Preparing to Sell Your Home - Quicken Loans Zing blog

I’m looking out the window, and there’s a blanket of snow on the ground. As tempting as it would be to sit around and watch Netflix, if you’re planning on listing your home soon, now is a prime time to get a lot of those projects out of the way and be ready when the home buying market heats up in the spring.

These tips will help you get your home ready for its big reveal to the world. Your pocketbook will thank you for the return on your time, and “House of Cards” will be there when you get back.

Little Things First

It’s tempting to immediately start thinking about what can be done to put your house over the top in the minds of buyers, but before you do that, let’s give your house a little TLC. (To be clear, as much as I loved the show “Trading Spaces,” I mean tender loving care.)

You need to establish that your house has the proper bones before going any further. Does it need a new roof? Is the furnace operating at peak efficiency? Buyers aren’t going to want to sink a ton of money in basic maintenance projects when they first move in.

Your maintenance projects won’t necessarily add value to the home, but they can help you sell it faster by making it more move-in ready in the eyes of an eager buyer.

Not all your maintenance projects have to cost a ton of money. I shudder to think how much paint and drywall work will be required if my parents ever sell our house. I’ve been in an electric wheelchair since I was six; I’m now 26, but that doesn’t mean I’ve ever gotten good at driving it. This is a long way of saying a fresh coat of paint can make an awfully big difference.

On that note, let’s start with an early decor tip. Go with neutral colors. They’re the most classic, and you want anyone to be able to imagine themselves living within that space.

Do Your Research

One of the things appraisers have to do in order to put a value on your home is put it up against comparable properties (you may also hear these referred to as “comps”).

You can take a page out of the appraiser’s book and attend the open houses of homes that are laid out similarly to yours. For example, if you see what other homeowners are doing to their three-bedroom ranches, you can start to get ideas for yours.

If other homeowners have new floors or new bathrooms, that’s something to take note of. You don’t necessarily have to act on everything you see, but it gives you an idea of what the competition is doing.

One place where it might be counterproductive to start your research is Pinterest. I say this because you might not want to go with the latest trends. Trends come and go, and they might not appeal to everyone.

People that regularly deal with appraisals say that you don’t want to make any updates that give potential buyers a clue as to when the space was last touched in any sort of update. This is where more classic styles have an advantage.

Roll Up Your Sleeves

Once you’ve done your research, you can decide what, if anything, you need to renovate. Although it may vary based on what the market looks like in your area, there are a few overarching generalizations that can be made as a place for you to get started.

Big-ticket items are attractive to buyers. Prospective buyers have a good idea of how much particular renovations would cost if they were to do them on their own. Therefore, having a recently updated bathroom, kitchen or flooring makes a really good impression.

Another thing to keep in mind is when people walk through your home, they’ll notice the quality of the materials used. Porcelain might take a little more out of the pocketbook than ceramic, but it’s also going to hold up better in the long run.

When considering quality, though, it’s important not to outspend the neighborhood. Because of the way appraisals work, you’re less likely to get as much back in terms of home value by going with the latest and greatest unless everyone is doing it. For example, if you put in a fancy built-in oven fit for a top cooking show, the only way you can be sure to see a value increase is if your neighbor also does and then sells their house for more.

If you’re looking for a more cost-effective way to get a new look, try updating fixtures and sinks. In this area, though, it’s important that everything matches. You don’t want your brass mixing with satin nickel or chrome.

Another thing you can do in the kitchen is change the knobs on cabinets to give them a new look. The same principle applies to handles on doors throughout the house. The door itself doesn’t change much, so the handle can give it a whole new outlook on life.

New looks aren’t limited to doors. You can also add new drapes and blinds to accessorize windows as well. While these additions may not add a particular dollar amount to the value, they certainly add to the aesthetics that could motivate interested house hunters to put in an offer.

Curb Appeal

First impressions are extremely important when it comes time to sell your house. There are the basics like making sure the lawn is properly manicured. Beyond that, you can take some steps to inexpensively dress things up. To give the house a little life and a pop of color, you can buy potted plants and other things that you can easily take with you when you move.

New shutters can help give a different look to your house’s exterior. Also, it may help to power wash a grimy brick face and do the same thing to breathe new life into an aging deck or patio.

If you’re looking to sell your home in the fall or in the winter, there are still some special things you can do to give your exterior that added boost.

All Your House’s a Stage

It’s important to have your house properly staged for when people walk through. This means arranging your house differently than you might if you were normally living in it.

Because you don’t see a ton of houses every day, it can help to hire a professional stager. This is relatively inexpensive, and the person will be able to consult with you about the best way to lay out your space.

As a fair warning, there’s going to be a lot of stuff they’ll tell you to get rid of. There are two reasons for this: The first is that people want to imagine their stuff, not yours, in the room. Secondly, removing unnecessary items makes the room seem bigger.

While we’re talking about staging, you want to post your house online on sites like Zillow and Trulia. You want to be where people are looking.

These sites are very visual, so when you’re staging your house, think about how it will look on the site in the photos. There’s a lot that goes into it, but try to take pictures in the order people would be going through the house, and pay particular attention to lighting.

Once you set the stage, it’s time to put on the performance. Selling a house is no different.

Much like knowing your lines, you (and your real estate agent, if you have one) should know all the selling points and major features of your house. It also helps to know the school system and any local attractions.

Finally, it doesn’t hurt to butter people up a bit. I’m sure you’ve been to the local discount electronics warehouse on a weekend when they try to attract customers with the prospect of free hot dogs. You can employ a similar strategy by setting out cookies and lemonade or hot chocolate, depending on the season.

These are just a few of our best tips for selling your home. If you have any others to share, join the conversation with other readers in the comments.

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