It’s a highly competitive market for home sellers right now. More homes to compete with means that the impression your homes makes – from the curb, and on the inside – matter now more than ever. You can increase your chances of selling faster – and at today’s top dollar – by investing in a select few home improvement projects that have been shown to make a big impact on buyers.
Bad news alert: it might cost you a little time, effort and cash. The good news, though, is that the best projects for quickly increasing your home’s resale value tend to be cosmetic and fairly simple and inexpensive to do. Here are five projects with big-time return on investment for home sellers-to-be, in terms of their power to attract buyers, and to attract dollars from those buyers.
1. Painting: Adding a fresh coat of paint to ceilings and walls is a tried and true way to increase your home’s appeal to buyers. Go for white or neutral tones that help lighten your rooms. (Now is not the time to show off your fascination with fuchsia and lime green.) Buyers will have an easier time envisioning how they will infuse their own personalities into your home if they’re looking at a relatively blank slate.
Painting lightens and brightens rooms, instantly removes scuffs and dings and gives every room a fresh, polished feel.
Fresh exterior paint – even if your time or cash budget limits your efforts to accents like eaves, shutters, doors and trims – is also a quick, inexpensive way to polish the look of your home from the curb.
2. Landscaping: Everything you’ve heard about curb appeal is true. First impressions matter – especially if your house is one of eight or nine a buyer has seen in one day. Buyers will be more excited to look at the inside your home if the outside looks clean, charming and inviting. Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, pull the weeds and plant some flowers, bushes or shrubs for the biggest impact – and be diligent about keeping your landscaping very well-manicured throughout the time your home is on the market.
Be sure to keep it low-key, relatively low maintenance and neutral, though. This is not the time to indulge your personal fantasies of living in an exotic paradise, unless that matches the existing look and feel of your home, nor is it the time to install a time-intensive English garden that buyers will love, but not want to take on. Think clean, simple and elegant for the biggest boost in value.
3. Cleaning and de-cluttering: Start by removing all your family photos from the walls and all sorts of tchotchkes and clutter from the tops of tables, desks, dressers and counters. Buyers want to be able to envision their lives in the house, not yours. Personal items – and the visual clutter they create – have been shown time and time again to block buyers’ ability to create this vision.
Also, remember that buyers are coming to see the house and evaluate its space, not to bear witness to all the fabulous furniture that means so much to you (no matter how amazing your personal taste). Remove furniture that takes up too much space and fills up rooms. Get rid of clutter such as clothes, boxes, piles of mail and other items.
And then clean – and keep cleaning obsessively, the entire time your place is on the market. Kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms should look unlived in when they are shown. And don’t forget to clean less obvious places like windows, walls, doors and and floors, to dust off shelves and furniture, and to polish appliances.
4. Plumbing repairs and water stain/damage repair: Paying a plumber to make a few stops throughout your home can be well worth the investment. Leaky faucet in the master bathroom? Get it fixed. Does the space under your kitchen sink look like a science experiment? Leaks and water stains definitely provoke disgust and exasperation on the part of the buyers you want and need to impress. And they can be pretty cost effective to fix – ask your agent for a referral, if you need one.
5. Staging: Staging your home can make a dramatic difference in the price for which your home sells. Good staging is equal parts:
(a) removing your personal belongings and replacing it with more artwork, decor and cleaner-looking furniture,
(b) and tweaking the home’s paint, wall coverings and even landscaping to show the place in its very best light.
When done well, staging can convert your home from just another listing on a buyer’s list to the setting for a fresh, new start to the fresh, new life of their dreams. Professional stagers, in particular, have special skills and materials they use, from convincing you to get rid of a bunch of things you value (but read: junk to a buyer), to items like mirrors, plants, art work, lamps, pillows and even furniture that tells a visual story of the life buyers can fantasize about living in your home.
Talk to your agent about staging – some agents have the skill to do this on their own, while others might have a professional stager they frequently work with.
In some cases, you might want to take on even larger projects. Before you go that route, talk with a local real estate agent; they are well-positioned to know what sort of updates and features will make the most impact on local buyers. Not all major, non-cosmetic upgrades to your home will create a significant difference in the price it commands, so take advantage of your agent’s expertise as you make decisions about which property preparation investments to make (and which to forego).