By Bob Vila
When you’re getting ready to sell your home, there are two punch lists you need to worry about. The first contains all the issues a good home inspector is likely to find and report to prospective buyers.
The second list includes relatively minor improvements that can be extremely persuasive when it comes to seducing a buyer. Let’s call it the “I can live here list.” It’s based upon the premise that a buyer needs to be able to envision the home as his or hers – not yours. In other words, try to make your home feel less like you and more like a new house.
For the most part, the improvements are simple and inexpensive, things you can typically do yourself. Taken collectively, they can speed the sale of your home and ensure a fair selling price.
1. Do a thorough cleaning
It should go without saying, but dust bunnies and dirty windows are going to be turnoffs to most buyers. They are looking to buy a “new” house, so any signs of your tenure are bound to be negative. It’s worth hiring a service to clean carpeting and remove stains from upholstery.
2. Update the bath
If your toilet seat is worn, stained or dated, put in a new one (the cost is about $30 and the job takes less than 10 minutes). Replace the shower curtain and liner. This quick, inexpensive improvement spares prospective buyers the view of your mildew – even though they may have plenty of it back at their place. And, recaulk around the tub. This job, done right, will score lots of points with prospective buyers.
3. Run a dehumidifier
Turn it off for the house tour, but run a dehumidifier set at 60 percent relative humidity in the basement during the summer. High humidity, even in basements that do not have water problems, will promote mildew and accompanying odors. You don’t want that.
4. Improve the light
Everyone loves light, so make sure draperies are open. Replace missing or dim light bulbs too. If your compact fluorescents have dimmed over time, replace them. In recessed fixtures, there’s nothing as attractive as the light from halogen bulbs. Be sure, however, to use only bulbs and wattages that are recommended for your fixtures.
5. Clear clutter
Your real estate agent will second the motion, so get serious about throwing out or donating stuff you don’t need. Closets should show a foot or two of unused closet rod, and shelves should also offer unused space. Kitchen cabinets shouldn’t be stuffed either. Remove unnecessary furniture from rooms as well. Oh, and those prized knickknacks? Pack ’em up. It is well worth temporarily renting some space at your local storage facility for items you will be moving to your new home.
6. Get a new doormat
It’s one of the first things a buyer sees, and it can help say “new.” A doormat is also an indication that you care about keeping dirt out of your home.
7. Paint over reckless color choices
If your bedroom is purple or your living room, orange, cover it up with a nice light beige. Even if your house is already painted in neutral colors, consider repainting rooms where the walls and ceilings are stained or faded. Nothing makes rooms look new like a fresh coat of paint, and it’s one of the most affordable ways to update your space.
8. Renew floor finishes
Floors take a beating. If yours look worn, you may be able to renew them without having to resort to an expensive refinishing. Check out one of the many water-based products available from home centers and flooring stores. They can make an old floor shine. Try the product in an inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire floor.
The total cost for all of the above comes to only a few hundred dollars and a few days of work. The payback can be many times that.