The Renovation Dilemma: What to Fix If You’re Selling

the renovation dilemma what to fix if youre selling

By: Deborah Kearns

It’s always a Sisyphean task to set a budget for a renovation—or at the very least an ever-moving target—but if you’re planning to put your home on the market, you’ll have a way different set of calculations than a starry-eyed new homeowner.

Before you embark on a gut of your circa-1990 kitchen, consult with a Realtor® and a general contractor about which renovations will yield the biggest return on investment. How much work you’ll need depends on your home’s value, your market, and the comps in your neighborhood.

“In competitive markets where prices are through the roof, like San Francisco or New York City, you don’t really need to do renovations before selling,” says Mike Aubrey, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Gaithersburg, MD. “But in other places where inventory is going up, your house needs to measure up to the other listings on the market.”

Committed to doing some work? Start by thinking small. Minor cosmetic upgrades go a long way in getting more buyers through the door for a quicker sale—and time on market is key to determining what you’ll net at closing.

Where to start? Here are some suggested upgrades (and some to avoid):

Walls and floors

Replacing or refinishing your flooring and painting the walls are the quickest and least expensive ways to give a house new life, Aubrey says. With these enhancements, you can expect roughly a 15% uptick in asking price.

Paint color matters. Shades of gray are in with buyers right now; stay away from tan and beige hues—they scream the era of Bill Clinton and Seattle grunge, Aubrey says. While you can certainly go the DIY route with paint, hiring a pro will get the best results. Expect to spend $2,000 to $3,000 for whole-house interior painting, Aubrey says.

The same goes for new carpet. A sturdy, builder-grade fiber in a neutral color that doesn’t compete with your wall color is the way to go. While most buyers prefer hardwood floors, they’re pricey to install. If you have existing hardwood floors, refinishing them will bring back the luster.

If you live in an area where ceramic tile is the standard (hey, we’re looking at you, Florida), a less expensive and durable option is DuraCeramic, an engineered tile that mimics the look of ceramic without the high cost, Aubrey says. You can find it for less than $3 per square foot.

Doors

According to Remodeling magazine’s 2015 Cost vs. Value Report, replacing your existing front door with a new steel door will net you a 101.8% return on resale for a minimal replacement cost of about $1,230. Who knew? But think about it: It’s the first and last thing you’ll touch on your home visit. It makes an impression.

Installing a new garage door has an impact on buyers, too. Even better: It offers an 88% return at resale and costs an average of about $1,600 to replace, according to the Remodeling report.

Roof and siding

Adding a new roof and replacing your home’s unsightly vinyl siding will also yield a high ROI, Aubrey says. His assertion is backed by the Cost vs. Value Report, which found that homeowners recouped 72% and 80% of the cost, respectively, for those upgrades. Another benefit: When it comes time for inspection and appraisal, having those repairs done will not only increase the value of your home but also reduce the likelihood of being forced to make fixes or adjust pricing later in the process.

Kitchens

A modern kitchen is a top draw for buyers—but don’t try to overhaul a dated one, which could cost mucho dinero. Buying new cabinet drawer pulls, painting or refacing old cabinets (white is in right now), and installing sleek light fixtures are all low-cost upgrades that will make your kitchen sparkle.

New appliances, which can run about $10,000 for a whole-kitchen replacement, are an easy way to add value. While the upfront cost might be hard to swallow, new stainless appliances make your kitchen more attractive to a wider range of buyers, says Ashley Oakes-Lazosky, a Realtor with Vegas Homes and Fine Estates in Las Vegas.

Granite or quartz countertops are also hot, but they can be pricey, depending on your kitchen layout.

“You need bids from professional remodelers to figure out how much new countertops will cost—and if it fits your budget and timetable for selling,” says Robert Criner, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers and owner of Criner Remodeling in Newport News, VA.

A less pricey alternative is simply adding a clean, white ceramic tile backsplash to create visual appeal, Criner adds.

Upgrades to skip

Thinking about finishing an attic or basement? Adding a deck? Well, don’t. Those upgrades tend to be pricey, and buyers will likely prefer to remodel those areas to their own tastes.

Other areas to avoid doing a major renovation: bathrooms, bedrooms, and home offices, according the Remodeling report.

In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t renovate it!

 

[divider_top]

So, You Started a Bidding War. How Do You Pick the Best Offer?

home bidding wars

By: Ed Finkel

The housing market is on the rebound, home prices are rising, and, for the first time in nearly a decade, two or more offers at the same time is a common occurrence.

It’s a good problem to have if you’re a seller. But before you lean back in your chair and daydream of the piles of money you’ll be sleeping on, there’s one more thing to think about: Now that you started that bidding war, how, exactly, do you choose the best offer?

The best strategy is to play offers against one another and take the highest price, right?

Wrong! While money is a major consideration, real estate agents are counseling their clients to look at a variety of factors when entertaining multiple offers.

“People are prone to get excited when they have an offer they like,” said Andrew Sohn of Coldwell Banker in Evanston, IL. “But you have to look behind the cover of the book, so to speak. The price is on the front page. It’s the first thing people see, but you can’t judge the book by its cover.”

Contingencies, closing dates, and all-cash offers, oh my!

For instance, try looking for the most appealing (proposed) closing date and whether the bidders are willing to waive contingencies such as inspection, attorney review, and mortgage approval, said Stuart A. Schwartz of @properties, also in Evanston. By waiving their contingencies, buyers have fewer “outs” and a deal is more likely to sail through the process, he said.

And if one or more of the bidders asks for a contingency to keep the deal on hold until his or her property sells, that’s an easy buyer to eliminate from consideration, Schwartz said.

Sellers should also know how much earnest money each bidder is offering, Schwartz said. Earnest money isn’t a down payment, but it is money held by the real estate agent that provides “skin in the game” to guard against a buyer walking away from the deal at the last minute.

Also, while you might be dismissing a higher offer, remember that cash is still king.

“Whether or not it’s a cash deal would be a factor,” Schwartz said. “You’re not waiting on a loan [approval], and it may or may not be subject to appraisal.

“There’s no formula,” Schwartz added. “You sit down and go through the terms carefully and figure out what offer works best for you.”

Buyers should also examine a bidder’s financing––how stable it is and where it’s coming from, Sohn said.

“If you’ve got an offer that’s $5,000 more, but it’s from an out-of-state lender you’ve never heard of, those are shaky table legs,” Sohn said. “If you’ve got someone with a cash offer, with no contingencies, but the price is a little lower, you might be wiser to take a lower offer.”

All the offers are so similar—how do I choose?

If there are two or more offers that are roughly equivalent, a seller can respond to more than one buyer. But a seller should be transparent about the time frame and ask for what’s commonly called a “best and highest” offer. It can be tempting to keep that bidding war going, but remember—a war can be a turnoff for potential buyers.

“To negotiate in good faith, you shouldn’t sit on offers too long,” Schwartz said. “You could tell someone who made an offer on a Saturday morning that we’re not going to respond until Monday. But be upfront about the fact that it’s because you have showings over the weekend.”

Giving everyone a deadline narrows the focus and gives everyone the chance to strengthen their offer, Sohn said.

“Some people seem to think that real estate is like eBay: You can go with your offer of $800,000 from Buyer A, go to Buyer B and play it off like an auction,” he said. “There is nothing illegal about doing that, but it’s very frowned upon. It’s not considered ethical.

“If you give everyone an even playing field,” Sohn added, “that’s the best practice.”

[divider_top]

Couldn’t Sell Your Home Last Season? Here’s How to Relist It So It’ll Move

sell home this season

By: Michele Lerner

If a home lingers on the market too long, it begins to acquire, well, a reputation. Deserved or not, the home may be perceived by buyers as flawed or overpriced. So in the interest of avoiding a bad rep—or becoming the real estate equivalent of the last kid picked for kickball at recess—some sellers pull their listing from the market and take some time to reassess and, eventually, relist.

Of course, it’s not as easy as pulling the home one day and relisting the next. Even if you take a home off the market and start over with a new agent, it won’t necessarily appear as a new listing. Your local multiple listing service has rules that determine what qualifies as new.

In Chicago, for example, you’ll need to have your home off the market for as long as six months before it can count as new. In Jacksonville, FL, you only have to wait 45 days. Since the rules vary from city to city, make sure to check with a local broker about how long your home must be off the market before it can be “new” again.

In the Washington, DC, metro area, your home has to be off the market for at least 90 days to reset the “days on market” ticker to zero, says Sue Goodhart with McEnearney Associates in Alexandria, VA. She added that it’s not a total reset, because the property record will still indicate the home’s previous exposure to the market.

Property sales and listing history are easy for any prospective buyer to find, says Rhonda Duffy, broker/owner of Duffy Realty of Atlanta. While a lingering listing might be giving your home a bad rep, she thinks marketing plays an important role in getting your home sold.

“Getting a new MLS number is much less important than what I call ‘juicing’ a listing with something new that will grab the attention of buyers,” Duffy said.

The first thing an agent can do is analyze why your home didn’t sell and then address that issue, Goodhart says.

“Sometimes it’s the price, but often it’s the way the home shows in person or online, or a lack of targeted marketing,” she said. “Sometimes it’s as simple as realizing that the photos were taken on a cloudy day and it makes the rooms look too dark.”

(Click here for rest of the article)

[divider_top]

Want to Sell Your House? Don’t Do These 4 Things

sell house

By: Anne Miller

When potential buyers drive up to your home, they’re full of hope.

They imagine themselves baking in the kitchen and their kids playing in the yard. Most of all they think: “Could this be my home?”

Then they look closer. They see a mess by the driveway and the peeling paint near the roofline. Very quickly, they decide to keep driving—and keep looking. They don’t want your home. The exterior tells them the interior might have the same negative impact.

They’ve already done research on your neighborhood and know your asking price. Now they’re just driving by to see if your home has that “it” factor—not an “ick” factor.

Where do most sellers go wrong? Here are the main mistakes they make:

1. Ignore curb appeal

How your home appears from the curb is extremely important. It’s the proverbial first impression. If your home looks inviting from the outside—the yard maintained, the garden manicured and the paint fresh—potential buyers will take an interest in it. If not, they might think the interior is likely unkempt, too—and they’ll move on.

2. Crowd the buyer

When you sell your home, take yourself out of the picture. If you happen to be home, greet any potential buyers and then allow them to walk through your home undisturbed. Give them a chance to picture their couches in the living room or their dining set in the dining room. Let them have space to discuss what they’re seeing.

Some sellers crowd a buyer, thinking that any newcomer will want all the details of every renovation and every nook. Don’t do this. Let the buyer be. You can always provide an info sheet to describe anything you feel should be mentioned.

3. Offer that ‘lived-in’ look

Prospective buyers don’t want to see your clutter. It’s distracting and makes it hard for them to picture themselves in your home. A mess can often hide aspects of the home that would entice someone else to buy.

When you’re selling, keep a tidy home and tuck away all your family photos and knickknacks. Try to create as many open, clear spaces as you can. Clean off counters and other surfaces. Even the toaster and blender should be stored away when you show your home.

Ideally you will have time to give all the rooms a fresh coat of paint. You don’t need to hire an interior designer, but do look over your home with an unbiased eye. Is it warm and inviting? Pleasing to the eye?

4. Let odors linger

If you smoke or have pets, your home will likely have an odor. Although you might be used to it, others may not appreciate it.

Removing pet urine smells out of carpets takes care; you’ll likely need to use special solutions or a steam cleaner. With rugs, you may just have to buy new ones. Vinegar will work on most flooring. If you have a litter box, change it daily while showing your home.

If you smoke, try to smoke outside as much as possible. Most nonsmokers are sensitive to the smell of smoke. Not only will they want to leave, they may also find the prospect of cleansing a home of smoke odor a turnoff. You may be so used to it that you hardly notice the odor, but others will walk out the door quickly.

If there is a heavy smell in the home from years of smoking indoors, try washing the walls with vinegar. And don’t forget the curtains, shades and anything else that might collect the tar and resin from the smoke.

For any unwanted smells, try baking soda. Sprinkle it around the house, on the furniture and on the carpets. Let it sit for a day so the granules can absorb the odors and then vacuum it all up. You may have to do this a few times.

Think of it as vacuuming your way to a good deal on your home.

Based on an original article by Laura Sherman

[divider_top]

4 Tips for Sellers to Seal the Deal

house sells

By:

You want to get the best price for your homes as quickly as possible. Who doesn’t? But how do you entice prospective buyers to seal the deal? Impress potential buyers with these four well-researched real estate tips, and you may impress yourselves with the results.

1. Sales price

A correctly priced house is the key to selling a home. Buyers will be looking for a home to meet their price point and includes their top priorities. In most cases a home listing becomes stale due to improper pricing. A house priced too high may miss potential buyers, which costs time and money. And of, course, you don’t want to price yourself so low that you lose money on the house. You want to seal the deal.

2. Location, location, location

A home in an excellent location sells quicker and for more money. Home buyers seek quality of life in a neighborhood: parks, community pools, gyms and supermarkets close to home. Properties close to mass transportation, highways and fewer traffic zones save time, and they can add a lot of lifestyle convenience. This goes for future resale value, too: a home located a block from a noisy train station will have lower resale potential than one two blocks from a school and park.

3. Fix it up

This is the time to spruce up your house to seal the deal. Odd jobs you’ve put off: do them now. Fix the damaged door hinge, the chipped light switch, and the paint on the garage door. You don’t want a picky buyer to pass on your $300,000 home because they were put off by a spot of peeling paint that made them wonder if anything else is less than tip-top shape. You want to seal the deal instead by doing the little things.

4. Make your home welcoming

Sellers need to present a welcoming atmosphere. This is the best opportunity to showcase the qualities of your home for home buyer viewings so you can seal the deal. Clean up the yard as much as possible. Purchase a nice welcome mat and some potted plants to place around the entrance to the house. If your REALTOR® makes suggestions for staging the home interior—decluttering, moving furniture, maybe painting a wall—heed them. They know what’s selling. And they want no less than that for your home, too.

All sellers want to be able to seal the deal quickly, so that they can move on to their next experience. Following these quick sellers tips can help get that done sooner, rather than later.

Updated from an earlier version by Susan Wellish.

[divider_top]