If you're planning to sell your home, you'll want to make sure it's looking its best before you put it on the market. Some people pay huge amounts to professional home stagers to prepare their homes–but in this article, we're going to look at ways you can get a big impact for low, or even no cost.
There are a few basic principles you ought to keep in mind while you're prepping your property.
- First impressions count, so make sure the driveway, front door, and entryway are inviting. Don't spend all your money on interior improvements and leave the front of the house looking dreadful.
- Buyers want to get a clear idea of what each room is used for and how the space is put together. Your property needs to be easily comprehensible; buyers shouldn't have to ask "what kind of room is this?" or "is this a bedroom?"
- Freshness is important. Even though it's a resale property, and might not be 100% up to date with the latest design trends, your home should feel as if it's just been given a makeover, and not tired, faded, or needing repair.
- Let the light in! Make your home feel airy and light every way you can. This will also make it feel bigger—people buy on what they see, not on what the property description tells them!
- Focus on key rooms. As far as most buyers are concerned your third bedroom can be perfectly dreadful; the rooms that they really care about are the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, and bathroom.
- Get your styling right for the season. Nice warm cuddly vibes suit winter sales, whereas summer sales are more about openness to the exterior.
The tips we run through in this article could help you dramatically increase the value of your home. One estate agent estimates that going a bit further in styling your home could add as much as 2.5% to your sales price; that's $20,000 on the average house. As a starting point, a good checklist of ways to increase your home's value can be found here. One big tip stands out; ask a friend or estate agent to specify the areas that need work. A fresh eye and an honest appraisal can really help you focus on the investments that will add the most value.
Mind you, if you have a property that really needs fixing, such as an old house you've inherited, perhaps the best thing to do is bite the bullet and sell it as a fixer. There are certainly buyers out there looking for fixer-uppers, and while you won't make top dollar, you may be able to sell more quickly and save the hassle and expense of remedial works.
If you do decide to fix, there a number of no cost, low cost and expensive fixes that ultimately increase your home's value.
Elbow grease is easily available and costs zip, zero, nada, so it's time to use some. First off, let's give the house some kerb appeal by getting to grips with the front garden. Prune any overhanging trees or unruly shrubs to get an unrestricted view of the house; power wash the front path, and remove any moss, lichen, or weeds. While you're at it, get your garbage bins out of sight, too.
Declutter the house, particularly the kitchen, bathroom and living room. Put stuff you want to keep, but don't need right now, into cupboards, in boxes, in the garage, or even into storage elsewhere. That goes for personal possessions but it also applies to furniture—if you have too many pieces of furniture in the room, or a piece that's too big for its room, store it away before the open house.
Give the house a really good clean–not just a normal going-over, but a deep clean that gets into all the corners. Clean all the tiles in the kitchen and bathroom; pull appliances out and clean behind them. Get rid of any limescale or similar long-term grime. Gather up all your curtains, rugs, bedlinen, and throws, and give them a good wash. And don't forget to clean the stove-top! Give all the doors and door handles a wipe down, and make sure you clean all the light switches (grubby hands often leave them grimy). Wash the windows, too, both inside and out.
Now you can take a look at your styling. Can you move things about to make rooms look better? For instance, move furniture out from the walls; sofas often look better on the diagonal, or set around a coffee table as an 'island'. It may take a few attempts, so keep moving things around till you're happy. Try to give the room a clear focal point, and if small pieces of furniture prove distracting, 'declutter' them. Some more styling tips can be found here.
Check all your light bulbs and fittings. Are they all working? Don't forget to check your exterior lights as well. It may be worth getting new bulbs at higher wattage to make the space look brighter.
Check the roof. Fix any broken tiles, get rid of any moss or lichen, and clean the gutters.
Finally, "make good" by fixing any small nail holes or scratches in the plaster, broken and missing trims, scratches on paintwork, and so on.
This may sound very basic, but it's surprising how many houses are presented looking frankly scruffy and down at heel. Simple uplifts can be a huge difference.
Textiles are your best friends when you want to improve your home's presentation at limited cost. You can use throws or slip covers to improve the look of a threadbare or dated sofa, for instance, and if you have a carpet that's adequate but not terribly stylish, you can use a big statement rug to cover and focus attention away from it. Buying similar colours and styles of textile can even help "pull your home together" if different rooms are furnished in different styles (for instance, if you never quite finished redecorating). At a bit more cost, if flooring looks past its best, you might consider replacing it completely with laminate or seagrass.
Artwork is another way to make a big impact at limited cost. It's amazing how one big picture can completely change the feel of a room by providing a focus and a splash of colour. Grab a big poster from a store, or hang a nice rug on the wall; you could even buy a canvas and paint it yourself with bold stripes or spots of colour. Just make sure the piece is big and bold, and fits the feeling of the room.
Don't leave a room empty—buyers have limited imaginations. Just putting a bed, side table and chair in a room makes it a bedroom—look for sales, or look on Gumtree for furniture just to give the right impression. This applies to your outdoors areas too; just getting a table and a couple of chairs, and setting them up with a nice lantern or a colourful tablecloth can get your visitors thinking about how they could use the garden.
Talking about gardens, it's worth investing in a brighter exterior. Better lighting, a few window planters, potted bushes or bamboos, or some bright flowering plants, can make your garden much more attractive; if you buy annual plants, they only have to last the duration of your marketing campaign to pay for themselves. By the way, make sure your house number stands proud - investing in brass numbers or glass look plates is worthwhile.
Other garden investments that pay off are mulch to cover the ground in the borders, ground cover plants, trellis to cover unsightly areas (such as your garbage bins), and fencing (if it needs fixing, or fresh paint).
Paint is perhaps the most cost-effective investment you can make. If you have grimy walls, a grey-looking garage door, scratched woodwork, or a faded-looking exterior, a tin of paint will more than pay its way. Use neutral tones, though not necessarily pure white, though you might find some rooms benefit from having one accent wall in a brighter colour. Repainting external walls and fences is worthwhile, particularly at the front of the house; if you have the skill or are willing to take the time to learn, repainting door and window frames can also help freshen your home's appeal.
In the kitchen and bathroom, one of the best ways to freshen up is to refresh the grouting between the tiles. Pay attention to flooring, if it's got worn or dirty; a new laminate floor can be laid in a day and won't cost much. New bench top can also pay its way; so can a new toilet seat or shower curtain. Spend a bit of money on luxurious-looking towels for your bathroom; it's a touch that makes a big difference.
If your home feels a little dim, spend some money on lightening up. You might change the window treatments to make sure more light gets in. Add wall-hung mirrors in dim spaces like the entrance hall, or in dark corners, to reflect the light, or put table lamps or floor lamps there.
If you're willing to spend more, take a look at the overall plan of your home. Are there corridors that don't seem to go anywhere, odd bits of space marooned between rooms, or room divisions that don't work? Opening up the plan can sometimes be worthwhile, but check with a builder that the wall you want to take out isn't a load bearing wall before you start making plans. From our experience, a house that failed to sell with its original four bedrooms, divided up for a larger family, saw much more interest once two of them had been made into one larger room.
Completely remodelling your kitchen and bathroom usually doesn't cost in, but there's a lot you can do to improve the look. Don't chuck the cabinets, if they're standard size, but buy new doors to update the décor. If appliances are visibly outdated, they may be worth replacing.
Before you make any more substantial investment, take a look at other comparable properties in your area. You'll get the best return on investments that bring your property up to the average level, and address shortcomings, such as lack of a second bathroom, or a kitchen that's too small, rather than on investments that try to make your home the best property on the street.
There's also one tiny investment you should make that will pay huge dividends. Give your house a good airing, and then buy some pot-pourri or aromatherapy oil. Potential buyers might not notice how fresh and clean your home smells–but they'll certainly notice if it doesn't!