Even though the nation is said to be in a sellers’ market, where the homeowner has the advantage, this may not be the case for those who want a quick sale a maximum return on investment. Face it. When selling your home, everyone wants top dollar. ‘No brainer. And it is simple logic- a clean home with curb appeal will sell more quickly than one that does not give the appearance of being well-maintained. But before you go throwing money at contractors or attempt to spruce things up yourself, learn more about what buyers in your region are looking for and serve it to them with a generous side of confidence. In this article we’ll cover what buyers across the country want now so your upgrades will speak well for your house and your spend.

  1. Clean, clean, clean. Before you contact a local cleaning franchise consider that you may have to continuously clean your home every couple of days. Having a cleaning service perform this chore for you will have you in the poor house in short order. Instead, rent a rug shampooer or buy a name brand that cleans and dries in one step. If you have hardwoods and/or tile, a floor steamer is a must. Happily, these tools can be used for years in this and your next home and are well-worth the modest investment. Buy gallon-size refills of window cleaner and wash windows inside and out at least once a week. Why? Buyers find light, airy homes more appealing.
  2. Banish odors. Happily, few of us smoke anymore, but just about everyone has pets. Be vigilant about keeping litter boxes clean and pets well-groomed. Use electro-static dusters to capture stray strands of fur and do not forget to dust recessed lighting! Buy aerosol fabric fresheners by the case at the big box store and spray couches, cushions, drapes, carpeting, bedding, and even your clothes closets. When selling your home, perception is reality, and the buyer’s nose knows!
  3. Let there be light: preferably in dark places. Did you know that one of the most popular buyer requests is for lights in their closets? No need to call an electrician- this is a simple fix. Buy battery operated LED puck lights from the big box store and either screw them into the doorframe or use the self-adhesive pads that come with the set. Now think about it, where else would throwing a little light on the subject be helpful? Your. Kitchen Cabinets. That’s where. Especially the one under the sink. Ditto your basement storage room. Got enough light in the furnace room? We thought so. Buy a few sets and go to town with them around your house. While we are on the subject, a burned out bulb is a bummer so stock up and have replacements at the ready should one burn out on your watch. Don’t forget to dust any bare bulbs in the house- these are dust magnets and make your home look rundown.
  4. Especially if your home has one full bath, it must be updated, impress, and sparkle. Big hint: Twin sinks sell homes. Also Carrara marble. Ditto multiple showerheads. And of course, spotless shower doors. Ever notice those cars with the showroom-clean windshields that wick away moisture quickly? Once you clean the soap scum off your shower doors (this author personally recommends using a razor blade followed by a window cleaner spray), be sure to seal the deal by treating this newly pristine surface with a slick coating used for vehicle windshields. Be sure to use a squeegee after you shower. Oh and stock up on those erasers that claim to work by magic. They do, especially on grout. Trust me on this one.
  5. Is your house on the small side but offers great potential? How about drawing up a schematic as to how your home could be upgraded? This is a great idea to allow buyers to ‘see’ how your home can grow along with their need for more space. If drafting is not your thing, write how easily your attic can be dormered to create a new and spacious master suite including a walk-in closet. Are you blessed with low taxes? Research and list programs in your state that may provide additional tax savings.
  6. Comparative analysis: in your neighborhood, what makes your home a standout? Is it secluded and offers more privacy than surrounding homes? Does it have a well-manicured lawn and lush landscape? Is it an entertainer’s backyard with a pool and outdoor kitchen? Deck or patio? What about a pergola? Mature trees? Wait! You have the only two-car detached garage on the street? Well, give it a shout out!
  7. Not all upgrades can be seen. Refer to your credit card statements for the years that you have owned your home and draw up a list of upgrades that you have made during your tenure. It is very important to note mechanicals such as a new roof, heating/cooling systems and a hot water heater as well as the year that they were installed. Not only will it demonstrate that your home has been well-maintained, but also allows buyers to see when a system may be at the end of its service life and to plan for its replacement. Don’t forget windows and doors- include upgraded hardware, locks, and automatic garage door openers!
  8. Remember, just because your home is listed does not mean that you should stop upgrading and improving it. Very often prospects will return to your home for a second look. If they see upgrades even small ones such as new switchplates, they’ll assume the owner has great pride of ownership and attention to even the smallest of details.
  9. Generally, the first offer will be the highest that you receive. Before you cave in and agree to it, be prepared to negotiate, even if you find this task distasteful. Conversely, if the home selling gods have smiled upon you and your home has initiated a bidding war, consider all offers and do not immediately accept the highest bid. That’s because many offers come with contingencies that include an inspection (no problem), having to sell their home first (may not dovetail with your timeline), want to rent with option to buy, or are going for mortgage products that will take months for a response such as a Fannie, or Sallie, Mae, an FHA, or a VA among others. Some potential buyers may require a co-signer such as a relative, and each of these scenarios benefits the buyer, not the seller. In a seller’s market why would you be willing to make such an accommodation?
  10. Capital Gains Taxes: Real estate’s dirty little secret. If your home sells for more than you paid for it, you’ll either have to use your one-time get out of jail free pass (for real) or expect to be taxed on the amount of appreciation you’ve realized over the years. One way to take the sting out of the latter is to deduct every upgrade you have made to the home during your tenure. Since most of us use our credit cards for purchases, it should not take too long to compile a list with accompanying receipts. Your attorney or accountant can advise on how to submit your deductions.

We hope these tips place you on solid ground, poised to get through the selling process and on to the next chapter of your life!