When selling your home, remodeling in order to increase its market value, to appeal to more buyers or to simply get the deal done is often a necessity. While it might be less fun than remodeling a home you plan to live in and enjoy, other aspects make it a rewarding proposition.
Buyers and sellers must work closely for a mutually beneficial outcome, including negotiating improvements or concessions. Kristi Taylor, Mortgage Consultant for BNC National Bank, helps many buyers and sellers in the current market and has seen many improvements that are attractive to buyers and often done by sellers to move their home off the market. Taylor says, “I believe a new coat of paint and new carpeting or refinishing of wood floors can go a long way. If you have an extremely dated kitchen or bath, that would be a great focus for some updating. You don’t have to buy new cabinets, simply resurfacing or painting along with new fixtures can give a huge facelift to the space. Curb appeal is incredibly important as well, so planting a few flowers and making sure the lawn looks nice is always a good idea.” She adds, “When showing your home, it’s all about the little details. A great, inexpensive way to create the feeling of home is to appeal to the senses by throwing some apples sprinkled with cinnamon in the oven and lightly bake them right before a showing. If you don’t have time to put something like apples or brownies in the oven, candles that smell like baked goods smell wonderful and work wonders!” Taylor works to finance the purchase of many types of homes in all price ranges, and when working with the borrower she can assure the seller that she will be there every step of the way ensuring a smooth, on time closing for all parties.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), more than half of the energy use in a typical home goes toward heating and cooling it. Energy efficient home heating and cooling systems are by far the most sought after equipment for those purchasing a new house, as they lower utility bills, are environmentally friendly, and by showcasing modern equipment it is one less, but huge, thing that a buyer won’t have to worry about post-closing. When evaluating your existing systems, Angie Timm of Complete Comfort Heating and Cooling recommends having your heating and cooling system cleaned and inspected prior to listing your home. “In our experience, having this done gives prospective buyers peace of mind with the knowledge that these vital and expensive systems have been professionally inspected and are currently in good working order. For sellers who need to replace this equipment, a high efficiency furnace is very appealing to buyers as it will result in lower utility bills!” Before you invest in a new system if it is necessary, always as about the EnergyGuide label as it lets you know how energy efficient a model is compared to others like it. Products that meet certain energy efficiency criteria will have the ENERGY STAR logo. A professional home energy assessment can also show you how specific fixes, like sealing air leaks or beefing up insulation, can also help you save money and boost efficiency without investing in a completely new system.
Corwin Keller, owner of Ideal Heating & Air Conditioning, agrees that it is incredibly important to have a certified professional inspect the heating and cooling equipment in your home for safety and efficiency prior to listing it. He says, “From my area of expertise, higher efficiency equipment might attract some people, but good maintenance records will give prospective home buyers valuable peace of mind that the equipment has been taken care of routinely. I also recommend a Combustion Analysis which gives a detailed written report of how safe the furnace is at the time of testing, which is proof to the prospective buyer and additional peace of mind. This written documentation is a reliable source to prove that you are conducting the sale of your home in a responsible way. Although it provides a great deal of pertinent information, don’t just rely on a home inspector’s evaluation of the heating and cooling equipment—get a written report that you can show anyone who is interested in your home.”
Staging the outside of your home and improving it to sell is just as important as the inside facets. Michelle Christensen, owner of Papillion Windows and Siding, says that it is very important to make sure there is no rotting material on the exterior of your home. Replacing any rotten siding, window brick mold trim, or rotten fascia boards is a great, relatively easy way to ensure your home maintains its curbside appeal. If there is any evidence of leaks in your roof, such as ceilings or walls with water stains, have a professional do an inspection and complete the recommended repairs. The same goes for any leaking or rusted guttering. If your home has a leaking roof, you should absolutely hire someone on your behalf to repair it or replace it immediately. A leaking roof will surely either push away prospective buyers or lead them to demand large price concessions. Not to mention the other problems a leaking roof can lead to, such as drywall damage, mold, and eventually structural issues. Correcting this problem will save you a lot of money, as the repairs can generally be made at a very reasonable cost and for far less than the concession a buyer may expect if they are taken on the burden of this issue. Christensen also recommends having your windows checked by a professional to determine whether there are any broken window seals, and if so, you will also want to have the window replaced. A home inspector is a great tool to use as they are generally knowledgeable about all important aspects of a home, and they will certainly uncover any roof leaks or seal failures during their inspection of your home so it’s often best to have that process completed and any issues addressed prior to listing your home. Christensen says, “Prospective home buyers often look for homes that have new windows or siding, and value those improvements when making a home buying decision. Windows especially are one investment, if researched and conducted in a cost-effective manner, with the potential to yield a good return for sellers. Papillion Windows and Siding offers replacement windows, roofing, guttering, and both siding repair or replacement services to accommodate your specific needs and the scope of your project.”
If you are already updating your windows, ideally you should consider putting solar films on all windows that have sun exposure. This is a feature that a lot of home buyers are looking for, and a simple upgrade with a lot of attractive and significant benefits. According to Jay Heffelfinger, owner of Professional Glass Tinting, a few of those benefits are:
• Protection from the damaging UV rays that cause furniture, flooring, artwork and other valuables to fade and deteriorate.
• Blocking the excessive heat from the sun that will create hot spots in the home. Window films decrease the extra exposure, and decrease the stress on your HVAC system which also lowers utility bills.
• Adds security and privacy, as films will keep people from being able to look into your home but you still have a great view from the inside.
• With film on your windows, you don’t have to keep your blinds closed all of the time. Blinds can collect a lot of unsightly dust and prevent you from seeing out of your windows.
Consulting a professional on the condition of your roof, attic and insulation before selling a home also prepares you for a smoother closing and inspection, and adds tremendous value in both comfort and efficiency for the buyer. Installing a new roof is a particularly appealing option because it provides both added curb appeal and increased value among many other benefits. According to Derek Leibert, President of Attic Solutions, “Having your attic and roof updated prior to sale is an overlooked area of tremendous value. Homes built to outdated codes have modern problems that get discovered at the time of inspection when selling, and home buyers almost always have the property inspected. Most find that there is almost always something with the roof or attic that comes back on the inspection as a red flag. Some of these include improperly vented shower fans, isolated or widespread mold on the underside of the roof, insufficient insulation, plugged or blocked soffit vents, improper balance of attic ventilation, roof flashing details—the list goes on and on. A thorough inspection by professionals will uncover any needed code upgrades and allow you to make the necessary changes prior to the final inspection. Our trained HomeFIT Engineers consider all of the overlapping trades and plan practical, results-driven solutions that satisfy code and enhance the home. It is also important to check for hail damage. We provide free inspections and consultations to address existing hail damage. Many damaged exteriors are still eligible for restoration through an insurance claim. We work with your adjuster and insurance company to help bring all the trades together as your consulting contractor on the entire project.” He adds, “In most cases we work with the seller to stay on budget, and with the buyer to customize color and style. Our Lifetime Workmanship Warranty, for example, is transferable to the buyer. How many people get a chance to have a working relationship with their contractor BEFORE moving into their home? I always stress for both buyers and sellers to be proactive and aware. Some insurance companies will not cover a home with a roof in poor condition. Hail damage prior to the sale of the home will likely not be covered under the new homeowner’s insurance policy. As always, consult your insurance agent for specifics. These are just a few of the many reasons why we love working with buyers and sellers to address things that regularly cause setbacks or delays in closing.”
There are some improvements and upgrades that are well worth your time and money for an appropriate return, but others that should certainly be avoided. Some things about a home, like the pink tile in the bathroom or shag carpet left over from the 70’s, might detract potential buyers from an otherwise perfect home and replacing these features is relatively easy and won’t break the bank. However, be warned: Not all remodeling projects are created equal. Some remodeling projects are not only huge money suckers for those looking to sell their home instead of enjoy their surroundings and investment. Not only that, they might also fail to add significant resale value to your home. When deciding which projects are worth completing, it is never a good idea to over-invest your time and money—expensive projects are rarely worth it if your goal is to simply sell the house.
• Beware of projects that could run into delays. You don’t want to end up in a situation where you have to put off listing the house or try to sell it with an unfinished project going on.
• Often times, buyers will dictate what improvements they want before they purchase the home. Sometimes, patience works in your favor and you may just want to wait and see what you have to do instead of investing in something blindly.
• Avoid unconventional appliances or features. A built-in wine cellar or a hot tub may sound like a dream addition to your home, but if you are selling in the next few years you may want to evaluate your enjoyment vs. the appeal to most home buyers. You are not going to get very much extra money for your wine cellar if the prospective buyer is envisioning tearing it out to replace with a home theatre. Personal touches often make it harder for other families to picture themselves living in the house, and are difficult to recover the total cost of your investment when you’re ready to sell.
• Rather than worrying about extending the size of your house and adding any square footage, worry about making the outside look inviting instead.
• Be careful about major kitchen and bathroom updates. These are largely touted as the two places where money is well spent, but the trick is investing in smaller improvements as opposed to major renovations. For example, bathroom renovations typically cost about $250 per square foot or more on average. This means that a 5×8 bathroom may cost upwards of $10,000 when all said and done! Instead, consider replacing the vanity, sink, faucet, mirror, or grout.
Melissa Titus, owner of Titus Designs, also notes that while kitchens and bathrooms are always high on the list of improvements to sell a home, they may not be the most cost effective improvements for the seller depending on how intensive your plans are. She advises that there are other ways to improve these areas without ripping out cabinets and countertops. Titus says, “Based on my experience, the overall care of a home is the most appealing to buyers. When a buyer sees how well a home is cared for, they are more likely to come back for another look. Updates are always going to increase the value and are highly encouraged. That being said, it is important to be careful when choosing those updates. Titus Designs is able to see what areas would benefit most from updates or simple, yet important, changes. People who are considering selling their home now would greatly benefit from a simple walk through by a professional stager/decorator. An unbiased opinion is key–we are not there to tell people what they are doing wrong, we are simply there to help point them in the right direction for a quick sale. Also, it is a great idea to de-clutter your home and make a donation to charity with all that stuff collecting dust. Less clutter generally results in more interest from potential buyers. And always, ALWAYS be honest about anything that may need a repair.” She adds, “If you are planning on selling in the next 3-5 years, make the changes you want now! If you want to paint, consider a color consultation with Titus Designs. We can then coordinate your additional needs and wants for the home. If you make the changes now you can still enjoy them! For the best facelift, simply replace old fixtures. Light fixtures are high on the list a great improvements as they are relatively easy to replace and look really sharp. Paint is everyone’s friend, so if you want an easy update, paint it! Basically, do a walk-through of your entire home and change out anything that looks old and is reasonably replaceable. When home owners appreciate their home it always shines through to potential buyers. Titus Designs offers a variety of services for home owners looking to sell. We offer design, redesign and staging. A few hours of staging or redesign of a room/home can make all the difference, and most of the time we can work with what the home owner already has! We also have contractors and professionals in many areas are able to assist in the design dream.”
When you are in the process of staging your home, less is more. At the same time you are preparing your home to place on the market for sale, you can also be sorting through your belongings to decide what you will take with you to your new home and what must go. This is also a great time to explore new decorative elements, and to change your furniture or design aesthetic altogether to match your new surroundings. When you are showing your home you should already be in the process, to some extent, of moving. As previously mentioned, the less busy or cluttered your home is, the more comfortable and inviting your home will be to visitors and prospective buyers. In such a transitional time, this is the perfect opportunity to utilize a storage facility. For a small investment, your belongings will be out of your current home, safely located in a place where they will not be damaged, and ready to move right into your new home. Thomas Friedman of Strong Box Storage says, “We offer a variety of sizes of storage for those who need to move things around while they are in transition. Many times a seller will need to move out of their current residence prior to closing on their new home, and they need a place to store their belongings in the meantime. It is also common that sellers want to move some of their possessions out of crowded garages or basements to help their homes show better. We offer a range of sizes from 5×5 to 10×40, and we always try to find the right size that fits the customer’s needs. We also provide unique keypad codes so our customers have access to their unit 365 days a year. Our office, which is open six days a week, offers a dozen different sizes of moving boxes, packing peanuts, wrapping paper, tape, and many other items that help our customers during their transportation of their belongings. We are also an independent Uhaul dealer, and we can make reservations from wherever our customers are to wherever they are going. With over 15,000 independent dealers across the country, we have been awarded a TOP One Hundred award of achievement from Uhaul. We truly consider this an honor, and do our best to best meet and exceed the needs of our new and returning customers”.
When selling the home that you have lived in, cared for, and the place that you have created many fond memories, it is easy to be very attached and biased as to how wonderful it is—to YOU. However, just because your home has meant a great deal to you does not mean it will be a great fit to all of the people who come to view it once you have placed it on the market. For this reason among many others, having a Realtor represent you and your home as a part of the selling process is crucial. Though many people feel that they can sell their home on their own, that strategy poses many difficulties and can set you up to waste a lot of your time and energy. In her recent experience as a home buyer, our president Paige Zutavern strongly advises against the For Sale by Owner approach. She says, “When I was in the market to buy my new home, looking at other homes on the market was not a hobby or something fun that I enjoyed doing as a leisure activity—it was a necessity. Those who sell their own homes are missing a ton of buyers in the market, and some buyers who won’t even consider visiting homes that aren’t represented by a Realtor or trustworthy, local real estate firm. Having your home represented by a Realtor not only gets it into the sights of many real estate companies and related professionals, it provides you and prospective buyers with an outside party for communication and any negotiations. For example, if I walked into a home and I knew it wouldn’t work for whatever reason, I felt comfortable telling my Realtor. I certainly would not have told the seller as I would not have wanted to hurt their feelings or cause unnecessary conflict. My Realtor also served as a trusted advisor to help me look past certain things, point out features I may have missed, or educate me on facets that I knew little about. Direct communication between the buyer and seller isn’t optimal because the seller is biased, invested, very likely isn’t going to be able to answer all of your questions in the capacity that a Realtor can, and the bottom line is they are not a professional at buying and selling homes in the current market conditions. Furthermore, as a home owner I would consider it offensive if someone walked through my home and hated it, and I would find it hard to negotiate with someone directly if they gave a low-ball offer. These are both common occurrences in buying and selling a home! As a buyer, you want to look at as many homes in as little time as possible until you find the right one. If there are major things you don’t like, and that can’t be changed, you really don’t want to discuss that at length with the home owner—you simply just want to keep moving on to other prospects. For these reasons, many buyers feel awkward in For Sale by Owner situations and avoid them altogether. Realtors are worth every penny of their commission, not only for their vast knowledge of all aspects of their profession but for the investment of their time and resources in assisting to stage and show your home as well as marketing your home and networking with other colleagues to find potential buyers that are willing to pay the right price. That is no easy task, nor is it something any normal person off the street would be able to do as well as a Realtor. You wouldn’t act as your own doctor or lawyer unless you are in that profession, so why would you want to act as your own real estate agent if that isn’t what you do for a living? Unless you have an abundance of spare time for researching the current market and home shopping, a Realtor will be able to match you with the perfect property much faster and for the right price.”
While selling a home presents unique difficulties, moving on is a necessary part of life. The more prepared you are to move, and the more preparations you have taken to get your home ready to sell, the smoother the process will be. However, don’t forget to use the wealth of local resources available to your advantage. There are plenty of knowledgeable professionals in the local market that are ready and willing to help you sell your home, and can help you avoid any unnecessary hassles or financial setbacks, so you can move on quickly and begin the next chapter in your life.