Buying a house isn’t what it used to be—and in many ways, that’s a good thing (see: The Big Short). But if you’re thinking of listing your home to take advantage of today’s red-hot market, there are a few critical things you should do to snag the best first impression. After all, by some accounts, you have seven seconds to set the vibe that convinces someone that they could see themselves living in your space. That’s why we turned to Sabine H. Schoenberg, realtor and founder of home advice streaming service Smart. Healthy. Green. Living, to uncover what catches buyers’ eyes during home tours—for good and bad reasons. Here’s what you should triple-check before listing your pad.
1. How Welcoming Your Front Steps Are
“In the old days, we called it the ‘windshield effect’—What will people notice when they first drive up to the house? We’d tell them to put away garbage cans and make sure there are no toys in the front yard. Now, that goes even deeper,” Schoenberg says. “I say to my sellers, ‘What do your front steps look like? Are the planters in good shape?’” Today’s buyers have spent time studying your photos online, so you need to make sure what they see is just as pristine as those pics. That may mean spending the day before an open house weeding or putting out a fresh welcome mat to make the entry seem more inviting.
2. The Smart Doorbell
Whether you have a Ring or Nest Hello or another brand, buyers take note—and tend to appreciate smart home upgrades, particularly when it comes to smart doorbells and thermostats. “It used to be millennials only, but now people of all ages want a smart house,” Schoenberg explains. The sense of security and energy efficiency are major perks, as are tech upgrades that make it easy to FaceTime with family and friends. “People want the ability to reach out and not feel trapped at home,” she adds.
3. A Home Office Area
Even people who don’t work from home like to see there’s a space where they could tackle a project—or have their kids do their schoolwork—that’s removed from any distractions. If you’re staging the house, consider setting up a desk in one room (or even under the stairs or in a makeshift “cloffice”) to help people envision the different ways they could use your space.
4. The Air Flow
“Because of COVID, health conversations are big,” Schoenberg says. “People want to know, ‘if I’m living here, am I going to have healthy air?’” If the space feels stuffy, it can be a major turnoff.
5. The Furnace
Energy efficiency and sustainability are more top-of-mind than ever to homebuyers. “When they see a new furnace, they ask, ‘what’s that all about?’” Schoenberg says. “They may not be that familiar with heating systems, but they ask questions, and that’s where the education begins.” If you’ve recently replaced or upgraded yours, make sure that your agent highlights that in tours. (And, regardless of its age, ensure the appliance is dust- and cobweb-free, since people will want to scope it out.)
6. Jewel-Tone Walls
More saturated colors are in right now, but if you’ve painted every room in shades of indigo, teal and emerald, spending a weekend repainting in a neutral shade is worth the effort. “White, cool tones, gray” are all popular with buyers, Schoenberg says, even if they’re a bit bland for your tastes. (And if your kitchen’s red, well, prioritize a fresh coat there ASAP—a recent Zillow study found it can decrease a home’s value by $5,000.)
7. The Clutter
One thing that hasn’t changed: A cluttered home appears smaller than it actually is, and it makes it hard for buyers to envision the space as their own when they’re bombarded by you, you, you. Clear off your shelves and countertops as much as possible, and keep your walkways as open as possible. The bigger, brighter and airier your home feels, the better.