March 23, 2022
When your home’s for sale, you want it to sell quickly—and preferably, above the asking price. And I’ve never met (or even heard of) a homeowner who was disappointed that their property inspired a bidding war. However, even in a seller’s market, there are things you need to do in advance to position your home to be in such an enviable position.
Here are nine home improvement projects our experts recommend tackling before putting your house on the market. Complete these projects to boost your home’s selling price.
Unless you’ve recently painted it, your home could use a fresh coat (or two) of paint. Over time, walls experience a lot of wear and tear and can also get dingy. Christopher Totaro, an agent at Warburg Realty, says he’s always surprised when a seller looks at him sideways and says, “You want me to do what?” But he explains that painting the home is a must. “You have lived in your home for 10 years, have four kids, and you expect to bring top dollar, so yes, I am suggesting that you paint.” Totaro says painting the home makes it stand out from other properties and can help to reduce the time on the market.
Since you see the house every day, it’s easy to overlook problems that may jump out to buyers. “Often, a wall can be scraped or peeling, and sometimes, previous water damage was left unattended,” explains Mihal Gartenberg, another agent at Warburg Realty.
Also, if you have accent walls, she recommends painting them white. “Let the buyer imagine the color they want the wall to be,” she says. That way, they won’t get distracted by having to add repainting to the to-do list for their new home.
Another part of your home that may be overlooked because you’re accustomed to viewing it: your windows. “Break out the #0000 steel wool, Windex, and scrub and polish those windows,” advises Totaro. “If you’ve ever replaced the windshield in your car after driving for a decade viewing through a dirty, pitted windshield, that new glass makes it seem like you are driving a new car, and the same applies to the windows in your home.”
You may need a power cleaner for the window exteriors. In fact, Ryan Dalzell, a realtor with the Dalzell Group in San Diego, recommends calling in the pros. “Having windows professionally cleaned prior to showing the house will help bring in natural light and allow buyers to take in any view the property offers.”
Commence operation deep clean, recommends Dennis Hsii, co-founder and realtor at Highland Premiere Real Estate in Los Angeles. You know how to clean your house; you may not enjoy it, but you know how to do it right. A true deep clean means grabbing a ladder to remove the dust collected on ceiling fan blades and on hanging picture frames, all the way down to the baseboards. Clean the interior and surroundings of your oven, and your refrigerator should sparkle. Lastly, replace the filters for your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
Another project that costs nothing (except some time) but pays big dividends is doing a room-by-room decluttering, suggests Dalzell. Every buyer loves going into model homes because they are perfectly staged, and while that’s a tough standard to meet, just clearing off countertops, boxing up extra picture frames and decorations, and thinning out some furniture will make rooms appear bigger and allow the buyer to imagine their own furniture in the living spaces.
Landscaping is the first impression a potential buyer has of your home. Your local garden center can provide expert advice for inexpensive seasonal plants and ground cover ideas. Your front yard can be transformed to create that “wow” factor for not a lot of effort, says Hsii.
Dalzell agrees, recommending that home sellers put fresh mulch around plants, reseed the bare patches on the lawn, and add some colorful flowers to the garden beds to really brighten up the look of the house. Remember: curb appeal sets the buyers’ expectations for what they’ll see inside the house.
A project that sellers sometimes overlook is pest control, warns Gartenberg. Are there signs of pests in your home? If so, clean up those signs and call a pest control company to take care of the project. This is ongoing. Sellers will want to know where the major pest issues are in their home and continue to monitor them for any ongoing activity.
“Just as sellers would be advised to minimize the effect of young children’s toys strewn about the home, they should do the same with pets and their toys, accessories, furniture, etc.,” says Gartenberg. Before potential buyers view the property, make an effect to declutter the pet supplies and keep them out of sight whenever possible.
Since the largest (and oftentimes, most costly) component in a kitchen is the cabinets, refreshing them is a great way to update your space, says Pamela O’Brien, principal designer at Pamela Hope Designs in Houston. “Options range from simply painting stained or painted cabinets, to replacing the doors and drawers with a new style. For a very budget-friendly refresh, scrub your cabinets and polish them with a cabinet restorer. Finish them off with new hardware to update your look.”
Daren Herzberg, a licensed associate real estate broker and co-founder of the Babst + Herzberg Team at Compass in NYC, agrees that refreshing a cabinet can give a new look without a major remodel. “By just repainting cabinet fronts and replacing hardware, the kitchen can look largely redone without any real construction.” If the cabinet style itself is outdated, consider replacing just the fronts, which is much more cost effective than brand-new cabinets.
Several of our real estate experts agree: a new backsplash is a smart way to update a dated kitchen. “A backsplash is often overlooked, but can be a very impactful part of the design palette for a kitchen,” says Herzberg. “The average backsplash is 30 square feet and nice new tile can be had for only a few bucks a foot. So for a few hundred dollars including installation, this can provide a huge aesthetic upgrade to an older kitchen.”
“The trendiest new tile is fun, but for time-tested, long-term good looks, a simple backsplash in a neutral subway tile always works,” suggests O’Brien. “You can mix it up a bit by selecting a larger or irregularly sized subway tile and considering a pattern, such as installing them vertically or in a herringbone or basketweave pattern.”
“The main purpose of a backsplash is to protect your walls from grease and other stains while you are cooking, but why not have some fun with it?” says Lanna Ali-Hassan, owner and principal designer of Beyond the Box Interiors in Washington, DC. Subway tile in unexpected patterns and contrasting grout can keep it classic, while infusing a little more personality.
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