At least several times a year I receive a call from a seller indicating that they have just finished getting their home ready to sell and are ready to select a listing agent. Unfortunately, at the appointment I sometimes learn that the seller’s idea of “ready” may have missed the mark. A common mistake some have made is to spend a lot of money on major renovations or remodeling. While buyers will be impressed with these things, spending $5000 on remodeling will not add $5000 to your your home’s value. Instead, I typically recommend spending as little money as possible, and spend it on cosmetic, readily seen features like interior painting. The time to remodel is when you plan to stay in the house, not when you’re going to sell.
Even when it comes to “cosmetic” work, sellers will sometimes select styles or finishes that are taste specific or that don’t appeal to the likely buyer pool for the property. Colors and finishes require careful thought. The bottom line, it’s best to consult with a market specialist/Realtor® BEFORE a seller starts to spend money and undertake any improvements to the property. This will help assure that the dollars are spent wisely and effectively.
I have a few general recommendations regarding property condition and maintenance, however, that are prudent to do whether you are staying or selling. If you are selling, attending to these items will result in a better sales price and - if the buyer conducts a home inspection - a cleaner home inspection report.
Take care of that lawn. First impressions matter, so edge, mow and fertilize your lawn regularly. Make sure it’s well watered and reseed any sparse areas. Trim hedges, weed lawns and flowerbeds, and prune trees regularly. Cut back overgrown shrubbery that looks scraggly or keeps light out of the house. Spring for some brightly colored potted outdoor flower arrangements for the front yard near the entrance.
Create an inviting entry. Paint the mail box, buy a new welcome mat, and paint the front door if needed (again, consult with a Realtor® about paint selection).
Don’t defer exterior maintenance items.
-check the foundation, steps, walkways, walls and patios for cracks and crumbling, and reseal if possible.
-if you have siding or brick, power-wash it.
-If you have a painted exterior, consider repainting in a neutral shade. This is especially important if there is any peeling.
-make sure the porch light works.
-clean and align gutters and downspouts.
-inspect and clean the chimney.
-if the doorbell doesn’t work, repair or replace it.
-repair and replace loose or damaged roof shingles.
-repair and repaint loose siding and caulking.
-remove oil stains from driveway and garage.
-repair broken outdoor steps.
-wash the windows inside and out.
When it comes to the inside,
Clean, clean, clean. This includes walls, floors, inside closets and cabinets – everything. If you must, hire a cleaning service to come in and do the job. Thoroughly clean all appliances (including the oven and refrigerator).
Get rid of clutter. Annually go through your home and if an item is not being used regularly, sell, donate, or throw it away. This alone will make your house appear bigger and brighter. Don’t forget your closets, garage, basement and attic! Remove excess, worn or unattractive furniture.
Paint the walls and ceilings. Personally, I believe that spaces should be painted at least every 6-7 years to keep your house showing at its best. Again, if you are considering selling, consult with a Realtor about the best paint selection for marketing the home.
Update kitchens and baths. If you want to give a new but inexpensive look to the kitchen or baths, buy new cabinet knobs and curtains. When the time is right, swap out appliances for stainless steel appliances that remain in vogue for home buyers.
Don’t forget the floors. Shampoo all carpets, scrub and wax linoleum, wash and wax wood floors.
Don’t defer interior maintenance items:
-unclog slowly draining sinks and tubs.
-clean out the fireplace.
-mend torn screens.
-clean out all window tracks.
-check to see that all windows will open and close.
-replace burned-out light bulbs with energy efficient light bulbs.
-make sure every light switch works.
-lubricate any squeaking doors.
-replace old toilet seats and shower curtains.
-clear all cobwebs from corners and doorways.
If you are staying in your home home, attending to these items will relieve stress (eliminate that “honey do” list!) and increase your enjoyment of the property. Many of these small tasks also will help you save money in the long run (e.g., tending to the roof can avoid a costly leak; painting regularly can help protect the home from the elements, etc.). If you are selling, presenting a well-maintained home will appeal greatly to today’s home buyers, resulting in a quicker and more hassle-free sales process!
Lately, consider that the time and money spent on these items is reinvestment back into what, for many, is their largest financial asset. Such an investment will reward you in the long run with a bigger sales price when it's time to sell!