In my last post I talked about de-cluttering. I believe it is the most important thing any seller can do to get their house ready to sell – and it costs virtually nothing! It still surprises me how often I’m invited into a messy, over-stuffed house and asked by the owner if they should re-do the kitchen. How should I know? I can barely see the kitchen!
I virtually never recommend costly renovations. I do, however, recommend attention to detail. Once you have cleaned out the clutter - and, it goes without saying, given the house a really good clean – certain little defects may become more noticeable to you. Now is the time to tackle all those little jobs you’ve been meaning to get to: repair surface cracks, nail down bits of quarter-round that are loose or missing, and yes, where needed, apply a coat of paint.
Then there’s hardware: do you have any loose or missing doorknobs, cupboard handles, drawer pulls? These are the types of little annoyances that buyers will notice and that will make them wonder if there are bigger repairs needed. Make sure all your electrical outlets and switches have plates on them, and if they are old or outdated, replace them. Not expensive.
Next, think about lighting – both natural and artificial. You may find your dimly-lit rooms “cosy” but for the purposes of selling, brighter is better. Removing heavy drapes or vertical blinds not only brightens up a room, but actually makes it feel bigger. Check that none of your lightbulbs are burnt out, and consider replacing 40 watt bulbs with 60s or even 100s where appropriate. If you’re afraid you’ll feel like you’re living on a movie set with all that bright light, consider installing dimmer switches. That way everyone’s happy.
It’s true that updated kitchens and bathrooms add value to a house, so if you’ve done them, congratulations. You’ve had a chance to enjoy them and now they will probably help you sell at a higher price. But do not, repeat do not, undertake a costly kitchen reno just prior to listing, especially if there are other significant renovations needed.
Let’s say for example you can get $350,000 for your house with a dated kitchen. The same house with a really nice, modern kitchen might sell for $375,000 – but the difference of $25000 barely covers the cost of the reno, so what’s the point? You just lived through the stress and inconvenience of changing your kitchen, and adding in the cost of meals taken in restaurants or even nights spent in hotels while the work got done, you’re actually in the hole.
Stagers will often say to make your home more “neutral” to attract buyers. I didn’t used to set much store in this but now I do. Take down family pictures and pack them away; you’re moving soon anyway! If they leave discoloured rectangles on the wall, paint the wall. Paint it a pale, neutral colour. Pull back the drapes and let the sun shine in. If that shows up the dirt, get down and scrub some more!
If you follow these suggestions, you will be tired, but you will not have spent more than a couple of thousand dollars, and your house will be much much more ready to sell than it was.