Every time I meet with a seller, I always ask them if they’ve made any renovations to their home or are planning to before selling. And I usually get one of two responses.
The first response goes like this: one of the owners will start gushing about how much money they’ve invested and how wonderful all of the upgrades look, so much so that I normally ask them if they don’t want to just stay!
I’m not trying to be insensitive, but I’m a realist and I am a numbers guy and people do not care about this kind of stuff when they are buying a house. But what they do care about is brand new, or something that they can fix up entirely themselves and put in their own personalization.
The second response that I get more often is that they’ve made some minor fixes that they’ve been needing to do for years, and finally got around to finishing up, such as a bathroom or putting in new granite.
While these minor fixes are great (and I hope they brought pleasure to the owners lives), it’s not going to get you the types of results that you are looking for.
The first thing I am going to promise you, and I can say this with certainty... is that this is an all or nothing approach. If you are going to redo your home redo your ENTIRE home.
When you are selling your home don’t fluff it up and fix up the children’s rooms, and leave the rest--either go all in, or follow the tips I’m about to share with you.
Think about it like buying a brand new pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes and then wearing a 30-year-old Chanel tweed pantsuit that you bought at Georgio’s that’s been to every cocktail party in Bel Air since the Carter administration. It just doesn’t work. Go out and buy yourself a new outfit, girlfriend. You don’t want to look like a member of the kitchen cabinet wearing the same cocktail dress with only a new pair of shoes.
If you aren’t going to renovate everything, there are little things that you can do that can help add to the value of your home. Do not start rebuilding individual rooms unless they are literally falling apart!! Just do the minor stuff below and if you don’t want to do that, then totally rebuild your house!
Tip #1: Lighting
Lighting is absolutely vital for making the rooms in your home pop. Without adequate lighting, your home will look stuffy, dark, or even worse--outdated. Whenever I show a home to clients, the first thing I do is open all the window treatments and turn on all the lights, even if it’s in the middle of the day. My homeowners usually don’t understand why I am doing this and I have to politely explain to them that their home looks like a dark cave. The only thing missing are the bats.
People just get used to things and don’t look at things from a buyer’s perspective. So to them they think their home is bright and light while in reality it looks like it has about as much light as St. Petersburg in the winter.
Also, take off the old, dirty blinds and trim some of the trees in your yard near windows to really accentuate and bring in the light.
The more natural light that comes in, the easier it will be to sell your house. Lighting elicits emotions and makes us feel good. Especially if you live in an area such as Southern California that is prone to lots of sunlight (and some smog), you want to open things up and make the rooms feel more expansive by getting more natural light in key places. If you have skylights, make sure that they are professionally cleaned, and that every single window in your house is spotless and pristine.
Remember, even if your house looks like the summer palace of Catherine the Great, if it’s dark and depressing, no one will buy it!
Tip #2: Get Rid of Clutter
This one should almost go without saying, but sometimes my clients feel that they need to decorate their home with expensive knicknacks in every nook and cranny of their estate. Realistically, the opposite is true. Having a clutter-filled room, even with nice pieces is still distracting to the eyes. Remember, the people viewing your home don’t have the same taste as you, so in this area the old adage less is more still holds true.
I mean let’s be real, nobody who is buying a house cares if you went on a trip to Italy on your 50th anniversary trip and came back home with a hand painted tile from Siena, Italy that you mounted above your kitchen stove that says “Kiss the Cook.” This is not pretty or funny to potential buyers. What is funny however is that the first thing the new owner will do is rip it off the wall.
The key to making your home look good is to have it staged. Sure, it may set you back fifteen thousand dollars, but you could add $400,000-$500,000 to the final sale price easily! After fourteen years in the works to becoming one of the top agent in Los Angeles, I can properly advise you that you will probably make back every single penny you spend if you hire an excellent stager. For a list of good ones and bad ones, email me, I could write a book!
Most importantly you need to realize that when somebody walks into your house as a prospective buyer, they don’t want to see every aspect of your life the minute you walk in the front door.
So take down all of the family portraits and take out that creepy mannequin of a butler holding up a tray when you first walk in. Take out the pillow in the living room that says “murder yes; divorce never”. They were funny when you sat in the living room with your children and cousins but nobody else needs to see this. And finally, most importantly, please put away your collection of dolls!
(They scare children and the even scare me!)
Tip #3: Focus on High-Impact Rooms
Where I see a lot of clients go wrong is trying to redo everything! Remember, the home is still a nice property, it just needs a little extra sprucing up in order to really pull it all together. Sometimes, this can be very overwhelming for my clients and I can completely understand why. However, all you need to do is focus on the high impact areas. Less is more.
Think about the most important rooms in your home and focus only on those areas of the house. The rest can be left alone, and it will still get you a great price on the property.
Focus on the main areas such as: the living room, your kitchen, or the master bedroom. The areas that really matter are all you should worry about. The office, guest bathrooms, garages, studies, or other novelty rooms can be left just as they are, and they won’t affect the price of your property up or down. But you should remove anything that’s really personalized.
Bonus Tip: Scent Sells
Another simple and easy tip that is extremely cost effective when you are cleaning up the house is scent.
Focus on making the home smell wonderful, and everyone will be blown away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked into a home being staged by someone else and smelled microwaved lunch! It completely ruins the mood. If you really want to impress potential buyers, go to Barneys and buy some candles. Do not and I repeat, do not start baking cookies, no one wants to feel like they’re living in a bakery.
Also DO NOT use potpourri. People do not use potpourri anymore. That will only make your house feel outdated!
Since smell is one of the longest senses dyed in your memory, it can bring up some really positive feelings when you have a walkthrough. The other thing I tell sellers is that it will make your home stand out, because they will remember how good it smelled.
Combine this with some professional staging, great lighting, and decluttering and you will be on your way to adding some extra zeros to the end of your sale!