It may be obvious you’re going to need to do a few things to your home before selling if you expect to make the most money. If you’re on a limited budget where should you spend it? I’ve compiled a list of 8 areas you should focus on to maximize your return in no particular order. The prices below are based on estimates and prices I have actually paid and assume you are doing the work yourself.
- Landscaping- Total Price (Mulch-$20-60). One of the first things potential buyers do is drive by your property. Curb appeal is SO IMPORTANT. If your home is beautiful inside but lacking attention on the outside, you have already lost the battle and they will continue past your home without taking more thought to taking a full look. Besides keeping your lawn well manicured (Cut and trimmed) while your home is on the market, you should also ensure all bushes are trimmed and the mulch beds are free of weeds. Turning your mulch by raking it can help but spending a few bucks to buy some fresh mulch will go a long way. Mulch is cheap. It’s even cheaper if you can buy in bulk. I like to buy at local composting companies who sell it way cheaper than you would buy it per bag at one of the big box stores. Depending on the kind/color you chose, you should be able to buy 1 yard for around $20-40 bucks. That’s about an entire full size truck bed full and overflowing. How many bags would it take from Home Depot (at $4 per bag) to do that. More than 10 I’m guessing???
- Power-wash- Total Price (Free- $75). Power-wash your siding , any concrete (walk ways, driveway), and fencing, etc. If you you have vinyl siding, you probably know the side of your home with the least amount of sun throughout the day will grow green junk. Fences and concrete can do the same over time. Either borrow your neighbor’s power washer or go to a local tool rental (some Home Depots have them) and rent one. For the full day it will probably not cost more than $50-75 and you’ll be amazed how clean you’ll be able to get everything with a little high pressured water. Especially concrete.
- De-Clutter- Total Price (Free- $50+ per month). Rent a storage locker. Let’s face it, we all have way too much stuff in our homes (well most of us). De-clutter your home by removing as many personal items and collections as you can. What you think is cool and what a buyer thinks is cool are probably completely different. I’m talking about things like your wine bottle collection you keep on top of the kitchen cabinets. Your goal in this process is to make your home appear as spacious as possible. Remove excess furniture, clean out closets, kitchen cabinets etc that make the space seem more cramped then it actually is. Buyers are trying to envision themselves in your home with THEIR stuff when they walk through.
- Clean or replace carpet- Total Price ($49 and up). One of the biggest complaints I hear from buyers is how ugly or gross the carpet was. If your carpet is in great shape you may just be able to get it professionally cleaned. However, if it’s a color that could turn off buyers (dark green or light pink) or has stains that can not be removed, consider replacing it. Carpet is cheaper than you may think but may ultimately depend the price range you are selling in as premium grade carpet is obviously more expensive than builder’s grade. To give you an example of what you can expect, I’ll use a house I just remodeled recently. I had builder grade carpet (nice looking low priced carpet typically used in subdivision new construction) purchase from Home Depot and with an extra thick pad (A must with builder grade) was right around $1.80 per sq ft installed. Some retailers even offer free installation with purchase as in the example above. Should you decide not to do something with your carpet just be warned, not only could it turn buyers off who have no vision, but could also cost you more money in the long run should you decide to wait for them to mention it. Their perception of cost will always be more than it actually is to replace and thus they will usually deduct their tallied price from their offer.
- Re-paint- Total Price (Paint-$30 and up). Whether painting a single room or entire house, painting is an inexpensive way to show potential buyers you have recently done some work to your home. New paint brightens up a home and gives it that fresh feel that buyers expect. There are several reasons to re-paint. You may just need to give the home a more neutral appearance which may be the best reason but other times may just need to change that dull dirty look and or cover up marks such as that ring around the wall from the dog that lays against it. For areas where you only need some touch up, painting the entire wall where the scuff/mark is usually best since you can almost always tell the difference between new paint and old.
- Kitchen counter tops and hardware- Total Price ($99 and up). Replacing kitchen cabinets can be expensive. Many times all they need is a makeover to impress potential buyers. There are a few options depending on your budget of which some obviously have a bigger wow factor. If you can find remnant (left over and sometimes discontinued) pieces of granite, you may be able to transform your kitchen for less than you think. Check with local granite re-sellers/installers and ask them about their remnant inventory. It may not always be an option if you have a large amount of granite you would need, but should it work out, you can save 50% and upwards and totally change the look of your kitchen. Buyers love granite and it’s one of the few things that will stand out to the buyer when looking at similar homes and price ranges without it. If granite is not in your price range, don’t fret as there are other options to consider. New formica (compressed wood wrapped in vinyl) counter is another possible option and these days comes in just about every color and look imaginable (even made to look like granite). It’s a cheap option,very easy to install, and can be purchased at just about any hardware store. If your whole counter doesn’t need replacing or you don’t think you could do the job, they even make counter top refinishing kits. It’s an epoxy you roll on then finish up with colored flecking. I’ve actually refinished some old worn out counters with a re-finishing kit and it came out fantastic. Lastly, be sure to install some new hardware and it will really make your cabinets pop.
- Deep cleaning- Total Price (Free). A clean home is essential in leaving a good impression on potential buyers. I’m not just talking about sweeping up, making the beds, and doing the dishes. Deep cleaning means what it sounds like: cleaning fans, lights, outlet plates, baseboards, trim, doors (smudges), ceiling cobwebs, ceiling fan dirt rings (the ones that form in a circular pattern around the fan..especially on popcorn ceilings), windows, window tracts, blinds, appliances (inside and out). Basically you’ll want to clean anything a potential buyer may poke their nose into or up at. Potential buyers will take this as a sign as to how well you have cared for your home. A dirty home usually signifies other unseen maintenance items that have also probably been neglected. If there is one product I love to clean with, it’s an “Eraser” (White sponge that removes about anything).
- Inspection- Total Price ($199-400 on average). Having a pre-inspection before putting your home on the market can be a really good idea. For between $200-400, a qualified home inspector will inspect every nook and cranny there is. Keep in mind the inspection does not test for environmental issues (Radon, etc), termites, etc that the buyer may opt to inspect for. Home inspectors usually inspect plumbing, HVAC, electric, roofing, flooring, siding, and potential safety issues among other things. The idea is to uncover any issues the buyer will ultimately end up finding and make corrections upfront. Not only will you be able to leave the inspection report on the counter for potential buyers to see during walk throughs as a selling feature, but you’ll also usually save money correcting the items yourself rather than the buyer discounting the price of the house or asking for remediation after the price has already been agreed to.
While there are without question many more simple and cheap ways to add more value and marketability to your home, the above are some of the easiest and sometimes most overlooked items one can take advantage of to hopefully increase the final sales price of your home when selling by owner. Have I missed anything? As always, feel free to leave a comment or your favorite tactic not mentioned in the post and just maybe I’ll include with the above.
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My very best,