I was asked by a reader recently about improvements to make to her home before they put it on the market for sale. This is a really common question, every homeowner wants to know what to do to increase the resale value of their home so it stands out, sells quickly, and you get the most for your efforts. Here’s Kathy’s question:
“Hi Kate, I have a question. What improvements make sense if you plan to move? My husband and I plan to retire soon and live closer to the coast. I would love to do an inexpensive update to our kitchen but want to make sure it will not be money wasted. We would also love some ideas on what else can be done to the home for resale.” – Kathy, Westford MA
Every home is unique in its needs for resale, and value is a truly a regional question, one that depends on the home, the neighborhood, and the market. Of course modern kitchens and bathrooms that have been remodeled are big sellers but there are other improvements that add value as well.
I thought Kathy’s question was a great opportunity to ask two experts on the subject, my husband Matt who is a real estate broker and appraiser, and Liz from It’s Great To Be Home, an experienced home flipper (she’s on her 10th!). They’re here to share the most cost effective ways that don’t include major remodeling. As Liz says, “Sinking lots of cash into the house so that someone else can enjoy it probably isn’t very high on your list of fun things to do. Instead, focus your energy and dollars on smaller improvements that will give you a lot of bang for your buck.”
Properly Operating Systems
Liz: As a flipper, my absolute favorite homes to buy are those that haven’t been touched by human hands since they were built…except to maintain the furnace, foundation, etc. Those issues always come up in an inspection, and 10 out of 10 buyers would rather put their money into a fancy new chandelier or surround sound instead of a new hot water heater so make sure the HVAC system is working properly and structural issues are addressed.
Matt: Make sure the slider and the screen door work properly too. Poor working sliders or broken screen doors turn buyers off quickly. Many people don’t realize that stuck sliders can be fixed easily by removing the door and replacing the rollers. It may take some time and a trip to the hardware store but it can be done for under $20. There are plenty of videos on YouTube which show the process of taking apart the slider.
Freshen and Neutralize Paint and Flooring
Liz: I don’t think that you need to run out and paint or recarpet your entire house to prepare it for sale (unless it’s really nasty) – most buyers will put their own touches on at least a few rooms once they move in, and I can tell you first hand how frustrating it is to put in new carpet only to have the new owners instantly replace it with hardwood! However, you should definitely take the time to shampoo carpets and remove stains, as well as repair any chips, smudges or dings in the paint (no one wants to buy a grungy house). Also, be sure to paint over any "polarizing" hues that would prevent buyers from being able to envision the space for their own needs – your hot pink craft room might not translate so well to a fellow pining for a man cave.
Update the Light Fixtures
Matt: Modern light fixtures say so much about a home. If the light fixtures are dated and dusty this is a clear indicator as to how the rest of the home has been maintained. Go into a home and see 1980s lacquered brass lighting everywhere and you have a good indication that the homeowner was likely a reactionary owner, only making upgrades when things didn’t work anymore. Light fixtures are very cost effective way of updating your home and showing the buyer that you are a more proactive homeowner than one that would fix only the things that broke down. However if your home possesses valuable vintage fixtures that complement the style of the home, it’s best to leave those in place.