Getting a home ready to put on the market can feel overwhelming, particularly if you’re comparing your home to the ones you see on house flipping shows. Is it really necessary to do a complete remodel and full-on staging in order to sell? Do you need to upgrade or fix everything? The answer is no, and in fact, some repairs or upgrades might actually cost you more than they would add to your home’s value.
The key is to focus on items that will help you sell the home more quickly, net more money, and prevent problems that could cause your home to fall out of escrow once it’s under contract. Here’s some items to consider:
Buyers will decide whether to view your home based on that initial impression and no matter how great your home looks inside, many buyers won’t get there if it doesn’t look fabulous from the outside. With the drought and watering restrictions, many homes have brown lawns and that’s a big turnoff for buyers. While once the fix was to install new sod, we recommend replacing it with water-friendly landscaping. Plants like lavender and salvia can be beautiful when set off by fresh bark or decomposed granite. A clean, well-kept front yard helps boost your home’s initial appeal. Also take a good look at the entryway and front door. Do the porch, front steps or front door need cleaning and/or a fresh coat of paint? How about a beautiful pot of seasonal flowers to give a splash of color. Small things like new house numbers or porch light can give the home an updated look without breaking the bank.
Cleaning & Decluttering
A really good deep cleaning will help your home look and smell its best. Particularly if you have pets, this is really important. You want windows to sparkle and hardwood floors to gleam. If you have carpets, consider a professional cleaning. A dirty home will cause buyers to wonder if the home has deferred maintenance. People buy not only a home but also their vision of what their life will look like once they live there and nobody envisions themselves in a dirty home. Along with cleaning, box up any excess belongings so that potential buyers can focus on the home rather than what’s in it. If you’re not sure what to box up and what to leave, get a professional opinion.
If you have chipping, peeling, flaking paint, it’s a good idea to have it touched up or repainted. Lenders will require that the paint be fixed prior to close of escrow if your buyer obtains an FHA or VA (government guaranteed) loan so why not do it prior to putting the home on the market? If you have any rooms with dark colors, consider switching to a light, neutral color to create the appearance of a larger space and to not discourage a would-be buyer.
Leaky faucets or active leaks should be repaired prior to placing the home on the market. What if your plumbing is outdated and you know it? Is it worthwhile to repipe before putting the home on the market? If you’re planning to live in the home for a while before selling and you’ll enjoy the benefits, then you may want to go ahead and do it. But if you’re going to be putting the home on the market immediately, then hold off. If your plumbing is at the end of the useful life, then it’s possible the buyer will ask for a credit, but you may be able to negotiate a credit for a portion of the repiping cost rather than paying for the whole thing.
If you have active leaks, then definitely repair the roof. However, if your roof is simply old and “near the end of its useful life,” don’t spend the money to replace it unless it impacts your home’s curb appeal in a significant way. Just as with the plumbing, it’s possible that a buyer will request a credit for the roof, but you may be able to negotiate a credit for a portion of the cost rather than for the whole thing. And with a credit or price reduction, it’s not money that you’ll need to spend up front.
Windows should be operable and broken panes should be replaced. Unless you open and close your windows with frequency, it’s easy to leave this out because you quite simply don’t think about it very often. While it’s not necessary to get double paned windows and fancy treatments, airtight and functional are important in Open Houses and inspections alike.
If your heater doesn’t work, we recommend having it serviced. Many lenders require a functioning heater to be in place and you don’t want this to be a surprise once you’re in escrow. If you find that the heater will need to be replaced rather than fixed, it’s best to do it prior to putting the home on the market. If you don’t have the money, then your Realtor may be able to help you structure the transaction so that the work can be done in escrow without an upfront cost to you.
Hardware & Fixtures
Small things like broken or outdated hardware, faucets, towel bars, curtain rods and light fixtures can be replaced or fixed relatively inexpensively and will help your home show to its best advantage. If you live in a historically-significant style of home, ask your realtor if you should replace these fixtures with something that is time period appropriate or if a more contemporary finish is appropriate, as many buyers for these types of homes are looking for original characteristics.
Whether you’ve got a sprawling back yard or a tiny patio, stage it so that buyers can envision themselves spending time in the space. Well maintained landscaping, potted plants and a seating area help buyers feel comfortable and your home more memorable. More and more buyers are looking for outdoor space and family areas, so this is increasingly a significant portion of your home’s appeal.
Kitchen & Baths
It’s unlikely that a kitchen or bathroom remodel will pay for itself immediately. There are exceptions to the rule – for example, if it’s the only weak point in an otherwise completely updated home. However, typically, you’ll only get back a percentage of what you spend on the remodel. However, there are things you can do inexpensively to help increase the appeal of these spaces. A fresh coat of paint on cabinets and new flooring or counters can give the space an updated feeling without breaking the bank. The larger you can make these spaces feel, the better they will be received. Throwing back to the hardware and fixtures, this is the most significant area you can make improvements with them.
Do I Really Need to Fix Everything On This List?
If money and time are tight and you feel overwhelmed by this list, you may be wondering if you really need to tackle it all in order to sell your home. The answer is no. We can sell your home without you doing any of it. Yet the items listed above are likely to pay for themselves, increasing your selling price and bottom line and decreasing the time your home is on the market. There are buyers out there who are looking for “fixers” — investors are clamoring for opportunities in our current low-inventory market. Yet they’re expecting to pay below market value and will deduct from their price more than you might spend to have your home show well.
If you’re considering selling now or in the next few years and you’d like more personalized advice on what projects to tackle – or leave alone – please fill out the contact form below and we’d be happy to look at your home and offer specific suggestions. We know tons of people in the community that do quality work and are always happy to advise people to make the sale process smoother.