Pre-sellers: this one’s for you! I like to consider the majority of homeowners “pre-sellers,” those who have no plans to sell their home in the near or defined future. Many homeowners become very comfortable in their home and never ponder the complexities of resale value or prepare for the day they will sell because it feels like a neither-here-nor-there scenario. This is an easy pit to fall into, but there will be a rude awakening for these homeowners; everyone sells their house eventually, and the market won’t care how much money you spent, say, reconfiguring your entire floor plan just for kicks. If pre-sellers adopt a resale mentality, the selling process will be less stressful, and they will likely walk away with a bigger closing check.
Here are a few money-saving tips to futureproof your investment whether you live in your house for five years or another 15:
- DON’T replace your cheap or banged-up stainless steel appliances if they are in working condition. Stainless steel appliances (no matter the brand) sell themselves, but this could change in a decade, or whenever it is that you’ll sell your house.
DO buy a counter-depth fridge if you need to replace your refrigerator. The additional cost is worth the improved feel and appearance of your kitchen. One of my biggest pet peeves is seeing a new, bulky standard-depth refrigerator in someone’s kitchen! What a waste!
- DON’T replace your windows unless you really can’t live with how drafty/ugly they are. Windows are notoriously a bad investment.
DO have broken seals repaired, but it’s okay to wait until you’re ready to sell in case another seal happens to bust; usually when one goes, another one is not far along, and you only want to call the window guy out once. Some manufacturers, like Milgard, have seal guarantees with specific timeframes, so I always advise buyers to check out their windows as soon as they move in. And if your screens are bad, they aren’t too expensive to repair, but you could also simply take them out and store them in the garage when you’re ready to sell. This will allow you to wash the exterior windows with ease, and buyers are less likely to notice missing screens than damaged ones.
- DON’T install cheap carpet. People are picky about carpet. Some people don’t like it at all, so you may lose both money and buyer interest installing carpet if your current flooring is, ah hem, “done.” Oftentimes sellers are motivated to install the cheapest carpet possible in a house they plan on selling, but buyers recognize cheap carpet, especially if it reeks of chemicals.
DO install hardwood floors in the main living areas. Yes, they cost more than carpet, but homes with hardwoods typically sell higher and faster. Whatever wood species you decide (don’t choose bamboo unless you live in Hawaii), be sure to get matching flush-mount registers. This is the new standard in flooring, and cheap metal registers do not go with beautiful wood floors!
- DON’T make interior painting a huge project you’ll undertake “someday.”
DO have paint samples for your wall and trim colors handy (and a Magic Eraser – oh, how many times I’ve avoided having to paint with that thing). Having those colors (in the right sheens, of course) will allow you to touch up paint every now and then without having to repaint the whole house when it comes time to sell. Buyers are very picky about paint!
- DON’T get a dog. I love dogs, but they can ruin a house.
If you already have a dog, DO wait to make any “dog-height” (e.g., anything Fido can paw, chew, or reach, including your lawn) improvements until you are ready to sell.
- DON’T over-personalize. I know of someone wanting to recess a $5,000 aquarium into the living room wall of their subdivision home, and even though tropical fish are nice to look at, altering a home to add something both expensive and esoteric as a fixture has costly implications when it comes to resale.
DO display your favorite pictures and things. There’s a difference between hanging family photos and painting a mural of Bob Marley in the den (true story).
- DON’T let the HVAC tech or Water Heater Guy tell you that a shiny new system will raise your house value if your current system works fine.
DO get a new system if your appliance is kaput, by all means. But if you can pay significantly less to repair it and keep the system functioning, buyers tend to only care whether the thing is working or not.
- DON’T upgrade based on trends. Right now the trend is an open floor plan with monochromatic design; think an all-white kitchen with no walls that lets you smell a burned dinner from every room in the house. The quartz countertop craze won’t last either, and nickel fixtures are already on their way out.
DO upgrade with timeless materials, if you decide to upgrade at all. A great way to save money is to love your house as it is and consider doing upgrades to match the market once you’re ready to sell. It’s a good idea to ask for your real estate agent’s opinion before doing any remodeling.
- DON’T forget curb appeal, easily the best bang for your buck. A lush exterior will create buzz in the neighborhood, a plus for when you decide to sell. Your neighbors will say nice things about your house without even knowing what the inside looks like.
DO plant now. This will give trees time to mature, and if you have a black thumb, you’ll need a few seasons of trial and error to get the most out of your plants.
Like all investments, one should be prudent and consult a professional. As a pre-seller, you don’t know if it will be a seller’s or a buyer’s market when you list, so there could be serious financial harm in making expensive upgrades or fixes. You can bet there were people who bought a house in 2008, improved it “to the nines,” and lost quite a pretty penny at the crash; you never know when the pendulum will swing the other way! There is no substitute for being prepared with time-tested suggestions from an experienced real estate agent. A REALTOR® isn’t there to simply help you buy or sell a house; she is there as a constant resource through your homeownership experience. Whether you plan to hire a contractor or do it all yourself, call a real estate agent first!