Selling a House is Major Undertaking

Where do you begin? First you’ll need to establish a big-picture view of how to prepare it. This idea book will help you do that, so you can get your home in shape to sell quickly at the best possible price (without breaking your budget).

Why: Taking the time to prepare your home before putting it on the market can help it fetch a higher price and increase buyer interest, making for a quicker sale. Taking a big-picture look at what to do to get your home ready to sell will help ensure that you make the best decisions and stay under budget.

Things to consider: It makes sense to start with the outside of your home, since that is what potential buyers will notice first. Shoot for nice landscaping, a freshly cleaned exterior, a driveway and walking path in good repair, a well-lit porch and an eye-catching front door.

Make a list early on of all of the repairs your home needs, from the tiny (change a lightbulb) to the major (new roof) before deciding what to get done. The fact is that the cost of most repairs and upgrades will not be recouped in the sale price, so focus on taking care of the minor repairs and tackle bigger projects only if you feel you must.

Remove clutter and organize what’s left. Any real estate agent or home stager will tell you that getting rid of clutter and excess personal items is essential to making your home look its best to potential buyers. Less stuff will make your space look larger, which is almost always a positive thing. Overstuffed closets and drawers signal to buyers that there is not enough storage space in the home, while neat and orderly closets help buyers envision living an organized life in your house.

If you need to get a lot of furniture and accessories out of your home while it’s on the market, think about renting a storage unit. The cost could be worth it if it means your house shows better and sells faster (and hopefully for more money).

Who to hire: The pros you’ll hire to help prep your home for sale will depend on how much work your home needs and on how much work you plan to do yourself. Consider these:

  • Real estate agent: This is the first pro you will want to hire. Your Realtor should be able to give you an honest assessment of what your house needs to position it well on the market.
  • Handyperson: Hiring a handyperson for a single day is often enough to take care of a whole list of small repairs.
  • Electrician: Get that broken doorbell and porch light fixed, and update interior lighting.
  • Cleaning service: Getting your house sparkling clean is a low-cost way to make your home look its best. A professional house cleaning team can make your house shine in a single day.
  • Painter: A fresh coat of paint indoors and out is a surefire way to make your home stand out.
  • Stager: A professional home stager can help declutter your home, arrange furniture (sometimes bringing in loaner furniture) and accessories, and make paint and landscaping recommendations to get your home in top shape for a quick and profitable sale.
  • Landscape designer or gardener: Landscaping consistently makes the list of things that can influence a home sale. If you do not have a green thumb, it could be worth it to invest in pro services from someone who does.
  • Cost breakdown: Sage advice is to spend as little as possible on your home to prepare it for sale. Small changes and upgrades will give it a boost in perceived value without your having to dip too far into your savings.
  • Expect to pay $50 to $85 per hour for a handyman and $60 to $100 per hour and up for an electrician.
  • Home staging consultations (you implement most of the changes) run $150 to $500, but it can cost $2,000 and (way) up for full-service staging and furniture rentals.
  • Should you decide to rent a storage unit, expect to pay about $100 per month for a 10- by 15-foot unit.
  • House painting generally costs about $2 to $4 per square foot.

Best time to do this project: The boom time of year for home sales is summer, so it’s a good idea to set late spring or early summer as a goal date to have your home ready to sell. You can start preparing your home to sell anytime, but sooner is always better than later.

If you can, begin preparations the year before you plan to sell to give landscaping time to fill in, and to give yourself ample time to get work done. For instance, you could plant spring bulbs in the fall, take care of interior house repairs in winter and finish up the rest of your projects in spring to ready your home for its first open house in early summer.

First steps:
1.Interview and choose a real estate agent.
2.Assess your property — not just the value but also what could be done to the interior or exterior to appeal to more buyers.
3.Decide what work you are going to do yourself and what you would like a pro to do.
4.Hire a home stager. Your stager will have important input on what repairs and changes will be most worth your time and money, and which ones to skip.
5.Hire additional pros as needed, starting with a landscaper. Remember, the landscape needs time to fill in.

10 Low-Cost Tweaks to Help Your Home Sell

Put these inexpensive but invaluable fixes on your to-do list before you put your home on the market

Many homeowners won’t even consider listing their home, because they can’t afford extensive remodeling to get it ready for sale. But sometimes it’s not the major renovations that buyers notice. Consider this checklist of cheaper to-do’s before hanging that for-sale sign.

  1. Quick-clean the exterior and landscape. They don’t call it curb appeal for nothing. Check for loose or clogged gutters and broken or missing flashing materials, which help prevent leaks behind the gutters. Cut the lawn and trim the bushes. Make sure the garage doors open and close properly. Wipe down lawn furniture. Fix any dangling shutters.

    Estimated costs: Completely replacing gutters can be expensive; replacing just parts is more economical. A 10-foot gutter starts at $6; downspouts start at $8. High-end garage doors cost $1,000, but a decorative garage door hardware kit starts at $19.

  2. Make that door (and doorbell) stand out. Many homeowners don’t come in through the front door, but prospective buyers do. “While the Realtor is fiddling with the lockbox, trying to get the door open, the buyer is standing there looking around,” says stager and interior designer Deborah Goode of A Goode Start Decorating and Home Staging in Annapolis, Maryland. Fix cracked or peeling doorways with a fresh coat of paint and be sure the bell actually rings.

    Estimated costs: Exterior paints start at $30 a gallon; doorbells are $10 and up.

  3. Evaluate every entrance. It’s not just the front door that will get the once-over. “Doors offer a huge bang for the buck visually,” says Chris Neumann, director of operations for Pyramid Builders in Annapolis. Update interior doors or at least replace hinges and knobs, he suggests. “And replace any junky bifolds with double-swing or heavier solid-core doors,” he adds.

    Estimated costs: Bronze door hinges can cost $3; solid-core, unfinished pine interior doors start at $99.

  4. Look down. People walk in and wipe their feet. One of the first things they’ll notice is the condition of the floor, says Goode. Stained carpets, raggedy rugs and scratched floors are fairly easy fixes.

    Estimated costs: You can rent a carpet steam cleaner for $60; the cost of area rugs varies significantly.

  5. Select the right scent. Beware the four most dreaded words in real estate: “What is that smell?” Buyers will associate musty odors with mold damage or disrepair, so eliminate any nose agitators. Clean out litter boxes, make sure your animals are bathed, banish the kids’ stinky sports equipment to the basement or garage, and throw out that science experiment in the fridge. Find one scent (or complementing scents) you love and use it throughout the house to avoid scent overload.

    Estimated costs: Scented candles can cost $10; plug-in odor eliminators start at $17.

  6. Spot treat any blemishes. Walls are an excellent canvas, but they also clearly display age, dirt, indifference, even foundation issues. Fix any scuff marks, nail holes and paint cracks. “Remove all peeling wallpaper and repaint in neutrals to maximize the natural light,” says interior designer Jana Abel, president of J. Abel Interiors in Silver Spring, Maryland.

    Estimated costs: Spackling paste starts at $18; interior paint costs $28 a gallon and up.

  7. Have a place for everything. If buyers see that your stuff doesn’t have a home, they won’t want your home. “I always advise my clients to take out at least a third of what they have in closets,” Goode says. Make sure anything that’s not on display — shoes, coats, papers, pots, pans — is tucked away and neatly organized.

    When closet space is at a premium, repurpose other areas for storage. “Finish the garage walls and floors and add some simple storage to make the room part of the home,” says Abel.

    Estimated costs: Attractive bins and baskets cost $20 and up; basic shelving systems start at $200.

  8. Check the tracks. You may no longer notice that lopsided utensils drawer, but potential buyers will. New cabinetry may be out of the question, but fix bent drawer tracks and slides, replace dangling pulls and tighten screws and handles.

    Estimated costs: Basic rail-drawer-track kits start at $3; decorative cabinet knobs start at $4 each.

  9. Give the appliances some elbow grease. Buyers want stoves that shine, not evidence of last week’s tuna casserole. Clean the oven, refrigerator, microwave, sink and any other appliance that will be included in the purchase of the home.

    Estimated costs: Most cleaning products start at $4; elbow grease is free.

  10. Finish with finishes. Bathroom gut jobs can be pricey, but replacing finishing elements such as faucets, showerheads, towel racks and toilet paper holders can significantly brighten a room. “If you have polished chrome faucets or shower valves, you can pick up any chrome accessories and they will match, unlike satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze,” says Abel. New shower curtains, towels and mats also will help the room look updated and clean, she adds.

    Estimated costs: Showerheads can cost $40 and up; bath towels start at $10; faucets are $70 and up.

17 Ways to Increase Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Even if you are not planning to sell your home anytime soon, a fresh and welcoming exterior is a wonderful thing to come home to each day. From front doors, house numbers and porch furnishings to color schemes, landscaping and basic repairs, this smorgasbord of ideas will hopefully inspire a few changes around your own home.

1. Add big, bold house numbers. It’s so easy to swap out house numbers, and this one thing can make a huge impact. Echo your house style in the numbers you choose — a clean sans serif font for a modern house, hand-painted tiles for a cottage, aged copper for a Prairie-style home etc.

Browse house numbers in the Products section

2. Paint the front door. A front door that pops can be hugely cheering. Read up on all of the options in Houzz’s series on choosing a front-door color.

3. Add fresh porch furniture. A pair of matching rockers, Adirondack chairs or a cozy glider is a must when you have a front porch that is visible from the street.

4. Swap out porch lighting. Try replacing tiny sconces with a big, statement-making pendant light, add recessed lighting beneath the eaves or install solar lights along the front walk.

5. Add a hot-red accent. Red has such vibrancy; a little goes a very long way. Try a bright red bench, planter or mailbox to add zing that can be seen from across the street.

6. Do some hardscaping. Built-in concrete planters, a low stone wall or new paths are all great ways to add structure to your front yard that will last for many years to come.

7. Spruce up the side yard. Camouflage an eyesore with attractive fencing, clear out weeds and lay out a neat path to the backyard.

8. Add depth with a fence. A low fence around a property not only adds a welcome boundary between a hectic street and a private space, but it also makes the front yard seem larger.

9. Replace a lawn with flowers. Dig up part or all of your front lawn and plant perennials instead for a lush landscape that sets your house apart.

10. Repair the driveway and paths. Cement, stone and pavement all can split and crack over time. Repairing or replacing damaged areas can do wonders to freshen up your home’s street view.

11.Paint the garage door. The garage takes up a lot of visual space, so it pays to make sure it looks its best.

12. Refinish the porch floor. If your porch floor has seen better days, renew it by stripping off old layers of paint and finish, and brushing on stain or paint.

12.Add a shiny new door knocker. Gorgeous hardware (plus a glossy paint job) can make even the plainest door look very classy.

14.Try a unique front door. A really eye-catching front door can be just the thing to give a plain exterior a big dose of personality. Whether it’s supersleek and modern steel or a beautifully detailed Craftsman-style door, it can set the tone for the entire house.

15. Match plantings to your house style. Let the plants and pots you choose reflect the style of your house for a cohesive look. Accent a modern home with succulents and spiky-leafed plants in simple round pots, or surround your cottage with lush beds of flowers.

16.Echo the architecture with paths. Another way to accent the style of your home is by repeating the lines of the architecture in the paths and landscaping surrounding it. Wide, angular paths echo the geometry of the modern home here.

17.Create curb appeal even in the city. When you live in the city, it can be hard to personalize your home’s exterior. Work with what you have by adding neat window planters, glossy black shutters, good lighting and clearly visible house numbers.

18. Focal door. Place the emphasis on the entrance of your home by painting your front door a contrasting color from your house — it’s the easiest and most inexpensive way to improve the exterior of your home. Bam! Instant character.