People who are selling their homes often ask me what improvements they should make before listing (selling) their home. It always surprises me that Realtors aren’t more forceful with their clients when it comes to a listing and the simple changes that would help it to sell quickly. There are some common sense items that many homeowners won’t even consider when selling, however, they will help a home sell in a matter of weeks rather than a matter of months.
I cannot stress enough that most people cannot see through certain things. It is shocking how many people will base a house decision on a paint color. I often hear sellers state that, they can just paint it any color they want. Guess what? They cannot see through your paint color in their own imagination. You would be shocked, but $100 fix will tip the scales in the favor of an alternative house.
If you had 2 identical homes, or condos, and one had purple bedrooms, where the other had neutral colors in the bedrooms, which do you think would sell first? Assume your are competing with a house that is equal to yours, but neutral.
If you EVER find yourself discussing how the new homeowner “can just…” stop right there and DO IT!!!! I cannot stress this enough. Don’t leave something simple and inexpensive undone because you feel it would be easy for the “new homeowner” to do. They don’t want to do it and will only focus on those little things. They wont see past them to see the good in your property.
Here are the steps to take with some examples of situations you might have in your own home.
You might not even be able to see your clutter after living with it for years. Ask for an independent opinion. The biggest suggestion that I can give is to clear floor space. Do you have a magazine basket on the floor near a doorway or chair? Remove it. Are there items leaning against a wall? Clear the floor space to make a room feel much larger.
Remove Personal Touches
A number of years back, my own wife almost refused to do this when selling our first home. She commented that “I still have to live here”. I remarked that she could keep it if she wanted to continue to “live here” or she could remove it and we could move on to our nice new house. Take down your personal photos, kids art, report cards, etc. Many people will see this as a sign that you are ready to move. This often isn’t a conscious action, but they will feel like they are taking something away from you.
Get rid of STUFF!
This is essentially reiterating items 1 & 2. Get rid of stuff. I don’t care if you have to put it in a relatives home for a short time, or a storage unit, but clearing out clutter and “stuff” is a big help.
Remove dated finishes and wallpaper.
This gets into the more “heavy lifting” type of work, but if you are having a hard selling your home, making changes that date a place will make a major difference. If you have a room with dark paneling from the 70’s, consider painting it!. You might be surprised at how good painted paneling can look. The grooves in the paneling can start to feel “custom” with a nice neutral paint job. Wallpaper is a trouble spot. It dates a home quickly and people don’t want to deal with it. If possible, remove dated wallpaper and paint the walls with a neutral color.
PAINT, PAINT, PAINT!
Did I mention paint? You may love that pink room with the lace and twig sculpture, but MOST buyers won’t. You can wait for the 1 out of 20 that appreciate that style, or you can cater toward the masses with neutral paint. If the woodwork is in bad shape, consider going with a bright white trim and a neutral color on the walls. I have had people say that they are sick of the look and all of the builders do that. Think about it. All of the builders do it. Think there is a reason for it? There is. White trim with “builder’s beige” on the walls allows potential buyers to see their own design in the home. It could be their furniture, or decorating taste, but a neutral background is a nice clean start. When I do a renovation, I work with colors that are just outside of my base “neutral” for most of the rooms. I will paint each bath a nice “color”. Nothing too strong, but something that gives a crisp “spa” feel. In the kitchen, I will often stick with a “food color” that is a smooth transition from the primary neutral throughout the house. For the entire house, there are essentially 5 paints
- White Trim (semi-gloss sheen)
- Bath 1 (eggshell sheen)
- Bath 2 (eggshell sheen)
- Rest of house (satin sheen)
- Kitchen (food color)
If you are selling, you should take some time and watch the show “Sell This House” from A&E. This show has been on for many years and can turn a house around for about $500 (in most cases). These are real DIY projects and the show preaches some basic advice that anyone looking to sell their home should consider. It is an unbiased view since they bring potential buyers through prior to making any changes.
Not Selling? Here are some long term improvements to consider.
If you are a homeowner who isn’t selling, but wants to get an idea of the long ROI that a renovation can have, check out the article below. US News reviews the investments that can return the most money over the long haul.
Renovations That Yield the Best Return on Investment – US News and World Report.