Renovations, Staging or Sprucing Up? What Sells Your Home Quickly and for the Most Money

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Looking to sell your home quickly and for the best price? Renovations to a kitchen or bathroom, professional staging or a general sprucing up can drastically improve the speed and price at which you're able to sell. Here's a look at what's right for your home, schedule and budget.

General cleaning and accenting

The majority of people looking to buy a house are most concerned with the bare bones: the roof, the foundation and the condition of the electrical and plumbing systems.

"They want to know those key things are sound and new enough to be an asset," says Daniel Gregory, editor of Houseplans.com. "People can live with a broken tile for a while, but they have to know the basics are in place. If your house is in generally good condition, all it may need is some cleaning, paining, or some jazzy colorful pillows."

Before you do anything else, get the windows washed, says Rebecca Knaster, licensed associate broker with the William Raveis real estate agency in New York City.

"Windows that are cleaned make an apartment sparkle. Grimy windows make it look dark and depressing," she says.

Everyone wants to feel like the house they are buying is really well taken care of, says Eddie Tyner, general manager of ForSaleByOwner.com.

"Those first impressions people have when they walk up to the house really mean a lot. A buyer's biggest fear is that there's something wrong with the house behind the scenes that they won't see until months later. A good first impression helps calm them. The thinking is, if people have taken good care of the outside, they've taken care of the details inside as well."

Some of the most basic and most affordable ways to spruce up your home include cleaning and de-cluttering, proper lighting, landscaping the front yard and painting.

When cleaning and de-cluttering, start by packing items that are out of season and infrequently used, Tyner recommends.

"Trash, recycle or give away unwanted electronics, furniture and other items. Consider moving big, bulky furniture to off-site storage," he says. "Also, deep clean carpets, wood and tile flooring. Pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms, as these are the rooms that buyers will inspect closest."

With lighting, don't just stop with clean windows. Also look at replacing light fixtures and bulbs, and consider removing or tying back curtains to allow for more natural light, Tyner says.

Other solid options for a quick home facelift include shaping and pruning trees and shrubs and adding colorful flowers and plants that match the season. Also, if your kitchen has seen better days, consider painting, sanding or staining the cabinets and replacing the knobs, rather than paying for a major kitchen remodel.

Staging

Assuming a house is of typical size and condition for its neighborhood, a professional home staging can really make a difference, says Jennifer Adams, CEO of Jennifer Adams Worldwide and a design expert on The Better Show.

"Staging can enhance all aspects of a home, inside and out, including the kitchen or bath," Adams says. "A thorough staging could include repairing walls, neutralizing paint colors, providing attractive furniture, window treatments and art."

A staging firm can do as little or as much as you want them to, Knaster explains. They can repaint and change out cabinet knobs, or they can make your home seem more inviting by setting out candles and doing small rearranging and redecorating tasks. Staging is also something you can do yourself — there's no need to hire a firm if you have the time and ability.

"Professional staging is one option, but people can get a sense of how to re-stage and make rooms look better by looking online. You can dig deeper into a particular room and see different layout options and solutions for making the room look bigger and brighter," he says.

One of the most important things you can do for your home is to leave some furniture in each room, even if you've already moved out.

"A lot of people think an empty apartment looks larger, but it actually looks a lot smaller," Knaster says. "It needs to look lived-in. When you walk into bedroom and you see beautifully made bed, that is what you notice. It's the little things like bath towels, a nice bath mat and soap dispenser that can make the place seem simply furnished, but furnished and cozy."

Renovations

Not everyone needs renovations, but they can help boost the value of a home substantially, Knaster says. Each home should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine how much value the renovations would add to the overall price of the home. An experienced agent will be able to tell you what they think should be done and how much it may increase your home's sale price. 

"If everything is 30 years old and the kitchen has formica countertops and white cabinets with peeling paint, in that instance, putting in a new kitchen makes all the difference," she says.

It's not unheard of for $15,000 worth of renovations to yield an additional $100,000 on the sale price, she says.

"I had a client who put in a new stone counter in the kitchen, new appliances, a new vanity and light fixtures, and we went from listing the apartment for $550,000 to getting $689,000. People don't want to do work anymore. In the 1990s and the early 2000s, people were willing to do a little more work, but today, it's seen as overly time consuming, and they're too busy."

For the most part, kitchens and bathrooms are the most common rooms that need renovation, as they have the most counter space, fixtures, light fixtures and appliances.

"With the living room, you can paint it, you can resurface the floors and you can get rid of any big monstrosity wall units that date the apartment," she says. "But that's about it. You can also update the closet system in all rooms, as that can be a big selling point in an apartment."

At the end of the day, if you're still unsure whether to make renovations, Tyner suggests checking out other similar houses in your neighborhood.

"If other homes in your area have newer bathrooms and kitchens, it will be harder for you to get the same price for your home because people won't believe it's been cared for in the same way," he says. "You have to be ready to make some concessions."

Also, keep in mind that large renovations such as a basement remodel can price a home out of the market. 

"We advise homeowners to avoid taking on renovation projects that show the lowest return on investment, including home office remodels, sun-room additions and swimming pools," Tyner cautions.

Follow Kathryn on Twitter @KathrynTuggle

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