Friday, July 20, 2007

Preparing Your East Bay Home For Sale - Top Ten Value Added Improvements

Nearly every property we list for sale can benefit from some market prep. Buyers need to fall in love with the visual appeal of your home before the will notice any other improvements. Your agent can help you decide how to get the biggest bang for your pre-market buck. Here is our top ten list for showcasing a Bay Area home's best features:

1. Have your home professionally staged. Professional staging ups the ante on a home's emotional cache by creating a magazine quality interior; which in turn sparks the fantasy of that picture perfect life. For the price of one stainless-steel kitchen appliance, you can spread the impression of luxury to every room of the house. The impression of quality will stick, even though buyers have no expectation that the expensive looking stuff is included in the sale. Contemporary furnishings can update a home's interior for a relatively low investment. More importantly, 75% of all buyers use the internet during their home search. When these buyers view the on-line photos, it is impossible to get any perspective on a rooms size and/or best use without the visual map of well placed furnishings. Instead, the viewer's eye goes straight to the rooms back wall. This makes any space look substantially smaller. It has also become an industry standard to show a home "staged." The few homes we see that are not staged give the impression that the homeowner does not believe their home is as worthy as their competition. This impression further diminishes a buyer's perception of value.

2. Professionally paint the home's interior and bring out trim with a contrasting color. One of the benefits of our older housing stock lies in time-honored original details. Make sure buyers take notice by helping them stand out. Fresh paint also reflects pride of ownership and will help buyers feel confident in a home's overall condition. (If you attempt this one yourself, spend extra time on prep and be sure to take the time to achieve a professional looking finish. A sloppy job can have the adverse reaction of putting doubt into your buyer's mind about the quality of other home improvements.) One of our favorite neutral combinations is Benjamin Moore's Mongomery White for the walls (This cream with a tint of yellow looks sun-kissed in any setting) with White Dove trim.

Get expert help when picking the color pallet. Choosing a modern, cohesive color pallet is the most cost effective way to update an interior. Those original details will more easily mix with a buyer's contemporary possessions if a designer color pallet is already in place. It doesn't cost much more to go with color. Just make sure you are getting sound color advice. In the 80's and 90's neutral, "blank slate" walls were all the rage. Then, buyers wanted spaces they could personalize. Now, our demographics reflect busy, often two-income households with limited time on their hands. An appealing color design represents real value to today's buyers.

3. Paint the outside entry, porch and window trim. This can be a good way to update your curb appeal without the expense of repainting the whole exterior. Do caulk, patch and paint any surface in need of attention. When painting porches and walkways, add sand to the mix to improve traction.

4. Professionally polish your hardwood floors. Hardwood floors continue to be a desirable selling feature. Professionally polishing is much less expensive than completely refinishing them, and the visual impact is nearly as impressive. Having your floors polished is often only 1/5 the expense of refinishing, but it has the benefit of bringing there original beauty approximately 3/4 of the way back.

5. Mini-makeover your kitchen. Kitchens sell houses. If yours is not likely to inspire an offer, consider the mini-makeover. Paint existing cabinets and install updated hardware. If the linoleum is dated consider installing Marmoleum over the top. This sheet product is gaining popularity because, unlike linoleum, Marmoleum is considered a "green" home improvement. Finish the look off with a solid surface counter, new sink and faucet. New appliances are a bonus and you may be able to negotiate with the buyers to take them with you to your next home.

6. Mini-makeover your bath. Second in the minds of buyers to kitchens are baths. Repaint chipped bathtubs with an approved enamel paint. Replace any cracked tiles and clean the tile grout. As needed replace the toilet, sink, vanity mirror and update the lighting.

7. Lighten up. A dark house can send a buyer back out the door. Look for cost effective ways to add light to a dark interior. Remove heavy draperies and window awnings. Opt for sheer panels instead. Prune trees to allow more light through the windows. Install a light tunnel to a windowless room or dark hallway. Light tunnels cost less than traditional skylights and are easier to install. Replace dated light fixtures with new ones. There are lots of low cost and stylish options now available online. Add floor and table lamps as needed to brighten a room. Finally install the highest wattage bulbs allowed by the manufacturer in all the homes light fixtures. Warm-toned fluorescents will keep the electric meter from spinning.

8. Freshen up the landscaping. Landscaping for curb appeal includes adding color spots (usually flowers) and the aesthetic pruning of existing plants. Plant themes can help define architecture: A Mediterranean drought resistant garden enhances a Spanish style home, while a cottage garden looks great in front of our California Bungalows. Fresh mulch can make the yard look well maintained. Meandering pathways and delineated outdoor living rooms can help small yards feel more generous. Water fountains can soften the sound of traffic.

9. Create storage solutions. People now days have lots of stuff. Helping buyers picture where there stuff can go can help them visualize living in your home. First on this list is clearing clutter. Clutter in a room will keep buyers focused on your things and they may not see the architecture. Also, if it looks like you no longer fit in the house, buyers will relate and worry where to put their things. A staged house is usually only about 60% furnished. You will notice that dressers are the often missing. Clear closets and cabinets down to the essentials. Add closet systems to maximize capacity. If a room doesn't feel like a true bedroom because it is missing a closet, install one or include an armoire in the sale. If the home lacks a garage, consider erecting a garden storage shed. Sellers often overlook this advice, but if a buyer can't bring their stuff, they will likely not want to live there.

10. Clean, clean, clean. A spotless house will inspire buyer confidence because it speaks directly toward home maintenance. A thorough cleaning can also bring life back to many surfaces. We routinely set up the following for our clients:
  • Professional window washing - the best way to bring the outside in and add instant sparkle
  • Power washing of decks and entryways. Wood decks and mildewed concrete undergo a spectacular transformation with a jet stream of water.
  • Carpet cleaning
  • Interior cleaning with attention to sometimes neglected areas like light fixtures, ovens and the tops and insides of refrigerators.
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