Saturday, October 24, 2009

How to Improve your Home to Sell Faster

Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse at 117 Willi...Image via Wikipedia

I'm sure you have heard this before, updating and staging your home can make or break a sale. The housing market is a tough sell now with far more inventory than ever. How will your home stand up to the competition? Is your kitchen updated? How are the baths? Is there clutter that needs moving out, even before you do? Are you willing to invest some money to get a return? These are all questions that need addressing if you plan on selling your home and actually getting it sold.

The biggest area to address in your home without a doubt is the kitchen

The real question is, not necessarily can you afford to update it, but can you afford not to? New construction prices are dropping everyday as builders scramble to move empty homes. Do you realize this is your competition? Well it is. Whenever addressing any area of improvement with your home, the template you must use is new construction. Not only new construction, but what is also available in your area. A shrewd seller will have already taken into account what comparable's are around. Have you done this? If not, check out your local real estate agency and view the listings in your area. Factor in age, size and location of the homes you are viewing.  The rule used to be not to over improve for your area. However, that doesn't mean you can't take it up a notch or two.

Do your research first before you spend a dime. There are sites that will let you factor in what sort of return you could possibly get per improvement. Bank of America has a calculator that can help you figure out what is worth it. and what isn't. Even at that to a  degree you do roll the dice.

If you don't have a vast amount of money, key improvements and updates can be done relatively cheap if you are willing to  do some of the work yourself.

I always recommend starting with your kitchen. I viewed many homes during my own house shopping, and the ones I steered clear of were old, outdated kitchens. Why? Well if it's not obvious, money. Taking the step at a major purchase is daunting enough without also factoring in renovation and updating costs. From the buyer's perspective, a home with outdated old appliances, fixtures, etc. scream "money pit", high energy bills, and potential break downs in the near future.

When your home is not updated, think what this is saying to the buyer. It says, what else is old and fixing to go? Probably a safe assumption is, everything. Not to mention, if you can see it and it's bad, what you can't see is probably worse. If you only have a small amount of money, update your appliances. In my neck of the woods, refrigerators often times are not included in the sale price, but ovens definitely are. Check to see what is the "norm" for your area. A modestly priced refrigerator, and matching brand oven, can immediately update the kitchen. If you can add in a dishwasher of the same style, and brand. Those are your big ticket items in a kitchen.

However, if that is out of the question, survey the counters, flooring, and cabinets. Cabinets can be refaced, painted and new hardware added. Flooring can be easily updated if you are willing to do the work yourself. A good alternative to vinyl flooring that is outdated, is the new high end peel and stick  tile. For around $1.00- $2.00 a square foot you can really update the floor. Some look so much like stone, you'd have to get down close to it to know the difference, even coming with "chiseled edges" for a real look.

Choose neutral tones. This is no time to get wild and creative.  Painting cabinets used to be voodoo, but if they are dark and old, you will save a lot of money by painting them a fresh bright color and adding new hardware. If you can't replace your counters, At least de-clutter them and have them as clean as possible.

Fresh new curtains, clean counters, fresh painted cabinets and walls can usually make a huge difference in how fast your home sells

 If you have old appliances and cannot afford to replace them, have them be sparkling clean and fresh smelling. Old is one thing, old and dirty is another. Organize your cabinets and keep them clutter free. I know we all love to see a well stocked pantry and cabinets, however overly filled cabinets and pantries  can send a red flag to a buyer that there  is limited in space. We want the buyer to feel like there is more than enough storage.

 Ceilings and ceiling fans need to be clean as well. Buyers notice everything. From floor to ceiling, and everything in between. Never over crowd the square footage in your kitchen. Better to be slightly sparse, than overly cluttered. You are selling your home by the square foot, buyers want the most square footage they can get for their money, so why hide it if it isn't necessary?

If you can afford it,  the second area in your home that will probably help you get an offer would be the bathrooms

 Bathrooms can be costly renovations, however, many of the same tactics used in the kitchen can be applied to your bathrooms. Update fixtures, paint old cabinetry, a new shower curtain and towels can go a long way at making your home feel well cared for. If you have it in your budget and your home is older, you may want to consider having your sink and tub re-glazed. This can be done cheaper than replacing these items and they can turn an unsightly Avocado green sink into a newer looking white one. The same with your tub.  A new toilet can also spruce up the area. New toilets can now be purchased as a complete set for as little as $100.00 and be better looking than a green, pink or blue model from times past, not to mention use less water. Fresh white towels, guest soaps, can add little details that stage a scene and tell a buyer that your home was well cared for. This translates as a home that is move in ready, and problem free.

Living areas need to be clutter free, personal belongings can be packed away

 This is a great idea anyway because if your home sells, you will be ahead of the packing game and be relieved! Steam clean the carpets, add new bedding in the bedrooms, and make sure your home's furnishings don't distract and overcrowd the space. Buyers are not interested in your collections, photos, or mementos. Having too much "stuff" can make a buyer think you will take forever moving out if they make an offer and this is always a potential headache, especially if they have their own time frame to work in. De-personalizing, and de-cluttering will say to your potential buyer  that you can be out of there in no time, and they can envision their own belongings in the space much easier. If you have to, while your home is on the market, it would be a good idea to rent a storage unit to do this. Think of how stress free your moving out will be knowing that the majority of your things are out of the house, and already packed and waiting for your next home. Its a little investment now, but a huge relief later.

Lastly, address your curb appeal

 Lawns should be cut, hedges trimmed, fresh potted flowers can be a nice touch and fences should be mended. Have a friend walk around your home inside and out and tell you what they think you need to do to spruce up the place. Sometimes a fresh honest pair of eyes can be enlightening, since we tend to overlook things we see every day. With limited funds, you should always make a list of what you can do, versus what you can't do  and make the best of it. Many buyers will do what I call " a drive by" when they are considering your home. What they see from the road could either have them hit the gas and floor it, or slow down and admire. Which do you think will get their name on the dotted line? You are not just selling your home, but to the buyer, you are selling a lifestyle, make it as desirable as possible.

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