10 Easy Fixes when Selling Your Home
BY NANCY BIERENGA, REALTOR®, E-PRO, ABR, éLAN REALTY, PAST PRESIDENT, WEST MICHIGAN LAKESHORE ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
There are a lot of things you can't control when you’re trying to sell your home. For instance, neither you nor your Realtor can force people to come see your home or make an offer on it.
There are some easy and inexpensive fixes that will attract people rather than turn them off, though. Realtors hear all the comments from potential buyers. This month we will look at the most common buyer complaints and what you can do to prevent a buyer from turning right around when they come up to your house.
Make sure you haven't ignored any of these repairs that can make a buyer think twice about your asking price. This is especially true in the internet age when your on-line pictures may be all a potential buyer sees to decide whether they want to make an appointment to see inside your home.
1. Paint colors that just don't blend in. The color of your home is one of the first things a buyer will notice. If it’s a very different color from your neighborhood or general area, you should paint it something more innocuous. Most buyers don't want to live in the only pink house in town.
The same goes for the interior. If your living room is bright orange, paint over it. Choose a neutral color so buyers can project their own ideas onto it. Some form of beige or khaki or light gray is usually very good.
Also be sure you do a good job painting. The ceiling line and trim edges need to be neat. If you aren’t a great painting, this may be a good time to hire a professional.
2. A front door that's not inviting. The front door is one of the next things a buyer will notice. If the door is flimsy, cheap, or outdated, it’ll discourage the buyer before it's even opened. If the screen door is cut, it will make people think the whole house is not cared for. And if the door doesn’t open easily, you should try to fix that. Or spring for a new door—it's the most reliable update you can perform to recoup any cost. If the door itself is in good shape, consider repainting it. Go one shade brighter than you think you’d want. For the cost of a gallon of paint (go for the high quality in this case) it will look like a whole new house!
3. A non-working doorbell. While you're at it, don’t forget the doorbell! Having one that works with a friendly, crisp chime is a sign that your house has been well taken care of.
4. Tattered window and door screens. Buyers will notice screens that look more like Swiss cheese than insect shields. You don’t necessarily have to buy a whole new set — just grab some screen repair patches (they’re cheap) and fill in the tears. Or if it is in bad shape, bring the screen to your local hardware store – you will probably be surprised how inexpensive it is to have them put a new screen in (in fact, you may well be dismayed at how long you lived with a torn screen when it could have been replaced for so little money).
5. Depressing landscaping. As potential buyers drive up to your home, they’ll notice everything — the trees, the grass, the rock pathway, and the plants out front. And it matters. If your lawn is home to a half-dead tree, yellowing grass, overgrown shrubs, and a pathway swallowed by weeds, you might get more lowball offers than you anticipated.
Keep the plants trimmed and the grass freshly cut. Make sure the walkway is clear and fallen branches are removed from the lawn. A fresh layer of mulch will brighten up the outside, too. A bright seasonal potted plant up near the front door will make a very welcoming entrance.
6. An unpleasant smell of…something. Nothing can turn a buyer off faster than the unwelcome smell of faded cigarettes or poorly trained pets. Of course, it is hard for us to smell our homes after we’ve lived in them for a while (call it nose-blind), so ask a diplomatic friend to sniff your place. If it stinks, start cleaning. Do take care with air freshener – if it is too obvious it will alert potential buyers to a bad smell you’re trying to cover up.
7. Eerie dripping sounds. If potential buyers hear a dripping faucet or running toilet when touring the house, they might start questioning the building’s integrity or the seller’s level of care. These are quick DIY fixes that should not be ignored. Again, you may be so used to the sound that you are “ear blind” to it. Ask your friend about this, too.
8. Bad lighting. Replace harsh lights with bulbs that have a softer glow. Clean out light fixtures to get rid of dirt or dead bugs that can mute the lighting (not to mention look gross). Consider updating light fixtures if they’re dated (retro is fine if it is reflected in the décor of the home).
9. Squeaky hinges. Doors that groan when they open are for horror movies, not homes for sale. Grab a lubricant (such as white lithium grease, but in a pinch you can use cooking oil) and grease the hinges to stop the squeak.
10. An outdated kitchen. Completely renovating a kitchen can get very expensive, really fast. Keep it simple by adding a fresh coat of paint. Although we did say you should keep paint colors neutral, here's where you can try something more inviting — like pale yellow, a color we associate with light and joy. Switch out old cabinet knobs and handles for something fresher like nickel pulls.
The very best way to find out what can be done to improve the marketability of your home is to invite a REALTOR or two over to preview and give you some ideas and then follow-through on what they suggest. That’s also a great way to choose the REALTOR you want to employ to help you sell quickly and for the highest amount of money (don’t choose based on who says they will list it for the highest amount, though, as often you’ll end up on the market for longer and do a price reduction anyway).
Nancy Bierenga, of élan Realty, is past president of the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of REALTORS®, a member of the National, Michigan, and West Michigan Lakeshore Associations of REALTORS®, and the Greater Muskegon Woman's Club. She is an Accredited Buyer's Representative, a Certified e-Pro REALTOR®, and a Certified Fair Housing REALTOR®. She and husband Robert have lived in Muskegon since 1996. Phone Nancy at (231) 730-0887, email Nancy@HousesByNancy.com, stop by élan Realty's office at 4075 Airline Rd., Muskegon or visit the élan Realty on Facebook here.