Home owners preparing to sell their house often ask what repairs they should do to make it more saleable without spending more than they will get back at closing. Several variables such as the seller’s motivation, budget and time frame impact this decision. However, there are some general guidelines that apply to most situations.
The importance of first impressions can’t be over emphasized. This means spend time on the exterior including the house and the yard to improve your curb appeal. Roger Voisinet, with RE/MAX Realty Specialists, advises sellers to fix anything obviously in need of repair. “Never give the buyer the impression that there is deferred maintenance,” he said. This means fix gutters, paint as needed and check the roof to see if it would benefit from power washing.
Replacing the front door can also be a good investment. In the 2014 edition of Remodeling Magazine’s annual report on which repairs recoup the most at closing, the installation of a new steel entry door was at the top of the list recouping 101.8 percent of its cost nationwide and 112 percent in our South Central region; one of the few repairs that benefitted from this kind of return. Overall, the average return on renovations from kitchen remodels to siding replacement was just over 62 percent of cost.
A big part of exterior maintenance is keeping the lawn mowed and any beds mulched and edged. If shrubs are overgrown, trim them well and be sure they are lower than the windows to let in more light. Often people overlook tree maintenance, Voisinet explained. Not only can this negatively impact the look of the house but may cause buyers to back away fearing the cost of professional tree service. He described a $500,000 home where the sellers had never once maintained the trees, something that when done correctly can better frame the house and show it to advantage.
On the other hand, there are locations where trees may be beneficial to screen your home. Loring Woodriff of Loring Woodriff Real Estate Associates said, “many consumers are sensitive to road visibility,” and she often advises prospective sellers to take this into consideration when investing in landscaping.
Overall, depending on when you are planning to sell, landscaping can be one of the best investments you can make in your home. Studies have shown that good landscaping can increase a home’s value from as much as 5 percent to over 11 percent. Not only that, it is one of the few home investments that increases in value over time since, if landscaping is well maintained, it improves as it matures. Contrast that to carpet or other common updates that can wear out and/or become outdated after a few years.
Advice about deferred maintenance also applies to the home’s interior where fixing items like leaky faucets or dings in the walls or woodwork can go a long way towards giving your buyer a feeling of comfort about the overall state of repair of the home. “Sellers should think like buyers,” Voisinet advises. He added that those who can empathize with the buyers do the best job of preparing their home for sale.
When it comes to the interior, “buyers make their minds up as soon as their foot crosses the threshold,” Woodriff said. She tells her clients, when prioritizing the tasks that need to be done, they should start at the entry and work from there back, giving lowest priority to areas of the home furthest from the front door.
“If the systems are working fine,” spend money on cosmetics, Woodriff advises. Of course if you know your heat pump is about to go, or that the roof leaks, they will need to be fixed. Your buyer will almost certainly do a home inspection that will uncover these issues. At best they may ask you to repair them anyway, and at worst major repairs may cause them to back out of the contract.
Both agents emphasized the importance of doing what it takes to have your home smell good. People living in the home get “smell fatigue,” Voisinet said and miss odors coming from mold, resident animals, or smoke. He has had buyers with allergies who wouldn’t walk in the door if there were a hint of odor.
Another critical task is to clear out all the clutter and invest in a storage unit if needed to remove as much excess stuff as possible. “Homes show best spare,” Woodriff said. It’s also important to clean the windows and open the drapes letting in as much light as possible. Voisinet also advises sellers to invest in higher wattage and brighter bulbs such as LEDs.
For the best advice on raising the value of your home, contact your REALTOR® who can help choose the repairs that make the most sense in your situation.
By Celeste M. Smucker, PhD
Celeste Smucker is a writer and blogger who lives near Charlottesville.