As with any resale product, the person trying to sell said product will usually try to make the product look as new as possible to ensure the highest profit available. In reviewing many of the homes on the market today, however, some sellers don't get that notion.
Don't make the mistake of the seller who, knowing full well that buyers were coming by, not only failed to do a fresh clean up, but also left his underwear on the exercise bike, a pan of crusty macaroni and cheese on the stove and debris throughout the yard.
There are some task items any seller should consider when selling a house. Even if you decide to sell "as is," a little soap and water could put a few more bucks in your pocket. With that in mind, let's look at what sellers should look at doing with any house they want to put on the market; what to do when you want to get a little more money; and how to compete with the Joneses when looking to prepare your home for sale.
- All homes going on the market should receive a deep cleaning. This is the cleaning that you do when … well, you would never do it unless you're selling your house (or you're just an absolute neatnik. This involves scrubbing every cranny of the house. Nothing goes unscrubbed. I would suggest bringing in a professional group to get this done and plan on spending a couple hundred bucks (maybe more) to get the house ready for your new buyer.
- Next, declutter the house. Go ahead and rent a huge storage unit and fill it up. Plan this with a bunch of pre-made boxes that have lids you can tape shut and label. Take extra kid's toys to charity. Donate all clothes that are even a bit too tight or out of date. Remove excess furniture (or even cover with matching covers).
- Repair and paint where needed. As with most homes that have been lived in, that would be all of them. Walk through a new construction home to see what you're up against and then go and make yours look as best you can on your budget.
- Landscaping. Thankfully, mulch and flowering plants don't really cost a lot of money for those who are just sprucing up. Before going out and paying for a designer-created landscaping job, start with the local garden center and get some free advice on how to spruce up on a budget. Fresh, flowering plants (even in fall and winter) can make the house look oh-so much better.
Even if you're selling as-is, the above four tips are a must. Next is where we spend a little more money.
- Renewed color. Giving your house a makeover doesn't have to cost you a second mortgage. The first item to consider for rehab is your color selection. While the traditional advice is "go vanilla," professionally selected colors (not too bold) can make a "nice" house into a "wow" house.
- Flooring is one of the best moderately priced upgrades a seller can install to make a huge difference. While I like the concept of "choose-your-own-carpet" offers in home listings, think about what else it's saying: "We're too cheap to fix up the house now, so we'll let you walk through our tattered, stained carpeting and let you get it installed the weekend after we leave." Like I said, make your house a "wow" by making that first great impression with new carpet.
- Replacing dated items. Sometimes replacing certain items in the house is really more like maintaining your home instead of upgrading it. Items like windows, doors, light fixtures, faucets, door hardware, etc., need upgrading and replacing periodically. A walk down the light aisle at your favorite hardware store reveals this could be done on a budget. Nevertheless, there's nothing more gross looking than a brass light fixture that's chipping and rusting.
Keeping up with the Joneses
At some point you have to look at what the neighbors are doing and keep up or you'll lose out. If everyone in the neighborhood is ripping out the old and installing the new (kitchen, bath, carpet, doors, etc.) then you may be forced to do the same thing long before you're thinking of putting your home on the market. My wife and I are facing that right now with the kitchen. It's starting to show its age, which means before we put the house on the market in a few years, if I want the best buyer (or any buyer for that matter) the kitchen cabinets need an upgrade.
Redo, Remodel, Relax
As you look around the house, making your list of things to change before putting the house on the market, remember to create some time to enjoy your new digs before selling the place. If a sale is on your horizon and you must redo the landscaping before putting the house on the market -- do it early so you can drive home to the professionally designed flowerbeds and floral creations a few months or years before selling it to someone else.
While you want to repair, paint, remodel and add on to your house because it adds value to your home, every homeowner should especially do it because they want to enjoy the changes as well.