As promised, here are a few things that Buyers really do care about:
The first impression when a Buyer pulls up in front of your home gives them an initial "Ahhh" or "Ewww" to start off the showing. Even if the house is beautiful inside, it's hard to combat the initial "Ew" factor. The good news is that an initial "Ah" lends itself to Buyers looking a little more kindly on any interior fix ups. Set the tone. Your house should look happy and cared for. Grass should be cut, trash cans hidden, landscaping trimmed and mulched.
A house that has good maintenance records is golden. It screams to a Buyer "There are no hidden surprises here - I've taken care of everything." If you don't have good maintenance records, a flurry of upkeep can also communicate the same to the Buyer. Have the heater, chimney, and A/C units serviced prior to listing. Have your septic system pumped. Have a contractor come and make the multitude of minor repairs that you've learned to live with: leaky faucets, bad hinges on kitchen cabinets, ripped screens. Attach all your receipts to the Sellers Disclosure. Give the Buyer a sense of security that things in your home have been maintained.
Kitchens and Baths
Yeah, I know that you've heard this a million times, but I cannot stress it enough. Kitchens and Baths sell homes. The difficult part of this is that kitchens and baths get the most use (and dirt) and they need to show the cleanest. They have to be clean. Ruthlessly clean. They also need to appear spacious, even though they collect the most clutter. Here's the minimum of what you should do: clear off counters and sinks, invest in new towels for the bathroom, CLEAN.
Did I mention they should be clean?
(As an aside, I've got a great tip for an outdated bathroom: chocolate brown is the new hot neutral and chocolate / pink and chocolate / blue are hot combos. This covers a variety of outdated tile: brown, pink, and blue. Shoot me an email if you need help trying to figure out how to make your 50s tile look a little more contemporary)
Maybe I just work with a lot of families with children, but almost all my Buyer clients search by school district rather than town. There's not much you can do about this. I'm just telling you it matters.
An Emotional Connection
Buyers are looking for "the one." They have to fall a little in love with your home. How can you help that emotional connection? The house should feel happy and well maintained - no kicked in doors from angry teenagers, no divorce papers lying around, no trashcans filled with beer bottles. Even if some not so happy things are happening in your home, the Buyers shouldn't be able to tell that.
Make your home inviting. Remember the things you fell in love with and highlight them. A great backyard? Stage a seating area under a tree with a fire/conversation pit. Was it the bright kitchen? Set the table with some cookies and a note for Buyers to sit down and help themselves.
I've got some recommendations for Buyers as well. As my friend Kim Brown put it "Crap Buyers will Just Have to Deal With." Look for that coming next...