Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.
If you’re looking to sell your home quickly and for the best price, there are lesser-known words that match the importance of the famous real estate phrase “location, location, location.”
These words so important? Edge call.
As the saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” When people drive up and see your home for the first time, you want them to immediately see it as a well-kept, well-maintained home.
“You’re the one doing your best,” says Christy Biberich, owner of Christy B. Design in Los Angeles, who appears on the HGTV show “Brother vs. Brother.” “We judge a book by its cover.”
While curb appeal draws buyers in, sellers who want to move quickly need to take other steps. The strategy varies by neighborhood and market conditions, but staging a home to attract the maximum number of buyers can make a difference in how quickly the home sells.
“Every property is completely different,” says Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty in San Diego, a company that helps sellers make improvements designed to get them top dollar. “The little things that bring people through the front door matter first.”
Once potential buyers are inside your home, you want to make sure the whole house looks its best. It starts with cleaning and decluttering, two improvements that cost little money and pay off big.
Then, focus on low-cost “transformative upgrades,” Biberich says. “The first thing you can do is paint.” She advises using neutral tones, but that doesn’t just mean white and beige, as gray and cream are also safe choices.
If, like most sellers, you’re on a budget, here are a dozen improvements you can make to sell your home for the best price.
1. Improve your landscape
Lay fresh grass, replace tired bushes with new ones and add color, either with flower beds or potted flowers. “Even a little goes a long way,” says Biberich.
2. Beautify your entrance
Buy a new front door or paint the old one. If your house number and mailbox look tired, buy some and install new ones.
3. Change lighting and plumbing fixtures
Gold fixtures are long outdated and brass is less popular than brushed nickel. Replacing outdated ceiling lights and bathroom faucets can give your home a modern touch for a minimal investment.
4. Clarify any spaces that might confuse buyers
If you have an odd alcove, add a desk or chest of drawers – something that will suggest how the space is best used. “Most homes have great or malfunctioning things that can be fixed,” Biberich says. Don’t leave potential buyers guessing.
5. Do partial renovations
Rather than gutting an old bathroom, for example, consider getting a new vanity and resurfacing the existing tub. In the kitchen, keep the old cabinets but replace the counters and hardware.
6. Consider Removing Popcorn Caps
“Half the people are going to walk out the front door” as soon as they see them, Christian says. But you have to be careful because popcorn ceilings in pre-1979 homes are likely to contain asbestos, he says. That means it’s far from a DIY project and you need someone authorized to remove it. Newer ceilings, on the other hand, can get wet and scratchy. Or, if it’s feasible and the ceilings are high enough, just put some drywall over them and create new ceilings.
7. Remove window treatments, unless they’re current and upscale
Removing window treatments reduces the risk of turning off potential buyers who don’t share your tastes. Uncovered windows also let in more light. “You can never guess the buyers on the window coverings,” says Christian. Once you have a deal, you can still offer buyers the ones you landed.
8. Restore parts to their original use
If you’re using your dining room as an office, turn it into a dining room. If your third bedroom is an office, turn it into a bedroom. You can, however, post a photo of the room’s other potential use.
9. Replace Dirty or Worn Carpets
You can try to clean it first, but a dirty carpet is always a hindrance for buyers. In some markets, it is better to remove the carpet if there are hardwood floors underneath.
That means putting away family photos and getting kids’ drawings (and everything else) out of the fridge. You want a new family to imagine living in the house.
11. Clean thoroughly
Do a thorough cleaning before you put your home on the market to make everything shine. Be sure to wash the windows.
Your daughter may like her purple bedroom, but a potential buyer probably won’t. Repaint all the rooms in neutral colors. A new coat of paint also gives the house a newer and more modern look.
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