Editor’s note: Quorum is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article and derives no benefit from these businesses for placement in this article.
Real-estate website Zillow expects 6.9 million existing homes to sell in 2021, a 21.9% jump over last year. You may have even noticed homes in your area going fast or lucky sellers getting offers over their asking price from buyers engaged in bidding wars. So, surely there’s nothing to lose by putting out a For Sale sign this spring without doing the usual pre-market prep work, right? Not exactly.
In the current seller’s market, you might be able to attract buyers despite overgrown landscaping or cluttered interiors, but homes with the most curb appeal still get the highest offers and sell the quickest. No matter the market, not getting your home in tip-top shape to sell usually means leaving money on the table.
A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
Like everything else, technology has changed the way people search for a new home. Even before COVID-19 hit, 44% of homebuyers shopped online first to decide which properties to tour. In fact, the most popular real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, Yahoo! Homes and Realtor attract millions of monthly visitors searching for the latest homes on the market.
When you or your real estate agent upload photos of your home on these sites, what will they say to buyers? Without getting your home ready to sell, the photos might tell house hunters to take a pass. But with some TLC and elbow grease evident in all the right places, your home might just scream dream home to potential buyers.
Like every good HGTV show, let’s take a before and after shot to see where your home might stand in the marketplace.
The Before Shot: A Buyer’s Last Resort
Even well-cared-for homes can lack a little (or a lot) of luster to outsiders. So, if you decide to list your home without doing anything to make it shine, here are just some of the negatives that you might not notice but that buyers will definitely see in a virtual or in-person tour of it:
The View Outside Your Home:
- Last year’s weather-beaten pine straw or mulch dragging down natural areas
- Overgrown grass and weeds just waiting to be mowed and whacked
- Sidewalks, driveways, siding and brick in desperate need of a power wash
- A nondescript entryway with no inviting colors, plants or décor
- A dull front door with an even duller kickplate and hardware
- A sadly leaning mailbox with illegible address numbers
- Cobweb-covered porch lights, windows and crevices
- Gutters or shutters slightly askew or decidedly crooked
- Trim that’s long overdue for a coat of paint
- Overgrown trees and bushes ripe for pruning
The View Inside Your Home:
- Cluttered and dull entrance halls that disappoint as a first impression
- Dust and dirt-covered blinds, shutters and windows that blot out any pretty views
- Spot-splattered carpets that take away from good-sized bedrooms
- Walls covered in crazy colors or that haven’t seen a fresh coat of paint in years
- Too much furniture that makes rooms feel smaller and less functional
- Knick-knacks and personal items on every surface that make buyers claustrophobic
- Dirty grout that makes buyers cringe
- Pet hair, toys and odors that clog the senses
- A shoe, coat and backpack-filled mudroom that leaves buyers wanting much less of your home
If there’s no other house available, buyers might be desperate enough to bid on this house. But don’t bet on it.
The After Shot: A Bidding War
Imagine the buyer just off of that experience when approaching a home that’s clean, welcoming and refreshingly free of those unwanted negatives. Realtors say it makes a world of difference, with one stating that easy cosmetic updates priced at $12,000 to $15,000 made a “house instantly worth $40,000 more.”
Now sure where to start? Seeding your lawn is a project that will give you one of the highest returns on investment: expect to recoup over 300%.
Consider throwing in some of the features below, which buyers are demanding after a year of COVID-19 restrictions, and let the bidding war begin:
- A spare room or unused corner converted into a home office because remote or hybrid work environments may be here to stay
- An uncluttered and clean kitchen so buyers don’t mind cooking at home so much
- A functional classroom space just in case the kids aren’t back in the school building yet
- Cool outdoor spaces that increase livable square footage so families can spread out
Still not convinced of the need to prep your house before putting it up for sale? Just put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and ask yourself which picture you prefer and which property would entice you to outbid other buyers in order to call it home.
Ready for Your Home’s Close-up
Whatever your reason for selling your home this year—to downsize for retirement, or you’re starting a family, you’re definitely better off sprucing it up before you let buyers take a look. We’re not talking about a full remodel or major investment. A freshly landscaped exterior, a thoroughly cleaned interior, some commonsense organizing and maybe a can of paint or two should work wonders.