July 17, 2018

Home Remodeling to Sell: Dos and Don’ts

painting_remodeling_improvementThe Washington Post has a useful piece on easy upgrades that home sellers can do to make their homes more attractive to buyers. The best part about it: It does not recommend that people do too much.

While some real estate agents might tell sellers to pursue expensive upgrades like new tiling and expensive appliances, that may not be good advice.  In fact, sellers may not get their money back for those items when they sell. Extensive cleaning, repairing and paint are the best bets.

Remodeling magazine produces an annual report listing upgrades and the money that homeowners can expect to get back, and they show that most renovations cost more than they return. While just estimates, Remodeling‘s report should give sellers caution about doing extensive remodeling and renovations to prepare a home to sell.  Noteworthy, though, is the fact that D.C. region remodels do appear to pay more back at resale than other parts of the country, which is positive. Check it out.

Many sellers might ask, how is it, then, that the sellers on HGTV shows like Love it or List It get so much bang for their buck? There are a couple reasons, the first of which is reality TV isn’t always reflective of reality! The other is, strategic major rehabs are different from changing out a counter top or other partial fixes. And what works in one market, may not work in another.

If you renovate the entire house or a room, it can really shine and be much more attractive to buyers, especially if you can remove walls and update otherwise obsolete kitchens and master bathrooms. But if you are paying retail prices for such renovations, you still can’t expect to get all your money back. Investors do it differently, which is why they make money. First, they buy rundown properties at a steep discount; then they renovate the entire house using contractors who give them better prices than most home owners might get.

So unless you get the right deal from a contractor and make the right strategic decisions, you may lose money with major remodeling specifically designed for resale. Accordingly, homeowners should realize that many remodeling jobs are designed for the enjoyment of the homeowner, not to make a profit.

However, there are some things you can do to improve sales chances.  Relatively modest changes like paint, cleaning, and decluttering can make a world of difference.

Here’s a list of some small, affordable changes you can do:

  • Remove: Get rid of all personal photos and effects, knick knacks, and excess clothing.  This might include putting your stuff in a PODS or storage facility.  In this case, less is definitely better.
  • Stage:  You can stage with the help of an expert, or use your own stuff and do it yourself.  The key is to keep it clean and simple in style with touches that create charm and warmth.
  • Neutralize: Paint every room the same neutral color, be it off white, light gray, or taupe. The Washington Posts says, “pale greens and grays are the taupe of 2014.”  But I’d skip the greens and stick with creamy off-whites and grays. These colors—or non-colors—provide the blank slate that nearly anyone can imagine for their own.
  • Caulk: Fill in cracks and crevices along molding, on stairways, and so on. Such cracks from dried out caulk create the appearance of a poorly maintained home, which is a bad sign to buyers.
  • Spackle:  Use a lightweight, quick-dry spackle to fill holes in the walls before painting, and make sure your fixes are smooth.
  • Light it up:  Make sure every light bulb and fixture is working and every room has a light. If there isn’t one attached to the ceiling or wall, make sure there are lamps.
  • Fix: Make sure all drippy, leaky, or poorly functioning plumbing is repaired. You might as well get it done because it will come up in the inspection, and the buyer will likely ask you to fix it anyway.
  • Make it work: Make sure all interior and exterior doors work well. Are they hung right? Do they shut?
  • Replace: Change out cover plates and switches that are dirty beyond repair or cracked.
  • Refresh cabinets: Paint old and outdated cabinets and place new pulls on cabinet doors.
  • Clean, clean, clean: Make every window, door, counter, cabinet, and corner  absolutely spotless.
  • Replace or clean stained carpets:  This is a more expensive change, but it may well do a world of good.  A dirty, damaged carpet is a big turn-off for buyers.
  • Deodorize: Homes can collect smells that homeowners get used to, but prospective buyers will notice them. Covering up smells with candles and perfumes won’t trick new buyers, and some may find them offensive too. If you have a dog, cat, or any other creature that leaves an aroma, find a way to mitigate it as best as you can. If you have had or have water problems that produced moldy smells in the basement, you need to fix the water problem and eliminate the odor. Some smells won’t go away unless you replace carpets and paint.
  • Give it curb appeal:  Make sure your lawn is clean, clipped, the gardens are weeded, and if the front door shows heavy signs of wear or dirt, clean it or give it a fresh coat of paint.

See our posts on inspections for additional critical to-do items for  home sellers.

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