You don't need a lot of money to make your home look better to potential buyers. Here are a few inexpensive things you can do, which could make all the difference when it comes to selling your home.
Illustration by Kevin Necessary
I asked several real estate pros for their best advice on this topic. While many of these probably won't surprise you, together they make up a handy checklist of all the things you need to do to get a higher price for your home and sell it as quickly as possible.
Increase Your Kerb Appeal
Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression, and when potential buyers walk up to your home, you've got less than a minute to impress them. How your home looks on the outside will set the tone for the rest of their tour; Matt Metcalf, the "Mile High Home Pro", says that if buyers feel your home is nicely maintained at the start, they will be more likely to look past less desirable finishes in the interior. The opposite might also be true.
The video above from MoneyTalksNews offers a before-and-after example of easy kerb appeal adjustments you can do. Even simple things like "decluttering" your landscaping, adding fresh mulch, changing the light fixture, and painting the door and trim can go a long way towards making your home look picture perfect. Metcalf offers these additional to-dos, which should cost anywhere between nothing and $200:
- Make sure the area around and including your front door is painted nicely (and caulked if necessary) or washed if brick/stone.
- Sweep up and consider a nice entry door mat.
- Check your entry light. Is it old dingy and hanging loosely? Look for deals on new light fixtures online and at discount stores.
- Pull all weeds. It is easy and does make a difference.
- If you have large bare spots in the grass put down a seed patch mix. Follow the directions to make sure it looks nice.
- If you have rock or mulch areas that look dirty and messy, purchase a few bags of matching material from hardware or landscaping stores. Put down the new clean looking material for a quick spruce up. (Alternative for those looking to cut costs and willing to do some more work - pick up the rock/mulch and put it on a screen to remove the leaves and other debris and then wash with water and put back. This will give it a clean fresh look without purchasing any new materials)
Clear The Clutter And Clean Like You've Never Cleaned Before
This is one of those no-brainers: A messy and/or dirty home is a big turnoff and suggests to buyers that you haven't kept up the place. And yet, for some mind-boggling reason, homeowners still put their places up for sale with rooms looking like the kitchen shown above. (That's not even the worst of it. Visit Ugly House Photos if you want to really be shocked.)
You don't have to get rid of everything, but decluttering as much as possible will help your rooms look bigger. This includes clearing the clutter hiding in your closets, your bathroom cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and your pantry — because buyers will look! Deb Tomaro, a broker associate at RE/MAX in Bloomington, IN, says renting a storage unit could be the best return on investment when selling your house:
$500 spent on a storage unit to radically declutter could easily net you $5000 or more on the sale of your house. Think of a hotel room. It has everything you need, but it's relatively bare. No knickknacks, nothing without a purpose.
Cleanliness is also huge. It makes buyers feel that the home is well cared for. By cleanliness, I mean, spotless, shiny, from the top of doorways and ceiling fans to the corners of the floors, baseboards and all areas in between. There should not be a surface of the home that hasn't been touched when the house goes on the market. (that's not as hard as you think unless you are a Kardashian and live in a 15,000 sq ft mansion).
Kevin Smits of the Smits Team recommends you clean your home as if you had a super anal mother-in-law coming over — a deep clean, which includes getting rid of pet smells (if any), deep cleaning the carpets, and washing your windows.
We know, most of us dread doing these tasks, but these decluttering and cleaning strategies might help. It might even be worth the investment to hire someone to help you clear and clean out your home, but either way, aim for spotless, spacious-looking rooms.
Depersonalise And Modernise The Place
You might have a great collection of Russian dolls, movie posters, or vintage family photographs to display, but buyers don't want to see them. You're better off making the place as much of a blank slate as possible, so potential buyers could actually see themselves living there instead of seeing you everywhere. (In fact, you want to remove yourself from the picture so much that you should leave the property — and take any pets with you — when it's being shown.)
This means keeping everything as neutral as possible: Paint boldly coloured walls beige or off-white, take down personal photos, and remove any and all quirky touches that could make homebuyers look elsewhere. (Yes, even that clever shower curtain.)
Paint actually might be the home seller's best friend — and you don't even have to do it for every wall (unless your walls are painted in uncommon colours). Paint trim white, advises interior designer Victoria Solomon, because wood trim is "very 1970s" and this is a pretty low-cost fix.
"Stage" Your Rooms
Many of the real estate experts talked about staging rooms; that is, setting them up to highlight their best features and downplay any faults. Decluttering and cleaning are part of staging, but it also includes things like setting out fresh flowers in the dining room, putting a bowl of fruit in the kitchen, upgrading your bathroom towels, and putting new hotel-like linens on the bed.
Carefully edit the furniture and arrangement of other items in a room so that each space has a defined purpose. A bedroom that you were using as a storage room should be turned back into a bedroom, for example. If you live in an area with lots of young parents, a small bedroom could be set up as a kid's room or nursery.
Think of the 5 senses, says home and lifestyle expert Denise Baron:
Sight: Remove clutter and make home a showcase more than a living space
Smell: After detoxing and decluttering space work on smell/scent. Cleaning is key to remove pet odours, food/cooking smells, etc. Sound: Is your home on a busy street or quiet? Some background music might be helpful
Taste: A fresh bowl of fruit gives a feeling of freshness.
Touch: Remove the dust and add some fresh flowers.
You could hire a professional stager for a few thousand dollars, but your real estate agent should be able to help you with this as well. For inspiration, check out this before and after staging photo gallery.
Pay Attention To The Fine Details
Finally, don't ignore the most obvious buyer turn-offs and the things a home inspector would ding you for (including the small things like a light not working). Cosmetic touch-ups like covering up small holes in walls or changing the hardware on kitchen cabinets are easy and inexpensive. Try to look at every room with a critical eye.
Also, good photography will make your home look its best in online listings. This infographic of 180 photography tips has excellent advice for capturing every room of your home and showcasing it in the best light.