Preparing your home so it’s more attractive to buyers
When presenting your home to prospective buyers, first impressions are crucial. Buyers begin judging your home the moment they see it and, unless they’re looking for a deal on a fixer-upper, they prefer homes that are well-maintained, clean and clutter-free. That’s why home improvements, particularly if they address the anticipated needs of buyers, can boost your home’s saleability and sale price. Depending on your home’s condition, there are three kinds of improvements that will impress buyers and help you sell for top market value: renovations, upgrades and repairs, reorganization and maintenance. Along these lines, what follows are a few proven, cost-effective ideas that will help your home look its best so you get top market value. Bear in mind, an experienced REALTOR® knows what today’s discerning buyers are looking for and can provide more ideas that will maximize your home’s appeal. Sometimes a small investment in time and money can give you a big edge over your competition and generate a faster sale at a higher price.
Renovations – Which Ones Are Market-Smart?
Generally, few home owners renovate their homes in order to sell them because they know they won’t recoup the full cost of the renovations in the sales price. However, in some cases minor renovations can really improve the overall impression of a property’s character and quality and, as such, will more than pay for themselves.
Here are a few “market-smart makeovers” you might consider:
- Kitchen – New flooring, cabinets, counter tops, appliances and lighting can be costly, but buyers typically look for updated kitchens, and you’ll recover a large percentage of your expenses on resale. Even a minor face lift – for instance, new paint, floor covering, cabinet doors and hardware – can pay off in a faster sale at a better price.
- Bathrooms – As with the kitchen, renovating bathrooms can pay off in terms of both value and marketability, especially in an older house. Opt for good lighting, large mirrors, attractive fixtures and materials, plenty of storage and neutral colors.
- Energy-Efficient Improvements – With everyone “going green” these days, energy-saving upgrades and repairs that reduce fuel bills can be a selling point. For example: sought-after double or triple-pane windows and storm doors that keep indoor temperatures comfortable year round. There are many options, so do some research and talk to a home products professional to find those improvements that best fit your plans and budget.
When considering renovations in anticipation of selling, there are two important rules: don’t over-renovate, and be careful not to make renovations which please you personally, but which might turn off otherwise interested buyers. Both scenarios will cost you. An experienced REALTOR® will be able to counsel you on which renovations are likely to be good investments in terms of your overall plan.
Small Upgrades And Repairs Can Make A Big Difference
There are few things that put buyers off more than viewing a home that screams of being uncared for. If you want to maximize your chances for getting top dollar, you might need to make some minor upgrades, but you’ll definitely need to make all necessary repairs – even those that are “out of sight, out of mind”.
Leaving aside major structural and functional matters, here are a few relatively minor upgrades and repairs that can go a long way to improving how buyers perceive your home:
- Fix or replace anything damaged or worn, such as patio and deck, gutters and eaves, windows, shutters, screens, storm doors, light fixtures, porches and steps, walkways and fences.
- Touch up all exterior paint or if needed, re-paint the house.
- Fix doorbells, tighten loose doorknobs and oil squeaking hinges.
- Clean or paint front door, polish front door hardware, replace “Welcome” mat if necessary.
- Green-up dry lawn patches, plant extra flowers for color, place potted plants beside the front door
- Fix or replace cracked molding or floor tiles, leaking taps and toilets, loose door knobs, squeaky door hinges, closets or screen doors that are off their tracks, bathroom lighting and hardware, toilet seats, loose caulking or grout.
- Fix and touch-up walls, ceilings, windows, etc.
- Brighten interiors with a new coat of paint in light, neutral colors.
- Shampoo carpets and rugs, replace if necessary.
- Make sure major appliances are in good working order.
- Replace switch and outlet plates and register vents with more elegant ones.
- Add closet organizers or shelving to make closets more functional and spacious looking.
- Add organizers or shelving for basement and garage.
- Clean and paint concrete floor and walls.
- Clean water heater and drain sediment, change furnace filter.
Reorganization And Maintenance – The Obvious That Needs Doing
Similar to necessary repairs, basic reorganization and maintenance tasks are “must-dos”. While buyers might not notice such work when it is done, they’re sure to notice when it isn’t. This impression of neglect will make it more difficult for them to comfortably project themselves into your home’s living space. Here are a few reorganization and maintenance tasks that can improve your home’s curb appeal and inside homeyness.
- Mow and rake the lawn, trim hedges and shrubs, weed and edge gardens.
- Clean sidewalks and driveway, remove any litter.
- Remove unnecessary items from the exterior of the house.
- Power wash the porch, siding, deck and patio.
- Clean off your outdoor furniture and remove any in poor repair.
- Clean your air conditioner.
- Clear out the garage of everything but cars. If yours has become a two-car attic, throw out all unnecessary items, and then thoroughly organize and clean everything that remains.
- If you have a pool, make sure it’s clean and functioning well or properly closed in the off-season.
- Clean and tidy the entrance, clear stairs and halls.
- Create space by storing all excess furniture.
- Remove from closets, cabinets and shelves any clothes and other items you won’t need until after moving. Pre-pack and store if possible.
- Organize kitchen counter tops, removing some appliances if necessary, to make them look as spacious as possible.
- Thoroughly clean everything in and out of sight.
- Remove all odors and add air freshener, dishes of potpourri, etc. for scent.
- Throw out any unnecessary items in an unfinished basement, and then thoroughly organize and clean everything that remains.
A Few Words About Clutter
For most buyers, cluttered homes tend to appear smaller, less full of air and light, and somehow requiring of more maintenance. Conversely, clutter-free homes generally seem brighter, more open and spacious, perhaps cleaner and requiring of less work. Additionally, clutter-free homes can make it easier for buyers to visualize their own interior design ideas, as well as the placement of all their belongings. While you may have many beautiful and meaningful belongings, they might make it more difficult for you to sell and cost you thousands of dollars when you do. Be sure to consult a REALTOR® in this regard because they’ll be able to provide you impartial feedback.
Strategically Pricing Your Home to Get Top Market Value
Determining the best asking price for a home is one of the most challenging, and also important, aspects of selling it. In fact, it’s a balancing act. You don’t want to set a price that’s so high that it discourages showings and serious offers from the very qualified, motivated buyers who would ultimately determine your property’s top market value. On the other hand, you don’t want to set a price that’s so low that it attracts lots of interest, but sets the stage for offers and negotiations that could result in your getting less than the market would actually support if you were a little more aggressive.
So What’s Your Home Really Worth?
In a perfect world, your home’s value would be everything you think and need it to be. Perhaps you have specific financial goals or you’ve just made an offer on another home that’s is dependent on selling your home at a certain price in a given time frame. However, simply put, your home’s value is not determined by you, but by what the market is willing to pay for it at a given time. The last thing you want to do is over price your home in this market.
In trying to determine your home’s true market value and, as such, set your expectations for what you’re likely to sell it for, you should:
- Try to be impartial. Unfortunately, the market is not interested in what you originally paid for your home, or how much you need to sell it for to buy your next home and meet your financial goals. In addition, your home may have features that you highly value, but which might actually reduce its market value by limiting the number of potential buyers.
- Remember why you are selling. Do you want to sell or do you need to sell? Unfortunately your personal situation may dictate that you take less money than the market would otherwise be willing to give you if you had more time.
- Research online and in person. You can find out a lot about your local market through research at websites like REALTOR.com®, the premier online destination for real estate information, as well as by going to open houses in your area and making comparisons with your home in terms of location, size, features and condition.
Get a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) from a REALTOR®
A Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is a document, drawn from a local Multiple Listings Service (MLS) database, that presents pricing information, property details and photos of homes similar to yours (termed “comparables”) that recently sold, failed to sell, or are currently on the market in your area.
A REALTOR® will typically provide you with a CMA as part of a listing presentation he or she delivers at your home in hopes of being able to exclusively represent your interests when you sell. This CMA will include the price or price range that the REALTOR® thinks you should list at, although the REALTOR® might adjust that figure on the spot if it’s the first time he or she has been in your home and had the chance to examine its layout, quality, workmanship, condition, and so on. (It’s also worth noting that REALTORS®, knowing that you don’t plan to list any time soon, are also usually happy to provide you with a Free Market Evaluation or “mini-CMA” of your home).
Generally, studying what has worked in your area – and what hasn’t – will help you to strategically price, position and stage your property so that it sells for top dollar in a reasonable time frame, with the least inconvenience for you.
The Consequences of Overpricing at The Time You List
The strategy of overpricing your home when you list, knowing that you can reduce the price later, might seem to make sense at first glance. However, it seldom works. In fact, sellers who overprice their homes – even just 10% above market value – and then reduce the price one or more times often end up getting less than they would have if they’d priced it realistically from the start.
- Fewer buyers – even if they’re otherwise attracted to your home – will respond to the online and offline marketing of it if they know it’s overpriced.
- Fewer agents will show your home to their buyers if they know it’s overpriced.
- The right buyers – i.e. looking to buy a home like yours – may never even view it because they’ll confine their search to a lesser price range where yours should be.
- You’ll attract the wrong buyers – i.e those looking in your price range – who won’t be interested in your home, having viewed other homes truly worth what you’re asking for yours.
- An excessive price on your property makes others more attractive – i.e. both those priced where yours is, and also those priced where yours should be.
- You’ll get fewer – if any – serious offers overall because buyers may consider doing so a waste of time.
- Even if you do get a serious offer, the excessive price can lead to a mortgage rejection for the buyer once the lender has a professional appraisal done on your home. This leads to critical lost time waiting for finance approvals that never go through.
- Reducing the price after buyers have begun to perceive your home as a stale listing will not generate as much interest as if you’d priced it properly from the start.