I recently lived in a house that was about to go on the market. Obviously, the homeowner wanted to get the most bang for his buck. I helped him do so. The following post is a summation of the research I did. He bought the home for $120,000 and after sprucing it up, sold it for $179,000. He did own the house for about 6 years, but during that time the rest of the real estate market stayed pretty stagnate. Through the 2008 financial crisis, the prices in Lincoln, Nebraska stayed relatively stable.
Improve the value of your home with: curb appeal
The previous owners didn’t leave the house in the best shape. That helped my boss get a great deal but we certainly wanted to fix those exterior flaws before we resold the house. We improved curb appeal by hiring the next door neighbor with a green thumb to spruce up the property. She added green to the lawn, trimmed the trees and shrubs, and kept the exterior as a whole looking healthy. It’s important to keep the outside of the house looking great, even if you’re not going to sell right away. Why? It’s because every house earns a reputation. When you go to sell, you don’t want to be trying to sell the house on the block everyone knows from having the worst lawn on the block. It’s similar to racing your car around town and then trying to sell it for a good price – people have seen you mistreat the car. We also put on a new roof and had the trim and front door repainted. Consumer Reports says sprucing up the exterior has a 2-5% increased return on the price of the home. You can improve the value of your home by simply making a good first impression.
We upgraded the kitchen
The entire kitchen was redone. Was it the most expensive room to redo? Yes. But it was the first room people see as they enter. And people really value what a kitchen looks like. We redid everything – from the floor to the ceiling. We did make one mistake, however. When we were showing the house, nearly everyone said ‘the refrigerator is kinda small’. Yep, we put in a smaller fridge than the space available. It did look weird.
We upgraded the bathrooms
The bathrooms were completely redone. I noticed the women really appreciated this. A bathroom is such a personal space; I completely understand why new is best. 42 percent of real estate professionals surveyed said the bathroom is one of the most important rooms of the home to have in good shape.
We had low heating/cooling costs we could prove
I lived in the home for a few years. Because I like saving money, I kept the A/C and heating costs to a minimum. Potential buyers often looking at the utility records to see past bills for a home. They saw how low mine were and fell in love. The home was a 1940’s Cape Cod – not the most efficient of homes. But my frugal ways helped close the deal. Just another reason to be frugal!
We cleaned up and cleared out
We scrubbed down and decluttered the entire house. Our real estate agent advised us to leave enough stuff in the house to make it look lived in but nothing more. A good rule of thumb: If 3 people can’t easily navigate all the rooms, reduce clutter! And remember, it’s better to be extra clean than even a little bit dirty. People have different ideas of what ‘clean’ is. So when in doubt, clean a little more. I’ve found buyers with the most money were especially interested in cleanliness.
We painted every room white as is typically suggested by real estate agents. Some resources suggest you at least use color on accent walls, but we didn’t. This helped the original hardwoods in the home stand out.
We let light in
We took down most drapes. Combined with the white walls, this little 3-bedroom looked much larger than it was. We also replaced any fixtures that reduced the light output from bulbs – therefore using no more electricity but getting more light.
What we didn’t address: smell, creepiness
We never put much thought into the appearance of the basement. A mistake, indeed. One daughter of a potential buyer said the basement was creepy. She wanted to leave. I could tell those potential buyers weren’t interested after that point.
This Forbes article describes why the scent of a home helps it sell.
Everything went well. My boss made a profit and the house sold within about a month – even with it being fall. It also sold to a very wealthy family in the area who made their wealth in commercial real estate. I’ll assume we did a good job since a real estate family liked the home.