1. Your neighbors.
Most homeowners contemplating selling their homes understand the importance of well-kept neighboring homes. Many a buyer has pulled up to an amazing house, viewed it, and left shaking their head with woe because they just can’t cotton to buying the place on account of the shoulder-high weeds, car in the yard or crumbling ruins of the house next door.
On the flip side, your neighbors themselves - not just the homes, but the people - can actually help sell your home. Many homeowners know people who want to live in their neck of the woods; this is one reason many seasoned real estate professionals hold their listings open to neighbors and send out postcards to neighbors announcing the listing - the neighbors might know people who are interested in your home! Also, neighbors who are out and about chatting with each other, laughing and playing with their kids, mowing their lawns or painting their fences, or even who just offer a smile and helpful area knowledge to the buyer-to-be they pass on the street can make a very favorable impression on prospective buyers.
It’s a good idea, if and when you decide to list your home for sale, to touch base with neighbors you know and let them know; it’s in their best interests to get good new neighbors, so they might be able to go the extra mile in showing the neighborhood’s biggest asset - themselves - off to its best advantage.
2. The right sights, smells and sounds.
It’s no news flash that the view of a used car lot; stinky foods or animal smells; and the siren song of a fire station next door could be deal-killers. What might surprise is some of the right sights, smells and sounds that can help seal the sale of your home. My experience has been that the more natural beautiful sights, smells and sounds are, the more favorably they’ll be received by the largest population of prospective buyers.
For example, playing a soundtrack of classical musical is fine, but will cause some skeptical buyers to wonder what noises you might be trying to cover up - especially if you’re in a condo or other potentially thin-walled property where neighbor noise might be an issue. On the other hand, birdsong can be attractive to some buyers. Artificial air fresheners? Not so much. The scent of the jasmine or lavender that grows in your yard? Even allergy victims can appreciate that.
You might be desensitized to the amazing views of trees, mountains or even water outside your window, but pulling back the curtains so prospective buyers can see for themselves is an absolute must.
Home buying is a multi-sensory experience - visual staging of the property itself is no longer a plus, it’s a must. But homes which create pleasant impressions that fire on all of a buyer’s sensory cylinders definitely have the edge on their competition.
3. Your dog.
The New York Times ran a piece a few months ago about sweet, well-behaved dogs (and cats!) who reportedly helped sell their owners’ Manhattan apartments. In a departure from the conventional wisdom that dogs should be removed and every trace of their presence erased from the home during showings, the article featured several buyers and brokers attesting to their belief that the presence of a particular cat or dog “help[ed] sell a property by making the place seem warmer or more appealing.” There's another story of a San Diego buyer who fell in love with a tract home listed at a price higher than all the nearly identical comparables he’d seen and wanted to make a full-price offer immediately - so long as the deal included the dog! My Dog however, does not come with a price tag...
Definitely consult with your agent before you decide to implement leaving your dog at home for showings as part of your plan. I’m a dog lover, and would be concerned that someone might inadvertently let my dog out, if I left him there while my house was being shown; as well, would-be buyers or their agents may have allergies your pet could set off. If you have a pet though, you can't hide it as you do have to disclose it on your property condition disclosure so instead of hiding the fact I’ve seen some agents attempting to capture the best of both worlds by making sure that the family pet is captured in a charming pose in 1 or 2 of the listing pictures, even if they’re not present at the home during showings. Just make sure that the #1 priority you have if you do have pets is to make sure that your home does not smell like you have pets.
4. Your happiness.
Video and even written letters to the next potential homeowners that extoll all the virtues for which you love your neighbors, your neighborhood and your property are contagious. I’ve seen sellers help buyers see their homes through their own loving eyes by posting videos on YouTube and including the link on the listing flyer or even by putting a binder containing a letter plus menus and flyers from their favorite neighborhood restaurants, dry cleaners and other local merchants out on the counter during showings.
Wide-open curtains that let light stream in, light and bright paint and decor colors and other home features that science has proven make residents more happy and functional also create this thought process in a buyer’s mind: “Hmm, these people seem happy here. I could be, too.”
Similarly, indicators that you invested a lot of love in your home, by keeping it in immaculate order and pristine condition, by tending a well-cared for kitchen garden, lovingly furnishing and making comfortable (if not overly customizing) your kids’ rooms, all create the feel that a home was happily lived in - it’s like staging your home with a life well-lived, not just paint and tile.
5. Give a guided tour of your house without even being there.
I've done this one numerous listings and it has definitely not only helped sell a few of them but also bring in higher offers because it builds value in the buyers' minds. Write down individual selling features that set your home apart from others, like "New High Efficiency Furnace Installed in '09", "New Carpet in June '10", etc., on light colored 3 X 5 cards and have them laminated and posted throughout the home for the buyers to read as they walk from room to room. This will not only point out all of the improvements you have done which help build value but also give them one more reason to remember your house as the one that really stood out.