Should You Spruce Up Your Home Before You Sell?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked by homeowners who are considering putting their home on the market. Usually, if you ask a realtor, the answer is always YES! However, it’s not that simple, since sometimes you might be throwing good money away if you are not smart about the quick “fix-ups” you do.
So, what are the best projects to complete before going on the market? It really depends on the condition your home is in. I’ve been in literally thousands of homes over the years, and one thing is almost always apparent right away: Either a homeowner has cared for their home over the years or they’ve neglected it, which puts it into the fixer-upper category. Depending on which category your home fits in, it may not make sense to do anything. Here’s a look at both scenarios: The Great Shape/Well-Maintained Home vs. Neglected and Threadbare/Fixer Upper Home.
GREAT SHAPE/WELL-MAINTAINED HOME:
These homes are a dream for a contractor and for a realtor. Generally, owners who take great care of their homes also take care of the yard, driveway, etc. These are the folks who don’t wait too long between paint jobs, who replace the carpet when it’s needed, keep the wood floors looking great, and almost always have updated kitchens and baths. Most of the time you can tell right when you pull in the driveway whether a home is well-maintained. A home in great shape is easier to work on and a lot easier for a realtor to sell. Many of these homes are ready to list and have tremendous curb appeal. At most, they may need a few paint touch-ups on the interior and exterior and other basic minor repairs.
Neglected Home/Threadbare/Tired Finishes:
Ok, let’s face it, this is the category that is in question. Just like a well-maintained home stands out in a neighborhood, sadly, so does a home that is in poor condition. These are the homes I often disagree with realtors on. Realtors are all about painting the whole interior or exterior, adding new counters or a tile back splash, painting the cabinets, and possibly even upgrading the bathrooms.
While a coat of paint in a room or two might be advised in some situations, if the existing colors are atrocious, generally I don’t recommend investing thousands of dollars in a home just to sell it. A good example is “the kitchen”. Over the years, I’ve had hundreds of clients call and say they need to quickly paint the cabinets, install granite countertops, and add a tile backsplash to get their home on the market. Sometimes, they even want new floors in the kitchen. Why bother? A well-informed buyer is going to know at a glance that it’s an old kitchen, with dated cabinets, that will likely need to be gutted and updated anyway.
This applies to bathrooms and other major interior renovations, too. A professional realtor understands what market value should be for your home. Do you really think you are going to increase the sale price of your home by the amount you put in, or more? This is highly doubtful. If your home is more of a fixer upper, you should price it accordingly and don’t put yourself through the stress of renovations. Leave the updates to the homebuyer so they can design and implement the updates the way they want them. There are enough home buyers out there who will look at move-in ready homes vs. fixer uppers and they will decide which way they want to go. You’re not going to make up for years of neglect and fool a potential buyer with quick, cheap updates.
One caveat to consider is contending with the obvious problems with your home, such as a leaking roof, rotting trim boards, or major peeling paint. It’s probably worth fixing those types of items. Keep in mind though, you are not going to make up for years of neglect and get your house looking like new with a quick paint job. It’s always a huge red flag when folks call in for an exterior paint job and proudly state, “I haven’t painted the exterior of my home in 15 years.” Guess what? You’re not going to get a great paint job for the same price as your neighbor who has taken great care of their home and painted it when it needed it. The added prep required from the years of weathering and wear and tear will take its toll in labor. To properly paint a weathered home, the prep must be done professionally. The longer you go between paint jobs, the more prep work will be needed to paint the home to attain the desired result.
In the end, it truly pays off overall to make a conscious effort to keep your home well-maintained in the event you want to sell. The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly pertains to home maintenance – especially if you are deciding to sell.