A home is the largest investment most people will make in their lifetime, so when it comes time to sell, homeowners often wonder what they can do to get the most return on their investment. Many have the misconception that remodeling is the way to go, but that isn’t always the case. Rather than going all-in on upgrading your home, you should know which home improvements are worth it, and which ones aren’t.
We’ve sifted through the research and come up with a quick list of five home improvements that’ll help buyers fall in love with your home when it comes time to sell.
1. Add a little curb appeal
Curb appeal is critical. As the name suggests, it’s the first thing buyers see when pulling up to the front of any home so it needs to be in nearly pristine condition. Start with the garage door for the most immediate return. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2018 Cost vs. Value report and Money.com, the cost of updating your worn builder-grade garage door with an upscale steel model is about $3,470, and it’ll boost your home’s value by 98.3 percent of the installation price, which means you’ll lose about $60 when it’s all said and done.
Landscaping can also go along way for a minimal upfront investment. Six rounds of fertilizer and weed control will set you back about $330, but when it comes time to sell, you’ll see an ROI of about $1,000 according to a survey by the National Association of Realtors.
Other improvements you can easily make to your curb appeal include:
- Pressure wash the exterior
- Liven up your front door with a fresh coat of paint
- Replace hardware such as doorknobs and knockers
- Install updated house numbers
- Make your walkways pop with new greenery or flowers
- Plant a succulent garden
- Update your porch lights
- Add a little charm with window flower boxes
- Stage your porch
2. Install hardwood floors
Installing or upgrading hardwood floors is pretty failsafe as most buyers love it. Ninety-nine percent of real estate agents agree that homes with hardwood floors are easier to sell, and 90 percent of agents say that they sell for a higher sale price, according to the National Wood Flooring Association. Similarly, research from the National Association of Realtors shows that 54 percent of homebuyers are willing to shell out extra cash for homes with hardwood.
As for your return on investment, NAR’s 2017 Remodeling Impact Report projects that homes that already have hardwood floors will likely see 100 percent return. On the flip side, installing hardwood flooring pays off almost as well with a 91 percent return on investment. It can cost about $5,500 to install, and it’s projected to add about $5,000 to the home value. These estimates may vary depending on the type of flooring you install.
3. Upgrade your kitchen
According to the National Association of Realtors, real estate agents believe that complete kitchen renovations, kitchen upgrades, and bathroom renovations will add the most resale value to a home (in that order). However, complete kitchen renovations can be costly and unnecessary. In fact, kitchen remodels have some of the worst return on investment stats. Remodeling Magazine’s 2017 Cost Vs. Value report found that a mid-range kitchen remodel cost exceeds its resale value by more than $21,000, and that number more than doubles in an upscale remodel. Rather than spend a ton of cash and weeks (or months) on renovating, put a little elbow grease and a small budget into it.
Instead of doing a full renovation, focus on these smaller updates:
- Organize your pantry
- Use a little Murphy Oil Soap and hot water on all of your cabinets
- Polish cabinets with Howard Feed-In-Wax
- Tighten all hinges
- Clean grout and tiles
- Shine your sinks and hardware until you can see your face in it
- Deep clean your stove
- Give your kitchen a fresh coat of neutral paint
- Update lighting fixtures, and replace light bulbs
- Spring for a new cabinet and door hardware
- Make your countertops look new
- Upgrade your appliances
4. Go green
Today’s younger generations are embracing eco-friendly living, and millennials are leading the pack. According to the National Association of Realtors’ 2018 Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report, millennials make up the largest segment of buyers, holding strong at 34 percent of all buyers.
When it comes to attracting buyers who are willing to pay top dollar, going green makes sense. A Nielson study found that, of more than 30,000 millennials surveyed,66 percent are willing to shell out more cash for conservation-conscious, sustainable products. Depending on where you live, consider installing solar panels, wind turbines, and eco-friendly water systems.
No matter where you live, attic insulation replacement and weather stripping are safe bets. Attic insulation replacement was a top home improvement upgrade last year, and homeowners saw a 107.7 percent return on the investment. Weather stripping, a fairly inexpensive DIY project, costs, on average, about $168 nationally.
5. Create a summer retreat
Homes with pools can fetch a higher selling price if done properly. There are in-ground pools and above-ground pools. To truly add value, you’d want to go with an in-ground pool. It’s a permanent investment that costs more upfront, but above-ground pools don’t really add anything to a home other than a nice personal oasis from hot weather.
Pools cost about $1,000 on average to maintain between the seasonal openings and closings, necessary upkeep and utility bills, according to Houselogic.com and financial consultant Dave Ramsey’s website. Some buyers might not be up for that cost. However, pools can help sell a home especially when you live in a higher-end neighborhood where everyone has pools and in warmer climates like Florida, Arizona or Hawaii.
Ramsey wrote that a well-marketed in-ground pool can boost a home’s value as much as 7 percent, but he stresses the importance of making sure the style of the pool matches the house and surrounding property. Be sure that any pool doesn’t completely consume the outdoor space. Pools that make sense locationally and complement the property are the best. If the pool is just an expensive eyesore, it’s probably better to remove it.
With these upgrades, your home will surely see a higher price tag when you go to sell because, as the numbers show, buyers swoon for an outdoor retreat, a like-new kitchen, classic hardwood flooring, and green upgrades.
Our guest author is Sarah Stilo, the Content Marketing Coordinator for HomeLight, which helps pair homebuyers with agents. They can be found at HomeLight.Com.
What’s your home worth?
It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.
There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 4.5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $31,500 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.
Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services(MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.
Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.
If you’re curious what your home might be worth, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations about your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could sell for in today’s market.
It is still a great time to be a seller, but in much of the Western U.S., the local real estate market has begun to soften. With significant increases in inventory, buyers now have more choices and less sense of urgency. If you are thinking about selling your home, pricing it correctly the first time is critical. Here’s why:
If you overprice your home, it won’t show up in some search results.
Buyers search for homes using the parameters they desire. Price range is one of the most critical. If you set an unrealistic price of $850,000 for your home, all the buyers searching for homes up to $825,000 will fail to see your property in their search results.
An overpriced home attracts the wrong buyer.
An overpriced home will not compare favorably with the realistically-valued homes in a buyer’s price bracket. If your home is missing the amenities, square footage or other features of homes within the price range you’ve placed it in it won’t sell.
Overpriced homes linger on the market and risk becoming “stale”.
The interest in a home is always highest when the listing first hits the market. When an overpriced home goes unsold for a long period of time buyers often wonder what is wrong with the property. When a buyer moves on from a listing they rarely come back, even if you drop the price.
You run the risk of getting less for your home than if you priced it correctly the first time.
A Zillow study showed that homes that linger on the market tend to sell for significantly less than their listing price. When a home sits on the market for an extended period of time, buyers feel they have lots of room to negotiate.
The longer your home remains on the market, the more expenses you incur.
Every month your home goes unsold you put out money for mortgage payments, utilities and other home expenses that you will never recover.
For many people, a home inspection is a hurdle that has to be overcome during the process of buying or selling a home. But, in fact, it can be a useful tool for buyers, sellers or anyone who plans to get the greatest possible value from their home.
Find out if the house you are selling has “issues”
When you’re selling a house, a pre-sale inspection can be particularly useful. By uncovering any potential problems your house may have, an inspection can give you an opportunity to address them before your first prospective buyer arrives.
According to Bill Richardson, president of the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), “More and more, sellers are obtaining pre-sale inspections. This simple step can allow for better planning and lower expenses in making repairs, add value to the home, and help speed up the process and likelihood of an offer.”
In any market, a pre-sale inspection can give your home a competitive edge. Potential buyers are likely to find the kind of detailed information an inspection provides reassuring—and are encouraged to give your home a closer look.
Get to know a house before you buy it
A home is a major investment and, for many people, the greatest financial asset they have. With so much at stake, it makes sense to do what you can to protect your financial interest. Getting an inspection is a smart, simple way to do just that.
When you make a written offer on a home, insist that the offer provide that your contract is contingent on a home inspection conducted by a qualified inspector. You’ll have to pay for the inspection yourself, but an investment of a few hundred dollars could save you thousands of dollars and years of headaches. If you’re satisfied with the results of the inspection and are assured that the home you’re purchasing is in good shape, you can proceed with your transaction, confident that you are making a smart purchase.
When does a home inspection make sense?
In addition to routine maintenance and pre-sale inspections, there are a number of circumstances in which a home inspection could greatly benefit a homeowner. If you are not sure, here are a few simple questions to ask yourself:
· Was your home inspected when you bought it? If not, an inspection would be beneficial even if your home was a new construction at sale.
· Are you an older homeowner who plans to stay in your home? If so, it makes sense to hire a professional who can inspect difficult-to-reach areas and point out maintenance of safety issues.
· Do you have a baby on the way or small children? An inspection can alert you to any potential safety issues that could possibly affect a growing family, such as mold, lead or structural problems. If mold or lead is present, be sure to rely on technicians or labs with specialized training in dealing with these conditions.
· Are you buying a home that’s under construction? You may want to hire an inspector early on and schedule phased inspections to protect your interest and ensure that the quality of construction meets your expectations.
What doesn’t your home inspection cover?
For a variety of reasons, some homes will require specialty inspections that are not covered by a typical home inspection. A specialty inspection might include such items as your home’s sewer scope, septic system, geotechnical conditions (for homes perched on steep sloes or where there are concerns regarding soil stability) or underground oil storage tank. If you have any questions about whether or not your home needs a specialty inspection, talk to your real estate agent.
Hire a professional
If you decide to hire a home inspector, be sure they’re licensed in your state. They should be able to provide you with their license number, which you can use to verify their status with the appropriate government agency. It’s also helpful to ask for recommendations from friends and family members. Even among licensed and qualified home inspectors, there can be a difference in knowledge, performance and communication skills, so learn what you can before your hire a home inspector to ensure that you get the detailed inspection that you want.
What to ask your home inspector
Ask the right questions to make sure you are hiring the right professional for the job.
What does your inspection cover?
Insist that you get this information in writing. Then make sure that it’s in compliance with state requirements and includes the items you want inspected.
How long have you been in the business?
Ask for referrals, especially with newer inspectors.
Are you experienced in residential inspections?
Residential inspection in a unique discipline with specific challenges, so it’s important to make sure the inspector is experienced in this area.
Do you make repairs or make improvements based on inspection?
Some states and/or professional associations allow the inspector to perform repair work on problems uncovered in an inspection. If you’re considering engaging your inspector to do repairs, be sure to get referrals.
How long will the inspection take?
A typical single-family dwelling takes two to three hours.
How much will it cost?
Costs can vary depending upon a variety of things, such as the square footage, age, and foundation of the house.
What type of report will you provide and when will I get it?
Ask to see samples to make sure you understand his or her reporting style. Also make sure the timeline works for you.
Can I be there for the inspection?
This could be a valuable learning opportunity. If your inspector refuses, this should raise a red flag.
Are you a member of a professional home inspector association? What other credentials do you hold?
Ask to see their membership ID; it provides some assurance.
Do you keep your skills up to date through continuing education?
An inspector’s interest in continuing education shows a genuine commitment to performing at the highest level. It’s especially important with older homes or homes with unique elements.
If you have questions about finding a home inspector, or are looking for an agent in your area we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.
Studies continue to show that real estate buyers are willing to pay a substantial premium for homes that feature highly efficient, environmentally friendly “green energy” technology.
While the added value depends on the location of the home, its age, and whether it’s certified or not, three separate studies all found that newly constructed, Energy Star- or LEED-certified homes typically sell for about nine percent more than comparable, non-certified new homes. Plus, one of those studies discovered that existing homes retrofitted with green technologies, and certified as such, can command a whopping 30-percent sales-price boost.
Options include technologies that you may already be very familiar with, as well as some new breakthroughs that may surprise you:
Fuel cells may soon offer an all-new source of electricity that would allow you to completely disconnect your home from all other sources of electricity. About the size of a dishwasher, a fuel cell connects to your home’s natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity. One unit would pack more than enough energy to power your whole home.
Past fuel cells have been far too expensive and unreliable. But Redbox Power Systems, a company that’s planning to launch its first fuel cell later this year, is using new materials, claims they’ll be able to cut the purchase price by 90 percent, and predicts the associated electricity-bill savings will allow homeowners to pay off that purchase price in just two years’ time.
A wind turbine (essentially a propeller spinning atop an 80- to 100-foot pole) collects kinetic energy from the wind and converts it to electricity for your home. And according to the Department of Energy, a small version can slash your electrical bill by 50 to 90 percent.
But before you get too excited, you need to know that the zoning laws in most urban areas don’t allow wind turbines. They’re too tall. The best prospects for this technology are homes located on at least an acre of land, well outside the city limits.
Cool roofs keep the houses they’re covering as much as 50 to 60 degrees cooler by reflecting the heat of the sun away from the interior, allowing the occupants to stay cooler and save on air-conditioning costs. The most common form is metal roofing. Other options include roof membranes and reflective asphalt shingles.
Another way to keep the interior of your house cooler—and save on air-conditioning costs—is to replace your traditional roof with a layer of vegetation (typically hardy groundcovers). This is more expensive than a cool roof and requires regular maintenance, but young, environmentally conscious home owners are very attracted to the concept.
Combining a heat pump with a standard furnace to create what’s known as a “hybrid heating system” can save you somewhere between 15 and 35 percent on your heating and cooling bills.
Unlike a gas or oil furnace, a heat pump doesn’t use any fuel. Instead, the coils inside the unit absorb whatever heat exists naturally in the outside air, and distributes it via the same ductwork used by your furnace. When the outside air temperature gets too cold for the heat pump to work, the system switches over to your traditional furnace.
Geothermal heating units are like heat pumps, except instead of absorbing heat from the outside air, they absorb the heat in the soil next to your house via coils buried in the ground. The coils can be buried horizontally or, if you don’t have a wide enough yard, they can be buried vertically. While the installation price of a geothermal system can be several times that of a hybrid, air-sourced system, the cost savings on your energy bills can cover the installation costs in five to 10 years.
Solar panels capture light energy from the sun and convert it directly into electricity. For decades, you may have seen these panels sitting on sunny rooftops all across America. But it’s only recently that this energy-saving option has become truly affordable.
In 2010, installing a solar system on a typical mid-sized house would have set the homeowner back $30,000. But today, that price has been slashed to an average of just $19,000. Plus, some companies are now offering to rent solar panels to homeowners (the company retains ownership of the panels and sells the homeowner access to the power at roughly 10 to 15 percent less than they would pay their local utility).
Solar water heaters
Rooftop solar panels can also be used to heat your home’s water. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average homeowner who makes this switch should see their water bills shrink by 50 to 80 percent.
Many of the innovative solutions summarized above come with big price tags attached. However, federal, state and local rebates/tax credits can often slash those expenses by as much as 50 percent. So before ruling any of these ideas out, take some time to see which incentives you may qualify for at dsireusa.org and the “tax incentives” pages at Energy.gov.
Regardless of which option you choose, these technologies will not only help to conserve valuable resources and reduce your monthly utility expenses, but also add resale value that you can leverage whenever you decide it’s time to sell and move on to a new home.
For the last nine years, the HomeGain National Home Improvement Survey has been asking real estate professionals across the country the same question: What are the top 10 things a homeowner can do to get their home ready to sell?
And every year, the number one answer is: clean and de-clutter. In the latest survey, 99 percent of the real estate professionals queried ranked this task the most important. What’s more, they estimated that, for every dollar spent on the task, the homeowner would receive a whopping 403 percent return on their investment.
De-cluttering delivers big benefits to those who are not selling their homes, too. Studies show that living in a cluttered house is mentally stressful for the occupants and often leads to weight gain and other health problems.
So why do so many of us put off this important task? It’s hard work. It takes time. It’s physical. It’s emotional. And there are lots of decisions to make about what goes where, what gets tossed, and more. Worst of all, thinking about it makes it seem like an even bigger project than it really is—which is why experts say the best way to get started is to simply jump in.
The easy way to get started
The toughest part of getting organized is getting started. It’s too easy to say, “I’ll go through that closet later.” “I’ll get rid of those boxes later.” “I’ll donate those clothes later.”
Instead, replace “later” with “now.”
Grab a couple cardboard boxes and spend 90 minutes right now organizing one part of one room (a desk in your study, for example). Once you see that it’s not nearly as tough as you imagine, and actually feels satisfying and freeing, you’ll become energized and ready to take on even bigger organizing tasks tomorrow.
Here are some tips to keep you on track:
- Tackle one room at a time.
- Start with the easy stuff. Rounding up the things you know you want to toss, recycle, sell, or store.
- Finish the task you start. Don’t pull everything out of a closet, for example, and then stop for the day, leaving the mess for later. Finish organizing the closet.
- Get the whole family involved (these are important life lessons to pass along to your children).
- Let phone calls and other disruptions wait until you’re done for the day.
Deciding what to keep
Once you make your way through the things you know you don’t want any more (broken appliances, unused gifts, outdated electronics, store returns, etc.), then it’s time to focus on the items that are useful, but don’t get used very often. Experts suggest two strategies. Choose the one that works best for you, or try using them in combination:
- The 12-month test – If you haven’t used the item in the last year, get rid of it.
- The cardboard box drill – Put items you’re not sure about in a cardboard box and set it aside. Whatever gets pulled out and used over the next two months can stay. The things that don’t get rescued should be sent packing.
How to handle keepsakes
Now for the toughest decision of all: What to do with those trophies, mementos, greeting cards, photos, kids’ art projects—and all the other things that trigger strong memories and emotional reactions.
First, go through these things and make sure they’re still things you want to keep. Some items may now remind you of a time—or a person—you want to forget.
Spend no more than 30 seconds reviewing each item. If you allow yourself to start wandering down memory lane, your organizing work will come to a screeching halt.
Take photos of items that are bulky or hard to store—especially the kids’ artwork, which tends to fall apart over time, anyway. Once you’ve captured the item in a photo, let the original go.
If there are keepsakes you inherited from your parents or relatives that hold no sentimental value for you, it’s time to say goodbye.
Stop saving so many things for your children. No matter what they say now, your kids will most likely only be interested in a few key mementos when they’re older. Designate a single memento box for each child.
Other people’s belongings
You should not be storing anything that doesn’t belong to you and/or the other current members of your household. Give back things you’ve borrowed. Get rid of the belongings of ex-spouses, ex-boyfriends, and ex-roommates. Get tough with your adult children; your days of providing a roof for their belongings are over.
Working with a professional
A professional organizer can teach you the tricks of the trade, help you make tough decisions about what to keep and what to let go, and consult with you about the best storage systems. Hiring a professional is also a good idea if you’re having trouble getting started or sticking with it. Expect to pay around $50 to $90 per hour for this kind of help.
Some final words of advice
While you’re getting organized, do not allow yourself to buy any non-necessities. Groceries, yes. But say no to clothes, toys, electronics, sporting goods, and other feel-good purchases.
When you’re done organizing, a good rule of thumb is that for every new item brought into the house, an old one has to leave.
For more than 20 years, the benefits of staging a home have been well documented. Numerous studies show that staging helps sell a home faster and for a higher price. According to the National Association of REALTORS®, 88 percent of homebuyers start their search online, forming impressions within three seconds of viewing a listing. When a home is well staged, it photographs well and makes the kind of first impression that encourages buyers to take the next step.
Studies also indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds of entering a home. Not only does home staging help to remove potential red flags that can turn buyers off, it helps them begin to imagine living there. Homes that are professionally staged look more “move-in ready” and that makes them far more appealing to potential buyers.
According to the Village Voice, staged homes sell in one-third less time than non-staged homes. Staged homes can also command higher prices than non-staged homes. Data compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development indicate that staged homes sell for approximately 17 percent more than non-staged homes.
A measurable difference in time and money
In a study conducted by the Real Estate Staging Association in 2007, a group of vacant homes that had remained unsold for an average of 131 days were taken off the market, staged, and relisted. The newly staged properties sold, on average, in just 42 days, – which is approximately 68 percent less time on the market.
The study was repeated in 2011, in a more challenging market, and the numbers were even more dramatic. Vacant homes that were previously on the market for an average of 156 days as unstaged properties, when listed again as staged properties, sold after an average of 42 days—an average of 73 percent less time on the market.
Small investments, big potential returns
Staging is a powerful advantage when selling your home, but that’s not the only reason to do it. Staging uncovers problems that need to be addressed, repairs that need to be made, and upgrades that should be undertaken. For a relatively small investment of time and money, you can reap big returns. Staged properties are more inviting, and that inspires the kind of peace-of-mind that gets buyers to sign on the dotted line. In the age of social media, a well-staged home is a home that stands out, gets shared, and sticks in people’s minds.
What’s more, the investment in staging can bring a higher price. According to the National Association of REALTORS, the average staging investment is between one percent and three percent of the home’s asking price, and typically generates a return of eight to ten percent.
In short, less time on the market and higher selling prices make the small cost of staging your home a wise investment.
Interested in learning more? Contact your real estate agent for information about the value of staging and referrals for professional home stagers.