You’re about to list your home and perhaps feel overwhelmed by the number of things you think you need to deal with before that can happen. The broken things. The worn and torn things. The guidance from your friends with too many opinions and the internet. The easiest way to help that overwhelmed feeling subside is to have a plan of action. That’s what we’ll help you create here.
Keep this in mind: Your list of “must-do” items should not be about doing to your home what would be of interest to you; rather, focus on what a buyer would want. Buyers want to see a home that is well-maintained and in good working order. And most actionable items that meet this need fall into one of two categories for the purposes of this conversation: things that will prevent a sale and things that will make your home more appealing.
Things That Will Prevent a Sale
Unless you’re marketing a fixer-upper, most buyers want to buy a house that’s move-in ready. And after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a home, they’re not too inclined to take on big-ticket repairs or replacements.
Structural and Mechanical. Some of the highest ticket items in a home are the structural and mechanical systems, including the roof, air conditioning and heating, water heater, pipes, and electrical panel. If you’re aware of a problem with any of these things, this is your priority. Not only do buyers want all of the structural and mechanical aspects of the home to be working and in good shape, but any of these things in disrepair can also impact a buyer’s financing and thus the viability of their purchase, which is especially true for FHA and VA loans.
Roof. If your roof needs to be repaired or replaced, attend to this first. Visible damage to the roof can stop a sale before it even begins, as it’s the first thing a prospective buyer may notice. A home in need of a new roof can be a difficult home to sell. Repairing or replacing the roof is a maintenance issue, and while you can’t count on it to increase the value of your home, it will increase the marketability of your home. Buyers want to know the literal and figurative roof over their heads is safe and sound.
Siding, Shingles, and More. While you’re already outside checking out that roof, look for any missing or damaged siding and shingles, or anything on the external part of the house that buyers will notice. Repairing these things now means you don’t have to make allowances to the buyer later.
Plumbing and Electrical. Now is also the time to fix any plumbing and electrical issues. Outdated electrical panel? Running toilets? Leaky or clogged faucets? Showers that only run cold? Many of these repairs are relatively inexpensive but important. (While not as important, replacing those toilet seats while you’re working on the bathrooms will make the toilets look better, too!)
Appliances. These won’t necessarily make or break a sale. But unless you’re taking them with you, your appliances should be clean and in good working order. You might as well make that service call now, if need be.
An easy way to address what’s most important from a systems perspective is to consider a pre-inspection inspection. If you’re savvy with home repairs and such, that’s great. If you’re not, consult your real estate agent or a professional contractor and discuss what they’ll be looking for during the actual home inspection. Get a head start on that inspection—and give yourself some added peace of mind—by fixing things now rather than later that will potentially halt a sale or lower the price you get for your home.
Things That Will Make Your Home More Appealing
Paint will provide you a tremendous return on investment. While you don’t need to paint everything from top to bottom, you should focus on rooms with dark-colored paint or eccentric colors. Make sure to target areas with dirty or chipped paint as well. A few cans of paint and a couple hours of your time can really transform your home quickly. Remember that light and neutral colors are always a safe bet!
Wallpaper. If your wallpaper has given you tremendous joy, that’s fantastic. But chances are slim to none that someone walking into your home is going to be equally excited to see vintage teapot prints running in stripes up and down your walls. Unless your wallpaper was hand painted by Picasso himself, feel free to steam that paper right off and then hit the walls with the paint you just bought.
Hardwood floors should be refinished. Hardwood is a great selling point and is typically very appealing to prospective buyers. If you’ve got hardwood under carpeting, and you’re sure it’s hardwood and it’s in decent or repairable shape, ask your real estate agent if it’s worth pulling up the carpet to let that hardwood shine. If you’re sure that under the carpet is plyboard with spills and stains from children and pets, make that carpet shine!
Worn and Torn. Are there holes and dings in your walls and ceilings? Spackle, tape, and paint them. Tiles cracked or chipped? Replace them. Dirty or crumbling grout? Clean or replace as need be. Also check garage doors, door knobs, locks, and handles. The minute an interested buyer notices that something small like this doesn’t look its best, the more inclined they are to examine everything more critically. That can lead to them trying to drive your price down. There’s also the assumption that if the little things aren’t working, the big things will be problematic as well.
Updates versus Maintenance. Keep in mind, there’s a difference between updates and maintenance issues. While the former may, potentially, increase the value of your home, the latter, if unattended to, will most certainly delay or curtail the sale of your home entirely. Take care of maintenance first. Then tackle updates if your budget and circumstances allow, but only after clearing with your real estate agent that what you think will add value will actually be valuable to a prospective buyer.
For those items that may not be within your budget, you’ve got alternatives. You can offer to share the cost of replacement via a credit to the buyer’s closing costs. You can also propose a home warranty that will provide some coverage for potential breakages or malfunctions.
You may not get to all the things on your list. Time and your budget may limit what’s possible. But remember that every effort you make to put your home in the best possible light will make it that much more attractive to prospective buyers!