The “secret” to making top dollar when you sell your home isn’t really a secret at all. All you need to do is consider a few well-placed investments of time and a little money that will both increase the price of your home and the time in which it sold.
The following ideas will show you how even minor home improvements can substantially boost the value and marketability of your home. This is crucial before listing your home on the market, as the failure to make beneficial changes can leave you at a disadvantage when buyers compare your home to the competition.
1. It’s the Little Things
Unless your home is in perfect condition or you’re selling it as a “fixer-upper,” there are likely a few repair or renovation projects to consider. These can range from simple jobs like painting a bathroom to more complex remodelling projects.
In considering any home improvement project, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Why are you doing it?
- Is it work that really needs to be done (i.e., a paint job or replacing a leaky roof)? Or is it an amenity you’d like that might appeal to a potential buyer, such as a luxury ensuite or home office addition?
- Will it add value to your home or have no impact at all? Or will it make your home more difficult to sell?
Some investments—like painting and yard work—involve relatively little cash upfront but deliver a significant return. However, there are more extensive improvements that you think will add value that have little or no impact. In fact, they may end up costing you money. Room additions are a good example – they may be worth it for existing homeowners in terms of enjoyment – but they are costly and rarely deliver returns on your investment (ROI).
2. Planning is Everything
Remember to plan before you take action. Careful planning is crucial for undertaking any home improvement project, whether major or minor. Without careful consideration, even the most minor project can balloon into a major one if you don’t think things through beforehand. Make sure you have a plan so you don’t get in over your head.
Whether you hire a contractor or plan to do the work yourself, set some money aside for additional costs, just in case. But by choosing well, you can ensure the work you do adds the greatest value at the lowest cost.
Be methodical about the renovation process. Group your list into “exterior” and “interior” projects, then break it down further by room or outside area. One rule to keep in mind is that if you do the work yourself, you’ll probably recoup more than what you pay out for some improvements – if you do it right. On the other hand, you might pay more for work done by professionals, but the improvements can speed up the sale of your property.
Whether you should tackle the work yourself or hire professionals depends on several things:
- Do you have the time?
- Can your friends or relatives help you, or will you do it all yourself?
- How skilled are you and your helpers in the task at hand?
Whatever you do, the key lies in doing it well. If that means hiring a professional, do it. A poorly done job can do you more harm than good.
Check out our previous post: 5 Must-Know Tips for Hiring a Home Renovation Company.
3. Curb Appeal is Crucial
Curb appeal recognizes that many buyers form their first and often strongest opinions before they enter the door. Remember, buying a home is an emotional commitment. So while you may have a long list of reasons your home is a great catch, a buyer approaches from a distance and reacts emotionally to what they’re seeing.
Make sure your home sets the right tone. First, take a good look at the first impression your property makes. What do people see? If it’s flaking paint and an unkempt yard, they may see a home that needs a lot of work.
Here are some investments in your home’s exterior that can pay huge dividends:
Paint: It should come as no surprise that surveys show painting the exterior of your home results in the greatest return on ROI compared to other improvements done for selling purposes. An investment of $1,000-$2,000 can add $3,000-$4,000 to your asking price. And if you can do a good job yourself, your profit is even greater.
Even if your home doesn’t need the full treatment, check the trim around windows and doorways for cracking or peeling, and do any necessary touch-up work.
Landscaping: Another critical first impression is made by the grounds of your home. If you can improve the attractiveness of your landscape without spending a lot of money, you can add 5 to 10 percent to your home’s value.
This includes pruning trees, shrubs and bushes, cleaning out dead plants and weeds from flower beds and replacing them with colourful flowering plants.
Pro Tip: Choose hardy perennials that require minimal care.
You may need to take additional steps if you have a damaged lawn. The easiest step is to repair damaged sections with new sod. Like a new paint job, a relatively inexpensive upgrade of existing landscaping can bring far greater returns than you spend.
The Driveway: If your driveway is in good condition, keep it swept and neatly edged where it meets the lawn. On the other hand, fix it if it’s cracked, buckled or stained.
Decks and Patios: These can be popular additions that add value because they add living space. But make sure that whatever you do is consistent with your home’s architectural style and integrates well with your outdoor areas.
Don’t Neglect the Minor Details: It’s often the little things that stand out. If your mailbox is in poor shape, replace it. Varnish or repaint your door if it needs it. A door knocker and brass kick plate can also be an excellent addition. Spruce up the entryway with new light fixtures, potted plants and other decorative touches.
Besides adding a deck or patio, most of the steps we’ve touched on can be accomplished quickly and without much money. But the difference in the impression your home makes on prospective buyers will be dramatic.
Even so, some of the big-budget items you might consider spending your money on will do little to enhance the marketability of your home. Aluminum siding, for example, is prized by some and loathed by others.
Besides room additions, other investments you probably won’t see a return on are sunrooms and automatic sprinkler systems. So unless they’re for your enjoyment, don’t waste your money.
One major expense you may have to consider is a new roof. But if you think you can pass the cost along to a buyer, forget it. Everyone expects a good roof, and they won’t pay extra for it. And a roof in poor condition can kill a deal quickly.
4. Making a Good Second Impression
As with the exterior, there are plenty of (easy) interior improvements that will appeal to prospective buyers.
Minimum Standards Include:
- Making sure all plumbing and electrical systems are in good working order
- Repairing cracks in the wall
- Removing wallpaper
- Replacing missing moulding
- Replacing cracked or broken window glass
- Making sure window and door hardware match
- Installing new floor coverings
- Installing new light fixtures
- Ensuring outlet plates match from room to room
- Upgrading insulation in drafty or hot rooms
As is the case outside, a coat of paint can make the difference between a sale and no sale. Be sure to stick to neutral colours, however—white or off-white. It tends to make everything look new, clean and bright. Also, be sure to paint everything: inside cmts, cabinets, pantries, etc. If a prospective buyer opens a door and sees dirty walls or shelves, you’ve just wasted the advantage you had gained by painting in the first place.
Like paint, new carpeting should also be in a neutral shade. This helps buyers visualize their furniture in your home.
Wallpaper, like wall colours, makes a personal statement about the owner’s tastes. Buyers want to visualize what they would do with your house, and wallpaper gets in the way of their dreaming.
Many buyers value good wood floors, so sand and refinish yours if they can be restored. Otherwise, you may need to consider new flooring.
If your home is short on storage space, consider how you can add shelving, cabinets or other storage systems to remedy this deficiency. You may also want to replace outdated windows and doors with more energy-efficient models.
Each of the above improvements may not seem like much. But tackling all these problems together will make a dramatic difference. A crack in the wall, a carpet stain or a light switch that doesn’t work can send a negative signal that results in the loss of a buyer.
5. Room-By-Room Improvements
As kitchens and bathrooms are often considered the most important rooms in the home, a little extra attention is the key to helping you sell your home.
If you can get away with a remodel rather than a new kitchen, do it. But don’t over-improve. Add a fresh coat of paint, refinish the cabinets and counters, change drawer pulls and handles, install new appliances and refinish the floor if needed, but don’t gut and start over if it isn’t necessary.
If you do choose to put in a new kitchen, keep in mind what sells. Buyers are looking for lots of cabinets and counter space, energy-efficient appliances, and an easy flow between the sink, food prep areas, stove and refrigerator. Think light, bright and clean.
The Bathroom: New fixtures, wall tile and flooring can make a big difference. If the bathtub is in poor shape, you can replace it, but a less expensive option may be to re-enamel it. If you keep the old tub, at least regrout and re-caulk it. A modest bathroom remodel or expansion can easily return more than 100 percent of its cost when you sell.
Bedrooms: For most people, the master bedroom is the third most important room in the house. If you have a large home with four or five small bedrooms and the floor plan allows for it, you might consider combining two rooms into a larger master.
Other Rooms to Consider: A more recent hot remodelling trend is the “great room”—combining the kitchen, dining and family room into one larger living area. While lagging behind kitchen and bath remodels, it is a popular trend. On the other hand, living rooms, family rooms and formal dining rooms are diminishing in popularity.
Another relatively new addition is the home office. With more home-based businesses and companies allowing employees to work remotely, more people are looking for office-ready space in their homes. Other rooms that are showing up on more buyers’ wish lists are exercise and media rooms.
Many of these projects are relatively inexpensive and will easily pay for themselves. With some projects, you may not recoup your investment, but you will have removed impediments to a sale. If you don’t take care of things like leaky plumbing, drafty windows or outdated light fixtures, you’re giving a buyer ammunition to use against you during negotiations.
6. Home Improvement “Don’ts”
There are several things you can do that can actually lower the value of your home or make it more difficult to sell. Here are a few rules to keep in mind:
Do It Well, Or Don’t Do It at All: As we mentioned above, you may be tempted to do a lot of work yourself to save money. That’s fine if you know you can do a good job. But if doing it yourself means a sloppy paint job or bubbles in the vinyl flooring, suggest hiring a professional. Hiring an expert can often be cheaper and faster in the long run. This is especially important when dealing with electrical systems or plumbing problems.
Don’t Over-Improve: Any project that raises your home’s value by more than 20 percent above similar homes in your neighbourhood should be reconsidered. The reason is simple. Say the typical home in your area is $350,000, and you make $50,000 in improvements. Buyers looking for a $350,000 home are looking in neighbourhoods where that is the norm, not the exception. This means your home is overpriced, and pricing your home the first time is critically importantsell.
Don’t Spend a Lot and Plan to Move Soon: You probably won’t recoup your investment if you plan to move in less than two years. If you plan to move sooner, spend less money and focus your efforts on the most obvious problems. For example, turn a bad kitchen into a decent one rather than the ultimate chef’s kitchen.
Don’t Make Unique Improvements: You may love the built-in bookcases on every wall of your guest room, but prospective buyers will probably view them as a nuisance to tear out—which means they’ll be less willing to meet your price. In addition, anything that limits flexibility will limit interest in your home.
Don’t Make a Mess: Make sure your floor plan will make sense when you’re done. Be careful not to make changes that impede the natural flow of the house—closing off halls, doorways, etc. Room additions, in particular, are often done very poorly. If it looks like something tacked on to the original house, don’t do it (i.e., adding a bedroom whose only connection to the rest of the house is through another bedroom).
As you can see, squeezing every last dollar out of your home sale can be a fairly involved process. But when you consider the result—a quicker sale and top dollar for your efforts—we think you’ll find that a few well-chosen home improvements are worth both the time and money.
Photo credits: shutterstock.comPosted by Terry Paranych on