The number of existing home sales is on the rise — up over 9 percent from last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. Now that buyers are back in the market, read these 13 practical tips to add value to your home before you list it so that you can get the best possible sale price.
1. Stage Your Property
According to the NAR 2015 Profile of Home Staging, 81 percent of realtors agree that it’s easier for a buyer to visualize a staged property as a future home. The median cost to stage a home is just $675, so it might be well worth the investment for many home sellers.
You can receive the biggest bang for your buck by staging the living room, followed by the kitchen, master bedroom and dining room, according to the report. The bathrooms, children’s bedrooms and guest bedroom ranked lowest in priority on the report's list.
2. Create a Digital Home History
Buyers today seek homes that are move-in ready and well-maintained. New online services like HomeZada allow a seller to create an online digital footprint that details a home’s maintenance records, floor plans, warranty documents and homeowner’s association information. If you have properly maintained your home, an online digital footprint can enable you to showcase your efforts while allowing potential buyers to fully appreciate the home’s maintenance history.
For a small fee, a new owner can set reminders for his new home’s property maintenance schedule. He won’t have to wonder when the home’s hot water heaters are due to be flushed, the thermostat batteries need to be replaced or the exhaust fans need to be cleaned.
3. Boost Your Curb Appeal
How a home looks from the outside has a huge effect on how many potential buyers walk through the front door. Carrie-Denise Cheshire, owner of the Home Staging Institute in Portland, Ore., suggested inexpensive outdoor improvements like a freshly painted front door (she likes red), a new mailbox and well-maintained landscaping. She also recommended power washing the sidewalks and driveways, clearing any clutter from the front porch, and removing any decorative flags or affiliate signage.
For people with a higher budget for renovations and repairs, Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty, suggested replacing worn vinyl siding. New vinyl siding can have an 80 percent or higher return on investment, according to Christian. “It’s easy to install, cheaper than other alternatives like aluminum and wood, and requires little maintenance,” he said.
4. Upgrade Your Kitchen
A minor kitchen remodel offers a high likelihood of recouping the investment, according to a 2015 study by Remodeling Magazine. The most important kitchen features for home buyers include new kitchen appliances and an eat-in arrangement, reports the NAR. Granite countertops and stainless steel kitchen appliances also ranked high.
“Kitchens sell homes,” said Cheshire. She suggested updating window treatments as an inexpensive remedy for a dated kitchen. “I recommend natural wood blinds, which you can custom order for $100 or less for most windows,” she said.
She also suggested a coat of glossy, white paint to liven up a dark kitchen or dated wood cabinets as well as inexpensive new flooring options like tile or bamboo. “New flooring can make a dramatic improvement,” she said.
5. Create a Clutter-Free Oasis
An organized and clean home gives off the impression that the home has been well-maintained. An unmade bed, cluttered toy room or dusty drapes can give the opposite impression. Tidy rooms also appear larger.
Kelly Hager, CEO of The Kelly Hager Group Real Estate Services in St. Louis and St. Charles, Mo., said the house should be spotless before any showing. “Wipe down your baseboards, wipe down your cabinets, and dust everything, including cold air vents,” she said.
6. Make Your Walls Pretty
Many homeowners are so used to looking at the walls of their homes that they often don’t even realize that their wall treatments have become dated or faded. Most wallpapers and bright paint colors also can be turnoffs for many buyers.
“If you have wallpaper in your home, remove it,” said Hager. “Buyers do not like wallpaper.” Instead, consider an option with a broader appeal, like a neutral-colored paint.
7. Update Flooring
Old carpet can be an eyesore for prospective home buyers and a potential hazard for those with allergies. Hardwood floors are preferred by many home buyers — 54 percent are willing to pay more for a home with hardwood flooring, according to data from the NAR — but other hard surfaces can fare well, too.
Ceramic tile flooring does well in hot climates, and, for homeowners on a tighter budget, laminate can give the look of hardwood without the hefty price tag. For homes with hardwood floors already installed, refinishing can add value to the home and can yield impressive results; the cost depends on the size of the space and condition of the flooring.
8. Add a Wood Deck
If you're wondering how to increase the value of your home, a new deck offers additional living space at the fraction of the cost of a home addition and can be used for at least half of the year in most areas of the country. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2015 Cost Vs.Value Report, a wood deck is high on the list of mid-range upgrades that are most likely to recoup the outlay cost.
9. Light It Up
“Natural light automatically makes the room more appealing,” said Liat Tzoubari, director of sales and marketing for property listing site Apartable. Before a showing, Tzoubari suggested the seller “open up the blinds and let the sun shine through on your beautiful home.”
Artificial light upgrades can pay off as well. According to an NAR Home Feature Preferences report, one of the most common home improvements new home buyers make is to add or replace lighting.
10. Repair What’s Visibly Broken
Fixing a few issues before listing your home can go a long way toward adding value. “It may take a bit of elbow grease and coin, but it’s necessary when selling to discriminating home buyers,” said Brad Chandler, CEO of Express Home Buyers. "Many home buyers are only interested in homes that are in move-in condition.”
Chandler suggested repairing any misaligned closet doors, leaky sinks and cracked windows. “If people see something broken, they may question how well the home was cared for and worry about the integrity of the less obvious things that they can’t see,” he said.
11. Hire a Home Inspector
A poor home inspection report can often break a good real estate deal. Eliminate that possibility by bringing someone in to assess any potential concerns before prospective buyers even start viewing the home. A pre-listing inspection can give you the chance to uncover any unforeseen snags and take care of any unanticipated repairs before coming up with a listing price.
Offering the report to potential buyers can be seen as an act of goodwill and can boost trust between buyer and seller. No home buyer — or seller — wants to be surprised by a large repair costs upon receipt of the home inspection report.
12. Research Your Market
Find out what other homes in your area have sold for in the past few months. Recent sales can give you a realistic idea of what your home is worth. “Consult a real estate expert who can advise the homeowner of market conditions and trends,” said Hager. “It’s very important to have a home that is priced well from the get-go.”
If a property is priced too high, it can languish and never sell. On the other hand, pricing a property too low could result in you losing out on a greater potential for profit. Your broker can monitor the Multiple Listing Service for current sale prices in your area.
13. Be Flexible
“Sometimes selling your house has less to do with your physical property and more with how you interact with your potential buyers,” said Chandler. If a buyer wants to close on a certain timeline, he suggested that you find a way to make it happen. If a buyer falls in love with an item in your home, consider including it in the offer.
To protect yourself from potentially parting with an heirloom or cherished item, Chandler suggested storing it before a showing so a buyer won’t be tempted to ask for the item. “When there are multiple real estate choices, buyers can afford to be picky," he said. "If you seem difficult to work with and there is another home on their list with a more motivated seller, you will lose out.”