Simple Projects with Huge Dividends to Home Sellers

Here are some projects you might consider, beginning with some simple steps that can reap huge dividends!

Catch ’em at the curb

“Curb appeal” isn’t just catchy real estate jargon. It recognizes the fact that many buyers form their first, and often strongest, opinions before they step out of the car. Remember, buying a home is first and foremost an emotional commitment, especially for first-time home buyers. You may have a long list of logical reasons your home is a good catch, but a buyer is reacting emotionally to what he or she is seeing.

Knowing this, you can use a buyer’s emotions to your advantage. First, take a good, hard look at the first impression your property makes. What do people see?

If it’s flaking paint and an unkempt yard, they may be seeing a home that needs a lot of work.

Here are some investments in your home’s exterior that I’ve found through firsthand experience can pay huge dividends:

Paint

It should come as no surprise that surveys show that painting the exterior of your home results in the greatest return on time and money invested when compared to other improvements done for selling purposes. An investment of $1,000-$2,000 can mean adding $3,000-$4,000 to your asking price. And if you can do a good job yourself, your profit is even greater.

Even if your home doesn’t need the full treatment, check the trim around windows and doorways for cracking or peeling, and do any necessary touch-up work.

Landscaping

Another key first impression is made by the grounds of your home. If you can improve the attractiveness of your landscape without spending a lot of money, you can add a good 5 to 10 percent to the value of your home.

 

Minimally, you should prune existing trees, shrubs and bushes, clean out dead plants and weeds from flower beds and replace them with colorful flowering plants. Because landscaping can become a high-maintenance headache if not done carefully, choose hardy perennials that require minimal care.

If you have a damaged lawn, you may need to take additional steps. The easiest step is to repair damaged sections with new sod. While seeding is cheaper, it won’t produce grass overnight. A good patch job can make for a great quick fix.

Other lawn problems—dead areas due to lack of sunlight or a tree’s root system—can be solved by planting ground cover or creating additional flower beds.

Like a new paint job, a relatively inexpensive upgrade of existing landscaping can bring far greater returns than what you spend. But don’t do anything that would be deemed excessive by neighborhood standards. The idea is to make your home more attractive, not stand out as an oddity.

The Driveway

Because it’s big, dark, and usually takes up a significant portion of the property in front of your home, a driveway can affect a buyer’s first impressions. If yours is in good condition, make sure you keep it swept and neatly edged where it meets the lawn. If yours is cracked, buckled or oil-stained, fix it. Patching concrete can be a problem because matching color is difficult; tar and asphalt are relatively easy to match. Whatever you do, be careful you don’t create a bigger problem through quick-fix solutions—use high-quality patching materials and sealers.

Decks and Patios

These can be popular additions that add value, especially with smaller homes, because they add living space. But make sure that whatever you do is consistent with your home’s architectural style and integrates well with your outdoor areas.  

The Garage

One major expense you may have to consider is a new roof. But if you think you can pass the cost along to a buyer, forget it. Everyone expects a good roof, and they’re not going to pay extra for it. And a roof in poor condition can kill a deal quickly.

If your garage has that rough, unfinished look, consider drywall and matching switch and outlet plates. At a minimum, make sure all switches and outlets work. And give everything a good cleaning.

Don’t neglect the minor details

It’s often the little things that really stand out. If your mailbox is in poor shape, replace it. Varnish or repaint your door if it needs it. A door knocker and brass kick plate can also be a nice addition. Spruce up the entryway with new light fixtures, potted plants and other decorative touches.

With the exception of adding a deck or patio, most of the steps I’ve touched on here can be accomplished in relatively little time and without a lot of money. But the difference in the impression your home makes on prospective buyers will be dramatic.

Ironically, some of the big-budget items you might consider spending your money on will do little to enhance the marketability of your home. Aluminum siding, for example, is prized by some and loathed by others. Hot tubs may or may not appeal to potential buyers. Watch out for changes that you may find appealing but end up limiting your home’s appeal to others.

Besides swimming pools, other investments you probably won’t see a return on are tennis courts and automatic sprinkler systems. Unless they’re for your own enjoyment, don’t waste your money.

One major expense you may have to consider is a new roof. But if you think you can pass the cost along to a buyer, forget it. Everyone expects a good roof, and they’re not going to pay extra for it. And a roof in poor condition can kill a deal quickly.

 


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