Make home improvements pay off when selling your house

by John Benson

Congratulations, you’ve decided to sell your home. As hard as that decision may have been, you’re faced with a dozen more, including what upgrades will help you find a buyer.

“Kitchens and bathrooms are always the top two things that most people gravitate toward,” said Stouffer Realty Vice President Jim Fox, a past president for the Board of Realtors. “Probably the biggest thing I think we find ourselves faced with is being able to use all the rooms in the house effectively. What I mean by that is a dining room or even a living room are probably least used.

“So try to use those rooms for staging. That gives a buyer much more opportunity to look to see what they can do with it besides just throwing a dining room table in there.”
Other improvements could include replacing big-ticket items, like a roof. If you have an older furnace and air conditioning unit, Fox suggested purchasing a home warranty instead of bearing the expense of a replacement.

“That just kind of gives the buyer that much more sense of assurance that should something happen in the next 24 months, they’ve got some protection,” Fox said. “Buyers usually deplete as much cash as they can to go into a house. So to make an unexpected repair or improvement is something they’ll typically not want to do.”

Homeowners looking to sell are seeking the sweet spot between investing not enough and too much into the house. For example, Fox said redoing a kitchen should not be seen as an attempt to get more money out of the property, but instead to receive an offer that’s as close as possible to the sale price.

“You may add value to your home and be less likely to negotiate because you did add a furnace or the kitchen is newer,” he said. “Those are the things that when it comes down to negotiating, the seller has a little more of an upper hand.”

John Lambert of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services said the current market presents an opportunity, because there is a shortage of desirable homes. The result is premium home prices with many buyers placing priorities on amenities, schools, home layout, cosmetic appeal and no need for costly renovations.

“The majority of our buyers have been a mix of older and younger millennials (under age 37), followed by GenXers (38 to 52) and baby boomers (53 to 62),” Lambert said. He and his wife, Suzanne, are one of the top-producing husband and wife real estate teams in the area.

“Our millennial buyers consist of a mix of first-time buyers, young engaged/married couples, singles and younger growing families, all seeking certain communities and neighborhoods with homes with open and larger living spaces, attractive lighter décor and larger yards,” he said.

Baby boomer buyers are looking for a combination of smaller, low-maintenance homes, golf and retirement communities and repurposing space for single-floor living while retaining space for aging parents, in-laws and guests.

“Many of these purchases have been newly constructed homes,” Lambert said. “Due to limited home availability with desired features, many millennials and baby boomers are selecting new construction to obtain custom-design features and eliminate short-term maintenance costs.

“In addition to the higher quality finishes, those buyers purchasing the more expensive existing homes have lower tolerances for even minor revisions.”

Fox added one final thought: “To appeal to today’s buyer, I think the home needs to be conducive to what people do: to entertain and be close to the family. Those are big selling points and attractions for buyers today.”