Selling Your Home: Small Improvements Pay Big

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Selling your home is one of the most stressful experiences in life. So much is out of your control — the market, who’s looking, mortgage rates, what’s available for you, whether you’ll have that magical synchronicity of selling in time to meet your dream home’s purchasing “subjects” on the contract.

So it’s good to know that not everything is out of your control, isn’t it? Enter the world of cosmetic fix-its to help increase your potential when selling your home, including the price you can get for it.

Perspective is a big deal in home-selling and buying. A lot of “problems” around the house aren’t big things, and with a little elbow grease and small-scale investment of both time and money, the return can be huge.

hand paper house black and white Selling Your Home: Small Improvements Pay Big

There’re two ways cosmetic things impact the sale of your home. One is, they can lower/increase the buying price, and second, it can cause your home to lie on the market like a dead fish or make it sell right away.

Perspective is Everything

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “Oh, that’s an easy fix, the buyer knows that” — but how do you know what they do or don’t know?

When I saw my new home, the agent had an impossible time turning the lock. She didn’t say “Oh, that’s an easy fix,” but I knew it likely was the matter of less than a nickel’s worth of lubricant and a 30-second effort. Someone less informed might look at a cranky, sticking lock like it’s a $50 problem, if not more.

A lot of people out there aren’t handy. When I say “are not handy,” I mean they do everything from trying to hammer in nails with a shoe to thinking duct tape actually does fix everything.

For them, things like a loose towel rack, an askew kitchen cupboard door, or an unsightly caulk line are deal-breakers. They look at these and it’s a dollar-sign, a handyman call, a maxed-out credit card, or something that will have to “wait until we can afford to fix it.”

Fixing these little things is what leads a potential buyer to believe it’s a turnkey home they can move into and just start living.

Here are some projects to get your place sale-ready without big spending:

Caulking Cures

For a few dollars a tube and an afternoon’s labor, you can likely redo all your caulking for a super-clean, crisp look. Take a look at all the floor mouldings and window sills too, and see if there are any places some caulking can eliminate gaps.

Walls & Paint

Clean your walls. Floor mops make quick work of cleaning big walls. The right cleaning product followed with a little bleach can be a wall-changing miracle that nixes any need to paint. Helpers like the “Mr. Clean Magic Eraser” are something I won’t use regularly due to mixed reports about healthfulness, but when it comes down to selling your place, they’re a great way to ditch difficult scratches and marks on counters and walls (but be careful of floors; it can remove finishes).

Devilish Details

Watch for dirt-buildup along floors, behind appliances, and in other areas. It suggests you don’t do a great job and can lead to questions about your maintenance throughout your home. Have all lightbulbs/fixtures working so your home seems bright. Clean windows of any black dirt, and bleach any persistent mildew.

Top to Bottom

The roof is a huge investment. Secure all gutters firmly, brush off any moss on shingles. Even if you can’t make things look perfect, any improvement can make the difference between you selling your home or not, especially if gives the impression they can delay a $10,000-30,000 roofing job for a few extra years.

Space Sells

It’s easy to say “de-clutter!” but it’s a reality that people often sell homes because they’ve run out of space. If your home is cluttered, it will look small, and worse, it’ll give the impression the home can’t become organized, that there’s some fatal flaw that’s led you to this cluttery chaos.

If you’re in the position of selling up to have more space, it might hinder the speed of your sale. It can be worth putting non-essential things into storage until you move into your dream home. Consider it an investment against the danger of failing to close a dream-home purchase due to your inability to sell.

Just Screw It

From towel racks to Venetian blinds, from cupboard doors to light-switch covers, if it has a screw that isn’t flush, isn’t secure, isn’t silent, then bust out the toolkit. Make sure everything is tight, secure, and opens/closes smoothly.

No Squeaks, No Creaks

From sticky door locks to jamming drawer rollers and more, if it’s not working smoothly, a non-handy prospective buyer thinks “It’s only going to get worse.” For drawers, clean and lube the rollers and guides as needed. For door locks and hinges, use little WD-40 or other lube to ensure they loosen up, but do this well before it’s on the market, because it can take a few days or weeks for all the lube to work into the inner parts.

It’s Worth It

From cleanliness to squeakiness, lots of things can become a big flashing DON’T GO THERE sign for your prospective buyer. Instead of thinking they’ll know an issue is “fixable,” assume they’re looking for a place with zero issues. Realize that for every “handy” person out there, there are 2-3 people who are anything but handy.

Selling your home is indeed one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do, and much of what you do to speed up that sale and make it less painful is time, and money, well-spent.

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