Selling your home, but not sure what fluffing and polishing you should do? Well, you’re in luck. It’s easy to tap into nationwide real estate wisdom. Every two years, the real estate web site HomeGain.com surveys hundreds of realtors, asking them what improvements they recommend for sellers.
Here are this year's top five:
1. Get Cleaning.
The #1 recommended improvement in this “Home Sale Maximizer Survey” has remained the same for several years: Clean and de-clutter. In general, you want to clean the entire house and make sure that everything has its place. Specifically:
- Clean the bathroom(s) and put out fresh towels. Close the lid on the toilets and make sure the bathroom mirrors sparkle.
- Make sure the air is fresh. That doesn’t mean using stinky air fresheners or candles, because some people are allergic to them. Instead, it means opening the windows on an occasional basis to let the outside air in. It also includes taking out the household trash, cleaning the cat box, washing the dog bed, making sure your supply of pet food is stored in Tupperware, and airing out the beds that people sleep in before making them. You might be used to the smell of your home, especially if you have pets, so if you’re in doubt ask a good friend to come over and sniff your house.
- Control clutter. If it’s hopeless—and I have seen apartments where the owners just gave up and left the stroller out in the living room because they thought there was nowhere to put it—try at least to make some room in the front hall closets for guest coats and to try to get as much junk off surfaces as possible. It’s worthwhile to invest in an extra shelf or two for the closet. You want your prospective buyer to feel like there would be room in the apartment for their stuff.
The good news is that this is a cheap fix, generally costing less than $300. The better news is that it leads to a nearly $2,000 improvement in the sale price of the property, for a 586% return on investment.
2. Let There Be Light.
Coming in second place in the survey is another fix which offers great bang for the buck: lightening and brightening. This means repairing broken light fixtures, putting in new bulbs, moving furniture away from in front of windows, replacing dirty drapes, opening curtains and blinds for a showing, and washing windows. The estimated cost of this fix? $375. Expected results? A pop of $1,550 in the sale price.
3. Life Is A Stage.
80% of the Realtors surveyed recommend home staging, which includes such old-fashioned tips like putting out fresh flowers and more new-fangled techniques like rearranging furniture for better sightlines. Many Realtors offer staging services, or subcontract to stagers. If you want to do it yourself, use a dose of common sense—try to keep a room’s furnishings to two or three colors, and make sure that the a potential buyer doesn’t see the backs of all your furniture when she walks into a room. The return on investment, according to HomeGain, is 299%.
4. Keep Off The Grass.
Number four on the list is a house tip, not an apartment one: landscaping. Water and mow the lawn, get rid of dead leaves on the shrubs, and put out new plants. The cost of landscaping will run around $540, according to the survey, with an expected return of $1,932.
5. How Handy Are You?
Rounding out the top five is a great fix whether you’re in a house or an apartment: making plumbing and electrical repairs. Stop toilets from gurgling, repair or replace leaky faucets, and make sure your electrical outlets work. Cost: $535. Return on investment: 181%.