Today, the home that stands out among similarly-priced houses is the home that sells. Why? Because it makes a good first impression that lasts right through escrow.
You may not be able to improve the market value of your house with major remodeling projects, but you can improve its marketability. This usually can be done with more elbow grease than hard cash. The key is to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. In fact, if you drop by some open houses (you may soon be a buyer yourself), you’ll pick up some pointers. Then practice making your house as appealing and uncluttered as the home you wish to buy.
Should I redecorate?
No. It is very difficult to anticipate the tastes of strangers. It is best to stick to fresh paint in very neutral colors and present a sparkling clean house without the redecorating expense.
Is it possible to over improve?
Yes. Your landscaping may be divine. You may have the only cabana and swimming pool in the neighborhood, but it may be difficult to sell a $450,000 home in an area of $420,000 homes. Consult your listing broker to determine if added improvement means added marketability.
Are “fixing up expenses” tax deductible?
Yes. You can reduce your taxable capital gain by “fixing up,” but only under strict guidelines. Check with your tax consultant for details.
Here are some home selling tips to think about when you’re getting ready to put your house on the market:
Start here with “curb appeal.” Basics: Mow the lawn and trim shrubs. Remove garden hoses, lawn tools, dog houses, and toys from the yard. Check for flat-fitting roof shingles; straight lines on gutters, shutters, windows and siding; solid caulking around frames and seams. Clean, or even paint, the front door. Keep walks and steps free of snow and ice. Extras: Install a brass door knocker. Put up seasonal door decorations. Plant flower beds.
The atmosphere here gives a hint of what is inside. Basics: Light the area using a skylight, lamp, overhead fixture, or open window. Turn on every light in the house in the evening for a welcoming glow. Make sure the house smells fresh and clean. Make sure that the woodwork is unmarred and the carpeting is spotless. Remove unsightly or worn throw rugs. Extras: Install a door chime. Install a dead bolt lock and chain.
Many buyers judge the house by the way the oven and stove are kept. Basics: Appliances should be spotless and in perfect working condition. Repair or replace anything that sticks, squeaks, or drips. Keep counter, cooking, storage, and eating spaces uncluttered. Put away countertop appliances. Clean butcher block. Treat the floor and walls so they are resistant to grease and moisture.
Strive for a lived-in, cozy feeling. Basics: Discard worn, chipped, or frayed furniture. Open curtains. Set out fresh flowers, and even put a drop of bath oil or vanilla on light bulbs for a subtle scent.
The master bedroom is the second-most appealing room to the buyer (after the kitchen, before the garage). Basics: Remove clutter. Arrange furniture to define areas: sleeping, dressing, sitting. Show the true size of closets by removing or packing items that can be stored elsewhere (since you’re moving away), like off-season clothes.
Combine practicality with attractiveness. Basics: The sink, toilet, bathtub, tile, even shower curtains should be immaculate. Fix leaky faucets—rust stains indicate faulty plumbing. Repair caulking and grouting. Light should be soft, but bright. Extras: Use some potpourri for a pleasant scent.
An atmosphere of relaxation, fun and activity should pervade here. Basics: Open the space to accommodate an assortment of activities. Make sure the fireplace or wood stove is clean, with fresh logs. Extras: Install track lighting and ceiling fans.
Convenience is the key here. Basics: Sell, giveaway, or toss unnecessary items. Tidy the workbench. Clean oily cement floors. Install a strong overhead light.
Organize, hang tools on peg boards, and put items on shelves. Basics: Cure smells by placing a bag of limestone in any damp areas. Clean the outside of the water heater, change the furnace filter and make inspection access easy. Brighten the basement by painting walls.
Yes, it’s for sale, too. Tidy it up. Light it up. Basics: Again, pack anything you’re going to move. Get rid of the rest. Be sure your energy-saving insulation is apparent and the air vent works.