DIY Improvements Before Selling your Home: Make your dollars count

Remember that old saying, “measure twice and cut once”?  It’s a good phrase to remember in construction, but we here at the Callahan Real Estate Group could also apply it to making improvements to your home before putting it on the market in Kingwood, Atascocita or the surrounding areas.  

However, for our purposes, we will restate it as “think twice and improve once”.  As someone who sees a lot of houses in need of improvements or already improved, but doesn’t always have the opportunity to stop someone from loading up their cart at the local big box store, this seemed like a good way to provide some helpful advice. Consider it a real estate agent’s view on what improvements actually do improve the value of your home and which ones are better left for the new owners. 

We hear it a lot, “I’m going to sell my home but I need to make a few improvements first”.  Great, so, you are motivated to spend a little money to make a little money and recognize that the bright red or pink walls you painted at your child’s request, might not have the most market appeal.  Saying that tongue in cheek, as sometimes that is not the obvious answer it should be.   So, if you know you need to make some improvements and have a little money on hand, here is what we would typically recommend one do and why.   Its in order of what brings the most value but also takes into account the time and cost associated with each.   

De-cluttering/organizing:  what better time than now to clean out those closets and the garage?  My wife will be the first to tell you that I’m guilty of this across all the houses we have owned and I have hated the day of reckoning that comes with having to get it straight.  Yet, this does have an impact on how your house will appeal to a buyer, both in terms of how “open” and accessible it appears as well as how much storage the home has.  When it comes to the garage, people like to envision their cars being in there rather than the vacation destination for spiders.  Donate your usable items (its a tax deduction) and worst case, find a storage facility.  Many offer free use of their moving vans and will work on a month to month basis.  Besides appearing more functional for the buyer, it will make areas accessible for the home inspector, who is not obligated to climb over or move items around in order to check a system.  Rest assured this will be indicated on an inspection report and will likely be something you are asked to remedy.  It the buyer wants to ensure the system is working, they might ask for a licensed contractor to come out an inspect it.   By making sure the system is accessible before the inspection, you can forgo that time and expense.   

-Mechanical systems:  Without trying to sound like a home inspector, this is the best way I could lump together the categories of HVAC, electrical, plumbing and other systems that need to be functional.  The reason why is that the majority of all homes receiving a sales contract for purchase will undergo an inspection on the home.  Buyers, having chosen an option period, have the right to terminate the contract during that period and the easiest way to make that happen is to scare a buyer off with a list of a thousand things the inspector has cited as being deficient or non functioning.  Many of these items are simple.  For example, my own home has several heated fans installed in each bathroom.  All are non functioning and would likely be  written up on an inspection report as inoperable.  While I might not care if the home has a heated fan in the bathroom, especially in the Texas gulf coast, most buyers will think this is something that should be functioning.  So, while you might not add it or insist upon it as a new home item, because its already there in your existing home, the buyer will typically think it needs to be working.  At $120 for 3 fans, this seems like a logical fix to make given I know this will show up on a repair request from a prospective buyer.  Use Amazon to locate hard to find parts or eBay to find discontinued models that match your older component.  Another easy tip is make sure your air filters are changed out.  I can’t tell you how many times air filters are dirty when an inspection is being done, prompting the buyer to wonder how diligent you have been about routine home maintenance.  I could make an entire list which would outlive the usefulness of this blog, but other items include cleaning your AC compressor coils, making sure all sprinkler heads are functioning and not watering the side of your house.  Checking to make sure your mulch and landscape bed soil isn’t too high up on your foundation slab is another easy improvement.    

-Painting:  Often overlooked for some reason and perhaps its because the wall color seems to be a personal choice left to the new owners.  Yet, when looking at the overall cost/benefit of fresh new paint, you can’t go wrong with it.  Assuming a neutral tone like Kilim beige (aka Kingwood beige) or alabaster,  the rooms will appear brighter and more open, as well as appear larger.  Another secondary benefit is that it eliminates odors.  Its also something that can be done rather inexpensively, choosing  to hire it out or do it yourself.  Sherwin Williams is the pro’s favorite and has an online color visualizer.   Make sure you tell them the name of your contractor you are using to secure the contractors discounted pricing.        

-Flooring:  I’ll break this down into two sub categories.  The first is flooring that must be replaced when there is carpet and the second is flooring that needs to be replaced in the areas that count.  This means the entry/living area, kitchen and master bed/bath.  So, in order of importance, its better to replace the old, worn, stained carpet upstairs versus breaking up ceramic kitchen tile.  The buyer is just as likely to mentally react to the old carpet regardless of whether you have upgraded from tile to wood in the master bedroom.  Floor and Decor has great prices but Houston Custom Carpets Flooring and Remodeling has ownership that has been in the area for a long time and the sales staff is very knowledgeable. 

-Other cosmetic:  The final category is a bit harder to quantify but I will try to provide some examples.  Light switches and receptacles in most older homes are beige.  Swapping those out to white with the face plate to match is in keeping with the newer style homes.  You can actually forgo a call to electrician and purchase white covers at Lowe’s, Home Depot or online.  They are a few bucks each.   When it comes to door hardware, the modern look for today would be oil rubbed bronze.  A quick home improvement that goes a long way for updating a room or rooms would be to change out those gold door knobs for ones that are oil rubbed bronze.  Make sure to select a style and stay consistent.  Finally, air vents and return air grates.  After years of dust and pet hair, your grates and vents are likely dirty.  It’s near impossible to clean them so I suggest either replacing them or if you are talented enough, you can spray paint them.  Make  sure you prep the items to ensure the spray paint does not run.   

Those are the major items.  As you can see many are common sense items, simple and relatively inexpensive.  If you want a super short cut way to do this, you can always contact your realtor or The Callahan Real Estate Group, if you do not have one.  We would be more than happy to do a walk through of your home, pointing out specific items that we have seen increase the value and/or avoid lengthy repair negotiations post inspection.