It takes a savvy home seller to negotiate top dollar for their home. That’s why GOBankingRates talked to the experts and compiled the 25 best tips on how to add value to your home before you put it on the market so you can get the best price possible.
Last updated: March 23, 2021
Stage Your Property
Seventy-seven percent of realtors agree that it’s easier for a buyer to visualize a staged property as a future home, according to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Staging. The average cost to stage a home is between $2,000 and $2,400, according to data from Realtor.com. If you’re unsure how to stage a home, consider using a real estate agent.
Staging the living room for buyers, followed by the master bedroom and the kitchen were found to be most important, according to the report.
Research Your Ideal Homebuyer
Different property types attract different types of buyers, each of whom has different homebuying wants and needs. Knowing your target buyer can make a substantial difference when selling your home.
For a single-family home in good condition, for example, the target buyer is likely looking for a move-in ready home. This type of buyer “does not want to do any repairs, and so spending time and money to make repairs makes sense,” said Lucas Machado, president of South Florida-based real estate investing firm House Heroes.
“If the property is in poor condition … it likely won’t qualify for a traditional bank mortgage,” Machado added. “This means the buyer is likely to be a real estate investor or cash-flush homeowner that intends to repair the property.”
These types of buyers prefer to do repairs and upgrades themselves. “The investor can likely do that work with more skill and less cost than the regular homeowner,” said Machado.
Create a Digital Home History
Buyers today seek homes that are move-in ready and well-maintained. Online services, like HomeZada, allow a seller to create an online digital footprint that details a home’s maintenance records, floor plans, warranty documents and more. If you have properly maintained your home, an online digital footprint can enable you to showcase your efforts while allowing potential buyers to fully appreciate the home’s maintenance history.
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Boost Your Curb Appeal
How a home looks from the outside has a huge effect on how many potential buyers walk through the front door.
Than Merrill, CEO of FortuneBuilders, suggested investing in a new front door. If buying a replacement door is not within the budget, “consider repainting it for a fresh, clean look,” he said. It’s an affordable renovation you can make for less than $1,000. “Also, pressure washing the driveway and front walk — and trimming the hedges and trees — contribute to the overall look of the house.”
For people with a higher budget for renovations and repairs, Cannon Christian, president of Renovation Realty, suggested replacing worn vinyl siding. New vinyl siding can have an 80 percent or higher return on investment, according to Christian.
“It’s easy to install, cheaper than other alternatives like aluminum and wood and requires little maintenance,” he said.
Touch Up Your Landscaping
A well-landscaped home can sell for anywhere between 5.5% and 12.7% more than a home with no landscaping, according to a review of research by a Virginia Tech horticulturist, as reported by SFGate.
At a minimum, ensure your home has a well-cut lawn, a clean and tidy patio and quality garden furniture. Simple efforts like this can help boost your home’s appeal for potential buyers.
Upgrade Your Kitchen
A minor kitchen remodel offers a high likelihood of recouping the investment, found the 2018 Cost vs. Value report by Remodeling Magazine. The most important kitchen features for homebuyers include new kitchen appliances and an eat-in arrangement, according to the 2013 Home Feature Preference NAR report. Granite countertops and stainless steel kitchen appliances also ranked high.
A coat of glossy, white paint can also liven up a dark kitchen or dated wood cabinets — so can inexpensive new flooring options, like tile or bamboo.
… Or Your Bathroom
“A bathroom renovation is costly and time-consuming but, when done right, can make our lives so much better,” said Sharn Kandola, co-founder of feeDuck, a site that connects you with real estate agents. “What could be more attractive to a potential buyer?”
Still, mid-range bathroom remodels have increased in price, up 3.8%, according to the Cost vs. Value Report. To mitigate costs while enhancing impact, Kandola suggests smaller, less expensive updates like cabinet refacing, hardware replacement and new light fixture installation.
Install New Hardware
Even if a kitchen or bathroom remodel isn’t in the budget, new hardware finishes like doorknobs, cabinet pulls and drawer handles can create a big impact on a small budget. That’s exactly what you want when you’re selling your home.
“These are little things that can add a lot of charm to a home if chosen carefully and with a touch of whimsy,” said Brian Davis, real estate investor and co-founder of real estate blog SparkRental.
Create a Clutter-Free Oasis
An organized and clean home gives off the impression that the home has been well-maintained. An unmade bed, cluttered toy room or dusty drapes can give the opposite impression. Tidy rooms also appear larger.
Kelly Hager, CEO of The Kelly Hager Group Real Estate Services, said the house should be spotless before any showing. “Wipe down your baseboards, wipe down your cabinets and dust everything, including cold air vents,” she said.
Install Smart Home Technology
“Smart door locks and thermostats are inexpensive, but still uncommon enough to stand out,” said Davis. Smartphone-controlled carbon monoxide detectors, foyer lights and home security systems do have a wow factor and could just be the feature that makes your home stand out from the pack.
“Many of these items cost less than $200 each. A homeowner can buy two or three of them and tout their home as a state-of-the-art, smart home,” he added. That’s a smart selling proposition.
Make Your Walls Pretty
Many homeowners are so used to looking at their walls that they often don’t even realize that their wall treatments have become dated or faded. Many wallpapers and bright paint colors can also turn off potential buyers.
“If you have wallpaper in your home, remove it,” said Hager. “[Many] buyers do not like wallpaper.” Instead, consider an option with a broader appeal, like a neutral-colored paint.
Install a Ceiling Fan
“People love ceiling fans in their bedroom and are willing to pay more for them,” said Davis. The good news: They can be found and installed inexpensively, making them a value-driving improvement when you’re selling your home.
“I once bought a used ceiling fan at Goodwill for $3, and paid a handyman $50 to install it,” Davis said.
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Old carpet can be an eyesore for prospective homebuyers and a potential hazard for those with allergies. Hardwood floors are usually the way to go.
Ceramic tile flooring does well in hot climates, and for homeowners on a tighter budget, laminate flooring can give the look of hardwood without the hefty price tag. For homes with hardwood floors already installed, consider refinishing them.
Add a Wood Deck
Adding a new deck can increase your home’s value and offer additional living space at the fraction of the cost of a home addition. And, it can be used for at least half of the year in many areas of the country.
Light It Up
Natural light automatically makes a room more appealing. “Clean the windows, open up the blinds and turn on the lights,” suggested Nathan Garrett of Garretts Realty Group.
Artificial light upgrades can pay off as well. According to the NAR Home Feature Preferences report, one of the most common home improvements new homebuyers make is to add or replace lighting.
Keep Maintenance Up-To-Date
It’s easy to let routine maintenance slide, particularly when day-to-day life gets busy. Still, the short-term costs of regularly servicing the HVAC unit or inspecting the roof can go a long way toward boosting home value when you’re planning on selling your home.
“Sellers often forget to keep up on maintenance and when the thorough inspection happens, there can be a long list of neglected items,” said Jason Harriman of Heyl Group at Keller Williams. “Most buyers are not purchasing a new-to-them house with plans to put a bunch of money in for critical systems. Having them all in good, working condition will ensure they feel comfortable offering the premium price sellers want.”
Repair What’s Visibly Broken
Fixing a few issues before listing your home for sale can go a long way toward adding value.
“It may take a bit of elbow grease and coin, but it’s necessary when selling to discriminating homebuyers,” said Brad Chandler, CEO of Express Home Buyers. “Many homebuyers are only interested in homes that are in move-in condition.”
Chandler suggested repairing any misaligned closet doors, leaky sinks and cracked windows. “If people see something broken, they may question how well the home was cared for and worry about the integrity of the less obvious things that they can’t see,” he said.
Hire a Home Inspector
A poor home inspection report can break a good real estate deal. Eliminate that possibility by bringing someone in to assess any potential concerns before prospective buyers even start viewing the home. A pre-listing inspection can give you the chance to uncover any unforeseen snags and take care of unanticipated repairs before coming up with a listing price.
Understand Your Neighborhood
Your neighborhood will have an enormous effect on your home’s value when it comes time to sell. Top-tier upgrades like a pool, granite countertops or expensive tiling can help boost profit in a high-end neighborhood. Install those features in a less expensive area, however, and they could hinder your profit potential.
“The homeowner must have an understanding of which home features are the drivers of value in their specific neighborhood,” said Machado.”The homeowner needs to explore local real estate sales that sold for top value and make sure their home fits the mold of the top comps.”
Know When To Sell
“You want to sell when inventory levels are at their lowest and buyer demand is at the highest,” said Ryan Fitzgerald, owner of Raleigh Realty.
Selling during what online real estate site Zillow calls the “magic window” can boost a sales price by as much as $22,000 in high-cost areas like San Francisco and can sell faster than homes listed at other times during the year.
“It’s important to do your own research as to where the local real estate market is,” Fitzgerald added.
Price Your Home Properly
It’s a common mistake to set the initial asking price too high. Instead, many real estate agents suggest taking the opposite tack.
“Pricing your home slightly below market value can create urgency to active buyers who know the market,” said Garrett. An overpriced home, meanwhile, can languish on the market, which can ultimately cause buyers to suspect something is wrong with the home.
A low starting price also has another benefit. “It can also increase the odds of multiple offers,” Garrett added. Ultimately, the more offers a seller receives, the better his or her overall negotiating position.
Get Smart About Marketing
“[Most] buyers will see your home online before they ever see it in person,” said Fitzgerald. It takes just a few seconds and a couple of mouse clicks for a potential buyer to decide “if your home is worthy of an in-person showing.” To enhance appeal, Fitzgerald suggested uploading only top-quality, high-resolution photos and videos to online real estate search sites.
Once prospects are ready for an in-person visit, buyers “should block all showings until Saturday at 10 a.m.,” he suggested. This strategy “will create a line of potential homebuyers outside of your front door. When buyers see other buyers, you’ll create a sense of desirability and competition.”
Pack Away Your Personal Items
Potential buyers want to envision themselves in the home. Any personal effects left within can shatter the illusion, making the property feel less like home — and less inviting — to a potential prospect.
“Take the time to pack away certain items like pictures, trophies and awards,” suggested Garrett.
People like to buy into a community of doers, said Murray Suid, who owns four personal homes and six rental properties. “Interesting people create a positive, psychological environment that makes homes in that place more valuable.”
“Interesting” doesn’t have to mean “celebrity.” Suid’s present and former neighbors include a United Airlines training pilot, a former repo-man-turned-executive and an 80-year-old cardiologist who recently biked 500 miles to raise money for a local charity. This method is “subtle but powerful,” added Suid.
“Sometimes, selling your house has less to do with your physical property and more with how you interact with your potential buyers,” said Chandler. If a buyer wants to close on a certain timeline, he suggested you find a way to make it happen. If a buyer falls in love with an item in your home, consider including it in the offer.
“When there are multiple real estate choices, buyers can afford to be picky,” he said. “If you seem difficult to work with and there is another home on their list with a more motivated seller, you will lose out.”
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