May 25, 2011

How much should I fix up before I sell?

First put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Assume two homes are virtually identical. They are both the same price and in the same neighborhood. Except, one of them is un-kept. Which one will you buy? If you chose the un-kept one because it was 3 blocks closer to work, how much less would you be willing to offer because you know you will have to spend time and money to freshen it up?

Why Is This So Important?

First put yourself in the buyer’s shoes. Assume two homes are virtually identical. They are both the same price and in the same neighborhood. Except, one of them is un-kept. Which one will you buy? If you chose the un-kept one because it was 3 blocks closer to work, how much less would you be willing to offer because you know you will have to spend time and money to freshen it up? There can be a thin line between upkeep and repair – condition and cleanliness, but sharp homes usually sell faster and for more money.

The clean up checklist:

  • Wash all the windows inside and out
  • Oil hinges on squeaky doors
  • Use paraffin wax to coat the runners the windows slide on so they open easily
  • Remove any personal items you plan to give away or throw away now. Or, store it off site. Do not wait till you move.
  • If the carpets show wear or have spots have it cleaned commercially.
  • Make sure all the light bulbs are in place, clean and working properly.
  • Wash the walls and woodwork in high traffic areas that show dirt easily.
  • Clean the basement and the garage as they are often overlooked.
  • Clean light fixtures, air vents and fans as these are items we tend to overlook.
  • Clean around light plate switches.
  • Wash the kitchen cupboards inside and out and scrub the floor as kitchens accumulate more dirt.
  • Pay particular attention to the bathrooms. Mirrors, sink, toilet and tub/shower should be clean and bright.
  • Make sure the bathroom fans are working and quiet.

The paint up, fix up, check list:

  • Weed and feed the lawn to kill weeds and refresh the grass.
  • Trim the shrubs, trees and bushes so they do not dominate the appearance or street view.
  • Freshen up the front door with paint, stain it, or if it is plastic – just wash it.
  • Check to see that the weather stripping around outside doors is intact.
  • Check and repair the trim around windows and soffit for peeling, cracking or chipping
  • Repair or replace broken concrete in the sidewalk and on the porch
  • Replace open seals and broken windows, failed grout and caulk and inoperable door hardware.
  • Have a handyman plane the top or bottom edge of doors that do not fit properly.
  • Replace worn carpet or with un-cleanable stains.
  • Give “tired” rooms a coat of paint.
  • Replace or repair broken, cracked or weathered trim boards and threshold around the entire home.
  • Repair any appliances and equipment that will be staying so they are fully operable.
  • Have an electrician fix or remove wires hanging out of unused or broken electrical equipment.
  • Look for any leaks around plumbing under sinks or in the basement and have repaired.
  • Install shutters on the front windows of the house if you have the room.

When Should I Do The Work?

Ideally, do it before the first prospect walks through the front door. I know the list above seems unwieldy, but it is not as hard as it looks. Some of these tasks take 5 minutes. Others a handyman can combine into a single trip and take care of in a few hours. All I can say is that doing these things is well worth it in almost ever case. It all boils down to elementary common sense.

Is There Another Option?

Some of us do not have the time, energy or money to do what I am suggesting above. In fact, there are a number of circumstances that would make this part of the home selling process burdensome. While it may not be as good a solution, if your circumstances do not allow you to clean up, paint up, fix up, I’d take a different path. It is the “fixer-upper” path or the “predetermined cleaning allowance” path.

How It Works

Promote “up front” that the home is not in proper condition, but it is reflected in the price you are asking. By taking this approach, you are disclosing to the prospect the house needs work. This way buyers will not be disappointed when they walk through it. There are buyers who prefer to find a home where they can do the work in their own way. They may have experience in these areas so the repairs are second nature to them. They know what repairs cost. They can save money with their own labor.

The important key to this approach: you have to price the home or create the allowance to attract the buyer to take advantage of your offer for it to work. Print a list of the items that need work, cleaning or replacement along with estimates from companies who fix each specific item and place it on the counter top in the kitchen. To make the list most effective, add an item named “new owner contracting fee”. Insert a dollar amount to compensate the buyer for doing the work your circumstances will not allow. If you take this approach, ask the agents you are interviewing for the listing if they will help you with it. Find out which part or parts of the task they would be willing to do.

You are either helping them sell their home, or they are helping you sell your home.

Remember you are competing with other neighbors who are also trying to sell their homes. Every move you make either benefits you – or benefits your competing neighbor. Comment to me with your questions and I’ll answer them.