En español | Brace yourself, home sellers. Spring — prime time for house shopping — is just seven weeks away. Now's the time to make your home sparkle more — and show better — than the listing across the street. Fix the flaws. Spruce the place up with a fresh coat of paint or shower your landscape with love. And make sure you've eliminated potential deal killers, like a leaky roof or stained and smelly rugs.
An estimated 5.6 million existing homes will be sold in 2020, up about 5 percent from last year, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). The median home price is seen rising 3.6 percent. In December 2019, the median sales price was $274,500, up 7.8 percent from 2018, according to NAR.
"Home sellers are often blind to their home's flaws,” says Judith Dutton, deputy editor at realtor.com.
"But buyers see every problem, and may even blow them out of proportion, thinking, ‘Man if this door is sticky or the paint job shabby, what else might be wrong with the house that I'm not seeing?’ If home sellers have any hope of appealing to these buyers, they need to see their house objectively, through a buyer's eyes.”
Looking to downsize as retirement nears? Eyeing a new home that's just steps to the beach or near your grandkids? Well, there are a few home fixes you should consider doing if you want to boost your odds of a quick sale at an attractive price. Must-do improvements and renovations fall into three categories: boosting curb appeal; eliminating “deal killers,” such as nightmare home inspections; updating tired kitchens and bathrooms affordably.
1. Breathe new life into landscaping
The flaw: Grass that isn't green, dead or overgrown shrubs, missing mulch and a front yard with more weeds than flowers
The fix: Hire a landscaper to spruce up the yard, says Lynn Pineda, a realtor with eXp Realty in Boca Raton, Florida. “Make sure at a minimum your property is neatly manicured, the grass is cut, the bushes are trimmed and the garden has fresh mulch,” she says. “If the property looks appealing on the outside, it makes the buyer think, ‘I want to check it out, I bet it's really pretty inside.' ”
The cost: Full-service lawn care costs only$145, according to a Zillow and Thumbtack report.
2. Add stone veneer to your home's exterior
The flaw: Front exterior lacks a visually appealing focal point, hurting its curb appeal.
The fix: Install a manufactured “stone veneer” to give your house an eye-catching, updated design appeal.
The cost: Adding this popular exterior design feature costs an average of $9,357, according to Remodeling magazine's “2020 Cost vs. Value Report.” And you'll get nearly a dollar-for-dollar return on your investment (95.6 percent), the best return on investment of the top 22 nationwide renovation projects the magazine analyzed.
3. Apply a fresh coat of paint (but pick the right color!)
The flaw: Bubbling or peeling exterior paint, moisture stains or fading or unappealing color that makes a buyer go “eek"
The fix: Pay a professional painter to give your home a fresh coat of paint. “But think about the colors you use,” advises Amada Pendleton, Zillow's lifestyle expert. The reason: Some colors will give you more bang for your buck. Simply painting the front door black or charcoal gray boosted the average sale price of a home by more than $6,000, according to data from Zillow's 2018 Paint Color Analysis. But homes painted yellow sold for about $3,400 less, on average, Zillow found.
The cost: Painting the outside of your home costs $2,600, on average, Zillow and Thumbtack data show.
4. Replace old, leaky windows
The flaw: Old windows that are drafty, mechanically challenged and a visual eyesore
The fix: Replace with new energy-efficient vinyl or wood windows. “It signals to the buyer that the home is well taken care of and their heating bills won't be so bad,” Zillow's Pendleton says.
The cost: A vinyl window replacement renovation costs $17,641, on average, and will recoup 72.3 percent of your costs, Remodeling magazine says. Wood replacement windows will run $21,945 and recoup about 69 percent of your investment.
5. Install a new garage door
The flaw: A dated garage door with imperfections, such as dents and marks from hockey pucks
The fix: Make your garage a beautiful gateway to your home by installing a new door that adds to curb appeal, such as a carriage house door or custom cedar style. “Anything that impacts curb appeal should be fixed and is generally worth the money,” says Realtor.com's Dutton.
The cost: Installing a new garage door costs $3,695, on average, and the sellers will get back 94.5 percent of their money at the time of sale, data from Remodeling magazine show.
6. Replace a leaky, expiring roof
The flaw: A roof that's near the end of its lifespan, or one that doesn't keep the rain out, causing water damage inside the home
The fix: Hire roofers to install an asphalt or metal roof that complements the exterior of your home. You don't want a major home component to deter buyers from putting in a bid. “Fix it ahead of time rather than have a leaking roof pop up in the home buyer's home inspection,” eXp's Pineda says.
The cost: An asphalt roof costs $24,700, on average, and a metal roof typically will set you back $40,318, Remodeling magazine data show.
7. Sink cash into new siding so house sparkles
The flaw: Cracked clapboard or vinyl siding that is melted from weekend BBQs or discolored from decades of weather gives your home a rundown feel.
The fix: Give your house a facelift with new siding in a color that makes your home pop when buyers view it online or in person. “If your property's photos don't look great on the phone [when buyers are searching online], you won't get as many clicks or showings,” Zillow's Pendleton says.
The cost: Replacing your home's vinyl siding will set you back $14,359, while the average cost of a renovation using fiber cement siding is $17,008, according to Remodeling.
8. Remodel outdated kitchen
The flaw: The grout is grimy, the counters are cruddy, the fixtures are from the ‘80s, the tile is tired and the kitchen screams “dated."
The fix: Be careful here. Don't go overboard with an over-the-top renovation that suits your taste, but might turn off some buyers. “A minor kitchen remodel is best, since you can't second-guess buyers’ tastes,” says Dutton of Realtor.com. A “major” kitchen remodel, which costs an average $135,547, sits near the bottom of the rankings when it comes to recouping your investment, with sellers getting back just 53.9 percent of what they paid, on average, Remodeling data show. You're better off making the kitchen presentable and clean with small fixes, leaving the buyers to put their own stamp on it.
The cost: A “minor” kitchen remodel costs $23,452, on average, according to Remodeling. But even this investment is risky if it overprices your home relative to neighborhood comps.
9. Beautify, renovate aging bath
The flaw: A dreadfully dated bath or baths could be a deal killer for buyers accustomed to modern finishes shown in renovations seen on HGTV.
The fix: A midrange bathroom remodel is worth the investment, as sellers will recoup $1.71 for every $1 spent, Zillow data show. “We're talking about adding nice new fixtures, and new vanity, mirror, lighting and fresh paint,” Zillow's Pendleton says. “We're not talking about gutting the bath."
The cost: A $3,000 budget should be enough to spruce up the bath and make it sparkle anew, according to Zillow.
10. Check off all deferred maintenance projects
The flaw: Anything that would turn off buyers or make them think your house has not been properly maintained. The list includes leaky faucets, minor plumbing issues, walks and driveways that could use a power wash, clogged gutters and faulty electrical outlets that aren't up to code.
The fix: Hire a handyman to go through your house and identify what needs fixing. “If a buyer sees a home that has been well maintained, it gives them peace of mind,” says Pineda of eXp Realty.
The cost: A handyman can be hired for $60 to $65 per hour, according to HomeAdvisor.
Renovation Tips to Remember
Whatever renovations you do make, make sure they're done with potential buyers in mind. “You are trying to appeal to as many buyers as possible,” Zillow's Pendleton says. “You want the buyer to imagine themselves living in their house. Clean and classic, and simple and neutral, is your best bet to attract the most potential buyers."
"Before they renovate anything, home sellers should know that the full costs of just about any renovation they do will not be recouped,” Realtor.com's Dutton says. “The very best renovations are those to the home's exterior that add to curb appeal."