Plan on putting your house on the market this year? I’m excited to kick off a new blog series, to share my best tips on how to get your house ready to sell. Let’s make the process as fast, painless and profitable as possible!
I’ve shared in a previous post about the reasons we decided to sell our home and move, as well as how successful the home selling process was for us (we sold it in 3 days in the dead of winter, for right around asking price).
This post kicks off a new blog series where I share all my best tips for ensuring a successful home-selling process (successful sale = quick + top dollar). Other posts in this series include:
- Staged to Sell: Pro Home Staging Tips for Sellers
- Home Showing & Open House Checklist for Sellers
- The Best Times to Sell a House: Tips for Selling a House in Winter
This was our 3rd time going through the home-selling process, so I’ve had the opportunity to sharpen my home-selling skills over the years. My training and experience as a home stager combined with plenty of first-hand experience as a home seller means that I have plenty o’ tips, tricks and ideas to share on the topic of how to prepare a home for the real estate market.
And I’m super excited to share them with you!
First up, I’ll summarize how we tackled “phase 1” of the home preparation process — the list of home improvement projects we completed on a budget of $2,000 over the course of a few months leading up to that For Sale sign getting placed in the front yard.
HOW TO GET YOUR HOUSE READY TO SELL: COSMETIC IMPROVEMENTS
When it comes to selling your home fast and for asking price, the name of the game is “remove buyer objections”.
The hard truth is that homebuyers aren’t interested in inheriting your home improvement To-Do list. They want to move into a home that is turn-key. As a seller, it’s your mission to complete those unfinished projects, minor repairs, and much-needed updates BEFORE your home hits the MLS. I like to call this phase of preparation the cosmetic improvement phase.
Since we had been contemplating a move for at least a year prior to putting our home on the market, I had created a running list of action items that I knew had to happen before our home went on the market.
Tip #1: Complete Unfinished Home Improvement Projects
My husband finished our basement (including this bathroom) many years ago. During the process, he ran out of trim. Fast forward a few years — trim project STILL not completed.
I’m guessing you have a few lingering unfinished home improvement projects such as this one. Time to finish them.
All it took was a few pieces of trim, one hour, and $50 (to pay a trim carpenter since my Hubby had zero time to deal with it) in order to get this project crossed off the list.
Tip #2: Complete All Outstanding Home Repairs
In addition to unfinished projects, we all have those annoying minor repairs that we’ve learned to just ignore while living in our home. Once you’ve made the decision to sell, these repairs need to be tackled asap.
Our list of nuisance repairs included reattaching this area of the kitchen backsplash that had separated from the wall (see above). It was an eyesore, but not causing any problems, so we simply ignored it until home sale prep month.
Another item on the repair To-Do list was re-stretching the carpet in the basement recreation room that had buckled in a few places. Who has time to deal with this minor nuisance until you are forced to, right?
I did learn in the process that dealing with carpet buckling sooner rather than later is a good idea, since letting it sit like this for a year can result in a permanent “wrinkle”.
Speaking of carpet issues, we still had that little paint spill from our homework/craft room redesign project to contend with. My solution up to this point was to simply cover it up with an area rug and hope that one day when I lifted up the rug, I’d discover that the carpet fairy had waived her magic wand and made this problem disappear.
No such luck.
Thankfully, we had a matching carpet remnant tucked away that the carpet repair guys were able to use to patch the carpet after removing the carpet area with the paint spill (the same guys who came to stretch out the basement carpet).
Bonus Tip: To save money, select service providers who can tackle as many of the projects on your cosmetic improvement list as possible.
Case in point: we had a few areas of drywall in our hall bath that needed to be repaired. It was really difficult to find a drywall repair service that was willing to complete these minor repairs without costing us way more money than we wanted to spend.
Since we were hiring a painter to repaint our basement playroom anyway, I asked him to complete the hall bath drywall repairs and paint it a more buyer-friendly color. The cost for drywall repair + painting the room was less than what a drywall installer was going to charge us for just completing the repair.
A multi-talented handyman (who can tile, paint, and McGyver his way through all of your home repairs) is worth his weight in gold! Ask around to get recommendations for a high-quality handyman in your area. Realtors can usually provide some great recommendations.
Tip #3: A New Coat of Paint is Money Well-Spent
NOTHING freshens up a space quite like a new coat of paint.
Thankfully, most of the rooms in our home had been recently repainted (i.e., within 1-3 years prior to the sale). But not our basement recreation room.
Over the course of a decade+, this room experienced its fair share of wear and tear. We typically DIY our painting projects. This time, time constraints dictated that we hire out the pre-selling painting projects (which also included the hall bathroom I mentioned above, and repainting our exterior doors).
Once we cleared out everything in preparation for painting, we kept it packed up in anticipation of the move.
The result: a “like new” clutter-free space where our buyers could envision themselves enjoying the space.
Tip #4: Complete Low-Cost Home Upgrades That Pack a Lot of Bang for Your Buck
Our master bath was in great shape, with one exception.
The shower area was showing its age. The door didn’t even open and close properly. Everything about the shower was downright gross. Upgrading it was one of those projects we had been wanting to do for a few years but needed the push of an impending move to spur us into action.
If we were staying in the home, we would have removed the fiberglass surround and invested in an upgraded floor-to-ceiling tile surround.
Instead, we spent a grand total of $350 upgrading the shower by installing an updated satin nickel sliding door and a new showerhead:
Check out these other examples of budget-friendly home upgrades for sellers to consider before putting your home on the market.
TIP #5: Deep Cleaning Your Home Pays Off BIG TIME
Very few things turn off a buyer more quickly than a dirty house. If you do nothing else prior to putting your home on the market, you must declutter it and clean it as you’ve never cleaned it before (I address decluttering to sell in a separate post).
It should sparkle!
In keeping with this principle, we completed cleaning tasks that we might skim over under normal circumstances.
Tasks like using ammonia to clean the heck out of our oven grates so that they looked brand new and using white vinegar to eliminate calcium build-up on our bathroom faucets:
I also highly recommend getting your windows and carpets professionally cleaned. It makes SUCH a huge difference in your home’s presentation when it’s time for that first open house.
TIP #6: Devote A Lot of Attention to Curb Appeal
Your home’s curb appeal can make the difference between the buyer driving up to your home and saying “nope, not going to bother even going in”, or getting out of the car and entering your home with a positive mindset.
You know the saying:
You don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression.
That’s never more true than in the context of selling your home. For this reason, the largest portion of our home prep budget was allocated to boosting curb appeal.
BONUS TIP: If hiring a home stager isn’t in the budget, enlist a trusted friend with an eye for detail and a knack for all things home-related to tour your home and give you honest feedback through “buyers’ eyes” about what aspects of your home are a “turn-off”.
Even though I had my list of things I knew needed to be addressed prior to putting our house on the market, I knew that there were likely things I wasn’t seeing that should be addressed. Since we are typically very attached to our homes, we are often “house blind” — unable to see flagrant flaws since we’ve lived so long with them.
That’s where my friend Heather comes in.
She’s that one friend who I turn to when I’m trying to decide between two finishes in a decorating project, or need someone to bounce a home improvement idea off of. She shares my passion for home decorating and DIY projects, and we are usually on the same wavelength when it comes to our design aesthetic.
Do you have a Heather in your life? Buy her a latte and have her come over to your home for an hour. Invite her to critique away as she starts at the front door (like a buyer would) and tours every space in your home.
What will happen is that Heather will point out issues that should be at the top of your To-Do list that you didn’t even consider.
To my shock, Heather’s critique centered around the exterior of our house. She pointed out that our house numbers looked outdated.
Easy fix. BOOM.
Next, she commented on how “claustrophic” she felt on our front stoop because of the overgrown bushes that flank the stairs…AND how, as a buyer, she’d be concerned about the tree limbs touching the house.
Mkay…obviously we needed to focus on curb appeal.
Geesh! When I look at these BEFORE photos now, it’s so dang obvious that the landscaping needed some major attention.
To be fair, we were planning to put down some new mulch and rip out the unwieldy Russian sage prior to listing.
As luck would have it, Heather’s brother is a local landscaper. So within a week, I had his crew over to rip out the old landscaping, trim the offending tree, and plant some new plants that I picked up at the local nursery:
Quite the improvement!
We purchased bags of new mulch and spread it ourselves.
When we were interviewing real estate agents, the first thing they commented on was our awesome curb appeal.
So how did we end up spending our $2,000 home sale prep budget?
- Landscaping Improvements: $900
- Painting/Drywall Repair: $600
- Carpet Cleaning: $350
- Window Cleaning: $125
- Carpet Repair: $120
- Door Trim Installation: $50
We went a wee bit over-budget, but the ROI on each one of these preparation tasks was well worth it.
If you’re looking to sell your house soon, I hope these tips will be helpful as you start preparing to list. Once you’ve tackled all of these initial cosmetic improvements, it’s time to move onto the next step in the home sale prep process — home staging.
Selling a house can be a stressful experience, but when you put some work in on the front end, it’s awesome when all of your hard work pays off with a great selling experience.
What cosmetic improvement projects will you tackle as part of your home sale prep? Let me know in the comments!