the best money spent when preparing, but beyond that here are a few other items for almost anyone to knock out…

  1. Address all known minor repairs. This can include fixing doors, fixing switches, repairing plumbing items, making sure doors latch, and so forth
  2. Make sure all bathrooms tile is up to snuff in the area of grout and caulk.
  3. Address any known exterior rot areas that need fresh paint.
  4. Give a look at the condition of any hardwood floors. Though not free, refinishing hardwood floors is often less costly than people think.
  5. Depersonalize and simplify spaces. Get a storage unit and try to remove the sense that the house is yours, allowing potential buyers to more easily imagine it as theirs. Also, simplify spaces by removing all but the most essential furniture.
  6. Clean up the landscaping. If the home has a yard, the landscaping is going to set the first impression. Not only that, it can really put buyers off if they get the impressing that the yard will be a lot of work to maintain.

When looking at larger projects beyond these items, it really is a case by case basis. For some, it can pay off to go so far as to do a full kitchen renovation for instance, for others, this might not make sense.

The other tool in your shed as a seller if you don’t want to take on replacing an HVAC system, or other major element is to offer a 1 year Home Warranty that you transfer to the buyer at closing. This is the peace of mind olive branch that says, yes, I know the furnace is 20 years old, but it’s working right now. The Home Warranty will allow the buyer to pay a small deductible at the time of service and then pay no more, even if an entire system needs to be replaced.

I could really go on and on on this subject, as thus far I’ve only scratched the surface. At the end of the day, the best advice I can offer is if you think you are selling within the next year to year and a half, go ahead and select and agent and begin that relationship. This brings a knowledgeable guide onto your team to help you make the right decisions, and avoid spending time and money on the wrong ones.