Home improvements that pay off

Today’s buyers are less willing to compromise

By Dian Hymer
Inman News™

The temptation is strong: Clean up the yard, declutter the house, and put it on the market without spending time and money sprucing the place up for sale. This is especially the case if you anticipate losing money on the sale.

Some real estate agents recommend you do little if anything to get your home ready for sale. This could work if you price the listing to look like a bargain. However, most buyers in today’s market are nervous and picky. They aren’t in a hurry and they want a house that’s move-in ready.

An agent who is looking for a fast sale might steer his or her clients away from doing any fix-up work. It takes a lot of time and coordination, not to mention money, to get a home properly prepared for sale in today’s market. Some agents don’t want to take on the effort, or haven’t the vision to see the home’s potential. This could cost you on the sale.

One agent told his clients that they needn’t do anything to get their house ready for sale. True, the house had inherent charm and good bones. But, the seller’s furniture was much too big to show the rooms off to advantage. The dogs had damaged the hardwood floor and the beautiful garden was overgrown.

The house didn’t sell until the sellers found another agent who recommended a laundry list of items to take care of before selling, including moving most of the seller’s furniture out and having the house staged.

Unfortunately, market values declined between the first and second times the home was listed. Even though the house sold quickly with multiple offers the second time it was listed, it sold for less than it would have if it had showed well the first time it hit the market.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Choose an agent to work with who has experience helping sellers prepare their homes for the market. Ask an agent you’re thinking about hiring for references. Call past sellers and ask them how effectively the agent helped them get their home sold and whether they made back the money they invested getting the home ready for sale.

A good agent should be able to supply you with a list of tradespeople who can help you paint, change outdated floor coverings and light fixtures, etc., at reasonable prices. And your agent ought to be able to provide access to the home for the people you select to help with the fix-up if you are out of town or at work.

Ideally, you should work with your agent who will help you prioritize the things that should be done to bring about a timely sale. For example, an outdated kitchen can usually be improved considerably by painting, changing light fixtures, refinishing or replacing a worn floor, and changing cabinet pulls.

It might make sense to change extremely old appliances and counters. However, it’s not a good idea to gut the kitchen and completely remodel it for sale. You won’t get that money back when you sell. The aim is to make cost-effective improvements that make your home appealing to the broadest number of buyers possible.

Painting is the least expensive improvement you can make that is likely to return more than you invest, provided you select the right colors. One seller repainted the exterior of his home before he selected a real estate agent. He painted it the same dowdy colors that adorned the house for decades. The first thing the buyers wanted to change was the exterior paint color.

THE CLOSING: For the best result, talk to a color consultant before you paint.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of “House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers” and “Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide.”

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