I was recently asked what improvements are worth making prior to putting a home on the market. The question didn't have to do with staging per se, or decluttering, but with actual changes to the home that might be required. Every home is different, but the best way to answer that question is to provide insight into what buyers in my area are asking for, and how they react when out home searching:
Buyers in the Monroe, NY area most often ask for hardwood floors. Some are fine with laminate as well. What they don't want is vinyl or carpeting. The reasons are many for the request for wood including a richer look, more options in terms of area or throw rugs, less allergens, and easier to clean.
This does not mean that a seller needs to rip out all their floors and replace with hardwood, but it does suggest a review of flooring is needed. If you have carpets that are in decent shape, make sure a deep cleaning is completed. There should be no stains or odors. If the carpet is in terrible shape, replace it. If the home has hardwood floors that are showing their wear, get them refinished. Many buyers are okay with carpet in the bedrooms and tile in the kitchen, but want hardwood in the living room, dining room, entryway and office.
Your house should have walls. OK, that's a no-brainer, but this section has to do with the condition of your walls. Buyers in the Monroe NY area want painted walls, usually with a relatively neutral color. They are not fans of wood paneling on walls, unless it's a well-done section below a chair rail. If you have big sheets of paneling covering a room, that won't usually get rave reviews. And while other parts of the country seem to be seeing a surge in the desirability of wallpaper, in my town, wallpaper is not a plus. Finally, in addition to removing or repainting paneling, and removing wallpaper, a seller should also move to minimize art work and family photos, and make sure any holes are eliminated and paint is fresh. Stains, smudges, picture frame holes, dings, etc., are not wanted.
Buyers want a house that looks cared for. Walking up the front step to see a crooked shutter, or a ripped screen or another unrepaired problem will make the buyer wonder what else wasn't taken care of. So before putting your home on the market, it would be best to walk around the outside and inside of your home and turn a critical eye on everything. Make a list of anything you see that needs to be repaired, and if you can't objectively do this, ask a relative, friend or neighbor to help. The list should include crooked fixtures, cracks in door frames, missing dowels in a stair rail, broken tile in the kitchen, moldy or missing tiles in the bathroom, missing glass on an oven, and on and on. Anything you've been living with that bugs you will turn off a potential buyer, so now is the time to take care of all those small issues.
This one should go without saying, but ignoring major repairs can seriously decrease the amount of money you will get when you sell your home. If the roof is leaking or missing tiles, or the driveway is so rutted it's impossible to drive on it, or you have a moldy and rotten shed, or the vinyl siding is falling off, or your furnace is groaning and doesn't work all the time, fix it. When buyers see items that need major repairs, they simply know the house is going to be a money pit and many will pass and look for something else, and the remaining hardy buyers will make a low offer.
While pools can be a wonderful feature for buyers who want one, most buyers I have worked with do not want a pool. In fact, many tell me not to show them houses with pools because they don't want the liability or the maintenance responsibilities that come with one and they don't want to be responsible for removing it. This doesn't mean if you have a pool that you'll have more trouble selling your home, but it does mean that if you don't have one, don't add it. And if you do have one, make sure the pool and the surrounding deck or patio is in tip-top shape.
Updating kitchen and baths:
Many buyers want beautiful, top of the line kitchens, but they'll settle for a well maintained and spotless kitchen that they can update at some time in the future. The same goes with updated bathrooms. I am one who believes you should spend the money to update your baths and kitchen if you want to enjoy those rooms while you live there. I also believe if you update those rooms, you will get more money for your home, but there is no guarantee that you will recoup what you spend.
So here, the plan really depends on the specific home. If you have a blue or pink tiled bathroom from the 70s, I'd suggest updating it. You don't have to pick the most expensive tile and bathtub/shower, but it should look updated. The same with the old mustard colored kitchens. You might be able to get away with new appliances and perhaps repainted cabinets, but you want it to look clean and functional.
Clean and brighten
As a seller prepares their home for sale, "clean" and "bright" should be foremost in their mind. When buyers come to see the home, they need to be able to "see" it. So make sure all ceiling lights have bright enough bulbs that all work, and make sure all light switches actually switch on a light. And clean, clean, clean. Under the sink, in the refrigerator, under the toaster, under the beds and on and on. I've never seen a house that was too clean!
And those are some of the HouseKat's tips for sellers who are considering selling their homes. While every house is different, focusing on those major items should provide useful home preparation information. Of course, if you are thinking of selling a home in the Monroe, NY area and would like real eyeballs checking out your home, feel free to call me on 914-419-0270 or email me at email@example.com. I'd be happy to assist!