Selling your home can be an emotional decision, as you likely have lived in it for a long time and many family memories may have been made there. But at some point you may be ready to downsize after the kids have moved out on their own, or perhaps you are starting a family and need a bigger place. Sometimes it may be a job transfer or some other reason, but in all cases we want to sell our home for as much money as possible! This guide is general approach to maximizing your sales price and offers some specific tips to improve the value of your home without spending a ton of money, so let’s get started!
Yes, we all have too much stuff. I recently took a trip to the UK and France, and homes there are generally much smaller than here in the US- refrigerators are smaller, dishwashers are smaller, washers and dryers are smaller, and people have less stuff. There are lots of de-cluttering websites and tips out to help you get that done, so get started now. Your home cannot look like a storage unit when buyers come to see it.
The first thing a buyer sees when they drive up is the exterior of your home, so it is important to make a great first impression. Here are some proven and inexpensive things you can do to increase your home’s “curb appeal”, many of these you can do yourself at little or no cost.
- Pressure Wash the exterior including all walkways and driveway
- Paint/ Touch-Up any blemished areas or repaint any areas that are unsightly
- Front Door- Clean or repaint the front door, it is the first thing the buyer interacts with when entering your home. And consider replacing the door knob and deadbolt with a nice shiny new one
- Wash Windows- Make sure the windows are clean, and repair, replace, or remove any broken, bent, or torn screens
- Spiff Up Landscaping- Remove any dead plants or bushes, do a thorough yard cleanup, install some new plants if needed, and buy some new mulch! Mulch is cheap and adds a professional look to your landscaping.
- Replace the Mailbox- It’s probably been faithfully by the side of the road doing its job for many years but is likely tired. Get a new one if needed.
Assuming you have already de-cluttered, let’s take a general look at the inside of your home, and then look at each room individually.
- Clean Clean Clean! Make sure everything is as clean as possible including windows, floors, and don’t forget under the sinks and inside cabinets and drawers! Consider hiring a professional cleaning service to do some of this- Angie’s List can be a good source for “deals” on one-time cleaning service.
- Odors- We grow accustomed to any smells we may have in homes, especially if we have pets. But buyers pick up on them immediately upon entering a home. Identify the source of the odors and take steps to eliminate them- maybe move litter boxes and trash cans into the garage, and find the source of any musty smells and eliminate them as well. Buy some plug-in air fresheners! They do a great job making your home smell clean and fresh.
- Carpets- Assuming your carpets are in serviceable condition, have them professionally cleaned. They will look much better and smell better too! If the carpeting is clearly in need of replacement, consider replacing it with an economical neutral color carpet. It may not cost as much as you would think and will add value.
- Tile- Unlike carpet, tile has a longer serviceable life. Have the grout professionally cleaned and sealed. It will make a dramatic difference in the appearance and your home will show better. Angie’s list can also have some good deals on grout cleaning services, or ask friends for referrals.
- Paint- After your home is clean, you will see areas where re-painting may be necessary. Paint is cheap, so don’t hesitate to repaint a wall or even a whole room. Neutral colors are best. Specifically look at areas near door knobs and light switches. These are areas we come in contact with and they become soiled, especially if we have kids, or maybe a family member who likes to work on cars or tinker in the garage.
Doorknobs/ Passage locks- We come in contact with these all the time, and the finish on them becomes stained or wears off. Or maybe they are just outdated? Consider replacing them! But if you replace one replace them all. Satin or brushed nickel finishes are popular now as are lever handles. You can replace the set on each interior door for about $20 or less. My home has six interior doors with passage locks and I am going to replace mine at a total cost of $120 or so. Look at lowes.com or homedepot.com
- Switch Plates & Outlet Covers- Clean the exterior of all light switches and outlets. (Turn off circuit breakers to prevent injury). Replace any switch plates or outlet covers that are broken or stained. Or just go ahead and replace them all. A single gang white plastic switch plate costs about 50 cents!
Lighting- The lighting in your home has a dramatic effect on the way things look from a color perspective. For the most part, the incandescent bulb is no longer available, and the alternative in the past was the CFL (compact fluorescent) generally the spiral looking bulb. CFLs put out a yellowy looking light that most people do not like, but the other option, LED lighting, was expensive. Not so anymore. About 10 years ago I replaced all the incandescent lighting in my house with CFLs for energy saving purposes. However I just recently replaced all the “can lights” (those recessed ones) with LED retrofits which cost under $10 per light and the difference is amazing. They are much brighter and have a natural color which is much more appealing, and the ugly spiral look is gone. All 15 for my home cost about $120.
- Window Blinds & Curtains- Wash or clean any curtains as needed. Clean window blinds. If blinds are bent, broken or otherwise dysfunctional then remove and replace them. No blind is a better option than a bent broken unsightly one!
- Sliding Doors- Extremely important! If your sliding doors are difficult to open or close that will be a big turnoff for potential buyers. I have shown some properties where I could not operate the doors. The cost to repair a sliding door is minimal, usually just replacement of the rollers on the bottom of the door and maybe the latching mechanism. Parts can be as little as $25 or so per door, and there are repair services out there who will repair a door for a flat rate of about $100 per door. Money well spent!
The kitchen is probably the one room that will make the difference in selling your home. Assuming you have it meticulously clean, let’s look at some ideas for improving it.
- Cabinets & Drawers- Reduce the amount of dishes and utensils. Yours are probably jammed full with dishes and glasses you seldom use. Get them out! Arrange and stack everything neatly. You don’t need more than eight of anything (that’s why they sell dishes in sets of eight). Clean the insides of cabinets and drawers and consider paint or contact paper to spiff up the insides. Replace the door/drawer pulls- new hardware is not too expensive and can greatly update and improve the look.
- Faucet- A new faucet could set you back $100 or more but if yours is rusted or scaly (think well water) go ahead and replace it.
- Refrigerator- Clean the refrigerator outside and inside. Get rid of all the magnets, pictures etc. from the outside. It looks tacky and people don’t care about your kids.
- Appliances- If your appliances (refrigerator-stove-dishwasher-microwave) are old and white colored (or maybe avocado green LOL) consider replacing them! You can get a basic set of stainless appliances for about $2500, even less if on sale and you go the economy route. You will easily recover the $2500.
- Countertops- Solid surface countertops (granite, quartz etc.) are in. No one wants Formica or other laminates or tile. If you shop around you can likely find something in the $50 per square foot range. If you have a large kitchen this can add up, but a standard kitchen in an older home usually does not have that much countertop, so measure and consider the potential return.
The second most important rooms in the home! Cleanliness is of utmost importance here.
- Toilet- Remove any bowl stains with CLR, Lime Away or similar products. Make sure there are no leaks and the toilet functions properly. Replace the toilet seat if needed.
- Tub/ Shower- Check for any missing grout. Re-grout small areas and re-caulk with the best quality silicone caulk if needed. Consider replacing the cosmetic faucet parts (handles, etc.) if there are corroded, and install a nice new shower head.
- Vanity/ Sink- Clean the insides of any drawers and under the sink. Remove clutter from under the sink and make it look organized! Consider installing a new vanity/ sink/ faucet if appropriate. The home improvement stores sell them as sets. Prices vary, but single sink vanities with tops start around $100, plus the cost of the faucet.
The key here is to get rid of excess stuff, and fold and stack everything as neatly as possible. You do not want your closets to appear jam packed! Installing a new LED light fixture in the closet can really brighten it up.
Same idea as with closets. Get rid of excess stuff you are storing and make it look like you actually park your car in there. I am amazed by the amount of things that people store in their garages. If your garage floor is stained or shabby, consider cleaning it and applying a coat of floor paint or other finish. It will really give your home that upscale look.
These are some of the tips and tricks that experienced property “flippers” use to profit from their investments, and my observations from showing properties in all price ranges. When I enter a home with a buyer, I see the same things they see and I know what makes a difference to them and what will make your home more appealing and stand out over other properties.