This sponsored, biweekly Q&A column is written by Andrew Goodman, Associate Broker and top producing agent with Gallagher & Co. Real Estate, Inc. Based in Bethesda, Andrew serves clients in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia. Please submit comments, questions, and opinions in the comments section or via email.
Question: I am looking at putting my home on the market in the next few months. What do you recommend repairing or renovating in a home to get the best return on my investment?
There are several different philosophies on this topic. However, I approach it with the questions of what items will improve the marketability of the home and then what items will improve the value of the home?
Kitchens and Bathrooms: Most agents will recommend renovating kitchens and bathrooms because kitchens and bathrooms typically “sell” a home. But who says the future buyer will like your style of renovation? You may be spending mega bucks to renovate these parts of the home and the buyer may end up tearing them apart anyway. This could help the marketability and improve value but I do not think you should spend the money on these items, especially in the Bethesda market where bathrooms and kitchens can be larger, more extravagant, and more expensive than some entire homes.
Mechanical Systems: I do recommend making sure that your mechanical (heating, air conditioning, water heater, etc.) systems are new or fairly new when selling your home. No buyer wants to deal with repairing or replacing these items after they move in. If replacing, try to replace them with the most efficient systems as possible. If your home will save the buyer on their utility bills, the buyer may be willing to put those now saved bucks toward a higher monthly mortgage payment. This investment will improve your marketability and value when selling your home.
Unfinished Rooms: If you have an unfinished basement or another part of the home, it may be worth finishing. As long as it isn’t too costly to renovate, this will add value and certainly add marketability. But make sure not to go overboard as this could easily reduce your return on investment. The season has past, but installing a deck or patio would be great for the spring and summer markets.
Flooring: Replacing old carpet and refinishing old floors will also improve your marketability and value. Buyers want to see hardwood floors in top shape and the carpets spotless. Make sure to keep the carpets neutral in color, if you are replacing them.
Landscaping: Re-mulching, planting flowers, and other outdoor improvements will help the home’s curb appeal. However, with the seasons changing you may be wasting your time and money. I would make sure to trim all bushes so no branches, leaves, or shrubs are blocking the windows. You want to make sure that as much sunlight as possible is entering the home. During the fall season, make sure to rake up all of the fallen leaves before an open house or a weekend of showings.
Paint: I truly believe that giving a buyer a clean canvass to work with is the BEST repair or renovation you can make to get the best marketability and value in your home. If you have unique colors in the home, buy a couple of gallons of off-white paint and paint the rooms neutral so the buyers can put their own personal touches on it. Just this year alone, several of my clients have sold their homes in less than one week with this approach.
Clean: This is the most important thing you can do to your home. Clean! Clean! Clean! If you think you can clean more, do it! Try to de-clutter your home as much as possible. Re-caulk the tubs, toilets and more so everything looks pristine. Most buyers can not see past the clutter, nor can they get past the filth of a home. So do them a favor and clean so you aren’t depending upon their imagination to sell your home.
Every home may have special characteristics that you want to highlight or advertise when listing. Consult with your realtor as he or she may have other helpful ideas for your specific home. However, these recommendations are a good start and good “listing kit” for every home that is to be placed on the market.