Remodeling Projects and Preparing Your Home To Sell--Where's the Value?

I read articles from time to time on the subject: "How much return value will I get from home remodeling and upgrades". This is a topic that I think is very important and I believe there is a lot of misinformation available on what is required to increase a home's value and how much of a return on investment certain remodeling can add. I think this subject gets way too much thought focused on big dollars spent and too little energy on the little things that sellers can do to get buyers' attention. 

There is always some report or trade-rag that is trying to quantify how much you can expect in return on your investment from any given upgrade or remodel from your home. I don't know where they get their information, but this feels a little like the political polling numbers. One week the polls say that Reagan is in the lead, the next week it is Lincoln and the next week we read that Truman is leading in Massachusetts and Nixon is ahead in Florida. The truth is, they may all have been right for that day and the people that they talked to, but the only thing that matters is who gets elected on election day, and these would-be polls for what a home owner or Realtor believes increased the value of their home may have nothing to do with the reality of home value or the price of the home that a buyer will pay.

Two things sell homes in a good market: Pricing the home at market value and how well the home shows. Break either of these two fundamental rules, and you have a problem. You can price well to the market and still have insurmountable problems in how the house shows. Likewise, you can make a home show like the best model home and it can be priced well above the market value--again, you have a problem. Both of these two fundamentals must be on target to sell a home in most market conditions--even in a fast moving seller's market. 

Pricing is local and is something that you should get as much information as possible from your Realtor before making a pricing decision. And as for how the home shows, consider Tim's rules for remodeling, staging and preparing your home to sell:

1. Don't over-invest in major upgrades to a house that you expect to sell soon.
2. Don't under-invest in a house that you are getting ready to sell soon.
3. Make sure you meet or beat the competition in features.
4. If you have to do work, don't pay retail for your work (i.e., don't over-pay).
5. Make sure your property has a WOW factor that gets attention. 
6. Don't believe everything you read. Just because it is on the internet does not make it true. And don't believe everything you see on Sat. morning cable. You know, Sat morning used to be the time that we watched cartoons...
7. Know your properties weaknesses and try to address them first.
8. Address both inside and outside needs. Buyers are looking at both. So should you. 

What adds value to a house? Well, here is my short list. It is not all exhaustive and I have purposely ignored the obvious things like adding rooms, or increasing the square footage of the house; principally because they violate rule 1, but in some cases, you could add an inexpensive 4th bedroom to your home by adding a closet and a door to a less important game room to bring your house into competition with your neighbors and give buyers what they may be asking for. (Consult your Realtor carefully before you make changes to the floor plan of the house). However, for the sake of this list, Let's focus on simple, low cost things that a seller can do to add value to a property that is going to be sold in the near future.

Here's my list of things for the Seller to Consider:

Clean up the paint. This is easy and everyone knows how important paint can be. Paint should be sharp, fairly neutral and should not have more colors that you find on the color chart wall at Home Depot. In this case, more is NEVER better. Two or Three complimentary colors is more than enough. And yes, one neutral color is preferred over multiple colors that may not appeal to more than half of your potential buyers.

Neutral Paint

Adding a chair rail or extending the height of the baseboards. A chair-rail can really break up a room and give interest to an otherwise boring room. And there are things that you can do to enhance the baseboards in prominent rooms, like the living room. Thin, little baseboards can make a very nice room look...well, not so nice.

Take a look at this link: Quick and Easy additions to the Baseboard

Board and Batten. This is a more costly option than a chair rail and is much more compelling, especially for luxury homes and nicer homes. This is particularly compelling in the dining areas and office space. I have also used Board and Baton applications in the back entry, secondary baths and laundry/Mud rooms.

Examples of Board and Batten

Outdoor living. Outdoor kitchens are expensive and may not add the value commensurate with their costs. However, if you focus all of your time and attention to the inside of the home and don't give your curb appeal its rightful place, you should expect buyer disappointment, expressed in the lack of offers or the lack of buyer appeal. Buyer's don't buy just the interior of the house--they buy the real property. House and dirt. You need to make sure your dirt has some Wow.

Here are some ideas: Pick one

New hardware, fixtures and fans and mirrors. Bringing your home into this decade may be very important. If you are in Austin and your home has gold light fixtures and door knobs, your TV and your home may be stuck in the 80's. Gold fixtures were popular when Full House was on TV--but marketing your home as "retro" will not save you from this miss. Adding ceiling fans adds interest and functionality. Pulling down sheet glass mirrors and replacing them with (dark) framed mirrors will add value to the master bath that you could not imagine. This is not an expensive thing to do, but the difference is big. 

Flooring and cleaning the grout. The flooring of your home is a critical issue for buyers. If your carpet is dingy and dirty and the grout in your bathroom and kitchen tile is old and dark, you have a problem. The problem can be solved.

How do I make my tile and grout look like it is new?

Give your home some Wow appeal for your buyers. Here are some great ideas to create Wow for the next buyers of your home:

No list is exhaustive when it comes to preparing and staging your home to sell. Consult your local Realtor and if you live here in Austin, call me. I will be happy to help you get ready to sell your home.


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