How to Prepare a House for Sale
(A continuation of How
to Sell a House)
By Steve Gillman - 2006
We continue our look at how to prepare a house for sale with
more about how to estimate the return on investment for various
improvements you might make. Pay special attention to the section
titled, "Where to Start," because the low-cost improvements
listed there are almost always worth doing.
Another way to better estimate the return on various improvements
is to ask a professional. Talk to an appraiser or a real estate
with enough experience and an eye for value. Have a list of possible
improvements, and run through it to see which they think will
add the most value. Some possibilities are listed below, but
look around your home and think beyond this short list.
Add a bathroom.
Add a deck.
Paint the home a different color.
Resurface the driveway.
Plant flowers and trees.
Get a new front door.
New cupboards for the kitchen.
New appliances for the kitchen.
Add a garbage disposal to the kitchen sink.
A new tub surround.
A total bathroom remodel.
Add a bedroom.
Add a garage.
Add a carport.
Fence the yard.
Add a tile patio.
Put in ceiling fans.
Install air conditioning.
Put a bench in the yard.
Put a birdbath in the yard.
Make the basement into livable space.
Paint the interior of the house.
New light fixtures.
New sliding glass doors.
New kitchen sink.
New tile flooring.
Have your expert estimate how much each thing will add. Then
you can estimate the cost of each to see which make the most
As your experts will probably tell you, some changes go together.
A birdbath might make more sense if you are also landscaping
and installing a pretty bench, for example. In these cases, have
them guess how much value a whole "package" of changes
will make, and figure the cost for the whole improvement.
You have an opportunity to get creative here. An investor
friend of mine once had one wall put up, and for less than $1000
created a new bedroom, probably raising the value of the house
by $8,000. Now that's a good return on investment.
Bathrooms and kitchens are important. A $1000 updating of
a bathroom can add $4000 in value to a home. Spend $3000 wisely
in the kitchen (New fridge, refinish the cupboards, add a garbage
disposal, etc.), and you can add $9000 to the sales price of
Look for changes which are most universally valued. In other
words, don't paint the kitchen pink because you like that color.
You want to determine what the "market" wants. Look
in real estate guides to see which features are being heavily
Where To Start
It often is in the small details that you'll get the best
return on investment when you prepare a house for sale, so look
at these first. A new mailbox, flowers on the porch, a raked
yard and trimmed trees - $30 total if you do the work yourself
- can make a big difference in the first impression potential
buyers have. First impressions are important.
Other small investments that pay big include:
Shiny new switch covers (less than $1 each)
New light fixtures
New rocks or wood chips on outdoor paths
New wood stain on decks
Stand in front of the house and imagine what it might look
like with various small improvements (flowers, wood-rail fence,
Even if you never get to the big improvements, take the time
to do the small stuff. A weekend or two of work and a couple
hundred dollars spent could net you thousands more when you sell.
Pay someone to do it for you if you don't have the time.
The book continues here: Staging
a Home For Sale - How to do this and some final thoughts
about preparing a house for sale.