It’s funny how a house doesn’t feel like an investment until it comes time to sell it. All of a sudden, after years of living there, the thought of its value hits you upside the head. Hopefully, you’ve practiced good home maintenance over the years and can now focus on cosmetic changes to increase value. And these won’t cost a fortune because many are typical do-it-yourself projects.
Lipstick on a pig
All the cosmetics in the world won’t make a pig look any prettier. Sure, if you choose those fixes carefully you can realize a tidy sum at the close of escrow. But, if the house has major problems, such as with the roof or heating system, you may end up giving that money back to the buyer for repairs.
If you suspect there may be problems with the house, hire a home inspector to come in a do a thorough check. It’s worth the fee because it may allow you to head off a slowdown in the future transaction with a buyer. Home repairs that buyers expect to be made and that increase value the most include:
- Plumbing repairs
- Updating electrical system
- Repairing damaged floors
- Don’t forget the little things: the dripping faucet, torn window screens and damaged countertops. You may have been able to live with these details but a buyer will notice them.
Larger projects, such as roof problems, are sometimes better dealt with by disclosing them to potential buyers and letting it be known that the price of the home reflects the need for the repair.
It’s a fact: clean houses sell faster and for more money than dirty ones. Buyers like houses that have been well cared for and a clean house looks like a maintained house.
They also place a higher value on houses that appear to be ready to move right into. Nobody wants to have to clean a house before settling in. Some sellers think they’ll get around this chore by offering to have the house professionally cleaned before moving out. There’s no value added in that plan. The time to clean is before it hits the market.
Painting the walls creates an instant transformation in a number of ways. Paint adds color to a room and makes it look and smell cleaner. Keep to the neutral colors on the color wheel, as they appeal to a broader segment of buyers.
Update the kitchen
In general, kitchens are usually most important in terms of enhancing the return on your home investment. Bathrooms are a close second. Attention to some of these little kitchen details can add to the home’s value.
- Replace the lighting fixtures.
- Put in new cabinets or, at the very least, replace the existing hardware.
- Replace old appliances. New appliances make a good impression on prospective buyers.
- Upgrade the faucet
- Buy new curtains and throw rugs
- Remove everything from the countertops with the exception of a few decorative items. Check decorating magazines for ideas.
Fix up the bathrooms
Nothing kills a real estate deal quicker than a nasty bathroom. Thoroughly cleaning it and painting the walls provides an instant transformation, but there’s more you can do that will add value to the entire home:
- Install new lighting. New fixtures can create a statement with minimal effort.
- Replace old sink, shower and bath faucets and handles with new decorative faucets.
- Install new towel racks.
- Replace shower doors.
- Re-caulk the tub and sink to freshen their appearance.
- Replace mirrors and medicine cabinets.
- Hang new towels and add throw rugs that compliment the wall color.
That oh-so-important curb appeal
It doesn’t do you any good to invest in home improvements and updating if the exterior of the home doesn’t invite potential buyers inside. Plus, updated landscaping adds around 10 percent more to the home’s value. Here are some general considerations:
- Clean up the yard. Remove toys, trash, leaves and dead plants.
- Clean the front porch by removing cobwebs from the light fixture, sweeping and applying a fresh coat of paint to the front door.
- Mow the lawn. If it’s discolored, de-thatch and fertilize.
- Trim trees and prune perennials to make them look tidier.
- Add container plants to the porch or next to the front door.
- Add surprising pops of color with seasonal flowers.
- Apply fresh mulch to the beds.
- Plant trees. According to the U.S. Forestry Service, trees increase property values by as much as 10 percent.
Keeping a perspective on all the work that you do in, on or around your home is important. Specifically, focus on the kinds of improvements that will enhance your return on investment. And bear in mind that improvements should be appropriate for the immediate neighborhood. While your aim should be to have the most attractive home on the block, don’t over-improve for the neighborhood.