I have walked through a number of houses that were for sale, as a home inspector, as a builder, and as a potential home owner. Every time I walk through a home, I enjoy looking for the hidden potential within the house. However, I believe the majority of people walking through homes are looking for a place that is move in ready…a settle down and raise a family type of home. A home they need to fix up and put money and work into is not usually the most attractive option.
Keeping this in mind, if you are thinking about selling your home, you will be dollars ahead if you do some upkeep first. You need to consider what areas and items will give you the biggest return on your time and money. If you don’t clean things up and make them look appealing, you will be leaving money on the table when your house finally sells. On the flip side, there is no reason to over improve, as that is just wasting money. So here are a few things that you can do to get your house sold quickly and at a good price.
As an example, I will be using a home that my wife and I purchased while we were in college as an investment property. We lived in it until we graduated, and it worked out really well for us. Keep in mind that some of the before and after pictures are not taken from the same angle and everything on the house was not perfect when we were done but THAT IS THE POINT. You do not need to make things perfect, you just need to make them look clean and presentable.
Overgrown landscape, weeds growing between cracks in the driveway, or a yellowed lawn that looks like it has not been watered since winter can really scare away potential owners who want move-in ready. Does this describe your home? If so, don’t be too worried about it there is still hope! All of these things can be fixed. And with the exception the grass, the entire landscape can be taken care of in a weekend. Here is a list of things that you might consider doing.
- Spray/Pull all of the weeds that are growing up through the concrete. A good spray can be bought at pretty much any home store. Round up is a popular favorite.
- If you have flower beds around your home, give them some TLC. If you have some attractive looking plants that are still alive, that’s great! Weed the flower bed and pull out everything around those plants until you have nothing but bare soil and the plants you are wanting to keep. Level off the soil, put down some weed barrier and put in some fresh mulch/bark. Those flower beds will look like a million bucks! If the flower beds look like a lost cause, start fresh, take EVERYTHING out, plant some attractive plants that require little maintenance, put down weed barrier and once again surround them with mulch/bark.
- Prune your trees. This is extremely easy and really rewarding. All you need to do is take a trip to a local home improvement store and pick up some pruning tools. (Some companies sell kits that give you everything you need for the job.) When you have the appropriate tools, shape and prune the trees, removing suckers from the base. Look up what kind of tree you are pruning, and cut anything off that is keeping it from looking the way it’s supposed to. This type of information can easily be found with a quick search on the internet. We were lucky enough to have a plumb tree in our back yard. Check out the before and after below.
- Reseed or water your lawn. There are a number of variables with this that would govern the steps you would take here. If the grass is completely dead, meaning you have been watering it a couple times a day for a week and you are still not seeing anything but weeds grow, then there is a good chance you need to either plant a new lawn from seed or prep and plant sod. Now, if you are seeing some signs of life after watering for a while, the grass has just gone dormant and should come back with some diligent watering. There is also a chance you will have some bare spots as seen in the before picture below. The way I revived this lawn was by laying down a thin layer of good top soil and reseeding the entire lawn. It worked great and looks amazing now!
LANDSCAPE BEFORE AND AFTERS
Front Yard 3 Years Later
If the exterior of your home is in poor physical condition (such as siding that is cracking, has holes, or is falling off), you should think about getting some repairs done by a professional. However, the majority of homes just need to be washed off. Over time, there is a lot of dust, dirt, and cob webs that will buildup. This is a very simple fix, take a Saturday and give the entire exterior of the home a good wash. Clean the windows while you are at it. A pressure washer can be rented from a store like Lowes or Home Depot. You will be surprised how great your home looks after this is done.
Lastly regarding the exterior, take a look at your patio or deck if you have one. If they are made of wood they need to be maintained. Unfortunately, hardly anyone keeps up on the maintenance that is needed. If your deck is looking a little weathered, take a day and put on a new coat of stain or finish of your choice. This deck was finished with a special epoxy paint, it turned out well and added to the clean feel of the home. Declutter
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this because everyone knows they should keep things free from clutter for a better showing. People like to envision themselves living in homes that they walk through. If there is clutter everywhere, it makes it exponentially harder for a potential buyer to focus on anything else. So, bite the bullet and start pulling things from the corners of your closet and storage rooms. Either pack them up and put them in offsite storage, donate them, recycle them or toss them in the trash! You’ll have that much less to move and your home will show much better.
People like to customize their home to their liking, this often translates to fairly extravagant colors being painted on the walls. There is nothing wrong with being a little unique but when it comes to selling your home, it will be most appealing with more neutral color choices. Some colors you will be able to get away with but if you have any loud colors painted in your home (deep blue, yellow, green etc.) consider repainting that room to something toned down a little. We chose a nice grey to cover up some of the colors that we found in our home when we first moved in. This helps with the clean theme we have been talking about.
If you have the time and talent, home repair could be something you take on yourself. However, I know when someone decides to move, its easy to procrastinate everything until the last minute. Then at the last minute, the last thing they want to do is go through their house and fix things that are in disrepair. If that sounds like you, I would suggest calling a local handy man. Go through your home with masking tape. Whatever you need to have fixed, simply mark it with a small piece of tape. After that is completed walk the repairman through the home and go over what needs to be done at each piece of tape. Once they are clear on the details, let them do their thing. You may be out some money, but they can save you time and your sanity.
Clean, Clean, Clean
You would think this would come without saying, but please, if you do none of the other steps make this one your top priority. CLEAN your home, a dirty, smelly home will send potential buyers running for the door. Go through every room, pick things up, vacuum, dust and wipe things down. Do the dishes, take out the garbage, clean the toilets… you get the idea. Your house needs to have a welcoming feel. Potential buyers will feel nauseated instead of welcome if they walk into smelly piles of dishes, pet hair on everything and their shoes sticking to the floor. Take the time and give your home a deep clean. Once again if you just can’t bring yourself to get this done there are a number of professional cleaning companies that will come in and do it for you. For a price of course.
Lastly, it is a good idea to have a home inspector come and do an inspection prior to listing. Buyers almost always get an inspection done before they purchase a home and inevitably there will be a number of things that they will come back with that they would like you to fix or discount the purchase price for. However, if you are proactive and get an inspection done prior to the buyer’s inspection, you will already know the issues and you can get them fixed. This will speed up the closing process, getting a check in your hand that much faster. If requested, many home inspectors will do a less comprehensive inspection for a discounted price, just looking at main components of the home. This Is a popular option for sellers that just want a heads up on any major issues. Selling your home does not need to be a daunting task. The reality is, in most cases, you can get your home in tip top shape over the course of a few weekends. Sit down and come up with a plan so everything is not left until the last minute. Walk your real estate agent through your home prior to listing, and get some advice on where they think improvements could be made. Then take care of them, and your house will be sold in no time so you can move on to your next adventure!