How to Get Your Home Ready to Sell
Unless you plan to discount heavily and sell your home “as-is,” you should spend some time and money fixing home's trouble zones before buyers find them. Determine what repairs and improvements are worth the cost and will help you sell your home for the best price, and decide what improvements you can probably skip.
Pretend You’re a Buyer
We all get used to our own home’s quirks and annoyances such as squeaky floors and sticky drawers — and eventually, we don’t even notice them. However, a potential buyer will probably spot these things and wonder what other problems are not as visible.
Enlist the help of a friend and start outside. What do you see when you drive up to your home? A pretty garden and welcoming entry? Or a weed-ridden lawn and a pile of broken toys? Is the front door shabby? Are the windows clean? Ask your friend what smells he or she detects after stepping inside.
If your first impression is not fresh, bright, and inviting, you’ve got some work to do.
Start With Brooms, Not Hammers
When creating interior appeal, start with the low-hanging fruit. Remove all but the essentials you need for living. Everything else can be packed (moving day will be less painful if you’ve done most of the work upfront) and stored, donated, junked, or sold. When less of your personal stuff is lying around, buyers can more easily visualize themselves in the space.
Once you’ve removed the clutter, it’s time to deep clean. Remove dirt from walls, cabinets, baseboards, light switches, and shelves. Shampoo all soft surfaces such as carpets, rugs, drapes, and furniture. Clean the windows — you’ll be amazed at how much brighter your rooms appear afterward.
A thorough clean up can work magic, but not all wear and tear can be cleaned away.
Focus on Fast Fixes for Small Budgets
Open your interior and exterior doors. If they stick or squeak, a screwdriver, a little oil, or possibly a belt sander can take care of the problem easily enough. Replace screens with holes or warps.
While you’re on a roll, knock out the other things buyers don’t want to see — loose handles, drawers that don’t close all the way, and dripping faucets.
And don’t forget small updates that make a difference. Spray finishes can transform ugly Formica, original tile designs can create cool but affordable backsplashes, and custom handles and pulls add panache to cabinetry. Why should you care if your home’s details are boring or dated? Because many buyers will have toured new developments and viewed the latest trends. If your home looks dumpy by comparison, it may linger unsold.
You don’t need to spring for an entire renovation. But incorporating a few upgrades, such as replacing brassy fixtures with brushed or weathered ones, can create the impact you want.
Stage Your Home
Once your home is clean, clutter-free, and repaired, you should stage it. There is a reason that upscale hotel rooms look so attractive — they feature a few attractive pieces of art and furniture and aren't crammed with personal collections. Some home-staging pros recommend no more than one display per surface, so be disciplined in your choice of decor items.
Determine which furnishings, art, lighting, etc. can be pulled together to create cohesive, pleasing rooms, and store or get rid of the rest. If you plan to stage your home yourself, check out sites such as Houzz.com or HGTV for ideas that amp up your home’s appeal without costing too much time or money. Strive for a livable look, not a fake and overdone cartoon (no plastic fruit or phony flowers, please).
Consider taking this opportunity to replace things you hate anyway, such as mismatched dishes, holey afghans, or generic kitchen towels, to add style and make a comfortable impression. Set a beautiful table, display pretty plants in decorative pots, and toss a few new pillows onto your sofa.
Should You Professionally Stage Your Home?
Not everyone has lovely furniture, original artwork, and trendy lighting. And it makes little sense to buy those things now if you’ll just have to move them after you sell. Or you may not have a great decorating eye or the inclination to arrange rooms to attract buyers. If that’s you, a professional home stager might be the right solution.
When should you consider staging your home professionally?
- Your neighborhood is a buyer’s market, where there are more homes for sale than buyers. This means the buyer has the advantage and you need to make your home look as presentable as possible.
- Your home’s list price is moderate to high. You want to make sure that the house doesn’t look cheaper than it is.
- You need professional help to make your house look good in photos, especially as more people are searching for homes online during COVID-19.
- You need to sell fast. According to a study from the Real Estate Staging Association (RESA), homes that had not been staged before listing sat on the market 143 days on average. Once these homes were staged, they sold in 40 days. Homes that were staged pre-listing averaged 23 days on the market.
The main argument against professional home staging is cost. According to HomeAdvisor.com, the national average home staging cost is $1,251, with most homeowners paying between $519 and $1,983. You can save on staging by limiting it to the kitchen, living room and master bedroom.
Refresh With Paint
For maximum effect at a relatively low cost, paint is the obvious choice. Just be sure that you or the people you hire prep your surfaces meticulously. Nothing looks more hurried than nicks, gouges, overspray on windows, and painted-over hinges.
If you can't repaint the entire home, focus on the areas that show the most wear and dirt — stair risers, trim, moldings, and doors. Include the ceilings if you need to cover old water stains.
Keep in mind that fresh paint can make buyers wonder if you're trying to cover up existing water damage or other problems. If you actually have ongoing leakage, you do legally have to repair it or disclose it. But if you just painted to improve your home’s look, consider choosing low-odor volatile organic compound (VOC) paint to minimize strong odors. And give the house a few days to air out before putting it on the market.
Kitchens and Baths Sell Homes
Kitchens and baths can make or break a home sale. And unfortunately, they are also the most expensive rooms in your home to renovate. However, you don't need to completely gut these rooms to compete with other sellers.
Just add a few touches that homebuyers want. As of this writing, for instance, the most-desired kitchen colors and finishes include amber, copper, gold, and rust. And while grey has been popular for a few years, its latest incarnation is more greige.
You’ll find that the most popular colors and finishes can be found at many price points. You can update on a big or small budget — for instance, you can replace all of your bathroom tile with tiny mosaic or terrazzo and install a steam shower. Or you can change out your towels, bath mats and shower curtains and call it good.
Cost Versus Value
How do you know how much to improve and how much is too much? You can ask your real estate agent. He or she knows what features sell (or don’t sell) in your neighborhood.
You don’t want to leave obvious health and safety matters unaddressed. Or ignore unappealing problems such as strong pet odors and stained, gross carpet. Fixing glaring deficiencies such as sagging cabinetry and appliances from the 1980s will almost certainly pay off.
However, your goal is not to have the most advanced and beautiful home on the block. Houses that are improved to the point that they eclipse every other nearby property will likely disappoint their sellers. You won’t recoup your investment when you add prestigious features such as waterfalls and automatic gates to a home in a modest community. Home appraisers have a term for this: “over-improved for the neighborhood.”
Speed up Your Home Sale
It's not always easy to calculate the value added by minor improvements when you sell your home. And sometimes, a higher sales price isn’t the primary benefit when you improve your home. For instance, if you can sell your property in 60 days instead of 260 with a few simple updates, you’ll save about six mortgage payments and the priceless feeling of selling your home quickly.