News about the revival of the real estate industry seems to be popping up each day. This summer saw a spike in existing home sales, and foreclosures are down from peak highs.
That in mind, you may be considering selling your home in the upcoming year, but it’s not as easy as staking a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. It’s important to put a little time and effort—and even a few bucks—into preparing your home for sale.
“If you’re selling, you won’t want to do a lot of upgrades,” says Zeke Morris, president of the Chicago Association of Realtors and a managing broker at Keller Williams Realty. However, there are a few things you can do to make your home look its best.
Here are five tips for getting your home in sell-worthy shape:
1. Clean your house. You don’t have to have brand new appliances and floors, but everything should be cleaned and free of clutter, Morris says. The goal is to make the space as appealing as possible.
Only fill one-third of your closet, and remove items or furniture from the room that aren’t essential to its function, says Lee Harmon Waters, owner of Richmond, Va.-based LHW Interiors. “People are visually assessing square footage,” she says, so just because you can fit an extra chair in the room doesn’t mean you should.
There’s an old rule that homeowners should remove all personal items or photographs from the home, but Morris says that isn’t necessary. “As long as its tasteful, it’s fine,” he says. “It shows that the house is lived in, and if [buyers] feel like it’s lived in but well cared for, it’s a good effect.”
2. Make good first and last impressions. “The brain tends to remember the first and last pieces of information presented in a series—the middle is a blur,” says Waters. This means you need to consider your lawn and your home’s entry and exit points.
Inside, spray-paint an entryway light fixture or update it with an inexpensive thrift store find to wow buyers.
Outside, add some new mulch or colorful annual plants, as these are inexpensive options to keep your home looking updated. “Make sure your bushes are trimmed and the grass is cut, cleanly edged, and, wherever possible, make sure ground cover is fresh,” Morris says.
3. Paint your home. “A good, clean paint job really does wonders,” Morris explains. He prefers neutral or earth tones, but Waters says you can choose from a variety of options—just stay away from anything that is offensive or that elicits strong emotions, such as red, black, or neon colors.
If the walls are already a friendly hue, consider repainting to give them a new finish that is free of scuffs and scratches.
4. Make small investments. If you have a few hundred dollars to spare, Morris recommends turning the attention to your kitchen and bathrooms.
“A backsplash, you can do yourself. [It’s] under $300 to do, and it may improve the total value of your sale up to $500” because it can drastically improve the appearance of the space, he says. Updating counters and bathtubs are good options, too, as is purchasing a few area rugs to cover worn carpet.
5. Don’t forget about lighting. Everyone loves a sun-filled room, and by hanging drapes with only an inch or two of fabric covering the sides of windows, the windows will appear larger and let in more light, says Waters.
Hanging mirrors opposite windows also magnifies the light and brightens the room. Waters recommends playing with lighting and mood to make the space feel inviting instead of sterile.
If you’ve already moved out and the home is empty, consider renting some furniture to stage a few rooms. While it can be expensive, staging can help potential buyers see themselves in the home and, hopefully, seal the sales deal quickly.