Anyone who’s ever sold a home knows there are a lot of projects and considerations one must take care of before closing day. Most often, the prevailing question among home sellers is: “How much can I expect to get for my home?” Naturally, sellers want to get the best price as this can have a significant impact on their budget for their next home.
Luckily, there are lots of low- and no-cost ways to boost the value of your home. A bit of cleaning and sprucing up can pay serious dividends by the time you sign the papers at the end of the selling process.
55places' Midwest Regional Sales Manager George Kolar speaks to the value of finding a good agent you trust who can guide you through the process and help you make the best choices when preparing your home for sale. “The point that we want to drive home,” says Kolar, “is that they should be meeting with successful realtors in their area who can give them their homework—the items that should be fixed or replaced, and more importantly, the items they should not waste thousands on."
Building off this advice, we've compiled some tips for preparing your home for sale that won’t break the bank but will add some serious appeal and, most importantly, value to your home.
First Impressions Count
When selling a house, the first thing a potential buyer will see as they pull onto your street is the exterior of your home. This is your chance for your home to make a lasting impression before a homebuyer has even set foot in your house. Thankfully, this is one area of your home where a little bit of planning and elbow grease can go a long way to ratcheting up that selling price.
- Trim bushes and remove dead or overgrown plants. This requires little more than an afternoon outside and a few simple hand tools. Your real estate agent should be able to recommend a good landscaper if you need a helping hand.
- Keep your lawn neat and well-trimmed. Depending on the season, an application of fertilizer or aerating the lawn will encourage lush growth.
- Give your home a pressure wash. If you don’t own a pressure washer, don’t despair. Most hardware stores rent them. Expect to spend about $40-$50 for a daylong rental which should be plenty of time to wash the driveway, walkways, deck, and even the exterior of the home. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.
- Add a fresh coat of paint. A fresh coat of paint tells a potential buyer that this home has been well maintained. If you don't have the time to paint the whole exterior, consider at least repainting the front door and first-floor trim.
- Use your green thumb. Even if you’re not much of a gardener, putting in a few decorative plants is well within the reach of just about everyone. Look for varieties of plants that are low-maintenance and appropriate for your area’s climate. The staff at your local nursery or hardware store will be able to help you select what’s best for your needs.
Keep It Cheap and Keep It DIY
As buyers cross the threshold through your front door and into your home, they’ll be making a lot of quick judgments. In most cases, you don’t need to clear out the entire house while it's being shown, but be mindful of the amount of clutter that can accumulate in a lived-in home. Again, there are lots of things you can do to improve your home’s appeal without having to take out a second mortgage to afford it.
- Do some spring cleaning. No matter the season, it's time to give your home a thorough deep-cleaning. Stock up on cleaning supplies, preferably without any powerful perfumes or scents, and really go to town on the whole house.
- Channel Marie Kondo: Now is the time to start packing up bags for donation and decluttering your life. Not only will this help with your move, but it'll give the home a more spacious appearance.
- Out with the old. Replace old and unsightly light switches and outlet covers, especially if they're dated. You might not notice them, but buyers will. Don’t feel the need to splurge here.
- When in doubt, repaint. If your interior paint is worn or, shall we say, very uniquely tailored to your tastes, give some serious thought to repainting. Ask your real estate agent or the person at the paint shop for ideas on neutral yet appealing colors. Note: Be sure to paint the walls before replacing switch covers. You can also repaint your cabinets in both the bathrooms and kitchen for a fresh, modern look.
- Don’t forget the cabinets. If you’ve been living in your house for a long time, it might be time to replace cabinet knobs and handles. You can find replacements for a few dollars apiece, and replacing them doesn't require much more than a screwdriver and a few hours.
More Advanced Projects
This is where you’ll want to consult with your real estate agent. Use their expertise to determine if any advanced projects could really bring up the value of your home. Remember, a higher selling price is a win-win proposition for both you and your agent.
- Consider the floor. We don’t think about it much because it's under our feet, but take an honest appraisal of the condition of your floors and carpeting. If they need replacing, look for versatile colors—now is not the time to buy into the trends of the moment.
- Update first and replace second. If you have a dated bathtub or sink, it may be possible to paint it rather than replace it. For example, you may love the vintage appeal of your avocado-colored bathroom, it might turn off buyers. Look for special paints designed for use on fixtures.
- If you must replace, start in the kitchen. We all spend a lot of time in and around the kitchen, and it's an area of the house buyers carefully inspect. If you’re going to invest, the kitchen is the most impactful place to start. Choose quality, midrange appliances and go for a middle-of-the-road, modern look with plenty of storage and other smart features.
Selling a house can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. With a few real estate tips and an agent you trust, you’ll know what you need to do to get the best price for your home in a competitive market. Do your homework, talk to your agent, and be prepared to roll up your sleeves. At closing, you’ll most likely find that the hard work was worth it.