Man, I sure have been talking to people about listing their houses a lot this week. I’ve never had so many people all at once call me to come critique their house. Gave me the idea to blog about my thoughts though…..Especially since so many sellers think it is better to add a positive rather than subtract a negative.
When somebody wants me to check out their house and make suggestions, I always wonder what is going on in their heads as I give my two cents. I don’t go in and tell them to tear the whole thing down and rebuilt it in whatever the current style is. I’m not one who thinks that putting granite on the counter tops is a shoe in for getting it sold. So, what do I do? First, I think about what a buyer would expect who is looking at other houses similar in age, condition, and price. If you read no further than this, take this thought with you: All you are wanting to do to your house is make it a little better than the second best one on the market. Yep. That is all. Anything more than that is wasting money. Like I always say, as long as there is a market, the best one will always sell first.
I also often get asked what improvements can be done that give the most return. I think a lot of folks are hoping I will say new flooring, new counter tops, stuff like that. I only say to do those if they are common for your neighborhood. Let’s say it cost $5000 to put down granite, and you can jack your price up by $5000. Was it worth it? Not only have you taken the time to get the job done, you are also paying the realtors another 5-6% of that amount since the sale price is now higher. So what is the highest return on your investment when getting your house ready to sell? Paint. Nobody ever gets excited when I tell them that, but it is true, especially if you can do the work yourself. Fresh paint always make any house feel better.
Another thing to remember is that a bland house with no negatives is a whole lot better than a WOW house with a few negatives. Why is that? Most people freak out over negatives. I would take a ” Builder Basic” listing with nothing to hate versus a WOW house with something wild like a crazy floor plan, backing to a busy road, only one bathroom, or anything that people don’t want. I have had two old house listings that both had fabulous features. One of them had a reaaaaally narrow staircase to what had been the attic. It had a new kitchen, great deck, and 2 great bathrooms. Another listing had the smallest living room I have ever seen, but had the whole upstairs brand new. I mean take the roof off and rebuild new. It had a walk-in closet and master bath like a new high end house, which was totally superior than any other house in the neighborhood. Both of them took a while to sell. I would call the agents that showed them for feedback and they would go on and on about how much the buyer loved such and such and what a nice job the sellers had done with this or that. I was always tempted to interrupt them and remind them that the house was for sale. But I let them finish and they always started their last sentence with the work “But”. It was like this: “Buuuuuuuut that living room was too small.” Or “Buuuuuuut they just couldn’t handle those stairs.”
What are you to do if you are getting ready to sell? After you have decluttered and all, deal with the negatives before adding any positives. Get rid of anything worn, stained, or so outdated that it is tacky. Deal with everything that needs fixed. Then, see what is common for your neighborhood. If everybody has old cabinets, you can keep them. If everybody has updated their faucet fixtures, you had better too. Once you know what is typical, take a look at what you have to work with. I mean something you have that other houses don’t. The Friends/Clients that I talked to today have a huge covered and screened deck. I am guessing that this feature is something that will separate their house from the others. Whatever your unique item is, do stuff that brings attention to it. Like for that covered deck, I would paint it, stage it, maybe put some potted plants out there. If you really wanted to go wild, mount a flat screen out there. Ever watched HGTV? All those design peeps always get giddy when they see a TV on a patio/deck…..And ALWAYS start with addressing the biggest negatives first. Most people only have a limited amount of time and money to spend. You don’t want to run out before you are done. FYI, just about every seller ends up so exhausted that they never get it all done.