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How to Prepare a House for Sale

(A continuation of How to Sell a House)

By - 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.

Install skylights.

Put a bench in the yard.

Put a birdbath in the yard.

Make the basement into livable space.

New carpet.

Paint the interior of the house.

New light fixtures.

New sliding glass doors.

New kitchen sink.

New windows.

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 sense.

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 the house.

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 promoted.

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)

Shelves

A birdhouse

New doorknobs

New light fixtures

Curtains

New rocks or wood chips on outdoor paths

New faucets

New wood stain on decks

General cleaning

Stand in front of the house and imagine what it might look like with various small improvements (flowers, wood-rail fence, birdbath, etc.).

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.


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Houses Under Fifty Thousand | How to Prepare a House for Sale