With the way the market is in Port St. Lucie lately, the average buyer is used to touring houses that are in disrepair, dirty, and vacant. If you are selling your home and are able to fix it up a bit, believe me – it will stand out in the buyer’s mind. I always say that homes that are in good shape are a breath of fresh air because we can immediately notice the pride of ownership.
Here are six tips on items to pay close attention to that will give you a good pay-off in the long run. Along with the six items are the approximate cost and approximate return.
- Cleaning and Decluttering.
Remove any personal items, unclutter countertops, organize closets and shelves, and make the home sparkling clean.
$290 Cost | $1,990 Return
Sarah’s experience: when I tour houses with buyers I always watch their reaction to personal items. They immediately go to the family photos and start commenting about the residents. “Oh, this must be their grandson…” Leaving out personal items distracts their attention from looking at the whole room.
Clean all windows inside and out, replace old curtains, update lighting fixtures, and remove anything that blocks light from the windows.
$375 Cost | $1,550 Return
Sarah’s tip: dark rooms make the house feel smaller and I’ve noticed that buyers won’t linger as long during the home tour. But when a room is light and bright, they stand around and chat and start visualizing the house as their own. Try sheer curtains on a tension rod in the windows – they’re cheap from Walmart or Target and can create a sense of comfort in a room.
- Smart Staging.
Rearrange furniture, bring in new accessories and furnishings to enhance rooms, incorporate artwork, and play soft music in the background.
$550 Cost | $2,194 Return
Sarah’s tip: less is more. While vacant homes offer buyers the ultimate chance to visualize their own furnishings, it does help to have furniture to define a room. If you have extra furniture that blocks the flow of traffic, put it neatly out in the garage or move it to a spare or vacant room. I love to see [fake] flower vases on counters. They add a pop of color and you can get them fairly cheap at craft stores during holiday seasons.
- Landscaping enhancements.
Punch up the home’s curb appeal in the front and back yards by adding bark mulch, bushes, and flowers and ensuring current plants and grass are well-cared for and manicured.
$540 Cost | $1,932 Return
Sarah’s tip: trim those bushes! I can’t tell you how many times we are so distracted walking to the front door because of an unkempt lawn. Be sure your current bushes and shrubs are neat and tidy before you spend money to plant flowers and ornamentals. Sometimes just spending a Saturday cleaning up what’s currently overgrown is all that’s needed. Also be sure wasp nests are removed. I once had to run from a house because I was chased by a swarm of wasps! Scary!
- Repairing electrical or plumbing.
Fix leaks under the sinks, remove any mildew stains, and ensure all plumbing is in good working condition. Update the home’s electrical with new wiring for modern appliances, fix any lights or outlets that don’t work, and replace old plug points with new safety fixtures.
$535 Cost | $1,505 Return
Sarah’s experience: I see lots of buyers look under the kitchen and bathroom sinks so be sure they can view what they’re looking for. If you’re not sure of your home’s electrical and plumbing, consider hiring an inspector to do a pre-inspection for you. Then you can offer the buyers the option to use that same inspector after they make an offer – for a discounted price (since you already paid half up front). Make sure your home inspector will cut this deal for you beforehand.
- Replacing or shampooing dirty carpets.
Steam-clean carpets, replace any worn carpets, and repair any floor creaks.
$647 Cost | $1,739 Return
Sarah’s experience: This is a touchy subject because buyers become finicky when it comes to flooring. I hate to tell my sellers to replace carpets only to find out the buyers will replace them again to put in tile or wood flooring. If the carpets just need a thorough cleaning, hire someone like Stanley Steemer (and ask for the Sarah Taylor discount) to freshen them up. If they need complete replacing, you may consider offering a credit at closing or reducing your listing price with the knowledge that this will be a buyer’s concern.
This article is excerpted from HomeGain’s 2011 Home Sale Maximizer Survey which was also reprinted in REALTOR magazine’s April 2011 issue.