Published on Feb 20, 2015
Jamie Chapman, a Solutions Consultant at Quicken Loans, discusses home improvements that may (or may not) affect the value of your home. Are all improvements equal? Do all of them raise your home’s value? And do they raise it at a cost equal to the improvement (for example, a $20,000 in-ground pool would raise the value of your home $20,000)? Not necessarily, says Chapman. In fact, some improvements may not change your home value at all. Surprisingly, it’s often the smaller improvements, such as a new front door or a new garage door that add the most value per dollar spent. On the larger end of updates, kitchen upgrades are good, and they may bring you joy, but they might not add immediate value to your home. The secret is to keep your home in line with the homes in your area. If everyone has updated kitchens, then you’ll get the most value from spending money on your new kitchen. A new roof? That’s considered maintenance and absolutely necessary, so it won’t raise the value of your home. To learn more about home improvements and other great information for home owners, read the Quicken Loans blog at http://www.QuickenLoans.com/Blog
Here Is Where to Begin
Remember what first attracted you to your house when you bought it? What excited you about its most appealing features? Now that you’re selling your home, you’ll need to look at it as if you were buying it all over again.
A spruced up house makes a great first impression on potential buyers. An attractive property grabs their attention and makes them excited about finding a house that looks and feels wellcared for. Because buyers know they’ll encounter fewer problems if they buy it, your house becomes more appealing and stands out from the competition. So if you prepare your home correctly, you’ll save time selling it when it’s on the market.
A good first impression makes an impact on a number of levels. It’s not just the way your house looks to potential buyers, but how it feels and smells to them, how their friends and family will react, how they imagine it would be to live there.
With simple improvements throughout your house, you can grab the attention of potential buyers and help them see why your house is right for them.
Create a plan to enhance your property. Keep a notebook for your selling project, and as you stroll through your yard, make a list of what needs to be done. Consider what your property looks like to people driving by or walking through your door. What will they like or dislike? What needs fixing, painting, cleaning? What can you improve? Whether you paint your house or fix up the yard, your efforts don’t need to be costly; even inexpensive improvements and minor repairs go far toward attracting serious buyers. But remember, those seemingly insignificant problems you’ve learned to live with can actually discourage potential buyers. Here are ideas for increasing your home’s appeal in order to sell it quickly at the best price.
Buyers expect a spotless house, inside and out. So clean everything, especially your windows and window sills. Scrub walls and floors, tile and ceilings, cupboards and drawers, kitchen and bathrooms. Wash scuff marks from doors and entryways, clean light fixtures and the fireplace. Don’t forget the laundry room. And put away your clothes.
Cut the Clutter
People are turned off by rooms that look and feel cluttered. Remember, potential buyers are buying your house, not your furniture, so help them picture themselves and their possessions in your home by making your rooms feel large, light, and airy. As you clean, pack away your personal items, such as pictures, valuables, and collectibles, and store or get rid of surplus books, magazines, videotapes, extra furniture, rugs, blankets, etc. Consider renting a storage unit to eliminate clutter in your garage and attic.
It’s hard to get rid of possessions, but cleaning and clearing out the clutter can really pay off in the end. Packing away your clutter also gets you started packing for your next move. Make your garage and basement as tidy as the rest of your house. Simple little tasks such as storing your tools and neatly rolling up your garden hose suggest that you take good care of your house. Don’t let anything detract from making your best first impression.
They’re an important consideration to many buyers. By storing clothing you won’t use soon, you’ll make closets look spacious.
A new coat of paint cleans up your living space and makes it look bright and new. To make rooms look larger, choose light, neutral colors that appeal to the most people, such as beige or white.
Check its condition. If it’s worn, consider replacing it. It’s an easy and affordable way to help sell your home faster. Again, light, neutral colors, such as beige, are best. If you don’t replace it, you can suggest to potential buyers that they could select new carpet and you’ll reduce your price; buyers like to hear they’re getting a deal. At the very least, have your carpet cleaned.
Repairs and Renovations
It’s best to avoid making major renovations just to sell the house since you’re unlikely to recoup those costs from your selling price. Make minor repairs to items such as leaky faucets, slow drains, torn screens, gutters, loose doorknobs, and broken windows. Make sure repairs are well done; buyers won’t take you seriously if your home-improvement efforts look messy, shoddy, or amateurish.
Leaks and Moisture
Water stains on ceilings or in the basement alert buyers to potential problems. Don’t try to
cosmetically cover up stains caused by leaks. If you’ve fixed the water problem, repair the damage and disclose in writing to the buyer what repairs were made.
The “Wow” factor — that first visual, high-impact impression your home makes on potential buyers — can turn a looker into a buyer. To determine your property’s curb appeal, drive through your neighborhood and note other properties; then approach your own house as if you were a potential buyer. How does it look? Does it “wow” you? Will its curb appeal attract buyers? Note what needs improving, such as trimming trees, planting shrubs, or painting gutters. Little things convey that you’ve cared for your home, and this is your opportunity to sell that important message to buyers who are shopping from the street, simply cruising neighborhoods just looking for houses for sale. To get them through your door, do what you can to make your property look like someone’s dream home.
If it’s peeling or blistering and you can’t remember the last time you painted it, your house needs some attention. That also goes for stain that is significantly faded. A newly painted or stained exterior will help sell your house faster. And whether you do it yourself or hire someone, you’ll also increase your home’s value.
In the Yard
Grab people’s attention by enhancing your yard and landscaping. If your house looks inviting and well-maintained from the street, people will imagine that it’s attractive on the inside, too.
• Prune bushes and hedges; trim trees. • Keep your lawn looking healthy and green by mowing it often, fertilizing it, and keeping it edged and trimmed. • Clean up and dispose of pet mess. • Weed your gardens; add fertilizer and mulch; then plant colorful flowers. • In winter, keep your driveway and sidewalks shoveled, de-iced, and well-lit. • Stack firewood, clean out birdbaths, repair and paint fences.
The Front Door
An attractive entry catches a buyer’s eye and says, “Welcome,” so highlight this area of your house with decorative touches, such as a wreath on the door or new shrubs and flowers around the steps. For an even grander entry, clean and paint your front door, or replace it with a new one for a few hundred dollars. Don’t forget to fix and polish doorknobs, repair torn screens, and then put out that new welcome mat.
Keep yourself organized with the following checklist.
Clean and Maintain
• Windows, sills, and screens • Walls and floor • Tile • Ceilings • Cupboards and drawers • Kitchen • Bathrooms • Light fixtures • Ceiling fans • Carpet and rugs • Mirrors • Garage • Attic • Basement • Laundry room • Yard • Gutters • Replace furnace filter • Dust furniture, TV and computer screens • Closets • Remove clutter • Pack personal items
• Leaky faucets and plumbing • Torn screens • Slow drains • Gutters • Loose doorknobs • Deck boards • Broken windows • Electrical fixtures • Water stain damage • Broken appliances • Damaged walls and ceilings • Worn carpet and rugs • Damaged sidewalks and steps
• Stain or paint deck • Store tools
• Roll up garden hose • Paint or stain exterior • Prune bushes and hedges • Trim trees • Mow lawn, fertilize, edge, and trim • Weed gardens, plant flowers • Shovel driveways, de-ice • Stack firewood • Clean out birdbaths • Caulk windows and doors • Repair and paint fences • Seal asphalt driveway • Make sure doors close properly • Enhance entryway • Replace welcome mat
The best chance for selling your property is within the first seven weeks. Studies show that the longer a property stays on the market, the less the seller will net. Below are 5 main factors to accomplishing this goal.
It is very important to price your property at a competitive marketvalue right when you list it. The market is so competitive that evenover-pricing by a few thousand dollars could mean that your house will not sell. It’s interesting, but your first offer is usually your best offer. Here are reasons for pricing your property at the market value right from the start in order to net you the most amount of money in the shortest amount of time.
An overpriced home:
• Minimizes offers • Lowers showings • Lowers agent response • Limits financing • Limits qualified buyers • Nets less for the seller
80% of the marketing is done when we decide on what price to list your home. If you are unwilling to list at current market value, you would be better off not putting it on the market at this time.
Most people are turned off by even the smallest amount of uncleanness or odor when buying a home. Sellers lose thousands of dollars because they do not adequately clean. If your house is squeaky clean, you will be able to sell your home faster and net hundreds, if not thousands of dollars more. If you are planning on moving, why not get rid of that old junk now so that your house will appear larger? Make more space.
Odors must be eliminated especially if you have dogs, cats, or young children in diapers or if you are a smoker. You may not notice the smell, but the buyers do! Most agents have a difficult time communicating to their sellers about odor. If you employ an agent to get the
most amount of money for you, please don’t take offense if he must confront you about odor problems.
Top selling agents will not show your home if both the Key and access are not readily available. They do not have time to run around town all day picking up and dropping off keys. They want to sell homes! The greatest way to show a house is to have a key! When your home is being shown, please do the following:
• Keep all lights on • Keep all drapes and shutters open • Keep all doors unlocked • Leave soft music playing • Take a short walk with your children and pets • Let the buyer be at ease and let the agents do their job
PAINT & CARPET FACTOR
Paint is your best improvement investment for getting a greater return on your money. Paint makes the whole house smell clean and neat. If your house has chipped paint, exposed wood, or the paint looks faded, it is time to paint. If your carpet is worn, dirty, outdated, or an unusual color, you may need to seriously consider replacing it. Many houses do not sell because of this problem. Don’t think that buyers have more money than you have to replace carpet. They don’t. They simply buy elsewhere.
FRONT YARD FACTOR
Your front yard immediately reflects the inside condition of your house to the buyer. People enjoy their yards. Make certain that the trees are trimmed so the house can be seen from the street. Have the grass mowed, trimmed and edged. Walkways should be swept. Debris cleared away. Remove parked cars. This all adds to curb appeal. If a buyer doesn’t like the outside, they may not stop to see the inside.
1. DON’T GET “PRE-QUALIFIED”!
Do you want to get the best house you can for the least amount of money? Then make sure you are in the strongest negotiating position possible. Price is only one bargaining chip in the negotiations, and not necessarily the most important one. Often other terms, such as the strength of the buyer or the length of escrow, are critical to a seller. In years past, I always recommended that buyers get “pre- qualified” by a lender.
This means that you spend a few minutes on the phone with a lender who asks you a few questions. Based on the answers, the lender pronounces you “pre-qualified” and issues a certificate that you can show to a seller. Sellers are aware that such certificates are WORTHLESS, and here’s why! None of the information has been verified! Oftentimesunknown problems surface!
Some of the problems I’ve seen include recorded judgments, child support payments due, glitches on the credit report due to any number of reasons both accurately and inaccurately, down payments that have not been in the clients’ bank account long enough, etc. So the way to make a strong offer today is to get “pre-approved”.
This happens AFTER all information has been checked and verified. You are actually APPROVED for the loan and the only loose end is the appraisal on the property. This process takes anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on your situation. It’s VERY POWERFUL and a weapon I recommend all my clients have in their negotiating arsenal.
2. SELL FIRST, THEN BUY
If you have a house to sell, sell it before selecting a house to buy! I haven’t seen a contingent sale work in the last 3 years, unless it’s with a new home builder who has other houses to sell and can afford to put one on a contingency.
Let’s pretend that we go out looking for the perfect house for you. We find it and you love it! Now you have to go make an offer to the seller. You want the seller to reduce the price and wait until you sell your house. The seller figures that’s a risky deal, since he might pass up a buyer who DOESN’T have to sell a house while he’s waiting for you.
So he says OK, he’ll do the contingency but it has to be a full price offer! So you see, you paid more for the house than you could have because of the contingency. Now you have to sell your existing house, and in a hurry! Otherwise you lose the dream house! So to sell quickly you might take an offer that’s lower than if you had more time.
The bottom line is that buying before selling might cost you TENS OF THOUSANDS of dollars. I always recommend that you sell first, then buy. If you’re concerned that there is not a house on the market for you, then go on a window-shopping trip. You can identify possible houses and locations without falling in love with a specific house. If you feel confident after that then put your house on the market.
Another tactic is to make the sale “subject to seller finding suitable housing”. Adding this phrase to the listing means that WHEN YOU DO FIND A BUYER, you will have some time to find the new place. If you don’t find anything to your liking, you don’t have to sell your present home.
3. PLAY THE GAME OF NINES
Before house hunting, make a list of nine things you want in the new place. Then make a list of the nine things you don’t want. I call this “NINE OF THIS AND NONE OF THAT”.
You can use this list as a scorecard to rate each property that you see. The one with the biggest score wins! This helps avoid confusion and keeps things in perspective when you’re comparing dozens of homes. When house hunting, keep in mind the difference between “SKIN AND BONES”.
The BONES are things that cannot be changed such as the location, view, size of lot, noise in the area, school district, and floor plan. The SKIN represents easily changed surface finishes like carpet, wallpaper, color, and window coverings.
Buy the house with good BONES, because the SKIN can always be changed to match your tastes. I always recommend that you imagine each house as if it were vacant. Consider each house on its underlying merits, not the seller’s decorating skills.
4. DON’T BE PUSHED INTO ANY HOUSE
Your agent should show you everything available that meets your requirements. Don’t make a decision on a house until you feel that you’ve seen enough to pick the best one. Go to the Multiple Listing computer with your agent to make sure that you are getting a COMPLETE list. In the late 1980’s, homes were selling quickly, usually a few days after listing. In that kind of market, agents advised their clients to make an offer ON THE SPOT if they liked the house. That was good advice at the time. Today there isn’t always this urgency, unless a home is drastically under priced, and you’ll know if it is.
Don’t forget to check into the SCHOOL DISTRICTS of the area you’re considering. Information is available on every school; such as class sizes, % of students that go on to college, SAT scores, etc. You can get this information from your agent or directly from the school.
5. STOP CALLING ADS!
A word of caution – agents create ads solely to make the phone ring!
Many of the homes have some drawback that’s not mentioned in the ad, such as traffic noise, power lines, or litigation in the community. What’s not mentioned in the ad is usually more important than what is. For this reason, I want you to be very careful when reading ads.
Remember that the person writing the ad is representing the seller and not you!
The most important thing you can do is have someone on your side looking out for your best interests. Your own agent will critique the property with an eye towards how well it meets your needs and will point out any drawbacks you should know about.
So whether you decide to work with me or not, pick an agent you feel comfortable with and enlist the services of that agent as a buyer’s broker. Then you become a client with all the rights, benefits, and privileges created by this agency relationship, and you’re no longer just a shopper. Did you know that many homes are sold WITHOUT A SIGN ever going up or an AD EVER BEING PUT IN THE PAPER?
These “great deals” go to those people who are committed to working with one agent. When an agent hears of a great buy, who do you think he’s going to call? His client, who he has a legal obligation to work hard for you, or someone who just called on the phone and said “keep your eyes open”? So to get the best buy on a property, I always recommend that you hire your own agent and stick with him.
But buyers no longer have to fend for themselves. You can hire a buyer agent to work on your behalf. U S News and World Report “ 10 Rookie home buyer mistakes to avoid” Ted Guarino May 07, 2010 http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/real-estate/articles/2010/02/18/10-rookie-home-buyer-mistakes-to-avoid/comments
“A TRUE AGENT is one who provides 100% loyalty to his/her clients 100% of the time. No dual agency; no “designated agency”, no “transaction brokerage;” no “Chinese walls;” no weasel clauses!” International Real Estate Directory “ Agency and True Agents” 1995 http://www.ired.com/trueagent/
Unlike traditional agents, EBAs don’t work for listing brokers
, so they avoid the risk of dual agency — when one broker represents both parties. EBAs are still paid by the seller, but they can promise to represent your interests exclusively throughout the transaction and help you negotiate the lowest price. Kiplinger. “Hire your own agent.” June 7 2011 http://www.kiplinger.com/magazine/archives/2007/03/buyers.html
If you want representation, work with a buyer broker.
They are legally obligated to represent your interests in any negotiations with sellers. Consumer Federation of America. Changes in Real Estate Agent Representation. P.4 http://www.consumerfed.org/pdfs/realestagn.pdf
Sellers’ agents and dual agents do not and cannot by law give a buyer the same degree of loyalty as an agent who acts on behalf of a buyer. … A buyer who relies on the seller’s agent or on dual agency does not receive the same degree of legal protection as that afforded by an agent acting solely on behalf of the buyer. Realty times “Oklahoma Supreme Court slams real estate commission” dated 9/24/1999