Bang for your Buck

When it comes to making your home ready to sell, the choices can be expensive and seem overwhelming. The truth is, most buyers are making an emotional decision, within their price point, and they just want a home that feels like home and doesn’t require a second loan to make it livable. That said, your job is to make your home feel comfortable but also like a solid investment. These suggestions run the gamut in terms of price but in most situations you will please many buyers with these updates.

I have had countless Buyers show me homes and say, “We want a home that looks like that.” And usually, it’s only the outside. They love the shutters, or the front door, or the landscaping. Bottom line, curb appeal matters. Some relatively low cost exterior updates that can make a big impact (of course, be aware of your HOA rules regarding colors and materials):

A new front door. Drive through neighborhoods from Leesburg to DC and one thing you are seeing on any new or newly renovated property is a Craftsman style door with some glass/window feature. Fiberglass is a good low cost option. Aluminum or vinyl is even cheaper but be aware that it will dent if it hard and is almost impossible to repair. Of course, you can always choose solid wood but it’s unlikely you would see a proportionate return on that kind of expense.

Garage door. Switching out an old garage door for a carriage or barn style garage door is definitely an eye catching change and Buyers are loving this look right now.

Landscaping. If you don’t have the budget to invest in a whole new landscape design, even some potted plants can draw a Buyer in, they great in marketing photos, and they also show a pride in ownership. Consider brightly colored flowers – reds and yellows look great in professional photos. A new mailbox, light post, or porch light can be very inexpensive and give the home new life when it’s ready to go to market.

Power washing, Gutter Cleaning, and General Exterior Maintenance. These are some of the least expensive things you can do and not only do they further reinforce a well maintained home when you get a contract, it makes the Buyer’s home inspection go smoothly for the inspector to have a full picture of what’s happening outside the home.

Windows. This can be an expensive endeavor but it’s one of the first things savvy Buyers look at, even before a home inspector points it out. Not only can you boast energy efficiency, but this is one area Buyers can check off the list in terms of long term maintenance. Of course, if the home is otherwise maintained and has some classic updates and the budget for new windows makes you cringe, so be it. Most Buyers are prepared for a certain level of maintenance as part of the investment.

Ok, now the fun stuff – INSIDE THE HOME!

Kitchen. Buyers expect different things at different price points, but a classic kitchen with improvements can be a slam dunk for someone selling a home.   This does not have to be an astronomical budget either. If the footprint works and cabinets are in good shape, think about staining or having them repainted to freshen things up. A new backsplash can be low cost and add some character. For the most part, I would keep the tile selection classic and in the white or gray family. The kitchen does not need to be colorful. In fact, a neutral palette makes it easy for a Buyer to accessorize with their own preferences. For photos, put a colorful tea kettle or pot on the range and hang some fun new dish towels on the oven door.

Bathrooms. Like Kitchens, bathrooms can cost you a lot or a little. This will be almost completely dependent on your price point. But again, I would say if the bones are good, you should think about some low cost ways to spruce things up. It’s worth spending money in the master bathroom for new tile and new vanities. However, a hall bath may only require some new paint and fixtures. One low cost option for dressing up a room with old but well maintained tile is electrostatic paint. For around $200-$400, you can have the tiles professionally spray painted and resealed and it will look brand new. The same can be done to resurface a bath tub.

Fixtures. New light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, and hardware are finishing touches that can surprisingly transform a home from 80s builder grade to 2015 transitional. Brass door knobs can be replaced with antique bronze, chrome, or nickel hardware and you cannot go wrong with any of those finishes. The same goes for lighting and plumbing fixtures. Focus on the most used areas of the house first and if you have the budget, change out fixtures in the basement bath, laundry room, etc.

Bottom Line

A lot of this is not rocket science and if you are a fan of HGTV, a lot of this will sound familiar. I’m a big fan of repurposing and reusing as much as possible and most Buyers do appreciate the character of a home that has some original materials that have been repainted or rejuvenated with new hardware. If you have loved and maintained your home, that will show and you do not need to drain your savings to sell it. Talk to your Realtor about what furniture should stay, what should be stored, and what he/she would suggest in terms of accessorizing or minimizing the décor while your home is on the market. Expect honesty and professionalism and know that they have your best interests at heart in terms of selling your home quickly for the most money.

If you are looking at dressing up some areas of your home for your own enjoyment or before putting it on the market, here are two fun tips…

  1. If you are looking for what’s “in” drive out to a new construction model home and you will love almost everything you see, from paint colors, to tile, to handscraped flooring.
  2. If you are looking for ideas for a more classic renovation, check out newly renovated homes on the market closer to DC (Arlington, Alexandria, or Falls Church specifically), and you will usually see some beautiful new finishes that work well with these mostly older homes.

Either way, have fun with it…and while you’re busy making your house pretty don’t forget to change your air filter!!

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