Preparing to Sell Your House, but Aren’t Sure What Improvements to Make?

Most people don’t know this, but realtors are not always used to sell or buy a house—that’s only 50% of our jobs.  We’ve gone through hours and hours of schooling, take more hours of continuing education each year, study the market daily, see developments and trends in selling and buying (and so much more).  With this knowledge and “seasoning” we can actually help a seller determine what improvements should be made on a property before selling.  Want to guess the home improvement with the highest return? I will give you a hint, it’s not inside the house.  Siding.  Siding is the highest gross return for a seller.  Know what the second one is?  Garage doors.  I know what you’re thinking, “YOU ARE WRONG. KITCHENS AND BATHS SELL A HOUSE.  I KNOW BECAUSE I WATCH HGTV!”  Did I throw you for a loop?  Now are you questioning, what improvements should I make?

 I will admit this, kitchens and baths often do make a house more appealing for a buyer.  However, they are also some of the most expensive and extensive improvements that can be made to a home.  If you don’t plan to gut your kitchen or bath just clean it before you put it on the market.  And I mean, CLEAN IT.  Scrub the sink until it shines, clean the grout in the tub, scrub the floors, maybe even freshen up paint, and please, don’t just leave the ring of rust in the toilet!  Honest to God, this makes a huge difference.  The average cost to improve a kitchen is $20,000 (don’t crucify me, I said the average) to make your kitchen look HGTV ready.  Now, I’m not saying don’t do this at all.  Heck, I did my own kitchen last year.  Why?  Because it was ugly, I didn’t like it, it lacked function, it is very small, it was outdated, no matter how much I cleaned it, it still looked dirty...the list is endless.  Do I expect to get 100% (or more) of my money back, no, but is my kitchen now the type of kitchen you see in a house worth $200k, yes.

 The market trend (specifically in WNY) is telling realtors that nice kitchens do sell, but dated clean ones can also sell in a house that’s priced right or in a highly desired neighborhood.  Some buyers might find the checkered black and white back splash endearing or they have visions of their own, so don’t panic sellers, I repeat, you do not have to gut your kitchen to sell.  BUT be realistic.  Trust your agent when she presents other homes in the area and photos of each.  What does your kitchen look like in comparison?  How does your bath compare? If your agent photographs your kitchen, will there be grease stuck to the oven?  Will there be brown soap scum dripping off the shower tile?  When a buyer views your house on the internet, the first thing she clicks are the photos.  Pretend to be a buyer, what do you see?

 Okay, so you’re probably thinking, I’m not really getting this and really, that’s okay.  What I’m trying to tell you is this: kitchens and baths are not what makes a house sellable, everything will determine if a house will sell.  Siding and garage doors are an expensive replacement, but sellers will see somewhere around a 95% to 98% return.  Why?  Because curb appeal.  Buyers haven’t lived in your house and fallen in love with the same house you have, yet.  When a buyer pulls up to your home, she will study the outside and know within in seconds if she likes a house.  This is part of the reason there is such a large return on exterior improvements.  If you cannot replace the garage doors, but they do not work, perhaps hire an expert to fix the issue.  When a home inspection happens on a property a non-functioning garage door will come up.  Instead of a buyer seeing this at a home inspection and thinking “cha-ching, cha-ching” just fix it ahead of time and it won’t be an issue.  If the exterior of the garage door has chips or rust, maybe think about painting the garage door to create a cleaner, more updated look (a basic kit is $70).   Final note about exterior improvements, when a house looks good from the outside but may be rough on the inside, buyers tend to think, “Well at least my money won’t go to the outside of the property.”  This is key because buyers dock less money when placing offers.  No gutters to be fixed?  No loss of money to the buyer.

 Now, as an agent you can absolutely request me to come to your house and tell you recommendations on what you should do to improve your home for it to sell.  Sometimes sellers do not plan to sell that year, but want to know what they can do in the next year to improve their odds of selling at a higher dollar and selling quickly.  Remember market value changes constantly, but most improvement returns stay the same.  I will also run a comparative market analysis (CMA) to show you what is currently on the market and what is under contract, what is pending, and what sold in your area.  With all of this information I can help you decide if painting your living room is worth the effort or even just updating some décor items will do the trick.  Agents can be as honest as you want them to be, you just have to tell us.  It is never our intention to walk into someone’s home and throw out home décor insults.  We know every house has a value and can sell at a value.  However, we also know that patching holes in walls will make a buyer less likely to dislike a property and start to deduct value. 

 As spring slowly rolls into the WNY market, now is the time to look at the exterior of your home and think, what will a buyer see?  Perhaps it is time to paint the chipping shutters or give your garage door a face lift.  And if you are interested in painting your garage door, I will be doing a tutorial on painting the exterior in the next few weeks (waiting for the weather to get a tad warmer), so hang tight. 


As always, feel free to drop a line!  Thanks for reading.




Gina Garlock