| By Peggy Crowe |
Perception is reality. Let that sink in. How you view your home isn’t what’s important for resale; the buyers’ perception is all that matters. To get some fresh ideas, I reached out to a number of professionals to get their take on what can make or break a deal now or in the future.There is not a second chance to make a first impression. Curb appeal ranks Number 1.
There are many ways that you can change a “Let’s keep going,” to a “That looks great!” moment. Think back to houses that you have driven by that immediately grabbed your attention. What made them special? There are two parts: the home itself and the yard.
If you have plants, prune them now if they haven’t already flowered but wait if they have begun the process. Pull out all of the dead debris (including felled trees and branches), spent flowers, and stalks. If you want to add more, landscapers can help you decide what plants will give you that perfect look. Once they have been planted, Tommy Klein of Natural Scapes says that a maximum of 3”– 4” of mulch “retains moisture and suppresses weeds creating a nice, comfy blanket for your plants.”
Your walkways and curbs need a sharp, defined edge to make your yard look professional. If grass has thickly grown over the sidewalk, Tommy suggests beginning with a steel-bladed edger or spade. Then add the final touch with a weed eater at close to a 90-degree angle to get that magazine-cover fresh look.
Exterior home maintenance can be as simple as cutting back branches from the house, cleaning out your gutters, and pressure washing your house and decks to make a huge impact. A new mailbox with easy to read numbers starts the process on good footing. On your porch, consider adding a few inexpensive chairs and colorful pillows. A new welcome mat also sets a positive tone.
Shannon Williams of Mountains to Sea Inspections adds “the approach should be easy with no ducking around vegetation and shrubs for a welcoming feeling.” Once you get to the entry, he stresses that the front door hardware should be easy to open and the threshold should be sturdy, both of which are inexpensive fixes. If it’s a struggle to get inside or if the hardware looks worn, the buyer’s mind has already hit strike one.
What’s the Wow Factor once you are inside?
If I had $1 for every time a buyer asked for a home that was “light and airy,” I would be rich. Strive for that; it’s easier than you might think. A clean house can go a long way to create that feel. Pay particular attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. Clean like your life and sale depend on it (which they do) both on the outside and inside. Yes, I do mean inside the refrigerator, cabinets, drawers and pantry. They must be clean and look organized. They will look, I promise you.
Lighting is a make-it-or-break-it area as well. Make sure that all of your light fixtures are operational and have working light bulbs. You want your house to feel bright. This may mean adding a floor or table lamp to a dark corner. Replacing outdated lighting fixtures can immediately change a buyer’s impression. The bottom line is welcoming, even lighting in each room.
Lisa Linder of Lisa Linder Designs notes that if there is dark, bulky furniture you can brighten the room dramatically with simple additions. Try adding inexpensive, lighter colored pillows with contrasting designs or decorative sofa throws. Adding a lighter color rug that incorporates hints of the furniture color can make a world of difference. This works the same in bedrooms and baths. If you have heavy drapes, take them down and see if the room feels airy; sheers may suffice for the time being. Give your bathroom that clean, crisp feel of a luxury hotel.
In a darker kitchen, Lisa suggests adding lighter colored hand towels or trivets to break up the space. Also consider adding inexpensive under-cabinet lights or even a small, countertop lamp to add warmth to a dark corner. An affordable but impressive investment is changing outdated handles. Kitchens are also a great place to add plants that not only bring color but actually add energy through the oxygen they produce.
You knew this was coming – paint! I can’t stress this enough. You may love your dark green den but your potential buyers will probably be turned off by it. Your goal is to give your buyers a clean, neutral slate so that their minds can go wild imagining their things there. Remember that your goal is to sell your house. Just bite the bullet.
Allow as much open space as possible. Pare down the size and number of tables, chairs and other furniture so that your buyers literally have breathing room and can envision their furniture, and their future, in your house. As Lisa so aptly puts it, “Homeowners want to feel embraced, comfortable and inspired with an immediate, deep connection to the space. The goal is to create a grounded, secure and stable atmosphere so the potential buyer feels a sense of balance and alignment when they walk in.” A home is where their hearts will live. Allow them to feel it.
Shawn Merkel of Align Design agrees that you should “clean your canvas” but adds her own twist. As we have heard forever, kitchens and baths are where you make your money. But this is the time to be smart and not pull out the sledgehammers like you see on HGTV.
For a reasonable price, you can give the impression that you have done a lot. For bathrooms add new towel racks or toilet paper hangers. In both kitchens and baths, Shawn notes, “Painting the cabinets a light color makes the entire room look larger.” Consider updating with luxury vinyl flooring and counter tops with a high definition laminate. But again, Shawn stresses neutral colors in the same shade giving your potential buyers a better chance to visualize themselves there.
Preparing for selling later: Shawn notes that while colors and materials will change, certain things will always increase value. Adding storage space or making good use of what is available is always a smart idea. Are you making the best use of that dead space under the stairs or attic eaves? If you have a large bedroom, expanding a closet by just 2 feet can make a huge difference.
If your current home doesn’t have a decent sized master bedroom with a walk-in closet and separate bath, create it for your present enjoyment and long-term resale. If you have a basement, consider turning it into an apartment for extra space or income. This is where the advice of an interior designer, like Shawn, who works architecturally and aesthetically, is critical.
If you decide to redo your kitchen or bathroom, Habitat for Humanity’s Deconstruction team can take down those old cabinets, counter tops, vanities, and toilets for a minimal fee. The ReStore can also pick up appliances and larger items. The resale of these items 100% fund affordable houses for those in need. You might also pick up some finds, such as new flooring, while you are there!
Don’t forget the value that outside changes bring. Thomas Klein, co-owner of Natural Scapes, indicates that extending your living space outside can add great value especially in smaller homes, giving the perception of a much larger living area. “It’s a matter of lifestyle,“ Thomas notes. He adds,” It’s like you are on a retreat all year long.”
Is all of this work worth it? The definitive answer is yes! It will make the difference between you selling your home quickly and for more money.
The hardest part of getting ready to sell is changing your mindset from that of a homeowner to one of a home seller. Make a plan on what you need to tackle and what your timeframe and budget allow. Almost everything suggested can be quite cost-effective. If you are unsure, that is the time to bring in a real estate professional to give you suggestions and direction. You can do this!
Peggy Crowe is a REALTOR® with Coldwell Banker King in Asheville along with covering all of the contiguous counties. If you would like her advice, don’t hesitate to contact her at 828-318-4423 or Peggy.Crowe@coldwellbanker.com.